Author Archives: Guest Contributor

Wedding Dress Shopping as a Wheelchair User: A Real Bride’s Story

Diversity and inclusion are popular buzzwords right now in the wedding industry, but are diverse communities actually being represented enough? Black business owner Nicola Wilshire of Velvet Queen, an independent bridal shop based in Portsmouth is here to share some advice and an interview with one of her recent brides, Steph (pictured).

I know how it feels to not feel represented and I understand the importance it has on communities when they are seen, accepted and celebrated. With Velvet Queen my mission is to promote diversity and inclusion for all minority communities in the wedding industry.

After seeing how slowly changes happen in the wedding industry, we decided that it was time for us to be part of the change so we created a campaign for real people to come and model for us, including real bride, Steph, who is a wheelchair user.  

Any shopping as a wheelchair user is more challenging; a lack of changing room space and not enough suitable handrails are common issues. When it comes to wedding dress shopping as a disabled bride, in addition to the practical challenges of bigger and longer dresses and closures on the back, there are also heightened emotions to deal with all whilst juggling the lack of dignity of getting in and out of bridalwear in front of a stranger.

Contact Shops in Advance

If you are a wedding dress shop which strives to be inclusive, your shop must be fully accessible to wheelchair users!

Steph said, “I contacted many bridal shops first to check if they were wheelchair accessible. One shop that I had contacted had been assured it was, but when I arrived there were two rather large steps to gain access that the staff member had overlooked. I also found that some shops had difficulty knowing how to approach my shopping experience and lacked consideration of what styles would work with my chair.”

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A Perfect Fit: How it Felt to be a Plus Size Bride

Finding the perfect wedding dress can feel overwhelming, especially if you are in a larger body. Newlywed Emma Jackson-Sanders shares her story and tips for finding a dress you love no matter what your shape or size.

I thought my years of working in the NYC garment industry had given me an insider advantage. I knew the language, the process and how weddings dresses are made, but nothing prepared me for walking into a salon as a plus size bride and being told over and over that there was nothing for me to try on.

I am a US size 16 in street clothes (UK size 20), this puts me on the end of plus size scale that usually has more of a selection. I started to feel like I was not the “right” kind of bride. That I didn’t deserve to have that magical dress moment. It was a much longer journey to the perfect dress than I ever imagined, but in the end I did get there.

I was expecting the proposal on my 40th birthday in London pub with my family over a Sunday roast. I had already made appointments to visit bridal salons with my mum the day after I returned home. What I didn’t expect was the limited number of dresses the consultant showed me, which she justified by saying it was too expensive to make samples in a larger size for all the gowns. I had one I really wanted to see. It was not in my size, and she suggested I put my arms through the straps and imagine how this $5,000 dress would look when it fit me. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. My mum said it looked like I was wearing a peasant dress. I realised if I was going to make it through this, I needed a plan.

The first step was calling salons and asking if they even had plus size samples. Any salons that did not, I crossed off the list. If they didn’t want to spend money on plus samples, then I didn’t want to give them any. I had one place tell me the location in NYC was the flagship store so it only carried size 2 (UK size 6-8) dresses. Surprisingly, the fashion capital has many salons here with the same attitude. I told consultants I was shocked by the lack of options, and they laughed and said, “Oh don’t worry we can get you in any size sample”. I learned that meant they would only show me silhouettes like A-line or ball gown that I could get on but not zip up. I had no choices when it came to other dress shapes in the smaller sizes. I searched out salons that advertised as plus size friendly, but in many cases that still meant smaller than what would really fit me.

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Chronically Fabulous: How to Plan a Wedding When You’re Chronically Ill or Neurodivergent

Rochelle, who has a number of chronic illnesses and is an ambassador for M.E Support UK, married Dan in 2014. Today she talks to us about what she learnt during her wedding planning, and shares some valuable tips for those of you in currently doing the same.

I’ve been married for eight years this year and if I could do it all over again I would; unfortunately, not because it was so enjoyable, quite the opposite in fact. There was so much going on in our lives at the time, that I ended up bombarded and smothered by things that in the end, just didn’t matter.

I was diagnosed with a multitude of chronic illnesses in 2013. I have M.E, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, Hyper-mobility, Costochondritis and Asthma. I had Asthma before meeting my fiancé but the rest all came hurtling at us in one giant, F-off curve ball at full speed just six months after we got engaged.

I got so absorbed in what I thought were huge issues at the time – for example, the weight I gained from not being as mobile anymore. It made me feel embarrassed and I was not feeling confident enough to go and try dresses on, so I settled and I really regret diminishing myself and our day.

I did most of the planning by myself, sitting up in bed, or with my now husband, who, added twist to our story, is neurodivergent. He was very involved in the planning but this was a requirement for him as he was never going to be able to be one of the “Tell me where and when and I’ll be there” partners. His anxiety levels didn’t allow it, he needed clear, concise information for all aspects which meant a lot more organisation required on my part.

Chronic illness takes so much away from those affected by it every day so I want to share some advice I learned in hindsight from my own experience to make sure you have the memorable celebration of your love that you deserve.

Make it Your Day

Seems obvious right? Your celebration should one hundred percent be about you and the person you love. However, once other people start to get involved it’s easy to start questioning your vision and decisions. As a chronically ill person, you need to think about your own health and make that a priority at every step. It’s not selfish, it’s survival.

Don’t listen to what others deem a ‘proper’ wedding (In fact if someone suggests your wedding isn’t a proper wedding then I would definitely strike them from the invite list!) and instead, make it the day you and your partner want and need it to be. Others will try and muzzle in and give their opinions all the time but at the end of the day, it’s your experience and you will regret not doing it your way.

Ask for Help

I let my complex of being a ‘burden’ stop me from doing a lot of things in my wedding experience. It ended up that I did most of the planning and organising by myself and on the day of our wedding my husband was ferrying people back and forth to the venue and almost missed our ceremony! It is not something I recommend at all for stress levels or your moral, I have no fun or meaningful memories of planning my day.
Be a Team

It’s ironic that the day of love and commitment you are planning for you and your partner can actually be one of the most argument-inducing subjects and times in your relationship. For anyone who is chronically ill, stress can be a huge trigger for flare. As my husband is neurodivergent, he isn’t always the best at communicating, especially when there is pressure or in a time sensitive situation.

We used an approach, that we actually still to use to this day, for any stressors or conflicts during planning. We planned a time in the day where we could begin discussions calmly and without distractions.

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Being a Bare-Faced Bride: You Don’t Have to Wear Make-Up On Your Wedding Day!

For the majority of brides, the hair and make-up process is a really integral and exciting part of the wedding prep. But what if you don’t at all feel comfortable in foundation and mascara? Do you still have to wear it on your wedding day? Of course not! As we always say, you need to have a wedding that feels right for YOU, but we also know that sometimes, standing against the expected and status quo is easier said than done. Recently married reader Sarah Blake is here today to share her experience of being a bare-faced bride.

Everything was going well until the lipstick went on. I’d been OK with the foundation, even a little contouring, and the concealer to hide my spots made a lot of sense. Then came the dark mascara around my eyes. It felt a little clunky, coating my lashes in heavy goop which I wasn’t accustomed to, but as I looked in the mirror I still felt alright. After the lipstick was applied though, it all came crashing down and I completely freaked out.

All of a sudden my entire face felt clown-like. Every aspect of the make-up trial (which had always been an experimental process) abruptly became an issue and I put the mirror down in disgust. This wasn’t who I was. In an attempt to rectify the situation, we tried other lipstick shades aiming to match as close to my natural colour as possible, but I still felt unnerved by the dark-eyed stranger in front of me.

My make-up artist (who is also my oldest friend) had been brilliant, introducing me to the very subtle look slowly and gradually to make sure it wasn’t a shock. She expertly talked me through everything she was doing, telling me we were just trying to re-create me, but on a really good day, and giving me full control to veto anything I wasn’t happy with, including the whole idea of wearing make-up at all. As we assessed her work, we realised that without the lipstick, the “look” didn’t quite seem right, and with it, I squirmed uncomfortably at my own reflection.

Having decided to let things sit for a while, we took some photos for me to refer back to but however much I looked at them, I couldn’t quite fathom the alien staring back at me. At our second meeting I tried again to adjust my mindset as my friend struggled to reassure me, but questions kept flashing through my head:

I’d never worn make-up a day in my life so why would my wedding day be any different?

Why was the world telling me I should change this fundamental thing about myself just because I’m a bride?

How come there wasn’t anywhere near that much pressure for the groom to look perfect? No one told him he would look washed out in the photos without make-up on so why was that comment constantly being directed at me? Was it my pale skin or was it just people’s expectations?

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Toxic Anti-Fat Bias & Diet Culture in the Wedding Industry

Jennifer Rollin is an eating disorder therapist and founder of The Eating Disorder Center, which provides eating disorder therapy in MD, VA, DC, NY, PA, FL, and CA. Recently married, she shares her experience of navigating diet culture and anti-fat bias during her planning process.

One of the best days of my life was when (my now husband) Mark, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him at the same park where I first saw him.

I began wedding planning fairly quickly after and saw first-hand the toxic diet culture and anti-fat bias which is abundant in the wedding industry.

It’s important to note that I have privilege in a variety of areas-including thin privilege (for example, I was able to find a wedding dress in my size in stores) and that navigating the wedding industry is far more challenging for those who are more marginalised.

From seamstresses who ask if you are planning to lose weight before the wedding, to wedding dress stores not carrying sizes for folks in larger bodies, to TikTok videos talking about ‘shredding for the wedding,’ to some brides buying wedding dresses in sizes that are too small for their current body, diet culture and anti-fat bias is everywhere in the wedding industry.

As an eating disorder therapist and someone who personally recovered from my own eating disorder, I knew going into the wedding planning process that I had no plans to diet or try to lose weight leading up to my wedding. This honestly felt relieving as I didn’t put any pressure on myself to try to change my body leading up to the wedding (nor do I put this kind of pressure on myself in my life in general). I also ended up having my wedding dress taken out and was totally cool with that.

It was so nice to be able to fully enjoy the time leading up to the wedding-including an incredible tasting of our wedding food and desserts.

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Is It Too Late Now To Say Sorry? Dealing with Conflict Within Your Relationship

It’s important to remember that conflict within your relationship is normal, but there are certainly ways to deal with it that are better than others! Natalie Lee explores how to successfully deal with conflict within your relationship.

Newsflash: You are separate individuals. You have been brought up by different people, maybe in different areas, and maybe from completely different cultures with your own unique way of doing things. The aim here is not to eradicate disagreements but rather learn how to navigate them more effectively without them escalating or building those big bolder blocks of resentment, which will only serve to slowly strangle the life out of your relationship. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

What are you really fighting about?

It’s also worth remembering that often, the thing you’re arguing about is rarely about the real thing you’re arguing about. On the surface you might be arguing about the cost of wedding flowers, but try to strip it back and look at what’s lies underneath. Yes, flowers may seem trivial but if they’re not understanding your point of view, or why you want to get certain ones, is it inadvertently giving you another message – that they don’t care about your feelings or opinion, that they’re the one that earns most of the money so it’s up to them how it’s spent, that they don’t respect you? It is unlikely that they are saying anything to deliberately to hurt you so try to identify the feeling/s rather than focus on the action and (probably when you’ve calmed down) communicate this to your partner.

When you are planning a wedding, emotions are high. There’s a lot at stake, a lot to think about, agree on and pay for. Is it any wonder that pre-wedding squabbles will happen? In fact, I think you’d be pretty weird if you had no arguments during this period at all!

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How To Be Creative with Your Wedding When You’re Not Sure How

Finding a way to infuse your wedding with cool and individual ideas is something that can bring pure joy, but it can cause a lot of stress too. Cake designer and all-round creative gal Autumn Rabbitts is here to bring you some tips for being creative on your wedding day when it doesn’t come naturally to you.

I see myself as incredibly creative, I’m always full of ideas, but sometimes I struggle making them a reality. As a designer, I have spent years (and a shit-ton of money!) learning how to do what I do. I have also learnt that everyone struggles with this sometimes, no matter how well trained they might be. Getting the ideas out of your head and into tangible actions can be really difficult. The following processes should help if you have lots of ideas for your wedding but you’re not sure how to bring them together to create the vibe you want.

Research, Research, Research

The aim is to get your mind thinking about things visually. I would suggest faking it till you make it – you are now Picasso! Create a Pinterest board or scrapbook with colours, tones and textures you like. You could include foods, dresses or florals – anything that floats your boat!

I suggest Pinterest to help you organise all of your ideas because it is something I would have killed for as a bride-to-be! Use it to organise your thoughts and ideas. Start with boards for everything you love and then step back and see if there is an overall feel that you might have subconsciously gravitated towards. Then create one ‘master’ board with your favourite parts to work from.

For instance, everything I ever pin seems to be pink, green, shiny (I am a magpie in a human costume!) and is always based in something to do with the natural forms of nature. If I was creating my wedding theme from scratch, this is where I would start.

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Learning to Love my Wedding Photographs

The time between your wedding day and getting your photos back can seem like forever. You may be dreaming of gushing over each one, getting your favourites framed and sending out thank you cards with your happy ‘just married’ faces on the front. So, what happens if you get your pictures back and you’re less than thrilled? Or, worse still, what if you hate the way you look in them? Recently married, Steph Hale, is here to share her experience of hating yet eventually learning to love her wedding photographs.

When we got our wedding photographs back, I cried. They were not happy tears either. Upon opening the package, I discovered the photo DVD had a picture frame built in to the leather holder and our photographer had selected a photo to put in it. In that picture I looked like a horse. I hated that picture and once I put the DVD into the machine and the images rolled by one by one, I couldn’t think about anything other than picking holes in almost every single one I was in.

Now don’t get me wrong, we hired incredible photographers who captured the day beautifully, but my own appearance, or at least my feelings and my perception of my appearance, made me dislike the photos. Intensely. I sobbed and sobbed as disappointment washed over me, and I hated myself for spending so much money on something I now didn’t like.

And then, for the first time in my life, I did something sensible. I put the disc away and for a while forgot about them. A couple of months later, I looked again, and to my surprise, my feelings had begun to change. OK, I still looked bad in some of them, but that one wasn’t as bad as I first thought – I looked passably human! And so, this continued, I found the images more tolerable every time I looked through them after a break of time. When we reached the 10 month point post-wedding, I discovered that I actually adored my pictures, and now, as we approach five years that love has only grown!

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Staying Power: Making Your Wedding Make Up Last All Day

Ensuring that your make-up looks as good as it did at the end of the day as it did when you first applied it is an art form, and never is this more important than on your wedding day. Makeup artist Joyce Connor is here with her top tips to make your make-up last all day

This is one of the biggest days of your life, so as cheesy and cliché as it sounds, you are going to want to look your best. My years of experience as a make-up artist, but especially with brides, mean that I have become an expert in creating looks that last. If you want your handiwork to last all day, here are a few tricks of the trade…

One of the biggest issues you may face is keeping your make-up looking fresh through the tears. Weddings are always emotional, and even if you don’t think of yourself as a crier, you may well find yourself suddenly – and joyfully – tearful. Nerves also have the knack of making you cry, as can memories of those who you love and miss, and who you would have wanted to share your special day with you.

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The Disabled Couple’s Guide to Venues

Disabled couples are getting married every day. However, there is very little information available on the things you may need to consider. Author of Wedding Planning for Spoonies, Meara Bartlett, is here today with some advice when it comes to finding your venue.

The venue is one of the most important aspects of the wedding. The venue starts off your planning as everything else revolves around where the day will take place. You should book it as soon as can after you get engaged, as some venues are booked years in advance for the most popular dates. I’m going to break it down by needs for what to keep in mind for a venue if you or any of your guests are disabled.

Do keep your guests in mind of all abilities, distances, and budgets.
Don’t put yourself last.

If you have mobility problems or extra things you consider, don’t rush yourself. Allow more time in your wedding planning schedule to find a wedding venue. This article is intended to inspire you, not restrict you. None of this is fully comprehensive. Toss out ideas and keep what you like! Have fun, and we’ll see you at the end of the aisle.

Requirements you may want to consider:

Easily accessible bathrooms
Plenty of individual toilets
Wheelchair access
Smooth terrain
Ample parking
Enough seating with extra space if needed

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5 Ways to Ensure You Get the Creative Wedding Cake of Your Dreams

The funny thing with weddings is that there is so much said about what you ‘should have’ (many of them untrue!) and definitely not enough information on how to have exactly what you want. This often leads to not getting the full experience when choosing your suppliers, theme, venue or cake. Baker Autumn Rabbitts of Plumb and Rabbitts Cake Studio is here today with her top tips for getting the creative wedding cake of your dreams.

As a cake designer, here are the five things I think you need to pay attention to ensure that you get exactly what you want and the help if you don’t really know what that is!

Give your cake maker the right information

The main things every cake maker wants to know straight off the bat are:What your chosen date is

♥ Where the venue is
♥ How many people you are feeding
♥ And last but not least, do you have any ideas about what colours, style or flavour of cake you might like?

You will notice I haven’t added the dreaded ‘what is your budget?’ question because this can change once you realise how much choice you have and how important the cake is to you. Often, cake makers already know how much it is going to cost roughly based on the answers above so do ask for a rough quote for a basic cake if you want to get an idea before you commit.

Also, I really recommend sending some images of other cakes that you like. Don’t worry if they’re not exactly what you want; a rough idea of the style you’re after will help us create a more accurate quote for you.

At this point you may also want to ask if they can cater for allergies/dietary requirements if needed and if they charge extra for delivery and set up.

Ask for the cake flavours you really want and find out if you can taste some

I think the cake tasting is the best bit of wedding planning! Your caker maker may do in-person consultations or post cake sample to you directly. I often get asked if fruit cake is the only option and hell no! In fact, I’ve only made four fruit cakes in the seven years I’ve been doing this! Everyone orders sponge flavours these days and I haven’t had many clients ask about the tradition of freezing the top layer for a future anniversary either.

As you’re reading Rock n Roll Bride magazine, you probably already know that you want to make your wedding a reflection of the two of you, so you don’t need to do any traditions that you don’t want to.

Photo by Rebecca Carpenter Photography
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Confessions of a Second Time Bride

The wedding industry will have you believe that by achieving wedding day perfection you will ensure your happily ever after. But let’s be realistic for a second, we all know that for some couples, that simply isn’t the case. Being a second (third or fourth!) time bride is nothing to be ashamed of. The good news is that in most cases partners are often wiser and know themselves even better having gone through the wedding – and marriage – process before. Alicia Porter is here to share her experiences of wedding planning second time around.

When I got married the first time in 1996 it was, for lack of a better phrase, ‘planning chaos’. We had location battles, I had a ‘friend’ wanted me to pay her to be a bridesmaid, my mother told me I was too fat for my wedding dress and people constantly wanted to ‘help’ by faxing me pictures of suitable dresses. So, I went on strike. We flew from Alaska to New Zealand and eloped. It was pretty, there were fun cousins nearby, and the florist was a star. The wedding dinner was a random restaurant, and there was chocolate log for a wedding cake. It was wonderful.

My family then threw an elegant garden party reception on our return. However, my parents attitude was it was their party, therefore their choices prevailed. My mother chose the invitations, the cake, the venue and what everyone wore – including me. This is how I found myself in a borrowed dress with a gardenia on my shoulder in a receiving line with outright strangers.

In hindsight, I now realise that although an elopement was easier, the result was we were two very independent people who didn’t know how to work together on big projects. Obviously, this wasn’t the only issue in the relationship, but a lack of being able to work together as a team compounded the fact that the marriage simply didn’t work. Planning for a future together requires work and communication. Child rearing is nothing if not a joint effort. Wedding planning in some respects is a safe practice run to make sure that you know how to work with each other for the bigger picture.

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No Laughing Matter: Giving a Speech at a Sober Wedding

Scotland’s Covid wedding rules include a blanket ban on alcohol until 17th May, reopening a years-long debate about dry receptions. Thankfully, we’ve moved on from the days of needing a drink in hand to have a good time. Haven’t we…? We asked the award-winning comedy writers at Speechy how to keep wedding speeches funny without the help of the ultimate social lubricant.

Dry weddings are fairly uncommon but – whether down to religious reasons, the Covid wedding rulebook, or simply as a lifestyle choice – they are on the rise. And without the usual bar and dancefloor antics, the speeches may well become the epicentre of your day, so they need to be on point.

It’s fair to assume some guests will be sceptical about sitting through a booze-free toast – as Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, ‘I drink to make other people more interesting’. That’s why it’s so important to add laughter to proceedings via your speeches. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through how…

SMART HUMOUR

A clear-headed audience is certainly a more discerning one. A crowd with its wits about it will be even less likely to laugh at recycled wedding gags so, first off, step the hell away from Google. It is not your friend.

The internet is a wonderful tool for things like wedding décor inspo and reminding yourself which day the bins go out, but it offers suspiciously few ideas for truly original wedding speeches. You’ll want to make sure your humour is fresh, witty and bespoke.
Sober guests are less likely to heckle and ad lib – this might be both a good and a bad thing, but ultimately gives you space to deliver your speech without distraction. If the bride’s nan guffaws throughout, you’re either doing something right or she’s managed to smuggle a hipflask into the venue.

COMEDY MOCKTAIL INGREDIENTS

There’s a basic recipe for a standout speech, so try the following advice – it’s worth a shot winks.

Honesty – Comedians get their best material from real life because it’s properly funny. Guests aren’t interested in some fantasy bride and groom. They know you’re not that pure so give them what they’re really after – the truth. Make the ordinary extraordinary.

Hyperbole – Keeping it real doesn’t mean you can’t jazz things up. If you’re the best man, exaggerate the traits your audience will already recognise in the newlyweds and feel free to put a slapstick spin on your anecdotes. Send yourself up while you’re at it.

Swearing – Just because it’s a sober wedding, it doesn’t mean the guests have suddenly turned into saints. Resist the urge to censor yourself if a potty mouth is how the crowd know and love you. Like any wedding speech, it depends on the audience demographic but a few bollocks, bloodies or arses adds enough of an edge to loosen people up.

Confidence – Enjoy yourself. It feels good to make people laugh. Like, really good. And after a year of pretending to enjoy Zoom parties, everyone will be ready to put on some suave-looking garms and be entertained in person. Believe us, they’re practically holding the belly laughs in before you’ve even started.

MINDFUL MOMENTS

Mindfulness isn’t just something you hear about on Yoga Influencer Instagram and your long-forgotten Headspace app. Being fully present and engaged in the moment is an important life skill, and it’s much better honed without the distraction of inebriants.
Taking alcohol out of the equation means none of the usual blurred memories or fuzzy flashbacks. Your audience is present. Like, bright eyed, bushy tailed present. This means they’re likely to actually remember the speech, so make sure it’s memorable for the right reasons.

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