My big, fat, midlife wedding cringe: Being a ‘blushing bride’ at 44

Stacey Duguid felt such a mix of dread and embarrassment at the prospect of being a ‘blushing bride’ at 44 that she almost called off her whole marriage. She reveals how she jilted her jitters to make it down the aisle in style.

getting married at 44
Stacey with daughter Martha and guests on the steps of Marylebone register office. Image: Mavric Photography

To be honest, it felt ridiculous planning a big wedding at my age, even after six years with Dr M, who accidentally proposed to me after a sleepless night watching the Brexit referendum (although that’s a whole other story). But, when I was 42, it was finally on. ‘I suppose you want a ring?’ he romantically suggested one day.

The whole ‘What’s the point of getting married?’ argument aside, we have two kids together, I’m not religious and, frankly, the thought of being ‘given away’ by a man to another man in 2018 strikes me as a little creepy. I didn’t grow up with my dad and, anyway, he’d already told me by email that he didn’t want to come. As for a virginal white dress? Give. Me. A. Break. I came of age in the 1990s – demonic red would be far more fitting.

And what about cost? According to Brides magazine, the average wedding in the UK costs around £30,000. Frankly, I can think of better things to spend our savings on, such as a new car to replace the rust bucket we drive around in. But even though I wouldn’t dream of splashing £30k on one day, my reluctance about getting married had nothing to do with money – it was more embarrassment.

Stacey overcame her wedding worries to marry Matt in June. Image: Mavric Photography.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing bad about bridal fantasies, but I’ve never dreamt of my own princess moment. I hardly ever celebrate my birthday for fear of friends singing at me in public, and being the centre of attention makes me cringe. Yet just over a year ago, after three strong cocktails, I sent out a ‘save the date’ email to everyone we know, informing them that we were to be married on 16 November 2018. ‘Get ready for the party of the year!’ read the sign-off to my enthusiastic, martini-sodden email. People bought hats and booked hotels. People assumed it was ON.

Six weeks later, however, the thought of walking down an aisle in front of 100-plus guests had me awake in the wee hours – unravelling at the prospect of a huge wedding that would inevitably turn into a ginormous over-40s-disco-rave with me rolling around in the middle. I couldn’t bear it. I knew I had to cancel our not-yet-planned nuptials.

‘It’s off! Sorry!’ read a second, sobering email sent to a bunch of bewildered friends. ‘OMG, why?’ came the replies. Um, well, how about I’m not sure marriage really is my thing? Or, do you know what, weddings are a total rip-off? But the truth was that the thought of being a ‘blushing bride’ at 44 made me want to shove pins in my eyes.

Stacey asked her mum Gaynor to walk her down the aisle. Image: Mavric Photography

A month later, on 13 January 2018, a date I’d had in my diary for ages but almost forgotten about, Dr M and I popped to see the newly refurbished Marylebone register office in London for a nose around. ‘Oh, this is swish,’ I thought. Nicely decorated, low-key, central and – dare I say it – perfect for a very small London wedding.

‘Would you like to book your ceremony today?’ asked a woman holding a clipboard. Staring at her, I realised maybe I could walk down an aisle in front of, say, ten people. If I took a special tablet. And that’s how we ended up booking the smallest room at Old Marylebone Town Hall.

Immediately afterwards, I called my mum to share the good news. ‘You know your brother’s wife is due to have her baby that day? I’ll be in Sydney.’ Back to the drawing board and a world of faff I could barely be bothered to face.

Three date switches later, it was decided: on 22 June 2018, Ms would become Mrs. And a month before, I had a realisation. Watching Meghan Markle step out of a car and into the church alone, while looking so impossibly beautiful and strong, I realised some of my embarrassment was actually dread. As in, no-dad dread. The moment I saw Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland looking so elegant and composed, I knew I wanted to ask my mum to walk down the aisle with me.

Stacey and Matt share their first married kiss. Image: Mavric Photography

With that whole issue fixed, and after a sweaty, sleepless pre-wedding night, it was the big morning. I felt dreadful, but was comforted by the fact that the end was finally nigh. I applied my own make-up then, at 8am, whizzed down the road to a friend’s flat to get changed.

Stepping into my Preen by Thornton Bregazzi wedding dress, embroidered with micro-pearl beading at the waist and hip, I stared at myself in the mirror. I finally felt the part. I pulled on a pair of off-gold Jimmy Choo heels I’d picked up the week before, and my best mate tied a white ribbon to the car. Finally, it was all coming together. In an hour, I’d be married.

As I took a deep breath and walked into a room filled with friends and family who love me, fear and embarrassment were quickly replaced by feelings of pure joy. When I reached the aisle, still upright, I looked behind me to see eyes filled with happy tears. Touched by so much love in the room, I felt fearless and so broke tradition by saying my vows first. No blushes for this 44-year-old bride – just a huge beaming smile that lasted all day long.

There were 36 of us in the end, and travelling across London in a vintage Routemaster bus to go for lunch with my nearest and dearest was everything I didn’t know I’d ever wished for (when you don’t know what you want, everything feels like a bonus). Our four-hour lunch was a raucous mix of elegant-meets-naughty – because, let’s face it, by the time you get to my age, there’s way more ammunition when it comes to the speeches.

My wedding turned out to be one of the best days of my life, so why did I feel so weird in the run-up? Maybe I just thought white weddings were a young woman’s game. Now, I’ll admit it. Being a 44-year-old bride wasn’t that bad after all. I only wish I’d had a disco.