The wedding industry doesn’t cater to mature brides. So, when Christine Labaty walked down the aisle, she had to forge her own path.
The wedding industry doesn’t cater to mature brides like me
Christine Labaty · for CBC First Person
This First Person column is written by Christine Labaty, who lives in Ottawa. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.
A bride is technically a woman about to be married. The word conjures up specific images — dresses and veils and sparkling accessories worn by fresh-faced young beauties. It’s a big business and not one geared to mature women.
In Canada, the average age to get married is 30.7.
I was 67 when my partner proposed to me. He’d been married before, but it would be my first marriage. I was excited, but also in uncharted territory. Being more than twice the average age at my wedding meant I had to forge my own path as a bride. Luckily, my sister-in-law was a florist and offered to plan and host the wedding, leaving me to only worry about three things — the cake, the ceremony and my look.
I was self-conscious when I met my first potential vendor — a cake baker in her 30s — and introduced myself as the bride. She said she didn’t judge, but I knew others would. Sometimes when salespeople would offer their congratulations, it didn’t feel sincere — as though they were judging me for being an older bride but were also being nice to me because I was a client with money to spend.
As a bride, I agonized over every aspect of my look. The shoes alone were replaced five times!
But when it came time for dress shopping, I felt like I was in no-woman’s land. Over the years, when I watched bridal and reality wedding shows, most of the dresses seemed like they were designed for women in their 20s and 30s, and I couldn’t picture myself in these figure-hugging items. I also couldn’t relate to the models. After being a bridesmaid five times, including one time when the boutique salesperson made me feel huge despite being a size eight, I knew I didn’t want to walk back into a bridal salon. I also didn’t want to wear a traditional white wedding dress. One benefit of being older is that over the years I had developed my personal style and knew what looked good on my curvy figure. I wanted a dress that was simple, light-coloured and flowy and suited a garden wedding.
I tried on 14 dresses in all. I dismissed most of them for not being special enough for a bride. So, I started looking at mother-of-the-bride dresses. A pale pink one with a light rose-embroidered cape ticked all the boxes and made me feel special. To complete the look, I planned to add some sparkle with drop earrings and a rose-toned hair comb with crystals.
And like many brides, I felt the pressure to diet and lose weight. So I bought the dress in two sizes — the words of that saleswoman from so many years ago ringing in my ears — as though I wasn’t “good enough” to be a bride if I didn’t look slimmer. I successfully went down a dress size, and I wish I could say it was just because I wanted to improve my self-confidence and for my health. But the truth is I also had a nagging feeling that I had to lose the weight to be worthy of being a bride.
Unlike perhaps a lot of women my age, I still have long, thick hair and I colour and highlight it. A friend of mine suggested I put my hair in an updo. But while I understand why many younger brides do that for a more mature look, this bride didn’t want a style that aged her! I opted for a half-updo, which my hairstylist confirmed during the trial run was more “youthful.” That wasn’t my intent either — I just wanted to look beautiful and like myself.
For that same reason, I hired a makeup artist who had worked with a photographer who had done many portraits of women over 50. She knew that mature skin looked its best with plenty of moisturizer, some primer and lighter makeup, particularly for a daytime wedding.
Yes, my age was just a number. But I also knew it couldn’t hurt to do all I could to help me look like and feel like a bride.
I had enough life experience to know that the trimmings of the dress, make-up and hairstyle were just icing on the cake. Being a bride meant not just feeling bridal, but partaking in the joy of getting married. Perhaps my life experience should have made me calmer, but I was nervous and very emotional on my wedding day. The only thing that calmed me was looking into my husband’s eyes.
Everything went beautifully that day. We got the garden wedding of our dreams, despite a gloomy forecast. The ceremony was heartfelt. The flowers and venue were exquisite. Our guests mingled with each other and enjoyed themselves. The babies were passed around. It was the right kind of wedding, for our stage of life.
And the happy bride looked the part, age notwithstanding.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christine Labaty’s happy trip down the aisle happened later than most. She lives in Ottawa with her new husband and their dog.