Lydia and Ali Millen-Gordon got married in the immediate days before Christmas on 19th December 2017 at Aynhoe Park – a 17th-century country estate in the heart of the Northamptonshire countryside. Surrounded by fields covered in glistening frost, it was a festive, and intimate celebration with close family and friends set over two days. Discover how Lydia found the perfect wedding dress.
If I’m being honest, I initially felt daunted by the thought of finding my dream dress. There are so many spectacular bridal designers out there that the idea of having to whittle it down to just one felt a little overwhelming. In the end though, I decided to take a strategic approach by choosing three designers that stood out for me in separate ways – Suzanne Neville, Ruth Milliam and Kate Halfpenny. They were all exceptional British designers with their own unique style that I felt resonated with my own in one way or another. When it came to the final decision I ended up working with Kate and her team in their stunning London Mews-based Atelier to create the perfect bridal dress story for me.
Whilst I wasn’t someone who’d dreamed of their wedding dress since they were little, I did have an idea of what I thought would become ‘The Dress’. In my mind, it had an intricately embellished corset and a body con structure, leading to a classic, fishtail tulle skirt. Much to my surprise though, when I began trying dresses on, I found myself drawn to a style I’d never considered and it was completely different! Wearing ‘The Dress’, for me, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I knew that I wanted to wear it for as long as possible throughout the celebrations. With that in mind, I knew it had to be versatile as much as it was beautiful. Kate Halfpenny specialises in the Bridal Two Piece which meant that I could change the top or skirt of my dress throughout the day to refresh my look from day to night. As soon as I tried on the ruffled “Rihanna” skirt in the atelier that went on to define my wedding day outfit, I knew that nothing else compared. It’s a very special piece to me and a symbol of the happiest day of our lives.
For the evening, I wore a hand-beaded basque from Kate Halfpenny’s collection which felt fun and playful for the winter celebrations. It had a subtle sparkle that felt both special and demure in equal measures. Given that our wedding was in the depths of winter though, I worked with Kate closely to design a top for the ceremony with elegant, long sleeves – a paired back design which allowed the drama of the Rhianna skirt to take centre stage! From here, the ‘Gordon’ top was born – a part of her collection that I’m honoured so many brides have gone on to wear since.
The dress I ended up wearing wasn’t at all like what I’d imagined I’d wear before I started looking for ‘the one!’ At the time, I thought I’d go for a tighter, more body con, fishtail look. Much to my surprise though, I ended up going for the opposite of that! My advice to all brides is to keep an open mind and really pay attention to how the dress makes you actually feel as opposed to how you want it to make you feel. It was so important to me that my dress made me feel both like myself and the most special version of myself. When I tried on the body con designs that I initially thought I’d go for, they felt a little bit like I was wearing underwear. I most certainly got that special feeling as soon as I tried on what went on to become my wedding dress though and the reactions from my Mum and best friend only confirmed that I’d found the one.
Once I actually started visiting boutiques and trying the dresses on, I absolutely loved it! I like to think that I’ve got a good sense of what makes me feel my best so I always felt confident that I’d know when I’d found the right dress for me. When I eventually tried it on, it was so clear to me that this was the one. I continued to try other beautiful dresses on afterwards (just to be sure!) but nothing compared to that feeling.
The Style Support
However well-intentioned, there are always a lot of opinions surrounding ‘The Dress’ (!) but thankfully, when I showed those closest to me ‘the one’ for the first time, everyone could see my vision! And of course, there’s no denying that Kate and her team were incredibly supportive throughout the whole process too.
The jewellery I wore on my wedding day was a combination of family heirlooms – pieces Grandpa had bought for Grandma and/or gifted to me – and a necklace from Ali. My shoes were custom made Manolo Blahniks made from the same Duchess Satin as my dress (a service they offer to this day). I also had a very simple, long veil. There was so much detail in the ruffled skirt of my dress that I didn’t need anything extra!
The Evening Look
Kate’s designs are so versatile because you can mix and match them with ease. With that in mind, as soon as the more formal ceremony was over, I quickly changed from the Gordon top (a backless, high fronted, long-sleeved body suit) to a hand beaded basque with an extremely low back for the less formal speeches, dinner and party that followed. If I were to do it again, I would bring the neckline of the basque up a little to cover a bit more of my décolletage but that’s 35-year-old me talking!
It was really important to me that if I did change, it wouldn’t require much time away from the celebrations because everyone will tell you that the day itself goes so quickly! Nothing quite compares to the feeling on your wedding day too. So many months are spent preparing, then the day arrives and everyone’s love and energy is focused on you. You really do feel like a rockstar all day so if you are interested in multiple looks, I’d definitely recommend choosing an outfit that transitions easily from day to night instead of a completely different ‘look’ that requires time away from your new husband/wife and guests!
The Second Day Outfit
We hired the whole of Anyhoe Park for two days and nights and invited our closest friends and family to stay throughout the duration of the weekend. With that in mind, we had afternoon tea followed by a very relaxed dinner and drinks with family and friends at the venue the day before the wedding and I chose to wear a white two piece from Halfpenny (A wide leg trouser and bardot cross fronted top – the latter of which I still wear today!) I chose Ivory because I wanted to still feel bridal but not ‘wedding dress’ bridal. I did my own hair and make-up and felt so relaxed all evening!
If I were to go back in time, I’d have a post-wedding day celebration as well so that we could draw out the celebrations for as long as possible… and I’d get to wear another amazing outfit of course!
Advice For Brides
I’d definitely echo the age-old advice to keep an open mind going into dress shopping and be prepared for the notion that what you think you want might not actually be the case when you try it on.
These days, I’m a huge advocate for timeless style that isn’t trend led so would also suggest prioritising dresses that suit your style, personality and shape as opposed to following the latest bridal trends. I’m so glad that I can look back on my wedding photos and know deep down that I chose a dress that made me feel incredibly special (as opposed to what was fashionable in 2017) and I love it just as much today as I did then for that reason.
Finally, we chose our venue first which I think helps in the search for ‘the dress’ too. If the dress and venue don’t marry up, it may help to revisit your vision for the day to ensure that everything is cohesive.
Favourite Photo Of The Dress
Am I allowed to choose two please?! The first is this image of me stood outside the doors of Aynhoe because so much thought went into the detail of the ruffles on the back of this skirt and this image captures it so beautifully.
I also love the image of me walking down the stairs at Aynhoe. I feel like it captures that magic moment of anticipation just before you walk in on your wedding day perfectly! You can also see the raw edges on each ruffle that made up the back of the dress and how, despite the ruffles, there’s a softness to the wedding dress that feels paired back.
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