Navigating wedding dressing as an older bride can be daunting, but whether you opt for chic separates or go for a traditional gown, don’t be afraid to wear white, say these three designers …
Main featured image via Emilia Wickstead Pre-Fall 2022 collection; www.emiliawickstead.com.
I often describe myself as a hopeful, rather than hopeless, romantic and while no one needs to buy a hat just yet, I’m holding out for a white-ish wedding at some point in the not too distant future. That means I shall be an “older bride” – a description once tainted with some embarrassment, I associate it with prim suits, conservative dresses (possibly in lavender or eau de nil), and registry office ceremonies, rather than full blown bridal fabulousness. I’m wide of the mark, according to a trio of Irish designers, known for their bridal brilliance.
“I’m dressing two older first time brides at the moment,” Helen Cody tells me. In fact, women in their late forties upwards make up 15 per cent of her bespoke orders. Of these brides Cody says, “Generally they are more practical and the weddings are always smaller, opting for a bigger party on a different date.”
She reminisces about her own wedding four years ago – a lovely, intimate affair held at Dublin’s City Hall, with just friends and family and her two dogs, Harry and Joe. Cody wore a cardigan by Susan Monaghan Cashmere with one of her own silk skirts. “It felt bridal enough, but also very comfortable and contemporary.”
Designer Sharon Hoey’s latest collection oozes style and sass, and includes several separates – such as a diaphanous organza Petal top worn with Gigi trousers or a slim crepe Blossom skirt. “This is a pretty option for a mature bride who wants a relaxed look but still have a glamorous feel,” says Hoey. The entire collection is in white which refutes the notion that older women shouldn’t marry in this colour. White, as we know, has light reflecting qualities which make the complexion look luminous.
Cody concurs: “All my older brides still want to feel amazing on their day but not too over the top. Ivory is still top of the list although blush and palest grey are popular colour choices too.”
“Fit is key,” believes designer Louise Kennedy. Her advice: “Invest in quality fabric and accessorise wisely – a drop pearl earring or delicate crystal earrings to keep it simple, or make a statement with layered pearl necklaces.”
For brides-to-be opting to replace the big traditional bridal gown with more avant-garde silhouettes, Kennedy suggests sharp tailoring and sleek silhouettes in ivory hues. A crisp jacket and trouser set – like the Clara blazer and Gigi trousers, pictured, is the height of understated elegance, exuding sophistication and style. “Contemporary dresses with structured silhouettes, like our Aura cape dress, crepe Loren dress and lace Lara dress, are also exquisite choice for mature brides – expertly tailored for a figure-flattering fit,” she explains.
If celebrities often set bridal trends (who can forget Caroline Bessette Kennedy’s Narciso Rodriguez slip dress?), it’s been hard to ignore the flurry of older brides hitting the headlines this summer. Here’s a look at their nuptial style.
The Bride: Jennifer Lopez, 53
“Stick around long enough and maybe you’ll find the best moment of your life is a drive through in Las Vegas at twelve thirty in the morning in the tunnel of love, with your kids and the one you’ll spend forever with,” gushed Lopez of her June wedding to Ben Affleck, held at the iconic Little White Wedding Chapel – 20 years after their first engagement. So far, Lopez has had two weddings, two honeymoons (in Paris and at Lake Como), and worn five wedding dresses.
Lopez has had plenty of practice when it comes to LWD (long white dresses), having got married in films such as The Wedding Planner, Enough, El Cantante, Shotgun Wedding and Marry Me, and in real life. This is her fourth marriage, and for the Las Vegas midnight ceremony (could they not get an earlier slot?) she wore a sleeveless Alexander McQueen dress, (which got a thumbs down from me), before changing into a frothy off-the-shoulder gown with a fishtail train, corseted bodice and veil by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad, which she had once worn on set.
When the couple later celebrated with friends at their home in Riceboro Georgia, the bride wore, not one but three, custom Ralph Lauren gowns, rumoured to have cost around $800,000 to $1m each. The first gown, worn with a dramatic cathedral veil and Mikimoto earrings, was a bridal version of Lauren’s classic turtleneck column dress – plus a voluminous ruffle skirt. This featured over 1,000 handkerchiefs and 500 metres of fabric. That’s a lot of material. I felt for JLo in this dress – it’s humid in Georgia, so no wonder she changed!
The second gown was adorned with cascading strings of pearls. In this dress she serenaded Ben with a new song (a cover of the reggae hit I’m Still in Love With You). The gown, which had echoes of Edwardian styling, was actually my favourite, while the third had a sleek mermaid silhouette and a keyhole neckline embellished with Swarovski crystals. Lopez loves a keyhole neckline – me, not so much. Ben also wore Ralph Lauren, but who was looking at him? He appeared to be exhausted in all the photos I’ve seen!
Lopez was radiant, and though few of us have her budget, you’ve got to admire her optimism about this marriage. “We’re older now, we’re smarter, we have more experience, we’re at different places in our lives, we have kids now, and we have to be very conscious of those things,” she told People. “It’s a beautiful outcome that this has happened in this way at this time in our lives where we can really appreciate and celebrate each other and respect each other.” I look forward to her renewing wedding vows with Affleck on a regular basis. This is not the last time we will see her in a LWD I can assure you.
The Bride: Sheryl Sandberg, 52
The Meta COO, who announced in June she was stepping down from the role after 14 years, married Tom Bernthal, the founder of consulting firm Kelton Global, at Trail Creek Ranch, Jackson, Wyoming. This was a poignant wedding, given both bride and groom had experienced loss. Sandberg’s first husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly in 2015, while Bernthal shares three children with his ex-wife. Sandberg said of their wedding, “I want people to see there’s love after loss, love for us after death, love for us after divorce.” Integral to the celebrations were Sandberg and Bernthal’s five children.
Though it was a traditional Jewish ceremony there were many Western touches to the celebration, a nod to Bernthal’s love of country music. “Dive bars, country music – this is all a new part of my life, but I love it,” Sandberg told People magazine. Having got engaged on a ranch in Jackson, the couple now live there.
Actress Jean Louisa Kelly sang Brad Paisley’s song Then as Sandberg walked down the aisle, while their first dance was to Grow Old by Florida Georgia Line. No mention was made of the Wall Street Journal report that Sandberg has been under investigation at Meta for using corporate resources to plan her wedding. To show her philanthropic plans for the future, Sandberg donated $1m to VOW for Girls – which supports the ending of child marriage.
On the day, Sandberg wore a pretty off-the-peg Monique L’hiullier dress and changed into a shorter version for the reception. The groom wore Lucchese boots under slim fit black jeans and a tuxedo jacket.
I’ll admit to being a little bit of a country fan myself, so I loved the vibe of this wedding. The gown was flattering, with a whiff of vintage about it. I couldn’t help but think of Big Bopper’s iconic country anthem Chantilly lace … and a pretty face when I saw it, and maybe that was Sandberg’s inspiration too. However, I didn’t love the shorter version dress – it needed to be longer. And couldn’t she have had a light Isle of Paradise tan?
The Bride: India Hicks, 54
The former Ralph Lauren model, philanthropist and author of several interiors books including Island Style and A Slice of England, got married last year to her partner of 26 years, designer David Flint Wood and cited the pandemic as the reason for the wedding.
“As a family, I thought it would be good for us to do something very grounded, anchoring and normal. Suddenly, I thought, Why don’t we get married? Not just for me but also to give my kids some security, so they could see some sense of normalcy in the world again.”
Hicks wore a tea-length, full-sleeved, nipped-in at the waist Emilia Wickstead dress, covered in white wildflowers which she described as “Wedding-y but a little extra.” She accessorised with Jessica McCormack diamond gypset earrings and jewel-encrusted Louboutin high heels.
Hicks debated on wearing a veil and whether it felt too “virginal” for a bride over 50.
She explained on Instagram: “When it came to getting married, I decided to do it very traditional, because everything else had been so untraditional.” Hicks was surrounded by her four sons and her adopted son Wesley, when she walked down the aisle; her daughter Domino was bridesmaid.
Hicks later wore a custom-made white mermaid-style Naeem Khan dress for her reception (her first dance was to Over the Rainbow). The dress featured an open back with lace detailing and beautiful ribbon sleeves.
A second celebration was held in the Bahamas, where the family spend most of their time. For that she wore a Zimmermann midi-length gown of which she said, “It was quite hard to find a dress that works for dancing, a tropical location and an older bride.”
My verdict? She nailed it; these dresses were flawless, and are on my vision board. I’ll let you know when to buy a hat …