September 23 2011
Thank heavens Octavia chose a September wedding. The tweedy old-school Sloane couldn’t have borne the pressure of competing with Kates Middleton and Moss earlier in the year – not least because she’s hardly a will-o’-the-wisp herself. But with those nuptials safely out of the way, she can proceed with confidence. No one will upstage her on her Big Day.
Nigel, Octavia’s “gentleman farmer”, took some wooing. His family’s Cotswolds estate borders that of Octavia’s Uncle Chops, and Octy found it hard at first to devise excuses to keep coming up from Sussex, where – while waiting for the man of her dreams – she helped her prettier, younger sister Tiff run the family gift shop. But once Nigel (a chubbier version of actor Hugh Bonneville) mentioned at the local hunt that he’d be happy to give her riding lessons, Octavia whipped out her BlackBerry and agreed a course of 10 lessons. Love blossomed at speed after this encounter, and Nigel proposed – on horseback – at the Boxing Day hunt.
Octavia was relaxed about the wedding plans. Mama and she had known “forever” where and when the service would take place (at dusk at the chapel near Chops’s), where the reception would be (in a vast marquee by Chops’s Georgian pile), who’d be invited (give or take a few of Nigel’s extended family), who’d do the flowers (Aunty Moo and “elves”), what the transport would be (the old landau to church and reception, a 1925 Bentley three-litre to the hotel for the wedding night), who the bridesmaids and pageboys would be (nieces, nephews and godchildren under 10), and even what the menu and music would be.
But Octavia worried about The Dress. She hoped to lose weight – every bride does – and knew the white-ish gown would be “run up” by Elsie, the housekeeper, who’d made Mama’s 40 years ago. But come April, she became jumpy when she saw what a fuss was being made over guessing the designer of Waity Katie’s frock. And when she saw the Alexander McQueen dress in all its glory, with the ultra-svelte, gorgeous Kate within, the usually sweet-natured 30-something turned into a monstrous Bridezilla. For while she realised that she really, really couldn’t compete, she just couldn’t help herself…
And so to the day itself. Nigel has been waiting at the altar for 11 minutes and 49 seconds. A first glimpse of Octavia – who’s been trying to climb out of the horse-drawn carriage for 11 minutes and 48 seconds – confirms she’s still a comfy size 16 and wearing an ivory duchesse satin gown. And my, what a lot of ivory duchesse satin there is. Swathes of it, in 1980s fashion (Octy knows vintage is “so hot right now”). Talk about a meringue, this is a puff-sleeved pavlova. Or should that be Eton Mess? For as the bride – whose view is obscured by a dramatic veil – grabs at her father’s arm, the old man wobbles and the heel of Octy’s ambitiously high (for her) satin court shoe rips through her dress. Why didn’t she stick to her beloved Emma Hope pumps?
Never mind; hopefully, her pièce de résistance will cover the tear. Octy thinks the Duchess of Cambridge’s train was the one distinctly underwhelming feature of the Royal Wedding – “not nearly long enough”. Now, as she bundles her own, seemingly endless, train out of the landau with Tiff’s help, she notices not only how exceedingly pretty her sister looks but also that she isn’t wearing the peach-and-lemon drop-waisted creation Elsie made to Octy’s impressively precise instructions. Instead, she has on a figure-hugging number that’s clearly modelled on Pippa Middleton’s bridesmaid’s dress. The minx!
Still, nothing is going to ruin the bride’s day. Luckily, her dress is wide enough to obscure Nigel’s view of Tiff. And Octavia is intent on making a grand entrance. With all eyes on her, she steadies herself and proceeds, beaming, up the aisle. Unfortunately, her swishing train proves irresistible to one of the youngest pageboys who, spying a free ride, springs onto it and assumes what looks like a surfing stance. Whee! Octy’s head yanks back and as she lurches, her train swings out to the side and into one of the tealights lining the aisle. As the smoulder becomes a flame, quick-thinking Tiff plunges a collection bowl into the (fortunately still full) font…
For Octavia, it’s a victory of sorts. This is certainly one of the most memorable wedding dresses ever.