There were many freebies on offer, including a goody bag for every ticket holder. Now I love a freebie but some of these were a little problematic – more on that later.
According to the brochure there were more than 250 vendors present, offering everything from wedding dresses to confetti, cakes made of cheese to flowers.
It was a bit overwhelming, weddings are big, big business, and the centre was heaving with brides to be, their mothers, bridesmaids and the occasional bewildered groom to be.
There was a Groom Room full of suits and very fancy cars, which C would have loved except he refused to come with me (but did take a Best Man to look at suits).
I took my Mum – and she was having a ball. I now know I get my love of a freebie from, she’s been married for 37 years, but oh she was lapping up everything we were offered.
I tried on a flower crown (definitely having one of those), looked at dresses, flowers, table settings, entered every competition going (please can I have a free holiday), tried cakes, looked at fascinators for Mum, discussed my engagement, our wedding plans and the colour scheme about a million times, are more cake, and looked at about a thousand dresses.
I totally failed to take any photos, there was just too much.
Now I want to talk about something that has already annoyed me beyond belief and my Mum decided to bring up several times too.
The wedding industry is fixated on a very particular type of bride – slim, conventionally pretty, and white. There was very little diversity on show.
Where were the dresses for fuller figured brides? Where was the ethnic mix of London being represented? What about the lesbian and genderqueer brides?
Every picture of a bride could have been of the exact same girl. The only suits were tailored for men. There was no suggestion of same sex weddings. I saw no pictures of black or Asian brides, no temples, synagogues, churches or mosques.
Now, I’m sure a lot of the vendors present would happily work with a wide range of wedding couples, after all, business is business. But I can’t imagine how alienating this vision of skinny, perfect whiteness must be.
My Mum pointed out that the wedding dresses were stuck in the past – women on the whole are bigger than before – the average dress size is a 16, but so many of the dresses were designed to fit slim, small-breasted, narrow hipped women. Where is my wide hipped, rugby player shouldered self going to get a dress? (I have ideas, but there was nothing for me there – I didn’t see anything on display above a 12).
The other issues we had revolved around this idea of being perfect- teeth whitening services, professional makeovers, all conforming to a standard not everyone can achieve.
My mum was also horrified by all the weight loss products on offer. In the goody bag offered to everyone were weight loss shakes, tea, biscuit bars and offers for discounts on these and other products.
At a time when even 8 year olds are suffering body image issues, when eating disorders are on the rise, when the standards of beauty are ridiculous, the pressure on the engaged women (and men) is insane.
A wedding is pretty stressful anyway, dealing with vendors, venues, family politics, negotiating everything you want, wrestling with a budget – you name it, it needs to be done. Yes, there are loads of tools, apps, websites etc to help you, but it’s still a lot to take on.
And then on top of that the pressure to lose weight, to be made perfect, because obviously your fiancé doesn’t want to marry you as you are – but some ridiculous impossible image of some other you.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best – to have your hair and make up done, to wear an outfit you feel (and look) fab in, but there is something wrong with feeling pressured to change everything about you to fit into a box.
When my parents got married (37 years and still both alive), there wasn’t nearly as much of this extreme pressure on young women before their weddings. And it really casts a pall over the excitement of it all.