OPINION: It was like a Hollywood romcom - a disparate group of women sat in a semicircle around the hapless leading lady as she tried on wedding dresses. "The Dress, starring five feet of fabric."
At first I thought there was something wrong with the picture - the women weren't my best friends and family, but work colleagues, new acquaintances and my future mother-in-law.
Abbie and Georgie are fellow journalists I hadn't spent much time with outside of work. But my obvious lack of preparation for my own wedding compelled them to step in and rescue me. I should have known then that I would get on well with them, but going on a dress hunt with them helped me realise how great they are.
"It's perfect! Amazing! Perfectly amazing!"clapped Georgie every time I emerged from the changing room.
"Yes," Abbie would say, "but is it Cecile's style? She's frittered away so much time we have to get a move on!"
The group also contained Lucie and Stephanie, two new French friends. I like having some French people around so I can freshen up my accent. "You look so ‘appy in that one. But to be hhhonest, that dress is too sexy for a wedding," Lucie said.
"Magnifique! But can you breeze in zhis?" said Stephanie.
The team was not complete until the addition of Wendy, Nick's mum. She brought two important things: a clear head and copious amounts of champagne.
After visiting two shops and trying a dozen dresses - including the one pictured on the right - I finally found two gowns I liked.
"Perhaps this is just in the movies, but I think you should have a WOW THIS IS THE ONE moment with a wedding dress," Georgie said.
My mum and friends back in Europe encouraged me to try different styles. I made appointments in two more shops and asked my dream team to pick dresses for me to try. Wendy handed me one I would never have considered. But when I stepped on the podium, the room fell silent, and then everyone cheered.
The dress seemed like it had been made for me. I caught myself grinning in the mirror and I knew it was "The One". Wendy had tears in her eyes. Georgie said, "I'd marry you in that dress!" and gave me a hug.
"Stop moving, I am trying to take a photo for your family!" Abbie said. Stephanie reminded me to look at the price in euros rather than New Zealand dollars to make the dress seem affordable.
It's been said that friendship is built on shared experiences, and every new dress and every new store we went to was a new shared experience. Booze helps, too, and by the climactic scene of The Dress I felt much closer to all five of the team and much less lonely.
Of course I missed my mum, my sister and my friends from Europe. But sharing this moment with new friends made me feel at home. I felt they genuinely cared, and wanted me to find a dress I loved.
This reminded me that it is not the venue, the cake or the dress that matter most in a wedding. It is experiences up to and on the big day, and the people who share them with you along the way.
Don't worry, I'm not spoiling the surprise for my fiance - this is not my actual dress for the big day! How did you find the dress-hunting experience? Who did you take shopping with you? Comment below, email me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter.
- The Press