Posted on Leave a comment

“Voglio un matrimono perfetto.”

Don’t we all want a perfect wedding?

Duolingo’s Vikram wants a perfect wedding.

One of Duolingo’s favourite sentences to throw at me to translate (I’m trying to learn Italian) is this one: “I want a perfect wedding.” Another is “Are my shoes electric?” for some reason, but I digress.

Every time I have to translate Voglio un matrimono perfetto, I twitch a little at the casual but crushing pressure on soonly-weds to create an unattainably perfect day, whatever that means for them.

I have heard of a wedding that did run precisely according to the times in the meticulously prepared to-the-minute spreadsheet, but I only did the wedding dress alterations and wasn’t there on the day. The bride admitted that such was the fastidiousness of her planning in Excel, the wedding could have run without her being there.

So, I will say here what I tell all my customers who’ve fretted to me about things not going to plan on the day: I have been to a LOT of weddings, and have yet to go to one where everything ran exactly to plan, but I have never been to a bad wedding either.

I’ve seen the vicar forget the bride’s name, the best man get so drunk that he had to be held up by the bride’s parents to give his speech and the evening disco not show up.

And I include my own wedding in that. Booked for the 9th of August and taking place in a glorious lakeside location, we planned the entire day around being outside. We bought lawn games, booked a bouncy castle and a bungee run, planned reportage photography of leisurely walks around the lake, chose cream rather than dark suits for the groomsmen to thwart the beating summer sun, and included a sachet of SPF50 suncream in the bag of home-made rose petal confetti on each seat, lest the entire congregation be wiped out by sunstroke before we could cut the cake and cut to the disco.

You’re probably way ahead of me, and yes, despite glorious sunshine the day before and the day after, it absolutely dicked it down on our wedding day.

But – and I can’t stress this enough – it was still the best day EVER.

We turned the bouncy castle and bungee run away on arrival, the lawn games stayed in their packaging and my bridesmaid exemplified next-level selfless friendship by holding her umbrella over me, the bride, while her freshly straightened hair succummed to the rain. But huddled in the bar sipping cups of tea instead of iced drinks in the sun, we didn’t care. The day unfolded in raucous laughter, eating, drinking, dancing conversation and love.

We were surrounded by our favourite people and we had just got married. Which is exactly the point. If you end the day married to the person you intended to, everything else is just detail.

Nearly fifteen years, two children and a house move later, I still find the odd, unused sachet of that suncream every now and then.

Posted on Leave a comment

Would you do your job free or for a discount?

Have you ever been asked to work for no/less money? How did you respond and how did you feel afterwards?

The Un-Wedding posted this on Instagram today, and it chimed with some recent conversations with fellow designer-dressmakers who have been asked for discounts, or even to work free in exchange for “exposure”.

I’m either not famous enough or too scary looking to have ever been asked to work for nothing by an influencer or celebrity, and the vast majority of people do recognise the value of what I do. (Actually, one influencer didn’t even tell me about her YouTube channel until after she’d booked me).

Who even does that?

However, on the odd occasion I’ve been asked for a discount, it’s been for wedding dress alterations. This tends to be the last thing to be paid for when planning a wedding, because alterations typically happen as close to the big day as possible so your body is the size and shape it will be on the day.

I’ve become a lot stricter – nay, assertive – about discounts, because every single time I’ve agreed, I’ve resented the customer, hated the work, and gnashed my teeth with every stitch. I’m not out to rip anyone off or obsessed with making as much money as possible; I’d have stayed in corporate PR if I were.

I’ve become more assertive about discounts. Sorry, not sorry.

I usually do put in a lot more work than agreed for the sheer fun of it, and on the odd occasion I’ve even waived my fee entirely just because I wanted to.

Top ‘reasons’ people have expected a discount

Below are the reasons I’ve been given for why I should agree to a discount and my response to each:

1. “We’ve overspent on everything else and run out of money.” (Three instances of this)

Think back to before you booked a single thing. Would you have called me – a stranger –  and asked me to buy, say, your cake, or pay for the extra flower arches? Because that’s effectively what you’re asking me to do now. 

2. “The alterations are costing more than half what I paid for the dress!”

Your dress was an absolute steal but is three sizes too big for you, eight inches too long and will need to have most of the lace removed, replaced and re-beaded by hand.

3. “If I pay that much, I will cry.” (Actually the same person as 2, above)

The work you need will take me around three days in my busiest month of the year when im already starting work at 5.30am and finishing around midnight, and if two of those days are unpaid, I will show you bloody crying.

4. Calling me after the fitting: “Can we round it down to £xxx if I give you cash?”

Err, oh. OK. I was caught off, in a flap and acquiesced. But why should cash necessitate a discount? It actually creates work for me because I have to make a trip to a real-life bank to pay it in. Plus I’m far too socialist to not declare any income on my tax return.

This particular person had also given me an unwashed dress to take in that she had worn clubbing and needed for her hen do (lots of fiddly work to the underarm section) and was condescending to her lovely sister in every appointment.

She also spent one fitting on the phone boasting about how much money she’d got another supplier to come down by. I agreed to the discount but hers was the only name I’ve ever made a mental note of to never work for again.

Same same but different

There are some inquiries that might sound or feel like asking for a discount but aren’t, so please don’t feel afraid to ask (and vendors, please don’t feel offended of you encounter them). Asking for a starting price or rough estimate isn’t rude and neither is surprise when finding out the cost.

Not many people have ever bought anything wedding-related before they plan their own so it’s not reasonable to expect anyone to know what things cost.

Manners for makers

A discount means a compromise on fabrics,  my time or both, and you can’t do that with couture. Moreover, I’m not willing to do any of those and still put my name to the result.

Even MORE-over, asking for a discount is rude. Either you value my work or you don’t.

Aah, that was cathartic. Therapy I didn’t know I needed.

Not actually me, but how I’m feeling now
Posted on Leave a comment

How to see fewer weight-loss ads when you’re engaged

Planning =/= shredding for the wedding

Fifteen years ago, I was excitedly, a little smugly and absolutely bloody FINALLY making my betrothal to my favourite human official: I changed my relationship status on Facebook to ‘Engaged’.

The effect was immediate. In addition to the flattering influx of likes, comments and messages of congratulations, the adverts in my newsfeed changed. Wedding dress boutiques, honeymoon destinations, venues, and, most noticeably, ways to lose weight. This diet, that meal replacement, hashtag ‘Shredding for the wedding’.

The algorithms that determine the ads you see on social media might be more sophisticated these days. When we changed our relationship statuses again to ‘Married’, I started getting ads for fertility treatments and nursery furniture; my husband to ‘Meet hot singles online in your area.’

However, these algorithms remain slave to market correlations, including that planning a wedding also often means wanting to lose weight. A highly unscientific poll I’m running on Instagram currently says two thirds of people saw more weight loss ads after they got engaged.

Reasons for deliberately changing your body are complex and personal so this isn’t a post about whether ads for weight loss treatments are right or wrong, nor whether anyone should or should not lose weight.

But the issue is close to my heart. Brides sometimes come to me because they dread – or have had – horrible experiences in bridal boutiques. In my own case, I have come through eating disorders so it would have been good to have not had to see these ads.

TIL how to stop weight loss ads on Instagram

So, I thought it would be useful to share a tip I learned today to avoid seeing weight-loss ads, on Instagram at least:

From the menu on your profile page, go to Settings > Ads > Ad Topics. If you’ve not done this before, it’s quite interesting to see what The Algorithm thinks you’re interested in based on your Meta (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Messenger) activity. If your list was anything like mine, it should also reassure you that the social media companies actually know bugger all about you.

Tap on one you’re not interested in (my first one was Stargate 🤷‍♀️) and you’ll be given to options about it: ‘No preference’ and ‘Show less (sic) ads about this topic’. Even if its slovenly grammar makes you twitch as much as it did me, tap the second option and that should do the trick.

You can then also search all of the ad topics; the one you need is ‘Body Weight Control’. Choose the second option again and you should hopefully start seeing the adverts diminish, rather than your mental health.

The video below shows you all this in 30 seconds.

Please share with anyone who needs to know.

Special thanks to Alysia Cole Styling whose column in Rock n Roll Bride prompted me to find out how to do this.

Posted on 2 Comments

If you…

…(hopefully) recognise yourself in at least one of these:

If you trusted me to design and make your wedding dress, veil or part of your outfit this year;

Some of my 2022 brides, plus model bottom right for Rock n Roll Bride magazine’s ’90s nostalgia shoot


If you chose me to restyle or alter your dress;


If you collaborated with me on a styled shoot, design, blog or magazine feature;

Belladonna, from my collection in collaboration with The Pickety Witch


If you liked, shared or commented on my a post, story, or reel, or tagged me in yours;


If you recommended me to a friend, wrote a review or followed me;
If you saved my sanity when a pattern draft/embroidery machine/tax return threatened it (again);


If you sent me your wedding pictures showing you in something I made, or dropped me a message just to say you liked my work;


If you sold me a beautiful fabric, some sparkling beads, or the badass embroidery machine that cost six times more than my car;

No cup holder?


If you sent me a card, flowers, chocolates or pins with heads shaped like bats;


If you entertained/fed/tolerated my children so I could put the extra time into my work;

If you are either of my children and told me you loved me;


If you helped me set up, pack up, ferry my gear or cut the breeze at a wedding fair;


If you taught me a new sewing technique, design trick or social media idea;

Oh look, I just drew my state of mind.


If you made me laugh until it hurt, let me cry until I felt better or at any point made me a cup of tea,

Thank you. You filled my heart, you made my year.

Posted on Leave a comment

Why Embroidery Scissors are Shaped Like Storks

You know the little embroidery scissors that are shaped like a bird? I’m not sure I even registered that the bird is a stork, but this week I learned why.

A white woman's hand holding golden embroidery scissors shaped like a stork to cut a thread on some celtic knot embroidery
My embroidery stork scissors at work on a bespoke project this week

Midwives’ umbilical chord clamps used to be shaped like storks, for their association with delivering babies. It seems a clever marketing person noticed that midwives would often work on embroidery projects while waiting the hours and sometimes days for a labour to progress and expanded the range to embroidery scissors in the same shape.

Antique umbilical chord clamp shaped like a stork
An antique umbilical chord clamp

I’m pretty sure midwives today have a bit more to occupy their time, and the appeal of the novelty ornate scissors has spread beyond their original niche.

If you’d like to see the video I made about this, including the story of my youngest’s birth, and the Nutella I hadn’t realised was on my chin, you can find it on my TikTok here.

Posted on Leave a comment

TIL 🥦 Broccoli Bouquets for Men are a Thing – and I’m Here for Them

My lovely friend Alex shared photos of her brother’s wedding last week, featuring the happy couple flanked by male family members clutching bouquets of broccoli.

Groom David, his twin Miles (second from left) and father (far right) with their broccoli bouquets made by the bride.

It seems to be a growing trend in Asia. Alex’s new sister-in-law YaChun Yang (aka Allie) had seen a YouTuber in her native Hong Kong propose to her boyfriend with broccoli, and there are plenty of examples from Japan too (although I never saw it when I lived there 20-odd years ago).

I’m absolutely here for bouquets for all. They’ve only become associated with women/brides because they were originally composed of fragrant herbs to ward off evil spirits marauding for virgins. And as we know, all brides are virgins, because who in their right mind would marry a woman who wasn’t?

Flowers for the girls, broccoli for the boys at David and Allie Wood’s wedding

These days of course, wedding bouquets are more for aesthetics than their proficiency at repelling randy wraiths. Grooms and their parties usually wear flowers in their buttonholes, so it’s no great leap to give them something floral to hold and save them awkwardly twiddling their thumbs in the photos.

Broccoli bouquet with gypsophila and variegated foliage

In Japan, where the garter toss has never taken hold, grooms now have their own bouquet to throw.

And why broccoli in particular? Some say the way it grows, with many stems branching out from the central stalk symbolises a growing family, and so brings fertility to whoever catches it. But don’t let that put you off; an alternative theory is that the nutrient-rich brassica simply brings good health.

The thoughtful groom at this Japanese wedding included mayonnaise in his bouquet in case the catcher was peckish.

But it doesn’t have to be broccoli. Ornamental cabbages are fairly common here in the UK and I’ve seen chillis used in bouquets and decor. A cauliflower or brightly coloured vegetable selection could also look elegant.

And there’s another benefit to clutching your five-a-day at your wedding: a vegetable bouquet would inflict a weighty blunt-force trauma to any lurking demon, should the bride or groom – both virgins of course – find themselves so accosted. 🥦

Posted on Leave a comment

RIP Ian Stuart

I am utterly stunned to learn this evening of the death of my favourite wedding dress designer Ian Stuart, at 55. You can read more about Ian’s illustrious career here, but I want to record what his work has meant to me personally.

Wedding dress designer Ian Stuart

Ian’s designs caught my eye years before I was even engaged; his website was the one I least wanted my then boyfriend (now husband) to spot in my search history.

Once I was engaged, I coveted his pale green Bellini dress for my own wedding but, before I could even find a stockist (or my bridesmaids try to tell me the swirl lookes like a cat’s bottom), my mum vetoed the green.

Green wedding dress Bellini by Ian Stuart from his Strawplay collection
Ian Stuart’s Bellini in palest mint green

In the early noughties, his was the rare voice in boutique bridal proclaiming, “You  CAN wear colour,” and his work has massively influenced how I approach my own.

Ian struck that elusive balance between veering from the beaten bridal track – where I go – with mass appeal and therefore phenomenal international commercial success.

Ian Stuart’s Pompadour in coral

He remains the only wedding dress designer whose dresses I have actually bought, just to study and admire. I own three. One – Pompadour, in coral pink – I actually wore once I’d restyled it into a cocktail dress for a friend’s military Christmas ball (the dress code wasn’t clear on dress length so I went with both long and short).

Me in my restyled Pompadour at the Moulin Rouge ball, Artilliary House, London, 2018

Another, his beautifully opulent, silk Flower Bomb, featured in the V&A’s retrospective exhibition of wedding dresses through the decades. Mine, acquired just this summer, hangs in the window of my sewing room, where I learn something new on fabric manipulation, pattern cutting and structure from it every day. I will never wear it – it’s four sizes too small for me for one thing – but it remains my favourite.

Ian Stuart’s Flower Bomb at the V&A in 2014

I would eagerly await each new collection from Strawplay onwards – Belle Epoch, Runway Rebel, Killer Queen and more – and would pore over each dress in every colourway until I could recognise any of them in the wild (autistic much?). I’m still not over the brand’s sudden, quiet liquidation a few years ago.

I continue to check my saved search I’ve had on ebay since 2005 every day. I’d still love to get my hands on Gainsborough, Crazy Daisy (I can’t even find images any more), Bluebird and Sevruga, and I’d LOVE to study how Harlequinn is constructed.

My heartfelt condolences and all my love go to Ian’s family and friends.

Posted on Leave a comment

PSA: Brides have HORNS 🐐

Winter’s Wedding Words: special Japanese edition

I didn’t attend many weddings when I lived in Japan 20-odd years ago and only found out today that the traditional Japanese bridal head-dress, tsunokakushi (角隠し), literally means HORN CONCEALER!

It was/is believed to hide the bride’s “horns” of jealousy, ego and selfishness, and is a sign of her commitment to be a gentle and obedient wife.

Traditional Japanese bride wearing an ornate tsunokakushi headpiece and red kimono.
Beware what lies beneath the tsunokakushi. Photo: M’s One via Wedded Wonderland

With the gorgeously ornate tsunokakushi worn by brides now, I imagine (read hope) that the origins of the tradition are somewhat lost, and wearing one is now more an aesthetic decision, much like the western wedding veil. But that’s for another blog post.

Either way, take this as another reminder that the world is full of wedding traditions and you only have to follow the ones that work for you. Traditions are just peer pressure from dead people.

Photo from M’s One beauty salon (coincidentally in Gifu, my nearest city when I lived in Japan) via Wedded Wonderland 😈

Posted on Leave a comment

With this ring, I thee… bet?

Winter’s Wedding Words: Wedding

Are you a betting person? Fond of a flutter? Paying wages? Planning a wedding is closer to all of these than you might have ever thought.

You feeling lucky, punk?

The word ‘wedding’ comes from the Old English ‘weddian’, which meant to covenant, engage or pledge. Germanic linguistic history gives us loads of similar words meaning pledge, such as ‘weddia’ in Old Frisian, ‘wedden’ in Low Middle German and Middle and modern Dutch and ‘vedhja’ in Old Icelandic. Gothic also had ‘gawadjōn’ which actually meant to marry or espouse.

So it’s no great leap to see the connection to Modern German’s ‘wetten’, which means to wager or bet, as well as pledge. When you think about betting, what you’re actually doing is promising to pay if you’re wrong. Indeed, Old English ‘wedd’ meant being pawned or mortgaged.

Our Modern English word ‘wages’ also has the same linguistic root, wages also being a promise or pledge, i.e. of a reward for completed work.The germanic languages seem to agree; Middle and Modern Dutch ‘wedde’ means wages.

The Latinate side of English’s origins cognates with the germanic too. Latin’s ‘vas’ (genitive ‘vadis’) and Lithuanian’s ‘vādas’ meant surety or bail.

Finally, ‘wedlock’ doesn’t actually have anything to do with locks. It is simply Old English ‘wedd’ (pledge) plus the suffix ‘lac’ which signified a noun. The suffix changed to ‘lock’ by folk etymology, through association with the similar sounding ‘lock’.

Padlock, wedlock… same-same but different
Posted on Leave a comment

Old wives’ tales

Winter’s Wedding Words: wife

I’m disappointed.

Not in an epically understated way, like my gracious German cousins last week ⚽️🎉.

More like when I go out for Chinese food and the main course never seems to live up to splendiferous platter of prawn toasts, satay chicken sticks, spring rolls and duck pancakes we had for the starter.

I blame husband. Not my husband, nor anyone else’s, but the word ‘husband’ itself. Specifically, its etymology. Because after I learned that it shares its origin with 007 and bondage for my last blog post, I had high hopes for its feminine counterpart.

Disappointment (1882), by Julius Leblanc Stewart. I don’t know what he did either.

Alas, ‘wife’ began its recorded life as Old English wif, meaning… wife.

However, ‘wif’ could also mean woman, irrespective of marital status. So I researched ‘woman’. And here I found my nugget of geek gold.

An anomalous quirk of English language evolution is that the word ‘wife’, i.e. a woman as a man’s possession (the predominant mentality of the time), predates ‘woman’ as a female person generally.

Disappointed AND retroactively outraged.

So I embroidered the shit out of a veil and felt much better.