A South African bride found a see-through lace gown that fit perfectly with her Cape Town forest wedding
- Helena and Calvin Howard got married in January 2020.
- Helena knew she wanted a comfortable dress with lace detailing.
- She found an A-line Milla Nova gown with a transparent lace bodice that was exactly what she had been imagining.
- "Everything that we do is for each other," Helena said of her relationship with Calvin.
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Helena and Calvin Howard work at the same hospital, but surprisingly, they met at the gym.
The South Africa-based couple met in 2017, when Calvin was in medical school and Helena was an intern.
A year after they met, Calvin proposed to Helena on a trip to Italy, where his family is from. He proposed at a restaurant with a view of the Colosseum using his grandmother's engagement ring.
"He is very romantic and sentimental," Helena said Calvin.
They got married in January of 2020.
They got married in Cape Town, which is over 1,600 kilometres from the town they were living in, so they had to plan the wedding from a distance.
Helena went shopping for her wedding dress in Johannesburg with her mother, sister, and mother-in-law.
She had always imagined herself in a dress with lace detailing, and she knew she wanted her dress to be comfortable.
Calvin also mentioned he had been picturing his bride-to-be in a backless gown, so Helena kept that in mind as she shopped.
Helena ended up falling in love with a Milla Nova gown the first day she shopped.
She tried on the gown at Vonvé Bridal Couture, which was the first boutique she visited.
She also liked that Milla Nova is an Italian designer, as it fits with Calvin's heritage.
The dress features a lace bodice and a tulle skirt.
The bodice is made up of transparent lace in a floral pattern.
The lace flows onto the bottom of the gown, fading as the tulle spreads out on the A-line skirt.
The lace bodice is what initially drew Helena to the gown.
The delicate design of the lace makes it seem as if the gown is part of Helena, rather than something she's wearing.
"The lace detailing on top was what sold me on the dress," she said. "It's Italian lace with what they call 3D glass beading for the flowers."
Glass beads are embroidered on top of the lace, which gives it a sparkle effect.
Corle´ Barnard did Helena's hair and makeup on her big day.
The back of the gown was customised.
The dress was designed with buttons going all the way up the back over a transparent fabric.
But because Calvin had been imagining Helena in a backless gown, she decided to have most of the buttons removed so her back was bare above her waist.
Mesh fabric ensured it didn't fall off her shoulders.
Helena said her dress "fit perfectly."
"I chose an A-line skirt with quite a long train because it was so comfortable and it was so beautiful," she said.
She had to add in one extra hoop to the skirt to make sure she didn't trip over it while she walked, but other than that, she felt at ease in her gown.
The dress cost R44,000.
Calvin cried when he first saw Helena in her wedding dress.
"I was excited to see what my husband was going to think because I had been misleading him with all sorts of terrible stories about dresses that I would never wear," Helena told Insider.
Calvin was emotional when he saw the gown, having to brush away tears.
Helena felt like her dress fit the wedding venue.
"It was like a forest church," she said of her venue. The couple hung flowers over an archway for the ceremony.
"So I think my dress fit in so beautifully with the flowers and the leaf detail," she added.
Sitting Pretty Bespoke Events styled the wedding.
She wore a long veil to the ceremony.
When Helena tried on the gown with the veil for the first time, her sister cried. "I was like, 'This is a good sign,'" she said of her sister's reaction.
The veil created a dramatic look for the ceremony and cocktail hour, elevating the already beautiful gown.
Helena took the veil off for the reception, giving her more freedom to dance.
Helena said her wedding dress made her feel "so beautiful" and "like a princess".
Helena and Calvin posed in a field for wedding portraits following the ceremony.
Helena advises brides to be open-minded when they shop for their wedding dresses.
"It was so nice to find a dress that was exactly what I had visualised, but I was open to trying on a whole bunch of other styles, which was good to do," Helena said.
Trying on the other gowns helped her know for sure that her dress was right for her.
"I just had that gut instinct that I fell in love with my dress," she said.
She also encouraged brides to think of the comfort of their wedding dresses.
"I think as much as the aesthetic of the dress is important, you have to realise that it needs to be comfortable," she said. "You need to be able to move."
"Comfort is something that you need to prioritise," Helena added.
For instance, she wore heels to the ceremony, but she found a flat shoe that looked identical for the reception so she would be comfortable while dancing.
Helena said her favourite part of the wedding day was Calvin's reception speech.
"It was just so beautiful. And I think that's when everything really sunk in," she said. "When he spoke to me directly in front of everyone and just said everything that was on his heart, it was just so special and I'll never forget it."
"I just knew I was going to marry him," Helena said of how she felt when she met Calvin.
"They say when you know, you know, and I never believed in it until the day when I just knew," she said.
"I felt like I knew him before I even knew him," Helena added. "We have just such a deep connection."
"We are complete best friends," Helena said.
"We share everything and anything, and we're just always supportive of each other," she said of her relationship.
"Everything that we do is for each other," Helena added. "We're never at odds with each other, because we know we're always on the same team."
"We are soul mates," the bride said.
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