Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Week Before the Wedding

My mega-super-over-organisedness was a godsend the week before the wedding. I had been working to a deadline in labs and been basically up to my ears, so being able to relax for the week beforehand was definitely needed. Not, of course, that we didn’t have plenty of wedding preparation left to do. Like prepare my speech, for example, bustle the cat off whilst we were on holiday, and, of course, bake the wedding cakes.

I really like this picture of me making the cakes because it shows my engagement ring bare of a wedding band. And I remember thinking, as I touched the cake, how loose the engagement ring felt on my fingers, and how it would be the last time I would wear it alone…

I also did lots of exercise, just some starjumps every now and then to ensure I would weigh in at dress size, and Tom and I went climbing on Wednesday after he turned up in Birmingham to help. I stuffed Guy and myself with vitamins and minerals and energy tablets to keep us going and as healthy as possible across the next few days and performed various “beauty” treatments on myself – like plucking my eyebrows and shaving regularly to avoid rash on my legs on the wedding day (needless to say, they came out in a rash anyway, but that’s what we have long dresses for).

Travelling to Oxford on the Thursday was tricky. I was incredibly paranoid about the cake, especially the lemon layer which was making a bid for freedom. We carried it with the metal sides of the largest cake tin around it in its box, just to add extra support for when the train wobbled. We got to the station really early and sat in the dark gloom of Birmingham New Street, chatting about rubix cubes (Tom is a rubix cube fanatic) whilst I periodically checked that the stationary cakes were okay.

It’s a straightforward journey to Oxford. We played cards. And arrived at the city we were getting married in about 10am. I hadn’t seen it since I graduated.

We went straight to Cecily’s, where we made the other two layers of cake, and then trotted out for a lazy pub lunch together, which was a really valuable time-out session and gave us a chance to catch up properly.

But soon we were all systems go again. Guy and I took the wedding stuff over to the town hall and then walked down to the hotel with only our outfits and the honeymoon case to burden us. Tom visited the florist and took them our vases.

We had planned a relaxing session in the hotel pool and sauna before having pre-wedding dinner with the family (mine, mostly). We took full advantage of the free facilities and swam (read: played in the water), hot tubbed and steam and sauna roomed for a couple of hours. We also bumped into Abby, who used to be my babysitter when I was a child, and I introduced her to Guy.

And then we dashed off to change and meet the family. Guy had already met much of my family, but he hadn’t my my great aunt Catherine or – and neither had I – my great uncle Goff. My mum had told me stories about Goff, but I had never met him, although he sent us Christmas cards every year in beautiful copperplate. I know some people don’t like to invite people they haven’t met, but my family is not very big and gathering for this event did draw people together. Everyone was excited to catch up



Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

Throughout the wedding, Guy and I were picking and choosing our traditions – holding onto sweet ones and throwing out ones we disagreed with or just thought were too much trouble and effort. But one tradition we did like was the old good luck rhyme,

Something Old,
Something New,
Something Borrowed,
Something Blue

We thought it would be fun to both (because, hey, why should it be just the bride?) make sure we had something old, new, borrowed and blue about our persons on our wedding day. Just as a little challenge.

With our colour theme, new and blue were not going to be problems. My dress was blue, his tie and waistcoat and pocket square, our flowers. New, too, was pretty much everything we were wearing, and whilst we had a few older things, we wanted old to mean really old.

So I decided I was going to wear my great grandmother’s engagement ring, which had been passed down from her to my aunt to me. It was gold and thus didn’t go with any of my other jewellery, but I wasn’t wearing it because it matched!

Guy’s something old wasn’t quite so old – but they were still pretty old: the cufflinks he wore were his christening cufflinks.

Borrowed was a bit trickier. Guy got a bit of a hands up on this, because his best woman, Caz, gave him a hip flask for the day containing Cuban Havana rum (the rum did not get returned to her!). I ended up borrowing hair pins and clips from my mum, which she used to secure the lace to my hair and I used to “bustle” my dress during the dancing (i.e. pin up the hem). When I tried to give them back, she said I could keep them – but I refused, on the grounds that they had to be borrowed!

We didn’t ask for photographs of any of our “something old/borrowed” things, so spotting them in pictures is a bit of a guessing game. With that in mind, I’ve put together some pictures – can you spot the “something” things in the below images?

[Answers follow]








You can just see Guy’s cufflinks (well, one of) in this picture.


I wore my great grandmother’s ring on my right hand ring finger. It fits perfectly.


In this picture you can see the hair pins holding in the lace – and you can also see the ring again.


This picture shows the hair clips “bustling” my dress as we dance. You can’t quite see the hair pins or cufflinks!


In this picture you can’t actually see anything! However, a sort-of lump in Guy’s breast pocket marks the place where the hip flask rested. It didn’t actually come out during the wedding because we were busy enough with the drinks we had ordered.

Boxing Things Up

As the wedding drew nearer, I spent a lot of time boxing things up and getting ready to travel to Oxford – and then on honeymoon. Some of the things I boxed up weeks beforehand, the cat went to the cattery on our last day in Birmingham, and the final items (cakes) were only boxed up the day before – in Oxford.

First I bagged up the wedding party bits and handed them out at the first opportunity, with the final few being given out or left for collection the day before the wedding.

All of the honeymoon packing went into one case – the smaller of the two. This included my trousseau clothes which my mother had bought for me – some summery skirts and a tunic.

I dumped everything on the bag, then began to fold and tesselate. So quickly this

became this


We also packed the two books we received as wedding gifts because they came before the packing began. They were the only thing we opened early, and we didn’t start reading them until we were on the train on the 20th May.

Packing up the wedding things was more of a squeeze. I packed 3 boxes – two for the caterer and one for the ushers to decorate the ceremony room. We put the seating plan on a large board down the back of the suitcase and the boxes of cake stand were never going to fit.

The caterer’s box contained some sheets outlining dietary needs, the room plan, and a colour-coded by dietary need plan. There was the cake knife and alittle plastic pack for each table with the name of that table and colour-coded plan of it stuck to the front… yes, I went hyper-organised.


Inside each pack were the place names for that table and the right number of sliced corks, a menu, a table runner and a load of cranes packed into decorated drinks cans to stop them from getting squished in transit.


The ushers’ box contained arch/aisle drapes and the ceremony table runner, doily confetti cones and a bag of confetti, 10 small blue umbrellas, the orders of ceremony and some balloons and balloon tree components.


I piled everything up in the library, and with all this, plus the box of vases and thank you presents, we made a rather ominous looking pile.

…Which did not fit in the case.

We had two amazing helpers which made getting it all to Oxford possible. The first was our usher Tom, who took the week before the wedding off and came up on the Wednesday to help make cake, pack up the last items and carry them to Oxford with us. He even had to make two cake boxes, because we discovered the originals weren’t quite big enough.

We made two cakes in Birmingham and two in Oxford, after we arrived at Cecily’s – so I had two cakes (the two biggest cakes) to carry in my arms on the railway. And Guy had his suit and my dress on hangers. And my hat in a bag. Tom had his own case (which we also filled up with wedding stuff) and we had our honeymoon and wedding items cases – 3 cases, two massive cakes, 2 wedding outfits, and 3 people. It wasn’t going to work.

So Caz came to the rescue. At basically no notice she turned up and carted off the two boxes full of cake stand (light, but substantially sized) and transported them to Oxford for us. And the first I saw of it was entering the ceremony, whilst it was all set up outside. Fantastic!

Hair Again

I’ve already mentioned my hair plan, but of course, nothing goes quite according to plan. And less than two weeks before the wedding, Hilary, who was going to help with my hair, had to drop out.

Only a week or so before, after several years in a nursing home, Hilary’s mother died. Whilst it was not unexpected, it was still a shock, and after some days of grieving my mum had a chat with her, and Hilary admitted that she wasn’t up to the wedding.

She sent me a bottle of bubbly and a lovely card via my mum and was really quite upset – she had been looking forward to it. And after the wedding, when I sent her a thank you for her help and the presents, I also included a photo of the day, as a little consolation for not being there.

And as for hair, my mum and I were left to our own devices.

And no, neither of us are very good with hair!

As a child, my mum always put my hair up in exactly the same way. She would take a strand from the front on each side and attach them together at the back with a bobble. Basically like this, but not with plaits:

I used to think she was just obsessed with this hairstyle, but I also remember learning to plait from friends at school, before finding out that my mum could plait and getting her to show me how on my rocking horse’s tail. So my mum doesn’t do hair.

Luckily, we had one trick under our belts: the hat my mother had bought for me on a whim whilst we were in Debenhams trying to find wedding shoes, look at dress shapes, or do some other wedding-related shopping that we were avoiding.

The great thing about hats, you see, is that they cover hair. I actually spent a lot of the day wearing it, and I’m glad, as I much prefer the hat pictures of me to the non-hat pictures. My hair ended up curly, as I had wanted, but completely rock encrusted, because I showed my mum how to use hairspray and she went a bit mental. I’m not sure she understood how it worked. I actually had to take it away from her.

Half done hair

And it wasn’t as though the real thing was out of the blue – with my PhD involving collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University, I had visited my mum a few times, and we’d had a few tries. But nothing quite beats the nerves on the day (or rivals the effects of a large glass of fizzy wine with Cassis).

How glad I was to have planned to have a relaxing bath together over bubbly and our evening picnic – my hair needed a good, long soak!

Hair from the back

Starting to fall out, and the lace in my hair.

Final Numbers

We officially set our deadline for the 14th February, but for various reasons there were people who couldn’t tell us until closer to the time. The catering deadline for final numbers was two weeks before the wedding day, and whilst several people dropped out afterwards or failed to turn up on day, this was our final numbers check. And time to pay.

But when the catering deadline did come about, we were still waiting for a couple of people to get back to us with meal choices, which we told Cathy. Strangely, she didn’t seem that worried about our final payment being on time, and even after we confirmed numbers, the invoice was in no hurry.

I actually wanted it to arrive, wanted to pay off the catering, because then the bulk of the wedding would be paid for! It was exciting!

By April 20th we had paid for our food, our registrars, our cars, the florist and the town hall. All we had left to pay was a bit of cake ingredients and our first night accommodation.


Some of the suppliers were’t quite ready for the remaining deposit payment, but we were insistent – we wanted it all done and dusted. And once we started making the payments, we just couldn’t wait. We had actually missed the registry office and car hire deadlines by a couple of days – the registrars sent us a reminder only after we missed it, and Christopher Cars not at all. Luckily, they didn’t seem to mind (I presume they considered us in a pre-wedding frenzy of activity – in truth, I had a lab report due in and was trying to finish it before I took time off to get married!).

But it was done. And, with final numbers confirmed, we were able to finish off and stick together our table plan and place names with cork stands.

Since we named our tables after Oxford pubs, Guy and I decided to represent them in some way on our table plan. We had already included artistically rendered images of the pubs on the “book cover” table menus, so we didn’t want to do this again. Instead, we decided to make each table an old-style map of the surrounding area where that pub was to be found – or would, in the future, be found.

Guy got searching. And, before long, he managed to turn over a small mine of interesting, old maps covering different parts of the Oxford area. We chose one for each pub and he proceeded to size them appropriately for the plan, print them and cut out circles of map.

Meanwhile, I was making the main plan. I bought some large pieces of thick paper from Ryman’s (making the most of my student discount) and trimmed the ivory piece so that we could frame it within the blue card. I then drew out the room plan to scale and cut out lots of blue circles and rectangles to stick the table maps and various labels on. The glue made the plan a bit curly, but there wasn’t anything we could do about that – Guy even ironed the thing under a tea towel!

The place name tags were another matter entirely. We wanted to keep them simple, but still us and some fun. It was nice that some of our guests took them home with them after the wedding.

The corks came about because I had seem them done elsewhere and thought them appropriate to us, and simple. For a start, we both enjoy our wine, but more conveniently, I used to collect corks at one stage. We raided my old collection – there were about twenty. And got collecting.

We did pretty well, although we would not have made it without the aid of Guy’s parents – who nobly consumed cork over screw top wine in order to complete our collection.

We had champagne corks for the top table and ordinary corks for the other tables. I deliberately distributed them so that the widest range of corks appeared on each table. – I doubt anybody noticed!

The formula for name tags was simple: we printed people’s full names on the tags (if you have enough people at your wedding, there will always be a few people with the same name – we even had two people of the same full name!) and then underneath, Guy wrote down a role name (bride, mother of the bride, aunt of the bride…) or a nickname (either established or an “of the x story” variety). It took us a while to think of them all!

Hen and Stag Do

Let me start by saying I reall, really wanted to have our hen and stag do at the same time. But this didn’t happen. In the end, the people we were arranging it around couldn’t get back soon enough and we had to book, so they ended up being booked on separate dates… three weeks apart. I was very disappointed because in the end the friend who restricted the dates and made it impossible simply didn’t turn up. Something else came up. This also cost my best man money, who organised everything in good faith from those who said they were coming, so it was really unfair on him too.

The reason I mention this?

Because not only did I spent all of Guy’s stag do missing him and feeling left out of the fun, but when my hen came about I was bothered about him not being there and feeling that he had been sent away because of a silly tradition. We did want separate hen and stag dos, but if I had been a bit more selfish earlier, we might have got what we actually wanted left nobody been unhappy for it.

We didn’t actually wait too long before asking our best man and woman to organise the dos (giving them ideas of the kinds of things we wanted), but with the date organising delays and attempts to get initial numbers it ended up being pushed back and back.

For his stag, Guy wanted to go somewhere. He didn’t want strippers and strip clubs and, with the Cherubs underrepresented, he got what he wanted. Caz played with the idea of doing an archery session before the drinking kicked in, but unfortunately they were unable to secure a club in time (or, well, nobody got back to her).

They decided to go to Oxford. They booked somewhere to stay, a comedy for the evening and went pubbing and punting during the day.

In order to make it more fun, I decided to pack Guy a “Stag Survival Kit”. This contained:

– Stag Antlers, necessarily
– A tubey shot (to get him started, and also a little joke between us)
– Some rehydration packet drinks for recovery the next day
– A can of squirty cream (just to encourage misbehaviour)

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who had the idea of dressing Guy up, and it seems he ended up in fairy wings where they started in a pub:

A pink tutu, with a bottle of lambrini taped to his hand, during the punting:

And a Mexican (?) hat (!) in the Purple Turtle, or PT, the scummy cheap Union club (free entry for Union members), where he lost his stag antlers to a very drunk girl.

The next day, when I got him back, Guy couldn’t remember having any dinner, only that he was sure he’d had something for dinner, and he may not have paid for it himself – much like most or all of his drinks. We went to archery. He was still pissed. He lay on the grass in the sunshine and amused himself, whilst stinking of beer. Showering did not make it go away!

Photographs are courtesy of Guy’s brother, Harry.

Here is the crew:

Obviously with the best man and woman the “wrong” way round, we had mixed hens and stags.

Caz described the stag as “EPIC”.

For the hen, we were in Birmingham, and Guy once again went to Oxford: this time to do role playing with cecily.

I said I was quite keen on doing afternoon tea in the hen – but the lack of advance booking in local places resulted in us going to dine for a late lunch in the Museum cafe – a very nice place, but not exactly afternoon tea esque!

Then we all got into fancy dress and started drinking.

James arranged for Simon the Animal Man to come and show us exotic creatures. There were all sorts of reptiles, insects, bugs and feral furry things. We started out with a chinchilla on my head, and evolved to holding tarantulas (!). I’m only going to include a few photos here, as the number of animals we saw and held was ridiculous!

(these glow turquoise under UV light!)

We then had a cocktail guy come to make us and teach us to make cocktails. I won a bottle of fizz for my cocktail making, which I found a few days later rolled under the dresser. We still haven’t opened it.

The Ceremony

Marriage doesn’t happen in an instant.

It grows. From the seed of your relationship, the first shoot, the sapling, to soon a whole new oak. We decided to get married when we were ready to push up out of the earth – it was exciting, new – but gradually we grew, settling into the idea, becoming definite in our intentions. We were a tree before we knew it, we felt married. And yet the ceremony had not yet taken place.

This shaped our ceremony. The ceremony is, afterall, the most important bit of a wedding, and we wanted it to reflect us and how we felt about our marriage. And so our ceremony was more a celebration of the tree we had become and a public declaration and legally binding contract of our love and commitment before friends and family.

If I was going to flower and embellish anything wedding-related, it was this.

The substance of a ceremony is necessarily literary (even music is often crucially about the words to the songs), and this is my forte. Literary embellishments were something that I could enjoy doing and didn’t require any special equipment. I wanted lots of readings. We spent forever trying to find a prose extract short enough yet meaningful enough, and eventually settled on a 6-minute (oops, a little lengthy) endpiece from Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’.

“I am not going to emigrate, you know; I wasn’t aware that you would wish me not to when I told ‘ee or I shouldn’t ha’ thought of doing it,” he said, simply. “I have arranged for Little Weatherbury Farm and shall have it in my own hands at Lady-day. Still, that wouldn’t prevent my attending to your business as before, hadn’t it been that things have been said about us.”
“Things said about you and me! What are they?”
“I cannot tell you.”
“It would be wiser if you were to, I think. You have played the part of mentor to me many times, and I don’t see why you should fear to do it now.”
“It is nothing that you have done, this time. The top and tail o’t is this – that I am sniffing about here, and waiting for poor Boldwood’s farm, with a thought of getting you some day.”
“Getting me! What does that mean?”
“Marrying of ‘ee, in plain British. You asked me to tell, so you mustn’t blame me.”
Bathsheba did not look quite so alarmed as if a cannon had been discharged by her ear, which was what Oak had expected. “Marrying me! I didn’t know it was that you meant,” she said, quietly. “Such a thing as that is too absurd – too soon – to think of, by far!”
“Yes; of course, it is too absurd. I don’t desire any such thing; I should think that was plain enough by this time. Surely, surely you be the last person in the world I think of marrying. It is too absurd, as you say.”
“‘Too – s-s-soon’ were the words I used.”
“I must beg your pardon for correcting you, but you said, ‘too absurd,’ and so do I.”
“I beg your pardon too!” she returned, with tears in her eyes. “‘Too soon’ was what I said. But it doesn’t matter a bit – not at all – but I only meant, ‘too soon.'”
Gabriel looked her long in the face, but the firelight being faint there was not much to be seen. “Bathsheba,” he said, tenderly and in surprise, and coming closer: “if I only knew one thing – whether you would allow me to love you and win you, and marry you after all – if I only knew that!”
“But you never will know,” she murmured.
“Because you never ask.”
“Oh – Oh!” said Gabriel, with a low laugh of joyousness. “My own dear – ”
“You ought not to have sent me that harsh letter this morning,” she interrupted. “It shows you didn’t care a bit about me, and were ready to desert me like all the rest of them! It was very cruel of you, considering I was the first sweetheart that you ever had, and you were the first I ever had; and I shall not forget it!”
“Now, Bathsheba, was ever anybody so provoking,” he said, laughing. “You know it was purely that I, as an unmarried man, carrying on a business for you as a very taking young woman, had a proper hard part to play – more particular that people knew I had a sort of feeling for ‘ee; and I fancied, from the way we were mentioned together, that it might injure your good name. Nobody knows the heat and fret I have been caused by it.”
“And was that all?”
“Oh, how glad I am I came!” she exclaimed, thankfully, as she rose from her seat. “I have thought so much more of you since I fancied you did not want even to see me again. But I must be going now, or I shall be missed. Why Gabriel,” she said, with a slight laugh, as they went to the door, “it seems exactly as if I had come courting you – how dreadful!”
“And quite right too,” said Oak. “I’ve danced at your skittish heels, my beautiful Bathsheba, for many a long mile, and many a long day.”
He accompanied her up the hill, explaining to her the details of his forthcoming tenure of the other farm. They spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other’s character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship – camaraderie – usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death – that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.

This was read by Brian, who is an actor, and did a brilliant dramatic performance with accents!

The poems we had less difficulty on, though we did read a lot of poetry in our search. The Shakespeare was particularly “mine” and the Donne particularly “Guy’s”, but both were poems we happily agreed upon together.

The Anniversarie, by John Donne

All kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun it self, which makes time, as they pass,
Is elder by a year now than it was
When thou and I first one another saw.
All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath no decay;
This no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday;
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.

We only had the first verse of Donne, which was the one we really liked – probably just as well, given how much we crammed into our wedding ceremony. This was our opening reading, and read very bravely by David, who was incredibly nervous about his reading, yet managed it superbly nonetheless.

Sonnet 116, by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove;
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

We actually found this poem when visiting my grandparents. My granddad had given my grandma a necklace with a couple of lines engraved onto it (she was an English teacher) and we looked up the whole poem. I then read through all the other Shakespeare sonnets before deciding it was the best one – I am nothing if not thorough.

This was read beautifully by Narmeen. I definitely think we picked the right person for this poem – the soft and gentle reading worked really well with the meter and contrasted what was to come next!

We asked Guy’s brother Harry to do our last poetry reading. We wanted him involved, but Guy did not want any family members in positions where they could make speeches! We decided a reading was safe and that Harry was bold enough to finish up the poetry collection with a funny one.

A Poem by Bee Rawlinson

Love me when I’m old and shocking
Peel off my elastic stockings
Swing me from the chandeliers
Let’s be randy bad old dears.

Push around my chromed bath chair
Let me tease your white chest hair
Scaring children, swapping dentures
Let us have some great adventures

Take me to the Dogs and Bingo
Teach me how to speak the lingo
Bone my eels and bring me tea
Show me how it’s meant to be

Take me to your special places
Watching all the puzzled faces
You in shorts and socks and sandals
Me with warts and huge love-handles

As the need for love enthrals
Wrestle with my damp proof smalls
Make me laugh without constraint
Buy me chocolate body paint

Hold me safe throughout the night
When my hair has turned to white
Believe me when I say it’s true
I’ve waited all my life for you.

We also wrote our own vows – both contracting and with exchange of rings. For those who are interested in the formatting, we opened with the registrar’s welcome and the legal Declaratory Words in traditional format:

I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (name) cannot be joined in matrimony to thee (other name).

We then read the Contracting Words (again in traditional) directly after the personal vows and exchange of rings, and before the kiss! Readings came in after the Declaratory Words and after the Contracting Words.

I do solemnly declare that I (name) take thee (other name) to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife.

For our personal vows, we each read aloud from a scroll we had prepared.

From this day forward, I will honour and celebrate our love,
Through the better and the worse,
And during times of uncertainty.
I love you for the wo/man you are:
For your strengths, which make you amazing,
And for your weaknesses, which make you human.
I ask for nothing more than all you wish to give.
I trust you absolutely.
And I promise to be rational – not too complex – and to apologise when I am wrong.
I will miss you madly when you are far,
And hold you close when you are near.
I will be your trusty cornerstone,
Your unwavering defender,
Your shoulder to cry upon.
I choose to spend today and all of my tomorrows with you.

The words at the exchange of rings were read aloud by the registrar for us to repeat back.

I give you this ring as a tangible and lasting reminder of my love. With time, it will age and change, but only subtly, and throughout our lives it will remain as strong as when it was forged.

I accept the ring, and will wear it not by habit, but by choice. Let it reaffirm my love for, trust in and commitment to you, for as long as the sun and the moon shall endure.

We also decided to have a Flower Ceremony, where we each give a flower to our mothers, and a Drinking from a Quaich. For the flower ceremony, we had a vase of white lisianthus placed on the ceremony table and we each extracted a sprig.

Today, Guy and Rowena come together and establish a new family, stepping beyond the families in which they grew up. However, they do not want to forget their parents, who’ve helped them to grow into adults. In particular, they would like to specially acknowlede their mothers. As a token of love and appreciation, Rowena will give a flower to her mother, and Guy will give a flower to his. These flowers represent the blossoming of Guy and Rowena into the adults they have become.

C and V, would you please come forward to receive your gifts.

The Quaich was particularly important to me, because it was an opportunity to have said something on the importance of marriage.

‘Drinking from the Quaich’ is a traditional hospitality ceremony amongst the Scots, where a drink is shared in a two-handled drinking cup: the quaich. The ceremony has been used in weddings since the marriage of King James VI of Scotland to Anne of Denmark in 1589. The traditional Scottish drink is whiskey. Due to laws against consumption during civil ceremonies, drinking today will be purely symbolic.

Similar ceremonies exist in other cultures. In France, the “coup de marriage” is a two handled cup passed from generation to generation. The cup we use today comes from Guy’s parents; his father, Clive, was given it as a goodbye present from his regiment when he was a Captain.

In Eastern culture, a trusted high ranking officer of the courts would be appointed as cup-bearer; the cup­-bearer would drink from the same cup as the ruler to protect him from attempts at poisoning. This was a man willing to die for his king.

Today, the bride and groom will drink from the same cup, symbolising their absolute trust in one another and commitment to share all that the future may bring.

Offers to the bride and groom to drink together.

Guy and Rowena wish their union to be also the union between their two families and the wider community of their friends and loved ones. They would ask you to support them in their marriage, share in their joy and participate in their celebration today.

Will you do this?

They reply. The quaich is passed around the room so that everybody may drink from it.

This was the plan. But things were to go awry.

We had taken the idea of the quaich from a humanist wedding ceremony because these are much more interesting than civil ceremonies and we really wanted something interactive in our ceremony – it seems they are also significantly less restrictive!

A month before the wedding, and long after we had sent in a draft of our ceremony and had an email confirming that it was okay, we were told to remove the quaich ceremony. Apparently the church has a monopoly on eating and drinking, and you cannot do this or pretend to do this in a civil wedding ceremony for this reason.


We initially tried to deal with this restriction sensibly, by removing the drinking parts, then mention of drinking, then mention of cups, liquids, or the quaich itself. We bottled the quaich ceremony down and started cutting other things because the registrars complained that the whole ceremony was too long, which was one reason why the quaich ceremony had to go. The ceremony would no longer be interactive, but we could keep our words, couldn’t we?

No. The words were the problem.

This was obviously extremely upsetting, as we had put so much into this ceremony and wanted our [completely secular] ideas to be expressed. The Oxfordshire registrars even boast that they are especially laid back and generous with wedding ceremonies and pretty much let you do what you like; this only tells me how bad other offices must be, and how prohibitively narrow the laws on civil marriage ceremonies still remain! They eventually became quite cross when we continued to attempt to adapt our quaich ceremony and told us we were already being incredibly demanding with our extra reading and flower ceremony, and that we were lucky they let us have those.

I felt the situation was made worse by the registrars telling us to put the quaich ceremony into the wedding reception. This would have been a daft idea anyway: guests want to cheer, drink and party at a reception, not hear solemn speeches on marriage any more than they want to listen to prayers. But in my ideas this also made a mockery of the actual ceremony. Holding our own ceremony outside the legal ceremony only sends the message that it was only the “legal bit” and in no part meaningful that we must do it properly afterwards.

There isn’t a solution to this problem. I racked my barins for ideas, but everything was rejected. My mother promised to think of something, and they said no. We were banned from including non-religious historical wedding ceremonies or talking about them, or in any way adding to the ceremony after where they had drawn the line.

Yes, I resent it.

Yes, I missed it.

We had a quaich; we had bought the ginger wine; I had even printed all of our Orders of Celebration and painstakingly stuck the ribbons on after they okayed the draft we sent in.

It hurts to give up part of the romance of your wedding day, but it is a wedding day: they cannot take anything from our marriage. We are strong together, and we know that the sentiment was there, even if we were forbidden from sharing it (although I now share it on the internet!).

I will now move on from this more serious topic to talk about frivolous things – think of it as light relief, a bit like the Bee Rawlinson poem on the tail of Donne and Shakespeare.

So here are the things we made to decorate our ceremony room:

Confetti Cones

These were placed on the “pew ends” where people to get to them after the ceremony. We made a note in the Orders of Celebration not to throw them inside but to bring them onto the steps outside to throw with photos. Everyone was really good (I definitely expected naughtiness here!) and we have some fantastic pictures.

Balloon Trees

We weren’t allowed to have helium balloons at the venue, because some child or twonk inevitably releases them, they get stuck on the high ceilings of the Town Hall and eventually set off the fire alarms. This was a shame, as I quite fancied some in the middles of the tables, but they had a sensible reason to say no. I also liked the idea of having a balloon “tunnel” leading up to the aisle to really get our colours into the roo, (flowers would have been difficult since we had chairs not pews), and decided to use balloon rods and little bases.

This worked surprisingly well, although it was a lot of work making them. I used salt dough dyed blue (turns greeny blue) which is light but strong, inside paper cups which were covered in blue paper my mum gave me, or white paper with a bit of blue ribbon. These were light to transport and could be taken apart and put together on site.

I used a bit of curled balloon ribbon to make them even prettier.

My “balloon tunnel”:

Guy didn’t like any of my ideas for decorating the ceremony table: he was especially against boards with writing on them, giant letters or anything with our names on it! In the end we kept it simple, just the Flower Ceremony base and a table runner. No DIY whatsoever (cutting a table runner to size is emphatically not DIY – you wouldn’t call opening a packet of food “cooking”!).

And that’s everything – all the planning. All the same, nothing much really prepares you for walking into a room filled with your friends and family to have them all turn and stare at you (through a balloon tunnel). It was nerve-racking to say the least – I had to look straight ahead because I caught one guest’s eye and suddenly didn’t think I could make it to the end of the aisle. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to read my vows with meaning and stare Guy in the eyes as I married him.

Not looking at anyone (except Guy and the registrar) actually worked really well! Some people say hold the moment and look everyone in the face, but I made the decision that was best for me at the time. I relaxed a bit during the readings, and even though I asked not for chairs we had them, and thus were getting up and sitting down a lot, which kept us busy.

Everyone has said afterwards that we were both loud and clear when we spoke, which was definitely false confidence: he was as nervous as me! We raised our voices a bit – stage voices (but much more scary than being on stage, because this is personal and everyone around you knows you and will definitely see you again).

I do think it was a fast half an hour (or so… I didn’t check the actual time as we emerged), but this was chiefly because it was a full half an hour and everything that was going on interested me. I have definitely lost hours if not days reading or writing something that interests me on other occasions, so it was not purely because of emotion!

I didn’t cry. I was quite pleased about this, but actually I felt I was feeling less than I should have because I had to repress the nervousness so much that everything was a bit emotionally dampened. The relief I felt when we were announced husband and wife though – I was holding on for that. Whilst I knew we wouldn’t be interrupted, I was still paranoid that something would stop it happening or I wouldn’t make it through, but I knew once the contracting words were spoken that it was legal and all okay, and all I had to do then was squeeze my new husband’s hand and hold on until we were announced!

I had entirely forgotten about the kiss – but Guy hadn’t: and he had every intention of doing it ‘properly’.

(‘Properly’ in Guy’s book ended up as quite a long kiss… people commented!)

I actually came out of the ceremony room shaking – I seem to have quite a history of shaking! But this was a less debilitating shaking than those I mentioned before: and more like the shakey feeling you get after you’ve narrowly missed being hit by a car. Or falling over a cliff edge.

Here is us signing the register (this was an easy bit):

And finally – married!

Smiling because – hurray – it’s over! And now to celebrate!

Words cannot express how proud I am of my wonderful husband, and so pleased to have married him.