We made lots of things for the wedding and, given time, most of those jacks will come tumbling out of their boxes. But for now, I mention our table names and menus, because they were crucially important early on.
Because, inasmuch as we had a theme, that theme came from our table names.
I really wanted to incorporate Guy in the details – so that people would see some things and think of me, others think of him, and of course mostly think of us both. I wanted things he loved and enjoyed to pop up in the stuff the guests would see and appreciate. I had bought the conical flask vases for flowers – and those were very me, so now I wanted the table names to be very Guy, or at least us leaning Guywards. And thus we hatched the idea of Oxford pub names.
At the time we got together, the cherubs were halfway through the Oxford pub crawl poster, and determined to finish it, so we had already drunk in many of the pubs in Oxford (being pub rather than club peoples) and Guy was especially at home in many of them.
So we came up with a list of Oxford pubs and began whittling it down to 10. Even as we went, we could see which people to put in which pubs – the Inklings (our writing group, once frequented by Tolkein, Lewis and the likes) would go on the Eagle and Child (the pub where the original Inklings used to meet) – the all-vegetarian Gardener’s Arms would host several of my friends, many of whom tended to this diet – the cherubs would go on the Royal Oak, Somerville’s local (later dubbed “the naughty table” by me) – and the top table would be our local, the Rusty Bicycle… and so on.
We even fused two pubs – Jude the Obscure and the Jericho Arms, neighbouring pubs, the customers of which can seldom remember the differences between until they’re inside once again. This one ended up on the cake table, as we only needed 9.
Instead of freestanding table names, however, I had the idea of using hardback book covers. We are both massive book lovers. And this would mean the menu could go inside and the table name could be on the cover – two bird with one stone. Especially important if we had to carry everything to Oxford!
Somerville library regularly has out a box of books they are getting rid of (books which have never in their lifetime been taken out from the library…), free to anyone who wants them, so I pillaged this box for 10 of the most boring hardback volumes ever and – I’m sorry book-lovers! – ripped off their shells. We recycled the paper inside and painted the covers blue. This was actually quite hard because they had to be painted all over and kept sticking to the newspaper! Furthermore, the shiny shiny covers do not like acrylic paint and required layers!
But eventually they worked.
The paint was a bit darker than the royal blue of our clothes – somewhere betwixt royal and navy – an Oxford blue, as it were. An Oxford blue…
Books were very Oxford. The pubs were obviously Oxford. And geeky things like chemistry flasks could also be Oxford because our degrees were from Oxford. The ‘Oxford’ theme was born. Admittedly, we didn’t go the whole hog with it like some do – it was more of a tenuous connecting factor than a theme, but it was there and it worked for us.
I got to work on the menu front covers. I photoshopped pictures of the pubs into different artistic styles using photoshop and had them printed on photopaper, which was framed on the ivory wedding paper we got under the name in big letters.
And later, we put the menu inside, along with a picture of a cake and flavours for the different layers.
Meanwhile, Guy got busy with the backs. We decided to put a little bit of entertainment on them – fun and interesting facts about the pub: it’s nickname, our favourite drink there, a memory from it/reason for picking it and anything else. Guy trawled the internet and his mind for quirky little add-ons, and eventually came up with these…
The Eagle and Child
49 St Giles
aka Bird and Baby/Fowl and Foetus.
The sign is the Crest of the Earls of Derby.
Meeting spot of the Inklings (CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein and so on).
In this pub: We have held meetings of the revived Inklings in the Bird and Baby.
We Like: Stonehenge Ales Sign of Spring
131 The High Street
The sign is an ancient symbol for money-changers.
The pub itself was re-built from a money-lenders office!
Exhibited strange animals in the 17th century.
In this pub: Rowena first received her engagement ring.
We like: Aspall Perronelle’s Blush Suffork Cyder
The Gloucester Arms
200 years old, and debate continues over whether it has been cleaned yet!
Possibly the most metal jukebox in the world.
Oxford’s rock pub.
In this pub: Guy has only been IDed on entering this ‘biker-friendly’ pub wearing motorcycle leathers.
We like: Addlestone’s Cider
17-18 Victor Street
Opened in 1869 in the back streets of Jericho.
Originally served the print-workers of the OUP.
Offers take-away beer in 4-pint milk jugs.
In this pub: Rowena came to Guy’s birthday drinks in 2009 after he knocked on her window on the way.
We like: Greene King Fireside
The Royal Oak
42-44 Woodstock Road
The sign refers to the future Charles II hiding from Roundheads in an oak tree!
This is the third most common pub name in England.
Handy for escapes from Somerville, being just over the road.
In this pub: the Fun Cherubs had many a happy pint after the key question – “Roak?”
We like: Fruli Strawberry beer
The Rusty Bike
28 Magdalen Road
The dead bicycle was a lovely sign for ‘bike-lovers’ like us.
Has been known to give away food when they’re trying new menu items!
Has an excellent quiz!
In this pub: We popped into the local when we lived on Bullingdon Road.
We like: Arkell’s Moonlight
The Jude and Jericho
54 and 56 Walton Street
The Jude is named for Hardy’s novel.
The Jericho is a popular gig venue.
It’s always hard to remember which is which. Local twins!
In this pub: Guy’s friend Richard bought a second main course in the Jude when the first was “not enough.”
We like: Who knows? We can’t remember what we’ve had in which!
The Turf Tavern
4-5 Bath Place
This pub was founded in the 13th century as a gambling den.
It is so well hidden that T-shirts reading “I found the Turf Tavern” were popular Oxford Souvenirs!
It’s believed to be where Bill Clinton “smoked but did not inhale”.
In this pub: Guy’s graduation, among other exam-related events, was celebrated.
We like: Old Rosie Cider
The Gardener’s Arms
39 Plantation Road
This pub sports a completely meat-free menu!
One of two pubs by this name in North Oxford – the other is the ‘Pub of Misery’.
Rowena’s tea-total friend David follows this pub on Facebook.
In this pub: We went for dinner here as our first date.
We like: (the lethal) Thatcher’s Heritage Cider
6 Alfred Street
The original Bear was established in 1242.
The walls are adorned with club ties, sports ties and school ties!
Quiz participants are given free food!
In this pub: We won the quiz with the Win-aholics (and spent the prize before leaving…)
We like: Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter
After the wedding, my mum was sad that she hadn’t nicked her table menu. Luckily, we got them all back, so I was able to send it to her! The rest are dotted around our library.