Guest post: Teen mental health and lockdown – how to cope

By Wendy Molyneux BA, LCH

Here Wendy, The Heartfulness Coach, ( http://heartfulnesscoaching.co.uk/) shares her view that to help our super-anxious Tweens or Teens (“TT’s”) we need to support and empower their Mums.

She is an experienced Homeopath, who also teaches Meditation, Mindfulness, and the Law of Attraction which all come together as Heartfulness, or heart-led next-generation Mindfulness.

I feel relieved, excited, and ready to help coming out of lockdown. Thank goodness it is (nearly) over. Lockup was never a viable strategy when you look at the bigger picture and the collateral damage in terms of the devastated economy, death from causes like cancer and heart disease, compromised immunity through spending months indoors, and the huge impact on Mental Health which will reverberate for years to come.

Teen Mental Health is close to my heart as my daughter struggles with anxiety and OCD and being cooped up together in lockdown has led to a lot of emotional tension and exhaustion. Her mental health problems floored me, it has been fractious and tearful, and I have often felt like a big failure as a parent, let alone as a therapist. However, lockdown also shone a necessary light in some dark places and led me on a self-development journey, which is now driving my Heartfulness mission. I would walk on hot coals to support her but realised that I needed to stop trying to control and fix her and start with what I could change. ME.

I have used the learnings from my own life and coaching to develop the “Heartful Mum” programme to help Mums of TT’s cope with feelings of failure as a parent. They are struggling, two-thirds of mums believe stress affects their ability to be a good parent with one in eight mums struggling with stress every day. I can’t wait to start helping stressed-out Mums who will have to pick up the emotional tab of the TT Mental Health Crisis – there is some support out there for TT’s but precious little for us Mums. By honestly sharing my hard-learned lessons (and some of them are not pretty!) I save Mums a lot of heartaches and help them to really connect with their TT.

Heartful Mums learn how to tap into and look after their own energy, as well as create more of it, which goes a long way to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be a calm and confident Mum. Supercharging your energy means powering up, not powering through, and energy is the most valuable parenting resource of all. You are your own power station and need to keep topping it up. For me, a non-negotiable way of recharging is Heartful Breathing – a potent combination of Mindfulness, Meditation and Manifestation which gives the body rest far deeper than sleep. This helps get you out of your busy analytical headspace and into your calm heart space – the energetic centre of meaningful connection. The link to Heartful Breathing is here – https://www.facebook.com/theheartfulnesscoach

Other ways to raise your energetic vibration are having an Attitude of Gratitude or doing a Negativity Detox, as well as setting your “Soul Goal”, being mindful and learning to talk kindly to yourself. The absolute best way to live a life that lights you right up is to have Fun! Fun! Fun! When you make fun the goal a by-product will be having the energy to be a Heartful Mum to your TT.

To be a Heartful Mum you need to be assertive, not aggressive when communicating with your TT. Doing the work and digging deep will enable this – get clear on what triggers your Inner Critic, establish Healthy Boundaries, and release Fear and Limiting Beliefs.

When we connect with our heart and are Heartful in all areas of life we:

•          Accept that we are doing our best and that is OK.

•          Can take positive baby steps in our TT’s shoes.

•          Have more love than our TT has got eye rolls!

•          No longer compare ourselves to other parents, or worry about them judging us or our TT

•          Become a conscious, joyous, whole and complete parent again.

•          Stop trying to control everything and trust instead that the universe has our back.

•          Achieve a balance between getting stuff done and nurturing “me time”. Fill up our own cup to be there with love for our TT.

•          Have the nourishing energy and power we need to live our best, healthiest life

•          Feel calm and clear headed, light and bright.

•          Find self-confidence and momentum, inspiring us to make big changes.

•          Have clarity and focus on what lights us up, and a strong desire to achieve it.

This is real heart-led parenting support, not a head-led parenting theory. To be a Model Role Model the greatest gift we can give our TT is our own happiness and light.

Follow Wendy:

https://www.facebook.com/theheartfulnesscoach

Guest post: Anxiety and filmmaking in 2020 – how lockdown affected my production and personal life

By JJ Barnes

JJ Barnes is an author and filmmaker, and co-runs Siren Stories with her writing partner Jonathan McKinney. Her first book, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, came out in 2016. Since then she has written several novels, and releases creative writing advice resources to support other aspiring writers.

Lockdown came at an incredibly inconvenient time for me. Together with the team at our small business, Siren Stories, we had invested everything we had in acquiring kit, locations and a cast to make an independent feature film. In January 2020 we went into production on Hollowhood, and lockdown was enforced before we could finish filming.

Originally, we were hoping to air for the first time at a Halloween film festival in North Carolina. We kept hoping lockdown would be lifted in time, but the longer it went on the more we realised it wouldn’t happen. However, with about 90% of the film in the can we intended to edit it to the point where perhaps we could make do with the footage we had and still get our 2020 release.

The closure of the schools meant that our three small children, the oldest just 7 at the time, were at home with us full time. The combination of home schooling and supervising stir crazy and stressed children in a small house, whilst attempting to edit and score a film, proved too much of a challenge. We had to accept that we wouldn’t make the Halloween release we had so hoped for.

As the end of lockdown approaches, I’m filled with optimism that, finally, we can complete our film. It’s small, it’s low budget, but it’s ours and we are proud of it. Not only do we hope to get our investment back and build up to bigger and better things, but we want to be able to share all our hard work with the world. Once lockdown is lifted, our little band of actors can reunite and film those final scenes that we’ve been planning for more than a year now!

This should mean that lockdown ending brings me nothing but feelings of positivity. However, I am fighting internal demons threatening to ruin that excitement and hope for me.

I struggle with anxiety. I have learned over the years to handle the social anxiety I feel about large gatherings, parties, going to unfamiliar places, and generally doing that “peopling” thing that we are all supposed to be adept at. I’m not brilliant at it, but, with support, I got myself to a point where I was able to do it.

Lockdown took those anxieties away. I didn’t have to psych myself up to “peopling” anymore, because there were no places to go and no people to see. The antisocial life of lockdown suited my natural hermit ways. My children, my work and my relationship kept me busy and satisfied. Social media kept me connected at a comfortable distance with the outside world. Yes, it was frustrating at times, I’d love to go for a drink in the pub or out for a meal, and we all missed our families, but it was fine.

The lifting of lockdown brings those anxieties straight back to the foreground. And I’m out of practice for how to cope with them.

I’m not used to getting myself in the frame of mind to cope, and I’m not used to processing the post-event obsessing. I’m out of practice with pushing the nerves down so I can go out, and with getting myself to sleep instead of replaying everything I said that might have offended someone. My social anxiety has left dormant, but ready to flourish. And time is ticking.

Ultimately, the lifting of lockdown will bring nothing but positivity. Aside from the fact it means fewer people are dying and fewer jobs will be lost, for me personally it will improve life. We can finish the film that we are so desperate and hopeful for the release of. My children will be able to go for sleepovers with their beloved grandparents again. I’ll get a much needed date night with my partner. The lifting of lockdown is a huge relief, and it is needed by society at large for so many reasons.

And I will learn to process my own anxiety again. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I will visit with friends, go to weddings, travel for work. I will because I have to, and because it’s a privilege to do every last thing. And, any time I find myself pining for the days of lockdown life, I’ll remind myself just how lucky we are to have made it through to the other side.

Follow JJ:

Website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JudieannRose

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jjbarnesauthor

Instagram: www.instagram.com/j.j.barnes

Siren Stories: www.sirenstories.co.uk

Hollowhood: www.hollowhood.co.uk

What it’s really like having a lockdown puppy

As you will have seen on the news, there has sadly been a large number of puppies who have been re-homed or given up by owners who got them during lockdown and then found they couldn’t manage the dog when normal life resumed.  I don’t condone this at all, but as someone who chose to get a puppy during lockdown, I know that it does come with its own set of challenges.

My husband and I had always discussed getting a dog, but knew we had to wait for the right time.  When the first lockdown happened, we had not long left our London life for a house in the home counties, with space for a pooch when the time was right.  We knew we were faced with months of working from home, as we both had office jobs in London that we commuted to.  This is the point at which most people thought it was a great idea to get a dog.  After all, you’re going to be at home for months on end, so why not get a dog that you can give your undivided attention to?

This is the first mistake many people made.  Although lockdown was projected for months, we all knew it would end at some point, and this has been the main reason for many people surrendering their beloved pooches.  The difference in our scenario was that my firm made the clear decision to commit to offering us full WFH flexibility forever.  In a post covid world, going into the office would be voluntary, which is a game changer.  This meant that I wouldn’t be leaving the dog for long spells alone 5 days a week, and on the odd day I did need to go in, we have a fabulous local doggy day care that he can go to.  If this wasn’t the case with my job, then we would not have got the dog.  Sadly, many people did make this mistake.

 So, we decided to go for it.  It looks months of research and contacting breeders to find the right fit, but we eventually were able to acquire our little pup in October.  We’d done all the research about training, and felt ready for what was to come.

This brings me to my next point – no one and nothing can quite prepare you as a first-time puppy owner.  Since having one, I have noticed you become a member of a sort of inner circle, and other dog owners just give you that understanding head nod when they see your cute bundle of fluff tearing up their lead on a training walk.  It’s the “ah, we’ve been there” look.  I recall one woman telling us how she remembers the era of the puppy teeth days, which I can only describe as needles stabbing your foot when they nip you.  It’s all in play of course, but it hurts.  Almost every puppy owner goes through the “have we made a huge mistake” phase, usually a few weeks in.  You have to push past this, and keep telling yourself that puppies are 10% cute (when they’re asleep) and 90% hard work.  They give back when they mature and become loyal dogs.  Dogs and puppies are the same yet two very different things.  I can only liken having a puppy to having a toddler, as they’re constantly mobile and everything is a hazard to them.  Oh, but puppies also chew things. Everything.  All the time.

I’ll start with the positives to having a puppy whilst being at home full time, as don’t get me wrong there are some!  Firstly, toilet training is a doddle, as you’re constantly watching them to see when they need go, and can let them out as often as they need.  We have an 8 month old lab now, and he has never pooped in the house.  Of course, there were little wees inside at the start but that’s unavoidable as he needed to go every hour at first so we couldn’t always catch it. Being at home meant we had a lot of time to train him, and really fix a routine.  We were able to avoid any catastrophic damage to the house as this usually stems from boredom or being left alone when they’re young, which we didn’t need to do.

One of the main problems that a lot of lockdown puppies have is separation anxiety, as it’s not normal or sustainable for their humans to be at home with them all day every day for months on end.  We were very aware of not letting this become an issue, so we made a point to leave him for very small spells early on.  Even ten minutes at first in the kitchen helped him adjust to being ‘alone’ whilst we sat in the lounge.  People often feel bad for leaving young pups, but in reality you’re doing them a favour.  We all have lives and commitments that take us out the house where your dog can’t always go, so slowly letting them get accustomed to being alone will help them in the long run.  Obviously in lockdown we couldn’t go anywhere, so we would leave him whilst we popped out for our 20-minute walk (he had been walked already!) when the rules allowed it, and this meant he got some alone time.  We also sent him to doggy day care when they re-opened, which meant he got used to not only us being absent, but he got used to socialising with other people and other dogs.  Social development is crucial for dogs as they need to be comfortable around other dogs and humans.  Some lockdown puppies haven’t seen many other animals or people, so they become very timid around them.  Doggy day care also meant he got to run free in a safe outdoor environment, which to a dog is pure heaven.

One of the biggest challenges was the intensity of the situation.  Being at home 24/7 was difficult in itself, and trying to work from home whilst care for a puppy was really tricky at times.  His obsession with attacking feet went on for a while, and I found myself up from my desk every 2 minutes to see what he was doing, or stop him doing it!  Work calls on mute with a puppy hanging off my sleeve become the norm, and my husband and I resorted to a shift routine to even out the care.  We endured months of not being able to finish a TV show in the evenings, something which is now thankfully a distant memory.   I must give credit to my other half – he handled the night time toilet trips for which I am forever in his debt.  I should add that this was largely due to the fact that I needed my sleep, as I had decided to get a puppy whilst being pregnant.  That’s another story, but having a partner able to do more of the heavy lifting was a huge help.  Working from home in lockdown with a puppy meant there was just no escape at all, which was hard.  Many people have suffered from the lack of alone time during the pandemic, and I believe this is something we all need every now and then.  When you’re at home constantly with your job, partner/family and puppy (or children!) at some point I think most people have been pushed to boiling point. 

We’re now 6 months on, with a much better-behaved lab, a baby due in a week, and freedom on the horizon as far as covid goes.  The rules are relaxing and we can’t wait to enjoy some normal life whilst adjusting to our new little family. The last year has brought huge changes for us, and my heart goes out to all the lockdown puppies who no longer have their homes.  I hope they all are all given to lovely new families who can accommodate their needs.

Home bargains to help ease the tier life

It’s that time of year where it’s technically January but it feels like the week inbetween Christmas and New Year still, the resolutions really start tomorrow and we’ve lost all concept of time. Not only that, but the UK is also stuck living in a tier system to try and control the spead of Covid-19, so it’s pretty miserable for us all!

So with that being said, I’ve done a quick round up of some great home bargains I have come across whilst browsing online, so check them out and treat yourself to those new years sales! Products linked below (this is not an ad).

  1. Alpaca throw – The White Company, £245

This throw would make a beautful additon to any room, whether draped across your bed or covering the sofa. The White Company don’t scrimp on quality so with this you know you’re getting great value!

https://www.thewhitecompany.com/uk/Luxury-Alpaca-Silk-Throw/p/luxury-alpaca-silk-throw?swatch=Grey

2. Le Creuset Casserole Dish – John Lewis, £147

What kitchen is complete without a Le Creuset item? These staple dishes are long lasting and well worth grabbing if one pops up in the sale. This dish has an amazing saving of 30%, so get one whilst they’re still avaliable!

https://www.johnlewis.com/le-creuset-essentials-cast-iron-round-casserole-soup-pot-26cm/volcanic/p4209379

3. Wildflowers Diffuser – The White Company, £16.20

The White Company do lovely scented items for the home such as candles and diffusers which really last. This diffuser is a bargain with 40% off, and they have other scents avaliable too.

https://www.thewhitecompany.com/uk/Wildflowers-Diffuser/p/WFDDI?swatch=No+Colour

4. Zoloto China Tea for Two Set – Oliver Bonas, £15

This adorable tea set is a stackable teapot and two cups, which will look nice and tidy when stored on the kitchen counter, and add a spot of fancy when having someone round for tea.

https://www.oliverbonas.com/homeware/zoloto-china-tea-for-two-tea-set-250299

5. Zen Reactive 12 Piece Dinner Set – Dunelm, £38.50

This stunning crockery set will finish off your table setting with a hint of decadence. It’s also microwave and dishwasher safe which makes things alot easier!

https://www.dunelm.com/product/zen-reactive-glaze-12-piece-dinner-set-1000117834?defaultSkuId=30573052

I hope you find something that you like, there is so much in the sales at the moment so happy shopping!

Pregnant and a pandemic; what it’s really like

2020 has been the year that turned the world upside down, due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.  For me, it has been a surreal mixture of the best year of my life combined with one of the worst.  This is my story of what it’s been like for me being pregnant during the pandemic.

March 2020 rolled around, and my husband and I enjoyed a break away to Dubai.  The day before we flew home, my boss called me telling me to not bother coming into the office as we were all being sent to work from home.  Little did I know I would not see my office or colleagues again for over a year. 

The nation was plunged into the infamous summer lockdown, which saw my husband and I settle in to working from home, enjoying the novelty of zoom calls, not missing the commute, and having ice creams in the garden on our lunch break during that incredible heatwave.  We were both very vary of the virus and took every precaution we could, such as wiping down our groceries and leaving any packages in a ‘quarantine box’ for a few days before opening them. 

When the lockdown was lifted, we were still very careful when it came to socialising.  We went to one, very small socially distanced BBQ with friends, and I went home and saw family outdoors.  After doing a couple of outings, I started to feel less anxious, and was looking forward to enjoying that small slice of semi normal life that everyone else seemed to be embracing, when Covid-19 rates were relatively low as the summer came to a close. 

We found out in early August that I was pregnant, and were over the moon.  I couldn’t believe it was finally happening, and all I could focus on was what the next 9 months would bring.  The excitement was quickly matched with the realisation that there was a new, potentially killer virus doing the rounds, and I now had to protect a growing baby from it.   I suddenly felt that while the lockdown was lifting for the rest of the country, I was heading into a new one.

The first trimester was the first hurdle, and I felt absolutely awful as so many do.  This is when working from home was a huge blessing, as I’m not sure how I would have handled the commute with the nausea and sickness, never mind trying to hide it at work.  I could lie in, work from my bed, and sleep needed.  Ironically even if we had been out and about I wouldn’t have felt up to doing much anyway.  The research available suggests that Covid-19 isn’t thought to have any effects of the development of the fetus if contracted during pregnancy, which is the primary concern in the first trimester.  However, evidence does show that the mother having a fever during the early weeks could have a negative effect.  As one of the key symptoms of Covid-19 is a temperature, I explained this to my husband and we agreed to stay home until our 12 week scan.  This meant no shopping, bars or restaurants, something which I had been craving for so long, but the parental protective instinct was kicking in.

I told myself that once I made it to 12 weeks in early October, I would make the most of the lifted restrictions and have something of a social life again.  Restaurants, pubs and shops were open and I longed for some normality.  Yet when the time came, I found myself reluctant to do any of these things.  Every time I thought about it, my mind went ‘is it a necessary risk,’ and I could never justify it.  After doing further research into Covid-19 and pregnancy, it seemed that it was most necessary to take extra caution in the third trimester, as that’s when our lungs are compromised due to the size of the baby, and Covid-19 targets this area.  The worrying thing is that your body is slightly compromised anyway due to pregnancy, hence why it’s recommended to get a flu shot even if you typically wouldn’t.  I was surprised at how little guidance there was on Covid-19 during pregnancy.  There was no knowing how just how ill I would be if I contracted the virus.

With the virus rates again rising, we then had the November lockdown to endure.  This meant that even if I had wanted to go out and about, we couldn’t.  When December came, the second wave was fast on the increase, so the anxiety of Christmas shopping in busy shops again didn’t seem worth the risk.  I was frustrated as I knew part of this I had brought on myself; there were pockets of time where local restrictions were low, but I simply couldn’t face it.  I had booked a haircut in a bid to make myself feel a little less pregnant and disgusting, before cancelling it in floods of tears due to the fear of picking up the virus there.

Something people often say to me is that “Covid-19 doesn’t affect babies’ development” or that “most pregnant women are fine” but for me that wasn’t any reassurance.  This is such a new virus, they have no way of knowing long term effects and they won’t for years.  What’s more, catching Covid-19 doesn’t just mean being ill at home and having a few days off work.  It means living in one room in your house for 2 weeks, not mixing with other family in the home, the constant worry of having passed it onto one of them, and I knew all I would do is lie there anxiously waiting for every kick to know that my baby was still ok.  I could think of nothing worse.

I am shortly entering my third trimester, so we will be fully locking down even if it wasn’t being enforced which it is anyway as we live in tier 4.  If the restrictions get lifted, we still won’t mix with anyone indoors, or go anywhere public.  Our baby is due in April, and although I hope the Covid-19 situation will be looking brighter by then, we cannot know for sure.  I also do not want any risk of being asymptomatic and testing positive on arrival to hospital for labour, as that will change our plans and make the entire experience even more difficult. 

When April comes, it will have been 13 months since I have been to a shop (aside from the supermarket), pub, restaurant, or even café.  I will have missed out on being the pregnant one at work and secretly enjoying the attention, a baby shower, NCT classes, and none of my friends will have seen me pregnant.  As tough as it’s been, I know that I have done all I can to protect myself and my baby, and when she is here, I am hoping the last year will become a distant memory as the new chapter of our life begins.

The Pill; friend or foe?

**DISCLAIMER – This post reflects my personal experience and opinions, and should not be taken as containing any medical advice or recommendations.  Speak to your doctor for information on these topics**

For millions of women, their morning routine includes reaching for a tiny pill and swallowing hormones without a second thought.  The pill is still one of the leading methods of contraception, and seems like a no fuss, effective method, which we are told in some cases can also help with controlling our cycles and making them more manageable.  Unfortunately, the side effects can be life changing, and many still suffer in silence just for the convenience of not having to use other methods of contraception.

I started the pill when I was in my late teens as many do, and was told about the benefits of regulated periods, being able to skip a period if I was going on holiday, and milder cramps.  Woohoo! I thought, “that sounds awesome!” – at the time no doctor actually explained to me that this pill stops me ovulating every month, and is basically putting my bodys natural rhythm on hold.  The withdrawal bleed you get every month is essentially a fake period, but creates the illusion that everything is working as it should down there.  I went on the combined pill (the one with oestrogen), the other main contender is the mini pill, which is progesterone only.

There are so many different pill brands available now, and everyones body reacts in its own way.  For some, they find a pill that works like a dream for them with minimal side effects, but for many, it can be an endless stream of doctors appointments, trying out different brands and hormone doses to find a pill that works.

I have suffered with severe headaches and migraines since childhood, and was often told by GPs that the pill does not help with headaches, and may well attribute to them.  Yet they kept on prescribing it. “Do you get a migraine with an aura?” was something they often asked, to which I’d reply “Er…yes, but not very often?” and bingo, another prescription signed off for 6 months.  Fast forward 10 years later, and I experience the WORST headache of my life, forget how to say certain words at work, then wake up in the night with half of my body in a sort of pins and needles frozen like state.  Basically paralysed with fear, I convinced myself I was having a stroke, but tried to stay calm and let is pass, which eventually it did.  A trip to a new GP (living in London I rarely see the same one twice) the next day, and I was told I had experienced a hemiplegic migraine, and that part of my brain had hyperpolarised, leading to restricted blood flow and brain signalling, which is why it affected my cognition.  She glances at my record, “Oh – you’re on the pill?  Yeah you need to not be.  You’re at an increased risk of an actual stroke.”  So that was enough for me to throw in the towel…. I mean, the towel of taking the pill.

I decided to trial the mini pill which contains progesterone only, as I was told that it may have less of an effect on the migraines, and I was also quite happy with the whole “less chance of having a stroke” element too.  Sadly, this brought a new host of problems.  This was the first pill to really, really effect my mood.  I tried couple of different brands of the mini, and one sent me on a fast track to depression, which was really scary as it happened so quickly.  Luckily, I called the GP instantly because I knew that wasn’t normal for me, and she said stop taking it immediately, and in a week, I felt back to normal.

The physical low point I would say was me at 3am, howling in pain, finger poised over the 9 button on the phone as I had no idea what was causing such debilitating cramps and erratic bleeding every 2-3 weeks.  Then we started the Endometriosis scare, and after a few more GP trips they sent me to hospital for a check. I’ll spare the details but it involves some stirrups and long stick with a camera on the end.  Safe to say, I was told “everything looks normal.  Perhaps come off the pill and see if things improve.”  I did – and they did.  After a couple of months of waiting, my first natural period arrives.  Hurrah! My ovaries work!  Since then, I’ve enjoyed (?) years of natural, regular to the day periods, and know exactly what my body is doing when it’s doing it.  Ironically, for me the most regular way is the natural way. 

Now in my thirties, I speak to so many women around my age who share similar experiences, and who have decided to come off the pill and let it be.  I personally think that younger girls being given the pill need to be told more about it, how it works and what it does to the body.  I appreciate that for many it’s a reliable (not 100% though…) method of birth control and perhaps helps with their periods, but I do think that a lot of women would be surprised at how good they might feel if they came off it after a while to see how their natural periods are.  It’s also important to know when your ovaries will kick start back into action if you are planning to start a family, as it can take months.  At the end of the day, do what works for you, but if you’re suffering mad side effects then please – speak to your GP, there are other options!

I think the millennial generation in particular are starting to wise up to the idea that the pill just may not be all it’s cracked up to be.  I shouldn’t even have to say this but if you do decide to take the pill, please make sure it’s because you want to – and not because it’s convenient for someone else.

6 tips for wedding dress shopping you need to know

For someone who had always hoped of getting married, I had never really looked into what sort of wedding dress I wanted. This was partly due to the fact that as much as I am a complete over planner (some may say control freak but I like to pretend it’s not true) I am also a firm believer in fate, and the idea of planning my wedding before it was on the horizon seemed to dice with destiny somewhat.

Like most brides, a major part of this process for me was choosing my dress.  It’s billed as the most important dress you’ll ever wear, so special you’ll never want to take it off.  I’d been led to believe from bridal magazines that “you’ll know as soon as you put it on” and was expecting an instant flood of tears when trying on “the one”.  It turns out that it’s not always as simple as that, so here’s my whistle stop guide on making the right choice as painless as possible.

  1. Research, research, research… but not too much research

When getting married, the internet is your friend…to a point.  Instagram and Pinterest are full of beautifully filtered shots of models in wedding dresses, and whist this is a great way to learn what different styles are called, try to not set your heart on one on the screen, because they can look very different in real life, and on different people.  There are approximately 6-8 general styles of wedding dress (trumpet, princess, sweetheart…) that you’ll hear being bounced around and you’ll want to know what they mean.  So, go in with an idea of what you like, but have an open mind. 

2. Don’t over book yourself

If you’re like me and hate trying clothes on in a shop, then don’t book back to back appointments on the day.  Wedding dress shops often charge a fee for an appointment, and you won’t get this back unless you buy a dress from them, when they usually take it off the price.  I shopped in London for mine and paid between £50 and £75 an appointment.  Trying on dresses is tiring, you can try on up to 20 in one session, so if you race round six shops in a day, you’ll burn out by the third.  There is such a thing as too much choice!  Stick to around three or four shops a day.

3. Mind the bubbly trap…

Part of the experience is having a glass of complimentary fizz as you play dress up.  Whilst free champagne can always seem like a bonus, if you’ve got a long day ahead then try to not be knocking back the booze by 11am.  By all means enjoy the perks, but pack water and snacks to carry you through!  It’s a big expensive decision, so you want a clear head. 

4. An HONEST second opinion counts

Take people with you who’s opinion you value, who know you well.  Usually this is a bridesmaid, your mother, family or close friends – it’s worth checking with the shop how many they allow to accompany you.  Turning up with your whole girl squad in tow will result in some of them having to wait in a coffee shop nearby.  You may need help making the decision, and you’ll want to take people who will give you an honest opinion, whilst being sensitive to how you feel.  It’s a very personal decision, so your company should care about it as much as you do!

5. Budget realistically

Probably the number one rule when planning a wedding is to work out your budget first and try to stick to it. Whilst I’ve read (and found comfort in) in the fact that no wedding comes in under budget, try and only go over budget in categories where it is really unavoidable. Wedding dresses range from very affordable to “is this dress lined with diamonds?!” so work out what you can spend. The shop should ask you your budget before you start trying, but if they don’t then point it out so they only bring you dresses in that bracket. Don’t go in and try on a dress out of your budget just for fun, as you’ll probably love it and then be crushed you can’t have it!

6. Patience is a virtue

Lastly, the most important thing to remember – do not rush it!  Dresses can take a while to arrive so make this near the top of your timeline.  Many shops charge a ‘rush fee’ if the wedding is less than six months away, so make sure you order it in plenty of time, to allow alterations to be made if needed.  If you don’t have the epiphany when tying on a particular one, or if you’re only 95% sure, then sleep on it.  Most shops will let you back to try it on again (without charging a fee) before you say yes to the dress.  Trust your gut – the final say should lie with you and you alone.

So, there you have it, my advice on finding the dream dress.  Follow these tips and you’ll go in as prepared as anyone!