Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wetsuit worries

So I was out for Christmas cocktails in Wimbledon Village with a few of my girlie mates last night. And in between cackling over large glasses of festively flavoured alcoholic beverages, there seemed to be much mirth around the secret hen do plans. I know nothing of what is afoot, but I am aware of an awful lot of planning, plotting and scheming happening via email amongst my hens.

Worryingly, there is also persistent talk of wetsuits, and they are all implying that I will require one for the 'activities'. Now, I am pretty sure this is all a red herring that's been wafted around to throw me off a scent. But, knowing the people involved in all the plotting, a little part of me grows ever more concerned that it is a double bluff and I will indeed have to hoik myself into black lycra so that I can be flung, for whatever reason, into icy waters.

I am getting scared.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Last Christmas as a spinster of the parish

Thank goodness it's Christmas. We are both shattered and in desperate need of a break and a bottle of Baileys. Each.

And I think this is the last long break we'll get before the serious wedding countdown commences. In our head, once the annual mincepie-fest is over it will be all systems go on the organising front. I'm a bit scared.

In fact the bizarre wedding dreams have already begun...no makeup and a creased torn dress on the day...fiance replaced by an incredibly ugly stranger...I sincerely hope these aren't premonitions.

But before I can completely slip into worry mode, we are gonna aim for a relaxing Christmas. And as it's our last one as 'unmarrieds' we decided to do something a bit different. Because our families are scattered the length and breadth of England, our Christmas usually feels like we are on tour. 50% of it is spent on motorways and continually playing Chris Rea's 'driving home for christmas' doesn't make it any more festive. Then of course we have to take it in turns spending Christmas Day itself with each parent. And feeling a bit crap about it.

So this year we thought sod it. We hired a large cottage in our favourite corner of the Lake District and invited everyone to join us. Siblings, parents, aunt and uncle. As it turned out only the parents (and Josh) could make it, but actually, that means a nice total of 7 of us. And a roaring log fire, 3 outstanding pubs within a 2 minute walk and the most amazing scenery and the most stunningly beautiful walks you could ever hope to find.

In my head I see it a bit like Wham's Last Christmas video (without the mullets, bad jumpers, snow and iffy story line about giving your heart away to someone you shouldn't) in the sense that it will be as Christmas should be. Traditional. Drunken. Greedy. Relaxing. Happy.

In reality, the cooker will probably be too small for the turkey, snow and ice will prevent at least 2 of us getting there at all and Josh will be running around in his the new pants that he had for his birthday last week, which are emblazoned with the phrase 'monkey business'. Which is about as traditional as it gets!

Friday, 3 December 2010

The frock

I have bought my wedding dress. In fact I got it ages ago. I didn't mean to, it just sort of happened. My original plan was to get it in March - when I'd had chance to shift excess Christmas flab (yikes!) and when there were more spring-like frocks in the shop.

But that plan went out the window when I spotted a rather sweet frock in LK Bennett. And before I go further - I need to just explain. As with the bridesmaid issue, I'm not mad-keen on weddingy dresses. They are just not 'me'. Plus, we are on a budget and I can't justify spending hundreds and thousands on one dress. And really, is a big meringue dress a good idea when we are in a small-ish marquee in the middle of rural Shropshire? No. One swing of a puffball and I could take out the entire hog roast. And if I stand still long enough chickens may roost under it. Not a good look.

So as I was saying. I wasn't really looking, but saw a white dress that looked nice. My mother-in-law who was with me at the time, egged me to try it on 'just for a laugh'. So I did. And it was gorgeous. I have to say I was quite surprised at how lovely it felt to wear a wedding dress (even though it wasn't an official wedding dress, it did look and feel like one). It was all floaty and swooshy and for once in my life I felt like a lady. And trust me dear reader, that really doesn't happen very often.

There was a small problem though. You could see through it. The material was so thin and swooshy, my big flowery knickers were completely on display (as I say, it was all very spur of the moment, I wasn't prepared for trying on dresses. My bright pink bra didn't help matters either. In hindsight, I bet all the finely turned out staff of LK Bennett Wimbledon were appalled at this common ragamuffin with non-matching undies. They probably hosed the changing room down with Dettol after I left.)

Anyway. A see-through dress is a bit of a no-no at a wedding isn't it? But I did really love the style of the dress (not saying what that style is in case my husband-to-be is reading) and so I wondered if I could buy a long underskirt or maybe get a seamstress to attach a lining. Then I realised how foolish it would be to buy the very first dress I'd seen. I needed to at least try some others on to compare. And I better crack on and do that quick, in case I decided I DID want this one and they all ran out. Agh. Stress.

So I enlisted the help of Best Girl Claire and after work one night, in the torrential rain, we went into London. I knew of a well known shop (not Debenhams) that did some nice un-wedding wedding dresses, so that was the first port of call. With Claire's help I selected four and we both marched into the fitting room.

Bless Claire, she'd come straight from her high profile banking job in the City so was dressed rather smartly. Unfortunately that meant that girls in the changing room kept mistaking her for a member of staff as she waited for me, and were asking if she 'had this in a size 12'. Now, she's no wall flower and is known for being vocal. And as I scrambled into the frocks, I just kept hearing her loudly explaining to the world that no she wasn't a shop assistant, she was merely here to help her friend try on wedding dresses. So within 5 minutes, everyone in that small, curtained room knew what was going on.

So every time I stepped out from behind the curtain, there seemed to be a bunch of girls excitedly peering from around their own curtain to view the bride-to-be. And all the sales assistants were lining up to have a look too. I had quite an audience.

So, just like one of those cheesy changing room scenes out of any chick-flick style movie (Coyote Ugly springs to mind here) I kept popping out from behind the curtain in the different frocks. And because these were 'official' wedding dresses, it felt ever so slightly more surreal. But I quite enjoyed trying out the 'walking down the aisle' trot, listening to the oohs and ahhs from the other girls who were seemingly more interested in me than their own civilian clothes purchases.

I quickly realised that number two was gorgeous. Exactly what I had in mind. And it knocked spots off the very first one I saw - especially as it didn't reveal my underwear, which is important in a wedding dress I think. My changing room audience were also in agreement that it was the nicest of the four. But then Claire reminded me that we were only looking 'for a laugh', that we had plenty of time, I didn't need to rush and that I should go away and look at others and come back.

Thing is, I've never been a patient person. Especially when clothes shopping. Spending hours heaving myself in and out of outfits in tiny, changing rooms that are hotter than the sun and smell of dust and stale sweat has always been a huge pet hate. So when clothes shopping, if I fall in love with something, I get it so that I can get out. Then I can go home and relax in the knowledge that I have made a purchase and don't have to go through that horror again for a while. None of this fannying about by going off and trying 10 different other things just to come back to the original option.

So Claire was quite gobsmacked when I said I was getting it there and then. She was worried I was being too hasty, bless her. I pointed out that I had tried on five officially, and hey, there's always the 28 day return policy yes? So I could use that 28 days to look at others, just in case. (Of course, I had no intention of looking at other dresses. Why would I when I'd found the perfect one?!) So, with Claire reassured, off we went for a celebratory glass of fizzy stuff and to discuss nail varnish, men and makeup.

Claire then took the dress to her house so that my fiance wouldn't see it. (Our flat is far too small to hide anything. Even stashing birthday and Christmas presents is a challenge. I'm one step away from pulling up carpet and digging a small hole under the floorboards. Plus there's always a risk of the dog chewing it or using it as a blanket, like he already does with many of my clothes.)

A few weeks later, after an evening on the wine with Claire, I couldn't resist trying it on again. It was even more lovely than I remembered. And more importantly, it still fit me perfectly. But there really is no room for error. So now all I have to worry about is not piling weight on. If I overstuff on mince pies, Baileys and chocolate oranges over the festive period, come January I won't even be able to get my leg in it. Which, the way I eat, could very easily happen.

Not too much pressure then.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Going to print

With me being a copywriter and my husband-to-be an extremely talented graphic designer, it would be a poor show if we didn't create our own wedding invites. So we have.

I don't want to give anything away for the recipients, but we've taken inspiration from an artist we both like, whose prints we have scattered about our home. And the colours are very sweet and will set the tone for the day.

So after much meticulous designing and careful arranging of pictures and words, we are in the process of printing. It's a slow process, so thank goodness we only have 50, but hats off to my very clever fiance. They are looking gorgeous. I am really excited!

Before we went to print, Paul had to phone the vicar to confirm the time so we could put it on the invites. I was worried in case he'd forgotten who we were after our rather laid back meeting, but luckily he must have the memory of an elephant because he knew exactly who we were. Which eased my mind about his unique filing system. And it turns out we can choose any time we fancy because we have him at our disposal all day. So that's a big relief. Then my future husband wrapped up the conversation with a witty quip about getting commemorative plates made in the style of a royal wedding. And apparently this was greeted with a tumbleweed style silence. Whoops.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Dedicated to my Best Girls

I’ve already briefly aired my views in this blog about the word ‘bridesmaid.’ So I might indulge myself in a slightly longer post on the matter.
I dunno what it is, but I find the word a little uncomfortable. I think it stems from my own phobia of weddings that are bit to ‘weddingy’ and bridesmaids that are wearing dresses that would be better suited to a panto.

And I know I can make sure that my bridesmaids wear something half decent and all that, but I still find the word a bit bizarre. Especially when we’re all in our mid 30s.

I toyed with the idea of eschewing the whole bridesmaid thing, but that’s cutting my nose off to spite my face. I’m gonna be a big nervous, worrying, calamitous wreck at various stages in the run up to the wedding, not to mention the day itself. I am going to need all the help I can get, preferably in form of advice and counsel from my trusted friends. And I would like to honour those trusted friends by officially making them a big part of our day. So I have asked my three gorgeous best mates Jenny, Emma and Claire to perform bridesmaid duties - but they will be referred to as my Best Girls.

You see, in my head, that just seems a much more appropriate title. These three ladies have been there for me since I was wet-behind-the-ears, na├»ve, just-left-home-really-nervous-and-can’t-stop-weeping university student. It’s quite possible I would have got on the first train back to the midlands if it hadn’t been for them. (in fact Claire’s husband lived two rooms down from me in our halls of residence. So he’s my honorary Best Girl. He won’t need to wear a dress though.) And from that moment on they've been there for me through thick, thin, good, bad, drunk and sober. I've lost count of how many times these girls have comforted me when I've cried and how often they've had me in fits of hysterics.

It’s amazing to think how much we've all been through since those days back in Manchester when our biggest worry was how much beer we could get for our money in the student union. We’ve witnessed each others boyfriend mistakes, (some worse than others) been there for each other to pick up the pieces when those blokes have let us down and celebrated with each other when we finally found 'the ones.'

And we’ve all been there for each other’s life milestones. Graduations, jobs, engagements, marriages, babies, first homes, dogs and cats. As Take That once warbled, we’ve come a long way. (ooh girls, am picturing us all having a bit of a moist eyed sing song to that track after plenty of bubbly on the Big Day.)

What’s lovely though is that even though two of us live in the north and two are down south, it never really feels like we are far apart from each other. I know I can pick up the phone any time and fall straight into a conversation, a rant, or a down-the-line hug. In my head, we are all next door to each other and it feels like we see each other every day. To me that’s the sign of an amazing friendship.

I love these girls dearly. I can honestly say I don’t know what I’d do without them and I'm incredibly lucky to have such wonderful friends. They really are the best girls.

(Footnote. Obviously, my best girls are also in charge of my hen do. With Jenny as the ring leader. I am mildly worried because I stitched her up for her hen do. So I fear there may be payback. More on this subject in another post…)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Here’s a big decision which I never thought I’d never have to make for my wedding - have we got enough toilets?

You see that’s the thing about creating your own venue - you do have to think about absolutely everything. If we were hiring a pub or a castle or whatever we wouldn’t have to worry about the loos. But we're not.

So while most brides are flapping about their hair or their shoes. I find myself querying the correct ratio of people to bogs. And of course, I have to add into this equation factors like excess wine/beer guzzling, drunk blokes and such like.

Doug the Marquee Man says he can supply some fancy portable loos that play music. Which would come in handy if the DJ equipment failed. But mom also has two downstairs toilets. So do we or don’t we?

Mum finally helped make the decision. She sent me a text saying “I’m worried about my overstretched ballcock!”

That’s settled then. The last thing the mother of the bride should be worrying about on her daughter’s wedding day is the inner workings of the porcelain.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Locally sourced decorations

I'm thinking a few hay bales might be nice, strategically placed around the outside of the marquee. Luckily, there should be a few to hand.

Wedding Worry no.1

Even though Doug the Marquee Man has assured me that mom's garden was plenty big enough for 60 guests, and that actually it would easily hold 100, I was still struggling to picture it.

So my husband-to-be (squeal!) helped put my mind at rest by waving a tape measure around. And bless my mom and step-dad, they've actually offered to remove the tree and grass over a flowerbed in the middle of their garden so that we have plenty of room. How sweet of them is that?!

I'm still struggling to imagine how everyone's gonna fit in though...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The tricky first dance

I’ve been thinking about our first dance.

Now I believe it’s a song that should have meaning, have a story behind it, maybe link to a special moment you once shared or at least echo your feelings for each other. And it shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be a Westlife track. Or Angels by Robbie Williams.

My fiance and I have been wracking our brains over this. We have a handful of songs that are 'us' and remind us of each other and our 'courtship' (to use a word you don't hear enough these days).

But none seem quite right as a first dance.

To make my point, below are the lyrics to the song that we both listened to on my iPod the night we met. The film Team America was just out at the cinema and we'd both seen it and thought it was hilarious. My husband-to-be was particularly impressed that I had the soundtrack on my iPod. So we sat on the kerb outside the pub (The Three Kings in Clerkenwell) with our pints and shared my earphones to listen and laugh at it.

We later joked that the spoof romantic song was naturally 'our song'. And if you don't listen to the words, we could get away with it. It could pass as something similar to that Aerosmith track from the movie Armageddon. But when you DO listen carefully, it's not exactly an ideal choice for shuffling around a dance floor to in front of your mother, aunt and uncle. Maybe we'll sneak it in somewhere though - just for our own amusement.

I need this, I need love, I need you
I don't need one hearbeat, I need two

There's an emptiness I need to fill
And only one emptiness will do

Only a woman
Can brighten up my day
Only a woman
Can touch me the right way
Only a woman
Is allowed to touch me there
All I ask is that you're a woman

I like rain, I like ham, I like you
You're around, you're right here, so you'll do

I'm gonna tell you how much I love your mind
But it simply isn't true

Only a woman
Can brighten up my day
Only a woman
Can touch me the right way
Only a woman
Is allowed to do what you're doing right now
All I ask is that you're a woman

And on saturdays when I've been partying hard
And it's 4 in the morning, and I'm on my fith tab of E
that's the only time I don't even care if you are a woman

Right now
Only a woman
Can brighten up my day
Only a woman
Can do it just the right way
Please just be a woman
Or a man...

Everyone mucking in

The lovely thing about a limited budget is that it makes you think creatively. You look for cost effective ways to decorate the venue and make everything exactly as you want it.

And what's even nicer about a limited budget, is that it gets everyone involved. Hiring a photographer would blow a 3rd of our budget - and we aren't really the sort of people who do formal, staged pictures. With us it's all about the natural look. And if shots are wonky, even better. So I have asked one of my three Best Girls (not bridesmaids!!) to take some pics for us. She has a good eye for photography and I know she'll be brill.

Then we decided fairy cakes would fit our country theme nicely - so me and mum are making them together. And as luck would have it, my mother-in-law-to-be used to be a hairdresser. So she's in charge of that department. (She may need a small miracle to get my fairy-fine cobweb barnet to do anything though. Limpness is what it does best.)

And it's amazing how many people have stepped forward offering to help out. We are genuinely blessed with wonderful friends and family. And as I say, it makes the whole event feel much more inclusive than if we'd just hired a room where everything was sorted for us.

I love it.

Anyway, the point of this waffle was to talk about being creative. My extremely talented graphic designer husband-to-be (*squeal*) is taking care of the invites and instigated the colour scheme. So I am looking for neat ways to add pretty touches that won't cost an arm and a leg. And while looking for ideas. I found this wonderful website www.paper-and-string.co.uk

I'm already tinkering around with a side project of cute felt Christmas decorations, but absolutely love the little love hearts...I think they will have to feature somewhere.

Doug doesn't do stress

London is chaotic. Everyone’s rushing, clockwatching, scheduling, planning, demanding, trying to squeeze things in and generally not spending enough time doing anything properly. It is a race, and there are lot of rats. But somehow, out in the countryside, everyone seems so much more relaxed. Our suppliers are so laid back they are practically horizontal.

Now, I’m a natural panic-pants. I love to fret, worry and make lists. Sometimes I'll make lists about my lists. Or lists about why I am worrying. I drive myself insane. And on top of that I’ve read too many wedding magazines, which are all designed to make you think of things you hadn't thought of, fuel your fear that you are doing it wrong/will never get it all done in time and constantly nag you to book things at least five years in advance. (It’s easy to see why perfectly rational girls become ‘Bridezillas’ during their planning.)

But luckily, our idea of a simple, informal wedding seems quite easy to plan. A marquee in Mom's gorgeous garden will be perfect for us. And as I said in a previous post, a marquee man lives very conveniently next door to Mom's house. He’s very busy and is always difficult to contact, which I see as a good sign. And each time we do speak to him he always has an air of 'there’s loads of time don’t worry about it.’

After a quote and several conversations, we said we'd like to confirm the booking. He still seemed very much ‘yeah it's fine, it’s ages off yet’ which was a bit more vague than I felt comfortable with.

So just for our own peace of mind we asked if he’d like a deposit. He replied.
“umm…yeah, you can send a couple of hundred if you want.”

And then we asked him when he needed final confirmation of details. He said:
“Ummm. This year?”

It's actually quite refreshing. And I am starting to enjoy this idea of 'non-planning'. It's quite relaxing - and the last thing I wanted was for it all to become a big spiral of stress, and for us to lose sight of all the fun bits and what we are actually doing.

Doug's not worried, so I’m not.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The vicar and his gravy stain

I’ve already told you about our Marquee Man being a complete Laid Back Larry. And it transpired our vicar is very much the same.

We booked the church back in July and went along to meet him and give him our details.
He was brilliant, really put us at ease and didn't seem to mind that we hadn't attended his church. Ever. On top of that, he looked great too - like a proper vicar. If you had to cast a vicar in a Richard Curtis film or a sitcom starring Dawn French, then he’d be the man to choose. Even his name is very clergy-esque. Reverend Patterson. I love it!

So anyway, Rev. Patterson turned up at the church for his sunday service with a plastic Sainsbury’s bag. After the service and once we'd introduced ourselves, he rummaged around in this bag and pulled out a crumpled bit of paper with a gravy stain on it. Turned out this was the important piece of paper that we had to write our names, addresses, birthplaces, parents names and all that crucial information on.

Once we’d filled it in, dodging the gravy stain, we handed it back and it went straight back in his carrier bag.

Now, I'm no expert in ecclesiastical paperwork and I know everyone has their own unique way of filing important pieces of paper. But I couldn't help but worry. What if he was actually on his way to Sainsburys? What if that piece of paper ended up in a crumpled ball betwixt a tin of mulligatawny and free range chicken? What if it got all soggy and torn underneath a bag of frozen peas like an old shopping list?? Would he remember our conversation? Or the date we'd chosen?

I felt myself panicking. But it's ok, I thought, surely now at this point we will plan the next date to meet up to go through the service and plan how the ceremony will unfold. So at least if that important documentation of our existence ends up a ball of papier macher at the bottom of his bag, at least we will have that date to meet up. That will be logged. Phew.

But as I went to pull out my diary, ready to set that date, he said "Just pop in and see me a few months before the big day and we'll talk about the service." and he turned on his heel, and ambled off clutching his placcy bag, shouting a chirpy "cheerio, see you next year!" as he went.

No tips for hymns. No clues for readings. And no idea of when we meet up next.

I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or chase after him and force him to make a proper plan. But my husband-to-be reminded me that it was only July and we shouldn't get our knickers in a twist just yet.

So I went home and had a cup of tea, wondering if I'd actually just dreamed the whole thing.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Royally upstaged

I thought ours was the only wedding of the year in 2011. But no. Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton today. And they are planning a Spring/Summer wedding.

I bet they're not having a hot roast in a garden full of chickens though.

Perhaps we should also get commemorative plates and mugs made with our fizzogs on them...

A very unique wedding singer

Josh has asked if he can sing at the wedding, with his guitar. This is a really lovely gesture and I’m touched he wants to do something special on our day. And on top of that, it's a brave thing to do. Not many people would offer to stand up and perform in front of 50 people, most of whom will be total strangers.

However, there are a couple of issues.
1) The song he wants to sing is 500 Miles by The Proclaimers.
2) Josh only knows about 3 words of the song. And they’re not all in the same sentence.
3) Josh can’t play the guitar.
4) Bless him.

Despite all of this, I still think it’ll be sweet of him. But I think we will need to work on helping him learn the lyrics...

Small usher mix up

Josh is my 18 year old brother, he's a bit of a superstar because he has mild autistic tendencies and a few learning difficulties. But he's come a long way since his diagnosis when he was small and I'm so very proud of him. He has us in stitches and he's an absolute legend.

So that's why we asked Josh if he'd like to be an usher.

Now one of Josh's 'symptoms'(for want of a better word) is that he often takes things quite literally. So we asked him if he’d like to be an Usher. A look of panic crossed his face.

“But I’m not black and I can’t rap!”

We had to gently explain that he didn’t need to turn himself into a popular R&B artist for our day, and it was actually a lot simpler than that. I think he was relieved.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The first bit of planning

Things we knew didn’t want for our wedding:
A big, complicated fuss.
Huge expense.
Matchy matchy gubbins.
Or bridesmaids in matching frocks.
(I hate the word bridesmaid - for me it conjures up images of frothy peach puffballs and cheesy photos)
People attending that we wish weren’t attending.
A massive wedding frock.
An impersonal reception.
Anything in London.
The Grease megamix/Oops upside your head/Venga boys on the DJ playlist.
Dance lessons.

What we did want:
A lovely ceremony and our favourite people all together and a party. With lots of dancing. (The kind that doesn't require lessons.)

Simple really.

Luckily, we had the perfect set up right under our noses. My Mom is lucky enough to live on a country lane in the heart of scenic Shropshire, just minutes away from two historic market towns. Her house is sandwiched between a couple of farms, surrounded by fields, cows, sheeps and a few pigs. The heady scent of manure is constantly in the air and the gentle putt-putt of a tractor is occasionally punctuated by a cockerel's raucous crowing. There are chickens running around in her large and very beautiful garden, where my step-father grows his own tomatoes, beans, rhubarb and herbs. A ten minute walk up the lane, past a field of horses, leads you to a very small, very old, but very pretty church. And just next door to that church lives a man who runs his own business supplying marquees and hog roasts. It's perfect. And I think of it as a good omen that everything has just slotted into place so wonderfully.

So that's that sorted then. (And that's also why we may need wellies.)

I'm engaged!

I’ve been engaged for nearly 6 months and I still can’t quite believe it. I never thought I would get married. No - what I mean is, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to find someone who would put up with me. But I did, and it’s a lovely feeling. My future hubby (that sounds weird. And grown up. I'm going to have a husband. Crikey.) popped the question in lovely Lulworth in Dorset and we set a date pretty much straight away. And as the months fly by and the planning of our big day becomes more comical/surreal/nerve wracking I just wanted to wallow in my final months as a spinster of the parish by keeping a diary. I also wanted to enjoy over-using phrases and words like husband-to-be and fiance, because lets face it, after next May 14th I won’t be able to use them in the same way again.

Wow. I’m going to be a married woman. (See what I mean? It’s funny seeing that sentence in black and white.) So this is just a little bit of self indulgence on my part. I hope you enjoy following my journey into wedlock. (Journey into wedlock. Ha!)