The Dress Files: 6 Irish Women Share The Stories Behind Their Unique Wedding Dresses

Every wedding dress has a story - some more than others.

Jo Leggiero ditched tradition and found her dream (blue!) dress in a small Dublin boutique

“I had no idea what I wanted to wear on my wedding day, but I knew what I didn’t want to wear. No white, cream, off white, nude, champagne or any version of this colour palette! No strapless ensemble, nothing that required special underwear, tape or anything that would need an army to dress me, and no to a full length gown.

I knew that I wanted to be able to wear my wedding outfit again and again. Shopping was what I needed and that’s exactly what I did. It all happened during my visit to Costume, a boutique in Dublin city. Somehow, without me even opening my mouth, the staff knew I was looking for a wedding outfit. I tried on two outfits that I was happy to buy then and there. Then, the sales assistant came towards me and said, “Try this on.” I’m glad I listened.

Somehow, the combination of the satin Dice Kayek midi skirt and Roland Mouret ‘Eugene‘ top made me feel absolutely incredible, and that was just standing in the shop! I loved that the two pieces were different fabrics and textures and that they were slightly different shades of blue. I think I was in shock that with just one day’s shopping, I had potentially found my wedding outfit, so I didn’t buy it. Six weeks later I tried on another dress. Before I purchased it, I said to myself “While I’m out, I’ll go back to Costume”, just to see if the first outfit I tried on was still there. It was and it was just as fabulous, so I bought it.

Just to add to the success of this experience, after I bought it I went across the road to one of my favourite spots in Dublin, Om Diva. Not looking for anything wedding-related, I was having a great poke about when I saw this gorgeous vintage blue satin purse and it immediately became mine! With a week or so to our New York wedding I found a fabulous pair of black textured heels in Zara. They were perfect and I’ve worn them since.”

Emma Kavanagh wore her mother’s dress for her speedy nuptials, and worked with a seamstress who transformed her ‘something borrowed’ into her dream

“We had booked our wedding for Santorini for September of 2016. However, in October 2015, we found out that my father-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor and by the end of January he only had a couple of weeks to live. We decided to move the wedding up and booked the date with the registrar that week. We then booked the venue, got my flowers, shoes and Mathew’s suit all in one day. We organised the entire thing in two weeks.

I had such little time that it meant I had to be creative with my dress ideas. My mum pulled down her wedding dress from the attic and it was in immaculate condition. I tried it on and the fit was
so perfect. My seamstress really helped when it came to design and what would work for the material. I had always wanted a two-piece, however I wasn’t sure if it would work or how I would even style it. My seamstress transformed the dress into a boho inspired dream! She also managed to take the ‘frill’ off the front (although according to my mum it was very stylish back then!)

As for the accessories, I knew I wanted Louboutins for my wedding day. I went with the classic nude and I have gotten so much wear out of them since! My sister-in-law gave me her earrings and antique hair grip she had worn on her wedding day, my husband also gifted me a stunning Tiffany necklace the night before.

We married in the Shelbourne with just our families on the 26th of February 2016. My mother told everyone on the day it was her dress I was wearing. She was extremely proud and it really did mean so much more on the day that I was able to wear it. We are very lucky that we have an extremely close relationship already.”

Ciara and Sarah married in 2015 in the white gowns they’d always dreamed of

Ciara: “We went dress shopping separately. We were both so involved in the wedding preparations, and we both wanted that magical moment of seeing each other for the first time at the top of the aisle. My mother, sister, niece and maid of honour were all with me when I decided on the dress. I had an idea of what type of dress I wanted, but I didn’t like the dress I always imagined myself wearing at all. The dress I chose turned out to be the complete opposite!”

Sarah: “I went shopping with my mam, maid of honour and bridesmaid. I was really overwhelmed when I first got there, seeing all the lovely dresses. This was when it finally hit home that we were actually getting married! As I’m a bigger girl, I did my research before shopping to ensure I wouldn’t be left feeling upset or disappointed. The first shop I went to was amazing – they made me feel great and I bought a dress that was completely out of my comfort zone.

When I went to try it for the second time, I was worried. I felt I didn’t think properly before handing over a deposit. I was so upset because they said they probably couldn’t alter the dress and I would have to lose weight if I wanted to feel good. I shopped around and asked a shop called Ruben Bridal if they could do anything for me. I not only found my bridesmaids dresses, but the sales assistant offered to alter my dress. I asked my original shop could they get my dress in earlier, and they agreed. Thy gave me a date and after my hens I knew I would have my dress finally sorted. Despite dropping three dress sizes, the dress still didn’t fit but after the alterations were complete, my dress finally fit. I felt like a Disney princess!”

Beatriz Ageno wore a designer Calvin Klein dress on her big day in 2016, having found it for just $200 on Pinterest

“I’m originally from the US and my mom and sister still live back in California. I was living in Dublin, next door to a bridal shop, when we were planning our wedding. One day I went in, just to see what they had, and ended up trying some dresses – it wasn’t planned, I was just walking by.

I hated the whole experience. The dresses were expensive and heavy and without my mom and sister there, I wasn’t enjoying it. I had thought a lot about what kind of dress I wanted for my wedding but I also wasn’t entirely sure.

One day, I came across a dress on Pinterest that I loved. It was totally unlike anything else I had imagined for myself already. It was Calvin Klein, pretty and simple, and it was only $200! I didn’t even think about it – I ordered it, had it sent to my parent’s house in the US and then went home a couple months later. I tried on the dress in my old childhood bedroom with my mom and sister present, and that was it, I decided that was the dress. I had always imagined myself making a bigger fuss out of my wedding dress but when it came down to it, I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money choosing one and definitely did not want to go through the process all alone in Ireland.

My friends really couldn’t believe that I bought a dress online for my wedding! And also that it was so inexpensive. I guess it was meant to be, because I loved it! I also ordered my belt and hair piece from Etsy. Online shopping is life!”

STELLAR editor Vicki Notaro said yes to the dress at Kleinfeld’s in NYC

“When Joe and I got engaged, I was not excited about dress shopping. I have a big bust, so regular shopping doesn’t excite me, let alone shopping for a white dress I was meant to have an emotional attachment to.

We were going to New York for my 30th with some friends, and I’d been watching a lot of Say Yes To The Dress, so I thought ‘feck it’, and made an appointment at the store from the show, Kleinfeld. I’d gone to one dress shop in Dublin with my mum and two of my bridesmaids, so I knew to ask for a ‘fit and flare’ dress with a corset to keep my chest in check.

The whole experience was surreal. The shop seems bigger in real life, and it’s run like a well-oiled machine. You have 90 minutes, and a devoted consultant. I tried on six dresses, and was going back to try on number two again when my gal Paula told me she thought she’d found the perfect gown. And she had! It was only one third of my budget, fit like a glove, was flattering and most of all, comfortable. My friends loved it, one shed a tear, and I FaceTimed my mam in Dublin before being asked the immortal words – “Are you saying yes to the dress?” – and I did! I put down a 60% deposit and bought a (Pnina Tornai!) veil as well.

Mam and I went back to New York to collect the dress nearly a year later. It had its own row in Aer Lingus business class while Joe and I were in economy, and I had it altered in Dublin. I felt beautiful on the day, and while it’s a long way to go, I’m happy I just happened to be there!”