Take the stress out of wedding plans

Good look: Stephanie Allin's 'Loren' gown in the 2012 collection

Good look: Stephanie Allin's 'Loren' gown in the 2012 collection

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Bridezilla is alive, well and getting married in a church near you. The planning for her big day will have been either a chaotic, stressful affair, or one organised with such military precision, every last detail was set in stone some two years in advance and she’ll be penning the thank you cards in the back of the wedding car.

Either way, it’s a cert she’ll have driven family, groom and the bridesmaids around the bend long before they get to the lych gate.

Dress to impress: Chloe Curry at the White Room

Dress to impress: Chloe Curry at the White Room

“Bridezilla is no myth. And every bride has the potential to turn into her,” says new Sheffield bridal shop owner Chloe Curry. “Brides can get so obsessed their wedding day takes over their entire life – in the worst of cases, that can be for several years in advance of the big day. It can even affect their health.”

Chloe, who wed in winter 2009, often looks back and wonders whether she showed Bridezilla tendencies: “I hope I didn’t. I think I was reasonably OK. Though it is so easy to get too worked up about all the details and drive everyone else mad.”

Maybe what helped to prevent Chloe from falling into the tender trap was her inside knowledge of the human psyche...

She now deals in frippery and finery for adoring the physical form at her bridal boutique The White Room in Sheffield’s Norfolk Row. But she’s trained to understand what goes on beneath – and I don’t mean hooped petticoats.

Sound advice: Chloe Curry helps a bride-to-be at the White Room.     Picture: Stuart Hastings

Sound advice: Chloe Curry helps a bride-to-be at the White Room. Picture: Stuart Hastings

Chloe understands how people’s minds work, thanks to her degree in psychology.

And up until May this year, she was using it to help some of the most troubled of people – Class A drug addicts with criminal convictions – to sort their heads out.

For two years, Chloe worked for the national drug and alcohol treatment charity Addaction. Her Sheffield clients were hard drug-users with criminal records who wanted to get their lives back on track and reconnect with their families.

As well as practical help with issues like housing and employment, she helped them address the psychological issues that had led them into drug addiction.

”It’s quite a jump from what I was doing then to what I’m doing now,” admits Chloe. “I’ve gone from gritty reality to fairytale fantasy. But a similar thread runs through; both are about helping people to achieve their life-goals.”

Like many a bridal boutique owner, organising her own wedding led her down the aisle to self-employment. But she had already taken a professional interest in the pressures young women feel when they are planning their nuptuals.

In her final year at Sheffield Hallam University, she studied the subject for her dissertation. And she discovered the stress of planning a wedding can have a detrimental effect on women’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

“I interviewed a number of brides and scoured wedding chatrooms and blogs for women’s comments. I found story after story of how the stress was getting girls down. It was affecting their mood, even leading to arguments with their grooms, and causing stress-related health problems.”

Chloe found herself acting as a voluntary agony aunt in bridal chatrooms: I ended up on them daily writing what was becoming a blog and also giving girls emotional support. There were brides voicing frustration at the lack of interest their grooms were taking in the whole proceedings and the pressure of having to make all the decisions. Others were worrying about the escalating costs and some were getting into family rows over the guest list.”

She blames it on the rise of the celebrity wedding. “Girls see them in glossy magazines and instead of viewing them as inspirational, they aspire to them. Some are taking their wedding budgets to huge extremes. The average cost is now a staggering £21,000. Famous Bridezilla, pop singer Kim Kardashian, is rumoured to be buying a wedding dress costing $500,000. How any dress can be worth that is beyond me.”

Finding The Dress should be a joy, but it can be the most problematic aspect of the entire wedding for some women, she says. And not just because of the vast choice available.

Chloe says: “It’s such an important day and you’re planning on parting with a lot of money for the right dress. Understandably, you feel that you should be treated as if you’re special when you’re choosing it. But I heard numerous nightmare wedding dress-buying stories:

“One girl was upset because she’d had to try her dress on in a shop toilet – there were no changing rooms,” she says. “Another was outraged that she and her lesbian partner were told they could not try wedding dresses on in the same changing room together.”

Chloe uses her psychology expertise to smooth the way for brides choosing from gowns by Jenny Packham, Stephanie Allin, Claire Pettibone and Cymbeline.

In the peaceful surroundings of her elegant boutique on Georgian Norfolk Row, Chloe employs motivational interviewing techniques to ‘weigh up ambivalence’. She says: “I ask about their fears and expectations and I study the bride’s face and body language for clues about how she’s really feeling, particularly when she’s trying on dresses.

“I sell dresses for a living, but a happy and relaxed bride is really important to me.

“I remind brides they will look at their most beautiful on their wedding day, regardless of what they wear or how they do their hair. Something happens to you; that something cannot be bottled and sold. If they could, women would always look amazing.”

Leading clues to spotting a real Bridezilla

Bridezillas come in different forms, says Chloe. She defines the four most common:

1The overly-organised bride wants everything concluded way ahead of time, says Chloe.

She goes headlong into it and has everything booked a year if not two years in advance. “I know of one girl who is getting married in 2013 and has already decided on the colour of the napkins at the reception,” says Chloe.

“What happens if she changes her mind about something, or her groom changes his mind about her?

“Some things can’t be planned for in advance. Brides going down this path shouldn’t ignore the fact that there are things that are beyond their control, like redundancy, for example. What looks affordable now might not be when the wedding draws near.”

2The indecisive bride can’t make her mind up about anything – dress, flowers, location, photographer – until she’s explored all possibilities.

This woman is the type who constantly changes her image and her hairstyle. Probably the only constant in her life is her fiance.

“There is such a thing as too much choice,” says Chloe. “It paralyses you. I advise girls to write down their top five priorities and work on getting them sorted first. Though often what is behind a bride’s indecision is the fear of judgement. She’s afraid about what people will think to her choices and of people saying the wedding was rubbish.

“My advice is to forget the fear and realise that all guests really care about is that two people in love are making a commitment to each other, and they are a part of it.”

3. The bored bride was probably once the indecisive bride, only now she’s got so fed up of looking for dresses and hunting down wedding suppliers, she’s got cheesed off with the whole thing, says Chloe.

She’s in danger of cancelling – or making snap decisions that could turn out to be the wrong ones.

“The bored bride needs to relax, take a break from it all, focus on the reason why she wants to get married and then pledge to start making a few decisions at a time. She’ll start to feel she’s making headway and getting herself back on track.”

4 The bride with huge expectations has usually been dreaming about her wedding day since she was a little girl. She will have piles of bridal magazines to consult. She may even have been making a scrapbook of ideas and pictures for years. She’s hell-bent on being the princess in her own fairytale.

“She’s heading for disaster,” says Chloe. “It’s not going to live up to her expectations and she’s going to put herself and her family under so much pressure as she strives to achieve it. She has to realise that this is real life, that no wedding can be totally perfect and that it’s the little mishaps that often make the day more special.”

Katie Price is a serial Bridezilla. She went the whole hog for each of her weddings and went to town all over again when she renewed her ill-fated vows with Peter Andre. Her unrealistic expectations are perhaps not only of the wedding day, but of marriage itself.

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