THREE FACTS: Harlie met Ben on an ‘Aish’ trip to Israel during their university years (2) They will be bringing in lots of Spanish influences into their London wedding, for a variety of reasons, not least because that that’s where they got engaged! (3) They will be having a fairly traditional orthodox London wedding, but are including lots of modern twists.
A lone and eventful journey!
Unlike some girls, I never dreamt about my fantasy wedding when I was younger, and I certainly never thought about my dream wedding dress. Even when I got engaged, I still had no idea what sort of wedding dress I would choose as I couldn’t even imagine myself wearing one. Never did I imagine that finding my dress would be the most stressful part of wedding planning, or that it would lead me on a very long and eventful journey!
In My Dreams by Caroline Castigliano (STG Recommended Vendor)
The engagement party was over and the venue was booked, so I set off on my quest to find ‘the one’ (which took just 13 appointments, over 70 dresses and 4 months of searching). I started to gather some ideas on a Pinterest board with my bridesmaids, with a relatively clear idea in mind of what I thought I wanted.
My mum booked a few appointments at some bridal boutiques that she had been recommended, which seemed like a good place to start as it meant I was not limited to just one designer.
Originally, I was looking for quite a particular style: a tightly fitted fishtail shape with a low back and spaghetti straps. The first dress I tried on at The Bride was exactly this; it was a beautiful Suzanne Neville dress in a delicate lace with buttons down the back.
To try on something different, a classic princess-style Sassi Holford gown followed, then an understated, vintage-esque Jenny Packham. I really thought that the first dress was the one for me as it fitted my very fixed brief, but my mum didn’t want me to settle for the first dress I tried — I can only thank you now, mum!
Liz Martinez gown – image by Ran Bergman (STG’s Recommended Vendor) from Dana and Daniel‘s wedding
I continued my search with a few other boutiques, and unfortunately, dress after dress wasn’t right. I just wasn’t getting that feeling that all brides refer to, when “you just know when its your dress”.
So I widened my relatively precise specifications, listening to my mum’s advice as she revealed to me how she always imagined me coming down the aisle in a ‘princess style’ gown. I was pretty adamant though that I didn’t want to fulfil her dreams of me looking like a walking marshmallow!
After some more experimenting, I soon came to realise that my dress simply had to have certain features (if you’re reading Ben, stop right here!): spaghetti straps, a low back with buttons, small waist, full skirt and floral lace — simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, this was not so easy, as you may have realised you are reading the blog of a rather fussy bride. My mum and I found faults in every dress I tried: the skirt was too full, the fit wasn’t right, the shape was wrong, the fabric was too plain, too fussy… it seemed as though it was neverending! I started to really doubt myself, that I was simply being over-particular.
When I loved a dress, my mum didn’t, and vice versa. I even considered having a dress made from scratch, but it made me nervous that I would not see the finished product until only a few weeks before the wedding.
Now that I knew exactly what shape worked best for me, all I had to do was actually find the dress! I was torn between classic, timeless elegance or young, modern and striking, but swaying towards the latter. Israeli designers are perfectly characterised by these styles, and I found myself trawling through the collections of Berta, Galia Lahav, Nurit Hen, Liz Martinez and Riki Dalal, to name a few, in awe at each and every gown I saw.
My next visit was to the absolutely breathtaking boutique Halo & Wren, a stockist of Riki Dalal, which was one of the Israeli designers I had singled out for their exquisite details and fair price in comparison to the steep cost of the other designers mentioned above. I fell in love with one of their ready to wear dresses from their NOYA range named ‘Juliet’ — it was ethereal, floaty and princess-like, with floral fabrics and stunning 3D detailing.
But surprise surprise, something was holding me back. Unfortunately it had a slightly impractical bardot sleeve and a train made with layers of fabric too difficult to bustle — not exactly conducive to a Jewish wedding with a crazy hora!
Suzanne Neville gown – Image Ronen Boidek from Jamie and Joel‘s wedding
Time was running out. Every designer had given me an absolute minimum of 6 months to order my dress and I was still none the wiser. I had just returned from a 2 week holiday and the boutiques and designers of all the dresses I had shortlisted as ‘maybes’ were putting pressure on me to place an order.
I decided to book an appointment at Riki Dalal’s flagship store in London so I could try the full collection. Their use of crazy laces and other funky fabrics won me over, and it was that I found ‘the one’! Well… almost. With a bride as indecisive as me, nothing is straightforward.
One particular dress from the couture range stood out to me, with a gliding, ruffled train and a deep illusion back smothered in 3D floral details. As it was made to measure, it meant I had some freedom to make adaptations to fit my increasingly specific brief. I was so set on having a dress made by an Israeli designer, and it became somewhat an obsession! I spent a further two appointments here in effect re-designing the dress, and it was agreed that a sketch artist would send through a final impression of the design once a deposit had been paid.
This threw me off slightly as again, I wouldn’t know what I was getting until money had been put down. The addition of a January discount offer added another element into the mix, and in haste (with only two days left in the month of January) the deposit was paid on visit number 3.
“Why don’t I feel excited about this dress?” was a question I kept asking myself, my mum and my bridesmaids in the next few days. Surely I should be thrilled that I have ordered the dress in which I’ll be walking down the aisle?! Trying to separate out my thoughts, I felt some sort of weird regret that I had chosen to be this modern, fashionable bride who wanted to make a real statement in her dress, rather than just trying to be ‘me’.
“Mum, I’ve made a big mistake! I think I’ve chosen the wrong dress…” is ideally not something a mother wants to hear 6 months before her daughter’s wedding, when she thought they had finally ticked this job off the list. I followed my heart, as well as lots of “I told you so’s” from my mum who so desperately wanted to see me in classic, feminine wedding dress, and decided to make 2 final appointments (for real this time, I swear).
The Caroline Castigliano experience
Laying in bed late one Thursday evening, feeling defeated and ready to give up as the fabrics were due to be ordered for my dress 5 days later, I took a leap of faith and submitted an appointment request for that Saturday to visit a designer whose dresses I hadn’t yet tried at all — Caroline Castigliano.
My sister-in-law wore one of Caroline’s dresses at her wedding a few years ago, but for some reason I never really thought to go there. I had a phone call the next morning from the store informing me there had been a cancellation for the following afternoon — this took me by surprise and I started to think that maybe it was meant to be?
I cancelled my plans and stepped into Caroline’s slice of bridal heaven for my consultation. I felt so excited going through the perfect rows of dresses. By a stroke of luck, it was Caroline herself who took my consultation appointment — something I’ve been told doesn’t usually happen — and by this point I was well and truly invested, and it felt too good to be true.
All I will say now is that my mum cried for the first time seeing me in one of the dresses, so I definitely knew this was the one and experienced that ‘feeling’ that all the other brides talk about. Luckily, I was able to cancel my original order and they were totally understanding. I got there in the end!
My first fitting at Caroline Castigliano is in a couple of weeks and I could not be more excited to see the finished design!
Berta gown – Image by David Pullum (STG Recommended Vendor) from Salena and Stefan‘s wedding
The fun part — accessories!
All of my jewellery is being made by my dad, owner of Seaess Designs. I am VERY lucky, as I have been able to design with him each and every piece of bespoke jewellery for the wedding! How many brides can say they have designed their wedding jewellery with their dad?! My engagement ring is a stunning oval cut diamond on a plain rose gold band, so I am continuing the rose gold theme through with my other jewellery — a half eternity wedding band, a bracelet my dad made for my batmitzvah, and pearl drop necklace and earrings.
He is also making Ben a pair of cufflinks (that I helped to design), and also his wedding band, in rose gold to match mine. I can’t wait to see and show off his stunning creations.
My tips to other brides planning their outfit
I have learnt a few useful things along the way, which I hope will help other brides:
- Have a game plan! Have a think about what you may want, but don’t eliminate anything, as you may realise you end up with something totally different from what you imagined
- Go to a few boutiques to start with, which will help you to find designers or styles that you like. You’ll quickly be able eliminate many shapes and styles, even some that you originally thought you’d suit. Also, many well known designer flagships charge for appointments, so there is no point paying anywhere between £25-50 per appointment if you aren’t sure you’ll like the dresses
- Once you’ve tried on a few dresses and designers and you have more of an idea of your style and the kind of bride you want to be, I would then suggest making a few appointments at the flagship stores — this is because boutiques don’t always stock a particular designer’s entire collection
- Listen to your mum — at the end of the day, she knows best!
- Lastly, be true to your style and don’t try and be something that you are not
In My Dreams by Caroline Castigliano
Click here to read all Harlie’s planning posts to date.
Harlie & Ben’s Wedding Vendors booked so far:
Bride’s dress – Caroline Castigliano
Band — Function Band
Stationery — Bigday Designs
Flowers — Urban Flower Farmer
Venue — Landmark Hotel
Makeup — Pamela & Andrea
Photography — Reportage Gallery
Videography — AT Motion
Catering — Philip Small
Chazan — Jonny Turgel
Chuppah — The Chuppah Company
Bride’s shoes – Jimmy Choo
Cufflinks – Seaess Designs