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Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Rules of Engagement

The Herald's Emma Blain has just got engaged to her partner Andrew Macken. In the first part of a diary, she tells of the proposal and begins the search for the perfect Bride's dress

I can't say that the engagement was a huge surprise. We'd been going out for six years, bought a house together, and have a cat.

The only thing that was missing was the ring. Admittedly, I was getting impatient about getting that sparkler on my finger. The relationship hadn't started conventionally, I'd actually asked him out (that's a story for another day), but I wasn't going to break with tradition when it came to the proposal. That was his job.

In fact, I was so traditional in my approach that I hadn't an idea of what kind of ring I'd like, I hadn't pointed any out and didn't have a 'dream' ring in mind. That he had a part-time job in Weir's as a student meant that he had more than the average bloke's insight into cut, clarity and carat. Besides, I wanted the ring to be a surprise.

We had talked about marriage, of course. You can't buy a house and raise a cat together without it being brought up. And I even dropped a massive hint when I said that I wanted to be engaged before my 30th birthday. But as it got closer to my birthday, there was still no sign of a ring. So we packed our bags for our holidays in France. I like to relax on holidays -- lying by the pool drinking too much wine is about as taxing as a holiday should get, in my book. Andrew knows this. So I should have got suspicious that, as soon as we arrived, he was trying to get me to go on a day trip "anywhere".

The first cloudy day we got, I was shepherded into the car and we drove to St Emilion. Again, I should have been suspicious when Andrew was trying to convince me to have lunch in a spot where the menu was more than €100. So I steered us elsewhere.

His shaking hands should have been a giveaway, but it wasn't until I got back from the bathroom that I noticed a small box under my napkin. And it wasn't until our waiter had left the table that Andrew could actually ask me to marry him. Did he get down on one knee? No, and that was my fault. Because of the table I had chosen, it was physically impossible for him to get down on one knee and he would have tumbled down the hill if he had tried. But it didn't matter. The ring was more beautiful than I could have picked out -- oval cut, five smaller diamonds on either side, just in case you're interested.

After a couple of days spent celebrating our news, I decided that the first thing I needed to do when we got home was try on a few dresses. Even if I don't have to make a decision for a few months, it was time to get into the spirit of things.

And at least I can decide how many pounds I need to lose on the wedding diet, what dress makes me look like a marshmallow and what makes me look like a princess. Oh, and how much I'm prepared to spend on the dress of my dreams. First stop? Vera Wang. All the celebrities go there, so I may as well. Second stop? Oxfam, where I might pick up the bargain dress of my dreams. The final stop on this dress-hunting mission would be bridal shop Anabel Rose, which has a great collection of Irish and international designs.

So how hard can trying on a few frocks be? Hard enough, as it happens. On my first foray into wedding-dress land I learned that I need at least six months to order my dress and at least three months "hunting time", which means that I have to start now. A wedding dress is no ordinary dress, either. There are mermaid shapes, column, ball gown, empire line and A-line. I was clueless. Sarah in Vera Wang showed me a dress that Carrie had worn in the Sex and the City movie, and the dress that Alicia Keyes recently wore for her wedding. She could tell by looking at me that I was a slave to celebrity magazines.

In Anabel Rose, Evelyn showed me how a shorter '50s-style dress could be a quirky alternative, and she used all her strength to pull me into a huge corseted ball-gown number by Alan Hannah. Yes, it was beautiful but I know I will want to eat my dinner on the day.

In Oxfam, every dress has a story; I tried on a vintage number that had been donated to the shop, a brand new dress that had been donated by a bridal shop and a gorgeous evening-style gown that had been previously loved by another bride.

I left feeling a little more bridal and a lot more confused. Am I a mermaid, an empress, a vixen or a vintage? There's a question I never thought I'd be asking myself . . .

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