Weddings need not be quite so elite from this week, now that there is no longer a limit on the number of guests allowed to attend. The lockdown 30-person cap on ceremonies and receptions might have posed a political headache for the marrying couple but, for many of those selected to attend, it brought a welcome air of informality, downgrading the need or desire to dress up to the nines with a new outfit, topped off with a fabulous hat or headpiece.
Indeed, with some couples placing a ban on their VIP guests posting photos of the nuptials and reception on social media (so that the uninvited would remain none the wiser, at least for a while), there has been no need to go overboard with an outfit. Why not wear the dress you wore two weddings ago? Hardly anyone will know.
However, now the big wedding is back, although not yet back to normal. The ban on singing and dancing (except for the happy couple’s first dance) remains in place for now (some might be relieved to hear it) so looking good on the dance floor need not be a consideration.
And numbers may well still be restricted because each individual venue has to make sure that it is Covid-safe. There is no numerical limit on outdoor wedding celebrations but indoors social distancing rules will continue, including mask-wearing when not sitting at a table.
This means that many couples and their families are still in a state of confusion. Designer Jillian Welch, who has a studio-boutique in Harrogate says that, when her doors reopened in April, there was a huge clamour from mothers of the bride and wedding guests for outfits. “It was like an emotional release. One of the things they are saying is that a lot of the shops don’t have many sizes due to high demand.”
Smaller weddings, she says, still seem to be on track, but with a demand for less formal outfits. “People are worried that, if something happens and the wedding cannot go ahead or as planned, they don’t want to look like an idiot,” she says.
But some of her clients attending larger weddings are still seeing them delayed, as couples wait to have their big day exactly as they want it, restriction-free.
“People are scared to believe that things are getting back to normal,” she says. “They can have their 70 people but they cannot have any dancing, and outside people have to sit on the grass.”
This uncertainty means that some clients feel they have to play it safe with their outfit.
“One thing people have always said to me is ‘I don’t want it to be typical mother of the bride’, but I get the feeling they really mean it this time,” she says. “They don’t know what the wedding will be like.”
Mothers of the bride and guests of post-September weddings do tend to be leaning more towards the “full works” of dress, coat and hat, Jillian says, looking for colour and textured fabrics.
“Royal blue has been really popular, and turquoise. Pinks have been popular, but grown-up pinks. I have a wedding in October with a beautiful burnt orange chiffon dress for a woodland-style wedding and I have a grandmother of the bride in a fuchsia pink dress. People are wanting some brightness and happiness after it all.”
Over in Leeds, Natalie Jackson, of Helen Sykes Fashions, agrees that colour is key, adding that clients are keen to get dressed up again, with the store busy, especially with mothers of the bride and groom.
“There are still many mums preferring sophisticated neutral tones such as platinum and rose gold, but we are also seeing an increase in demand for more vibrant fun colours, such as hot magenta and bright turquoise,” she says. “The styles are still very understated and elegant, with beautiful feminine detailing such as sheer shoulders, off-the-shoulder necklines, fluted cuffs and a touch of sparkle to catch the light. Although some ladies always prefer a classic straight skirt, we are noticing a trend for softer midi skirts and less structured styles.”
At Snooty Frox in Harrogate, Rachel Atkinson says: “Since reopening in April, our appointment diary has been full, which is brilliant and exciting. Ladies are going for both the traditional and more relaxed look, depending on the venue, with floaty dresses and full skirts taking centre stage.”
Meanwhile, Gini Palm at Julie Fitzmaurice in Harrogate says she is seeing clients excited about the wedding season and thrilled to be back shopping for their big day. “We have many clients visiting Harrogate with their daughter or daughter-in-law for the day, making an appointment with us in the morning, lunch at the Ivy, Bettys or Gino’s, and returning to us afterwards to make their final decision. Harrogate is the most perfect place to come for the day and we are thrilled to have the excitement back in the shop after so long.”
And what of bridesmaids, now that brides can choose as many as they like? Floaty fabrics in soft but unusual shades of pale pinks, greys and sage greens are popular, and the choice from national designers and the high street is impressive, with plenty of dresses for both boho and contemporary-classic style weddings.
British fashion brand Rixo has just launched its debut Bridesmaid collection, with five key shapes and styles, from halter neck to V-neck, tiered skirts to A-line, so there is a silhouette to suit all, in its own print, Virtues of Rosemary, featuring a colour palette inspired by vintage lingerie and silk slips from the 1930s with tonal shades of coral, green and blue.
Whistles also has a lovely range of bridesmaid dresses, and new styles include a minimal square neckline design, a full-length Bardot sleeve dress and a playful fluted hem style, while the popular tie-back maxi returns in eight colours.
Large or small, traditional or informal, the big wedding is back – and so is statement dressing.