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Old 04-17-2011, 05:10 PM
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Default Spl.Photos: Dream dresses: Six brides reveal how they found 'the one'

As speculation about Kate Middletonís wedding gown reaches fever pitch, Claire Coleman asked six brides to tell us how they found Ďthe oneí (and weíre not talking grooms). But can you tell who splashed out on a £20,000 couture creation, and who bagged a £195 high-street bargain (look at the top picture first before scrolling down for the answers!)?

From left: Rebecca, Camilla, Suzanne, Frances, Kary and Gina

The £20,000 couture gown

Spring celebration: Camilla and Ed on their wedding day

Camilla Ridley-Day, 30, lives in London and runs a bridal styling company (camillaridleydaybridal.com). She wore a couture dress by Bruce Oldfield when she married Ed, an analyst.
I was working as a fashion editor when I got engaged, so the dress was one of the first things I thought about. I knew I wanted lace because itís romantic, feminine and very me. People are shocked at how much couture costs, but when you see how much work goes into it, it begins to make sense. I didnít opt for couture because I wanted something showy, more because I wanted the craftsmanship and detailing. I wanted a dress made by a British designer and I chose Bruce as he stands out as having trained in the old-fashioned way. He can cut and sew, unlike some of the younger designers who can come up with a concept but donít know how to put it together.

We talked about what I wanted and the style of my wedding, which was taking place in a church, with a reception at the Wallace Collection museum in Central London. From that conversation Bruce drew a sketch that became the basis for the dress. Over five months I had ten fittings, and the attention to detail was incredible. The lace was hand-embroidered in Paris to pick out each flower, and every crystal was applied by hand. When the veil arrived Bruce sent it back to Paris because he said it didnít match the dress perfectly, so everything had to be unpicked before it was re-dyed. He even came to the wedding to make sure that the dress looked absolutely perfect before I walked down the aisle.
As a lover of fashion, the opportunity to work so closely with a British icon, on a dress that is unique, was special. Iíd love to think that maybe a daughter or granddaughter will wear it one day, but thereís such a story behind it that Iíll always treasure it, even if itís never worn again. In a way, my dress was also the inspiration for my bridal personal shopping company. Looking around many bridal shops, I often found the service quite pushy and for many brides itís stressful. Buying your dress should be fun.

The £500 sample

Frances and Nick tied the knot in France in August 2010

Frances Gibbs, 34, an advertising planner from Nottingham, married Nick, a motoring journalist, last summer. She scoured the country to find her dream dress by Alan Hannah for a fraction of the original price.
When Nick proposed, I imagined myself getting married in something slinky, light and summery. But when I started trying on dresses, I realised that duchesse satin was actually quite pretty, and that A-line skirts and tight bodices suited me best.

I had planned to spend £200, but soon realised that the dresses I liked cost more. There was one designer, Alan Hannah, whose designs I loved Ė every one I tried on felt flattering, but my favourites started from £2,000. I began to wonder why we were budgeting £1,000 for a band to play for four hours while I was only spending £200 on a dress that Iíd see in photos for the rest of my life, so I raised my budget to £500.

A friend told me that bridal shops sell off sample dresses Ė the ones that customers try on Ė quite frequently, so I searched online for shops selling Alan Hannah gowns. I called several to ask if they had samples for sale, but they were still around £1,750. Next I searched for second-hand designs on sellmyweddingdress.co.uk and preloved.co.uk, but although there were some, they were either too expensive or not in great condition. Then I had a breakthrough: the Morgan-Davies boutique in East London was selling Alan Hannah samples from a couple of years ago. And it was there, in a back room, that I found my dress. It was two years old, in pristine condition, and I knew the moment I put it on that it was perfect. We were tying the knot in a tumbledown French ch‚teau so I wanted something regal but not froufrou Ė it fitted me, the location and, at £500, reduced from over £2,000, it fitted my budget too!

The 1950s vintage dress

Rebecca had a country wedding in Suffolk last September

Rebecca Cherry, 30, a fashion buyer from Hertford, married Adam, who works in advertising, in September 2010.
I wanted a lace dress with a defi ned waist and a vintage feel Ė I thought it would suit me, and I was after something feminine and romantic. I didnít want to spend ages searching for it Ė I knew that the more dresses I saw, the more confused Iíd become Ė so I picked a day and decided that I was defi nitely going to buy my dress then. I made two appointments in London: one with a traditional bridal shop, and the other at a place that I had found online called the Vintage Wedding Dress Company (thevintageweddingdresscompany.com).

In the bridal shop I tried on about six dresses but none was right. One was so huge I couldnít move, and I started to panic that Iíd never fi nd something I liked.

At the Vintage Wedding Dress Company, the fi rst dress I tried on was the one. It was light, I could move in it and, at £1,500, it was under my £2,000 budget. I think my mum would have liked me to have had a new dress; I donít think
she really understood the appeal of wearing a gown made for someone else. But she and my sister, who were with me, both liked it, and when he eventually saw it, Adam loved it.

As itís a 1950s dress, Iíve wondered about the bride who wore it before, and what her wedding was like. Iíve toyed with the idea of selling it, but equally, I love the idea that a daughter of mine might end up wearing a 100-year-old
wedding dress.

The £195 high-street bargain

Gina and Dan had a register office ceremony three years ago

Gina Hicking, 33, a dental assistant from London, married Dan, a mortgage adviser, in August 2008. She wore a dress from high-street store Coast (coast-stores.com), which has recently launched the Coast Bridal range.
Dan and I got engaged six weeks after we met and only had nine months to save for our wedding. We decided weíd rather spend our money on a honeymoon in the Maldives, so our total budget for the wedding day was just £6,000.

A ceremony in Islington Town Hall followed by a summer barbecue with our friends suited us perfectly, but even though it was going to be quite a casual celebration, I still wanted a long ivory dress. Iíd never been one of those women who wanted to spend thousands on a gown Ė you only wear it for one day, after all Ė so I set aside £300.

I wanted something that would flatter my figure, because Iím quite curvy, and I liked the idea of a dress with a fishtail.
I already had bandeau-style Coast dresses in mind for the bridesmaids, and when I went in to have a look I saw my dress. Although it was just a regular evening gown, when I tried it on, I knew it was Ďthe oneí. It has a wonderful big bow at the back and ticked all the boxes; there was even a matching bolero jacket.

I bought a size 12 and Coast put me in touch with a dressmaker who made a few tiny alterations Ė people donít always realise that you can get an inexpensive dress altered to fit beautifully. I felt amazing! I canít imagine how spending more could have made me feel any happier, or more elegant.

£10,000 designer gown

Fiesta! Suzanne and John at their Majorcan celebration

Suzanne Al**** Thompson, 28, married John in Majorca last September. They own a beauty salon and training academy in Dublin. Suzanne sacrificed her honeymoon for a dress by designer-to-the-stars Caroline Castigliano (carolinecastigliano.co.uk).
I wanted a dress that was glamorous and bohemian, but I couldnít find anything I liked in Dublin, so I flew to London with my mum. After a day of searching, my final appointment was at Caroline Castigliano to view made-to-measure designs. As well as asking me about the look I was going for, the staff asked how I wanted to feel on the day. After having two children, Iíd managed to get my figure back, so looking ***y Ė but not in an overt way Ė was important. I must have tried on every dress in the shop when Caroline herself walked in. She told me that if I couldnít find what I wanted, sheíd love to work with me on a one-off piece. The only problem was the cost: Iíd set aside £3,000 and the figures she was talking were several times that. But I knew I was in good hands. I handed over my entire budget as the deposit and knew Iíd find a way to get the rest. With flights for fittings, I ended up spending more than £10,000 Ė Iíd be afraid to work out the exact figure. It had to come from somewhere, so in the end we sacrificed going off on honeymoon afterwards.

Caroline suggested adding a veil and a train to the dress, plus a few pink crystals scattered here and there to pick up the colour of the bridesmaidsí dresses. When I saw the finished gown three weeks before, I knew Iíd made the right decision. John loved it, although I donít think heíd like it half as much if he knew how much Iíd spent! If I sold the dress we could afford that honeymoon, but Iím not sure I could. I might just put it on every anniversary and cook dinner in it instead!

The family heirloom

Two weddings and a classic dress: Kary and Mark tie the knot in North Carolina, USA, and Karyís mother in 1967

Kary Hemingway, 39, lives in West London and works in IT sales. In August 2010, she married Mark, an IT consultant, wearing her motherís wedding dress.
My mother got married in 1967, aged 22, in a dress from a shop in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, not far from where she grew up. Iím her only daughter and while Iíd always known that the dress was there for me, I never felt any pressure to wear it. It wasnít until I was in my early 20s that I saw the dress itself, when she got it out for me to try on. Even though I had no idea who the groom would be, I knew that when I got married, this was the dress I would wear.

When Mark proposed, it was such a relief to know that the dress was one thing I didnít have to worry about. Although Iíd given birth to our son seven months before, I had lost the weight quite quickly and was about the same size I had been in my 20s. But because I wanted more room around the top of the dress so I could lift my arms and dance, it needed a bit of tweaking. Luckily my mother-in-law is a brilliant dressmaker.

Wearing my motherís dress that my new mother-in-law had perfected meant a lot Ė not just to me, but to them too. My mother insisted that I was photographed in the same pose as she was on her wedding day so that we could sit the pictures side by side. Mark knew that I was going to wear my motherís dress and I think he was a little apprehensive that it might look old-fashioned, but he was delighted. Because itís such a simple shape, itís a very classic style that hasnít dated. It would be lovely if I had a daughter who could wear it one day.
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