Not many women choose to lift weights in their wedding dress, but an avid environmentalist is so determined to get her money's worth from her $1,225 USD custom bridal gown that she has worn it everywhere from swigging beer at a football game to doing her weekly food shop.
When tour co-ordinator Tammy Hall, 43, splashed out on a gorgeous knee-length lace frock to marry orchestra manager Karen Frost, 49, in October 2018, it followed a year during which she went without buying any new clothes or shoes, to support sustainable living.
So, to justify spending such a lot on a single garment, Tammy, of Adelaide, South Australia, felt she had to get her wear out of it – a decision which allowed her to become an eternal bride.
“A couple of years before my wedding, in 2016, I'd taken a trip to India. For me, that was a reality check."
“I'd been privileged and not realized how much we, as a society, consume. So, after coming home, I made a promise to myself not to buy any new clothes or shoes for a whole year."
“It was a piece of cake – but then the wedding was approaching, and I was in a dilemma over whether or not I could justify dropping some serious coin on a dress I'd wear for a few hours, when I'd just spent a whole year trying not to consume, and to be sustainable."
Tammy and Karen on their 2018 wedding day (PA Real Life/Collect)
“In the end I decided that if I was going to get a wedding dress, I'd make sure I wore it again and again."
“I've worn it to do things like play basketball, go fishing and even to hike across a mud crater."
Tammy and Karen's love story began back in 2005, when they met in a local orchestra.
Tammy and Karen's travel-themed wedding cake (PA Real Life/Collect)
Tammy was running an education programme at the orchestra, while Karen was a manager.
Getting together right away, their relationship went from strength to strength, leading to them having a commitment ceremony at a local restaurant overlooking the beach in 2008, when same sex marriage was not yet legal in Australia.
“We are really into travelling, so we had our outfits – long flowing silk pants and tunics – made for about $30 USD each during a trip to Hanoi in Vietnam."
Tammy sipping on a beer at a football game (PA Real Life/Collect)
Then, in November 2017, Australia voted in favour of same sex marriage by 61.6 per cent to 38.4 per cent, after 16 million people took to the polls.
And the following month, the Australian Parliament voted once again to officially lift the ban, meaning Tammy and Karen and couples like them could finally wed in legal ceremonies.
“It was a really nerve-wracking vote. There had been huge votes all across the world at that time, with Brexit and Trump being elected, and I worried this would be the trifecta – or third – example of things not going the way you'd expect them to."
Tammy chopping wood in her wedding dress (PA Real Life/Collect)
“But, thankfully, Australia voted in favour of same sex marriage."
“We have always had the support of our family and friends, but it was amazing to have the whole country supporting us too."
In the wake of the historic news, Tammy and Karen decided to tie the knot legally this time – touchingly choosing October 5, 2018 – 10 years to the day since their commitment ceremony, as their wedding date.
🎉 THANK YOU 🎉 This all happened because of you. We did this together. https://t.co/4vWuIj9bpB— AU Marriage Equality (@AU Marriage Equality) 1510700646.0
“This time, as the vote had been so significant, I decided to really go all out and properly frock up. Karen decided to wear a tux and I opted for a wedding dress."
But, having just completed her year-long ban on buying anything new, in a bid to reduce consumerism, Tammy worried about how to apply her sustainable principles to her wedding.
Her solution was to wear the dress again and again, so it was not just an item she used once, then stored away to gather dust.
Tammy doing kendo, a Japanese martial art, in her dress (PA Real Life/Collect)
Scouring local bridal boutiques, she could not find anything that felt right, so she enlisted the help of a dressmaker to create something custom.
“The dress cost around $1,200 USD in total. I first met with the dressmaker about four months before the wedding, and maybe saw him 20 or so times after that."
“We experimented with different fabrics and styles – it was really fun."
A sketch of Tammy's dress (PA Real Life/Collect)
“Knowing I was going to wear it again didn't actually impact on my choices. I can see how people would think I'd maybe go for something less bridal and more every day, but I didn't – I went with my heart."
“I also didn't feel any pressure to slim down, like lots of brides do. I wanted it to fit me afterwards, so there wasn't really any point."
On October 5, 2018 Tammy and Karen were married – overlooking the same beach where their commitment ceremony had been held a decade earlier – surrounded by their loved ones.
Tammy going grocery shopping in her dress (PA Real Life/Collect)
But becoming a wife did not mean Tammy had to give up on being a bride.
Far from it, she has worn her wedding dress repeatedly, posting snaps of the occasions to Instagram for her loved ones to enjoy.
“The first time I wore it after the wedding was to vote in the Australian election in early 2019."
“Since then, it's been to all sorts of places. Wearing it on a crowded commuter train was especially funny, but I've worn it to cook and do chores, to football games, to the gym – even to chop wood."
Tammy hitting the gym in her dress (PA Real Life/Collect)
Strangely, although wearing her bridal gown in unexpected places has attracted some odd looks, Tammy has not received any comments.
“I think people are too reserved to actually say anything."
Her most memorable expedition wearing the dress was on a visit to Hobbiton in New Zealand – the movie set from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Tammy and Karen in Hobbiton, New Zealand (PA Real Life/Collect)
Now she plans to pack it in her suitcase for a trip to Iceland she is taking with Karen next summer.
“I must have looked like a complete nutter at Hobbiton. It was freezing cold and I was there in this wedding dress. People found it hilarious though."
While Karen has not donned her tux again, despite her initial scepticism, she now helps her wife to cook up new places to go and activities to perform in her bridal gown.
Everything now seems so disposable – but this dress, and these memories, will last a lifetime.
“We're always trying to come up with new ideas, but are conscious that we can't be too traditional. If I went to the beach or something, I'd just look like a bride having a photoshoot."
“When I first started, I would redo my hair and makeup, so they looked like they did on my wedding day, but now, I don't bother. The only thing that matters is that I'm wearing the dress."
“I'm not sure I'd have done this if I hadn't taken that trip to India and started thinking about consumerism and how much we use then chuck away, so I wouldn't judge anybody that doesn't want to follow suit."
Tammy boarding a train in her wedding dress (PA Real Life/Collect)
“Each to their own, but for me, this was the most ethical way I could think of to justify having a wedding dress."
“Everything now seems so disposable – but this dress, and these memories, will last a lifetime."