Justin Alexander, a Real-Life Fairytale
By Hazel McBride
I always knew that planning my wedding was going to be a challenge. Myself and my fiancé met while I was living in Tenerife and he was living in the Netherlands. We endured the long distance, valiantly trying to make it work between us for four whole years before I finally caved and made the move to the Netherlands. And just to make our lives even more complicated, we decided to marry in my hometown in Scotland.
Planning a wedding abroad was never going to be easy, but throw getting engaged in the middle of a pandemic into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Or so you would think.
Thanks to going the distance, you might say that the two of us are pros when it comes to video calling. The first eight months of our engagement were spent in lockdown and because we knew that many vendors and venues would quickly be unavailable for the dates we wanted, we had no choice but to book without visiting first. We had virtual venue tours, our cake samples were sent in the post, and we scoured reviews of our vendors for months.
We didn’t have to miss out on the excitement of wedding planning, we just had to adapt. What we could do online, we booked. What we had to do in person – like finding my dress - we waited for.
It turns out that squeezing everything into one week of bridal excitement with luxury extras to make everything that bit more special, was even better. My bridesmaids took a week off work and we threw ourselves into afternoon teas, tipsy brunches, and dress fittings in what amounted to a week-long Hen party!
I had to learn to let things go and simply keep the faith that everything would work out.
The day of my first dress shopping appointment dawned and I had firmly vowed to keep my options open. I was visiting a local store, Wedding Wise, and being the complete professionals that they are, Elaine soon knew exactly what kind of style of dress I was looking for. Which meant she put me in no fewer than five Justin Alexander Signature Collection dresses within the hour.
While I loved them all, I hadn’t felt that ‘spark’ yet and decided I would have to visit some more stores. I was also battling internally with hating the reflection in the mirror after some significant pandemic weight-gain. But then Elaine told me she had one more dress she wanted me to try. Before the dress was even fully zipped up, I looked into the mirror and said ‘this is the one.’ It was completely different to what I had originally asked for, but it was like Style 88122 had been made for me.
The sweetheart neckline was delicate and feminine, the corset made me feel supported without being constricting, and despite having a low back and no long sleeves (which I was adamant I wanted) it didn’t make me feel self-conscious about my broad shoulders or upper arms at all. When I looked in the mirror I saw a fairytale bride with no insecurities, which is exactly what I wanted to feel like on the day. I was convinced. The beautiful drop sleeves made me feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and the soft sand underskirt and the ivory lace fit the fairytale theme perfectly. The long train gave just the right amount of "extra" that I knew I needed.
Our wedding day coincided with the sunniest, warmest day of the year in Scotland and as I stepped into my dress with the sun streaming through the windows behind me, it felt surreal. I couldn’t believe that my wedding day was here and I was getting to wear possibly the most beautiful dress I had ever worn in my life. I was also fervently glad that I hadn’t chosen full sleeves after all or I would have been melting onto the floor by 11am.
When I stepped into the church and saw my husband standing at the end of that aisle, suddenly the sacrifices, the delays, the nights spent worrying, didn’t matter anymore. Despite being convinced that I wouldn’t cry when I saw him, I promptly burst into tears and was extremely grateful that my veil was covering the worst of it.
I received so many compliments on my dress throughout the day. Mostly from people who had expected me to wear something totally different, but they all agreed on one thing – that it looked made for me.
I think that is the secret to Justin Alexander dresses. They don’t wear the Brides, they simply accentuate the beauty that their Brides already have. While I started to regret choosing a dress with so many skirt layers as the temperature rocketed towards the 30’s (Celsius) during the photo session, I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin as I did on my wedding day. Unlike most brides, I hadn’t been working out like a fiend in the gym, or "sweating for the wedding" at all. Battling with binge-eating disorder and struggling with my body image literally up until the day before the wedding, I was terrified I was going to hate how I looked as I was at my heaviest weight.*
But like a real fairytale, it was as if a Fairy Godmother had cast a magic spell to create the perfect dress and suddenly it didn’t matter. My body fit the dress and the dress fit me in a way unlike any other garment I have ever worn has. My weight was the furthest thing from my mind the entire day, and all I could think about was how unbelievably happy I was.
Unfortunately, I was not also granted glass slippers and my feet were killing me by the time dinner was served. With a swift change into flats after the Wedding Breakfast, I felt like a new woman and danced the night away until the band had left and it was only myself and my new husband swaying under a blanket of stars.
Every bride wants their wedding to be perfect. It’s why we stress, and plan, and stress some more. But while the details are important, what really matters is that you marry the love of your life. And if you manage to do that, then your wedding was a success.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support via text message to individuals who are struggling with mental health, including eating disorders, and are experiencing crisis situations.