“Can a 50-year-old frump look good in a wedding dress?” Someone called “joolz50” posed the question on a forum post dedicated to attire for the mature-age bride.
Being in my 50s, and with my own big day looming, I also wanted to know. I too felt I lacked a comfy social identity (and frock) to slip into. Menopausal, decidedly non-virginal and plumper and saggier than the first time I got hitched, the idea of myself in a white wedding gown felt slightly taboo, if not downright embarrassing. Was it possible to look Instagrammable at 50?
“I contemplated suits, lace, corsets, medieval outfits, Victorian-era ball gowns and even jeans.”
And would it be awkward to say my vows again in front of people who’d witnessed them before? What would they think? You lied.
Then there are the questions from concerned friends with the insinuation that remarriage is a bad idea: Remember last time? Do you really want to go through another property settlement? Why don’t you just keep living together?
Linda, in her Vinnies gown, and her husband Jason on the big day. Both vowed: “I’ll do my best.”
At 20, you’re a budding blossom yet to show the world what you’re made of. At 50, you’ve already shown what you’re made of. Buyer beware.
While husband No. 2 and I had dispensed with what we considered unnecessary trimmings – cakes, bouquets, bucks and hens parties and walking down the aisle to Wind Beneath My Wings – there was one fantasy I couldn’t let go off: the dress.
I turned to Google for help and gazed in horror at the modest, age-appropriate smocks. Where were the frills and fantasy? The glamour and hourglass waists? It piqued me, too, that these gowns were being modelled by young beauties.
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Therein lay my problem. The wedding dress was never designed to grace a 50-year-old bod, arm flaps, jowls, love handles and all.
Determined to sidestep the labels – mutton dressed as lamb, try-hard, frump – that loomed around me, I contemplated suits, lace, corsets, medieval outfits, Victorian-era ball gowns and even jeans.
When my chosen outfit (a modest linen garment) arrived, I sought the opinion of the one person I could depend on for complete honesty – my eight-year-old daughter.
“That looks terrible, Mum,” was her verdict. Unlike the wispy 19-year-old who had modelled the outfit, I looked like a dowd in a sack.
I could recycle the skirt I wore for my first marriage, when I was 36 and still hot. Good for the environment, and my bank account would approve. But a size-12 gut, a product of birthing and a sedentary job, could no longer fit into a size-eight waistband.
A week before the Big Day, bogged down with midlife responsibilities and wedding preparations, I still hadn’t sorted out what to wear. It was too late to elope; I had to turn up in something. Meanwhile, the groom pulled a suit out of his cupboard. The bastard.
Then, a day before the wedding, I spotted a gorgeous wedding dress in the window of Vinnies. Heck, hadn’t a gown like this been advertised new for $3000? Offered for $60, it oozed elegance and fantasy, fitted miraculously and seemed to have been sent by my personal fairy godmother.
The day arrived. The various factions, family generations and assorted randoms we’d acquired through life assembled in our backyard. The fluff-free ceremony should have been over in 10 minutes. However, getting married later in life means your friends have also matured, some a little too much. As our celebrant spoke the few, meaningful words we’d carefully chosen, Bill, an elderly guest, collapsed unconscious beneath my maple tree.
At least the attention was off me.
Reaching for the alcoholic punch, the celebrant muttered, “I’ve never had this happen before.” As Bill was carried away on a stretcher, the paramedic turned his gaze to me: “Nice dress.” If only he knew.
Resuming, the celebrant rattled off the minimal list of promises I was to honour, as required by law. “I’ll do my best,” I said (covering myself this time). Determined not to be outdone, the groom added, “I’ll do my best, too.”
Our speeches tackled the issues of remarriage head on, acknowledging the ups and downs and paying tribute to our past marriages. The room stiffened into silence, then broke into murmurs of agreement. At 50, the scars and battle wounds of life are your best advantage; experience, honesty, empathy and wisdom your loveliness.
As my voice squeaked over Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, I realised that daring myself to sing had been a bad decision. It didn’t matter. The best thing about being 50? You don’t give a damn. With your days on earth numbered, you should do and wear what you like.
Later Bill reappeared and requested dessert. He’d merely fainted from low blood pressure, proof that it’s never too late to turn things around.