Like many brides to be, Anita Chakraburtty is busy planning her Sydney wedding next April. What sets her apart is that she doesn't have a boyfriend, let alone a fiance. But she is convinced she will find a husband before the wedding day.
“It's all in the stars so I'm 100 per cent sure it will happen,” she says.
Chakraburtty is part of a new trend of would-be brides or "single bridezillas" for whom planning their big day does not require a proposal from the man of their dreams.
As a professional astrologer, the British-born Chakraburtty, 42, says she is destined to meet her future husband any day now.
“Astrologically I've got quite a lot of activity happening in October and November in my charts,” she says. She picked the date of the wedding, April 7, 2013, because it has once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignments favouring relationships, she says, and also happens to be her birthday.
“I've got a red dress because I'm Aries, a fire sign, and I've also bought shoes with diamante on them – and diamond is the birthstone of Aries," she says. "And a friend is making a chilli chocolate wedding cake.”
Chakraburtty, who has lived in Coogee for six years, wants to get married on a hill there, followed by a beach barbecue. Friends and family are planning to come over from Britain for the wedding “but they've told me they aren't going to book tickets until I at least start dating”.
Chakraburtty, who also works as a naturopath, believes the universe is backing her choice of wedding date. She was a first-time bridesmaid at a friend's wedding recently and caught the bouquet.
“There are all these signs from the universe, milestones for me to say 'yes, you're on track'. I really, really know that I will get married on this day and I'm going to meet a brilliant guy in the next few months,” she says. "I've got so much love to offer someone."
Mostly single for nine years, she denies she is a wedding obsessive. “I was never this little girl who always wanted to be married and have a big dress. I've got a Masters in Chemistry and I was the head of risk in a bank in the UK so I've come from a very masculine education and career. I'm like one of the boys.”
She is not the only bride to want to put the dress before the diamond. With Australian brides getting married later – 50 per cent of them tie the knot between 25 and 29 – women have longer to think and plan their dream wedding.
The stakes are getting higher, too. In a wedding industry worth $4.4 billion a year, competition among companies for a slice of the wedding cake is high. The average wedding now costs about $37,000, according to recent figures from IbisWorld. That is likely to induce wedding planning anxiety in even the most laid-back couples.
Kat Richter, a 27-year-old writer from Philadelphia in the US, is hoping to be married by the time she is 30. After living in London for two years, she returned home to find that all her friends, including her high school sweetheart, had tied the knot.
“I treated myself to a three-month subscription to Match.com for my 25th birthday and set out to date 30 men in three months. It ended up taking me a year but I achieved my goal,” says Richter, who wrote about her dating adventures on her blog Fieldwork in Stilettos.
Richter now has a boyfriend she has been dating for just under a year but is still waiting for a marriage proposal.
That has not deterred her from making a few wedding plans. She has two dresses for the occasion. “I inherited the first from my paternal grandmother. It's vintage 1940s satin, with long sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. I love it but it's a bit heavy and too cumbersome for dancing so I purchased a second gown for $12. It has cap sleeves and is much less restrictive so I plan on wearing my grandmother's gown for the ceremony and changing into the second gown for the reception.”
Richter has also decided on the flowers, invitations and even the first wedding dance. She thinks being labelled a “single bridezilla” is silly.
“To me, a real bridezilla is someone who ends up going crazy in the weeks leading up to her wedding because they haven't planned well enough from the start. I am a perfectionist and I'm a very creative person so I have very specific ideas about how I want things to look but I don't want to spend a fortune and I don't want to make myself or anyone else crazy. So I figure if I start planning now, I'll be less stressed out in the long run.”
Why are so many highly educated and financially independent single women focused on planning their perfect wedding before they have received a proposal?
“Some people are dreamers,” clinical psychologist Jo Lamble says. “They have intense fantasy lives. Some dream of the perfect wedding. Others dream of fame and fortune. There's nothing wrong with having a good fantasy life as long as you keep your expectations realistic because otherwise there is the danger of life never living up to reality.”
As well as secretly planning their nuptial fantasies on wedding sites, forums and content-sharing sites such as Pinterest, would-be brides can seek emotional support anonymously online. At the wedding planning website TheKnot.com, the Not Engaged Yet forum is buzzing with wannabe brides at screaming point with frustration waiting for the ring.
“I know what I'd like the engagement ring to look like and have a wedding dress already," one hopeful says. "I'm becoming obsessed with looking at rings and just want to get engaged. If anyone can help me learn some patience/put things into perspective, I'd appreciate it.”
Lamble warns how obsessing about the perfect wedding can backfire. “Problems arise in relationships where the woman is fantasising about the perfect wedding and the guy is feeling the pressure to be the perfect partner by organising a unique way to propose and being able to help pay for the planned extravaganza.
"This pressure can actually trigger commitment phobia in some men.”