Category Archives: Other

A Pinch of Salt – Advice

So I thought I’d do an advice section. …And my first piece of advice is DON’T TAKE ADVICE. Everybody is different, and everybody needs to do things differently, so read or listen to advice and take it with a pinch of salt – as a personal experience. Not only is everybody different, but some weddings are nothing like others and generic advice can be counter-rpoductive.

But, just for the record, here is my pinch of salt!

1. The day doesn’t go fast – it’s full, it’s busy, but it goes slowly, and at the end of it, it feels like it has been more than a day. This is how it felt to me. I was so worked up with expectations from repeated advice that the day would go fast and I would have to rush around that it took me until the end of the reception to actually relax and go “off-duty”. Don’t let expectations shape your day (but yes, do make time to talk to everybody: we circulated the tables between courses and it was great!).

2. Don’t do the “done” thing. We stayed in the room together the night before, and it was completely expected that we would. And it was lovely to go to bed together and get up together, and I really needed Guy. Following the “traditional” route would just have made us miserable.

3. Wear blue. Wear black. Wear lime green and indigo if you want to. You will still look like a bride, people will still recognise you as a bride, and you will have a dress you can wear again, alter to wear again, or just look your best in.

4. Something will always go wrong. Your guests will be chaotic. Don’t get upset. Rise above it. It makes good storytelling later, and people are much more interested in the cake collapsing than what my dress looked like.

5. If you can have ceremony pictures HAVE THEM. Our ceremony shots are some of my favourites: they look so much more natural than the posed shots, they’re well spaced and we look at our best.

6. Have ushers. They are like gods. I have no idea how we could have done it without them.

7. Make things. People do notice the small details, and they get very excited about the little things you have made and personalised. Making things is fulfilling, exciting and saves you money – and if it doesn’t get noticed, you won’t mind anyway!

8. If it’s a “must-have” you don’t need it. We didn’t have a videographer or chair covers and we are glad that we didn’t have them. You don’t automatically have to have everything on your wedding day, and don’t let yourself get pressured into having things for fear of regrets. Decide whether it’s actually important to you and whether you would have thought of it by yourself. Make your wedding about you, not other brides.

9. Don’t put your soul into the wedding – focus on the marriage. Make sure you have new projects lined up for after the wedding and honeymoon and kick the post wedding blues in the teeth. I didn’t get this, and I’m pretty sure it’s because my life did not peak at my wedding day. It was a great day. One of many. And I have so many all-consuming projects anyway that the wedding just meant I put them on hold: now I am back to enjoying them!

10. Stick by your guns. Make sure that your guests are warm, confortable, well fed and supplied with alcohol. After that, your decisions are up to you, not them!

Things I’m glad I had or did:

1. Wore a hat. This is not usual, but it worked on me and I prefered it to a bare head. A veil was never an option, but the white detail worked the “bridal” look.

2. Travelled by rickshaw. Not only was this great fun, but it was a bit different. The guests loved them!

3. Had a getaway car. This was expensive for what it was and we would have been fine with a taxi. But we wanted the send off and everyone loved the car. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and we’re both glad we decided on this treat!

4. Learnt salsa and performed our first dance. A lot of people don’t like the idea of practised dances (although salsa is a kind of improvised dance), but I thought it was very entertaining and was something we enjoyed doing together and keeping a secret up until the wedding day. It’s also important to spend time together during the lead up to the wedding.

5. Had the evening to ourselves so that we could unwind and spend some time being close on our wedding day. A rave up would have left us with quite a different feel.

6. Had a drinks reception in Somerville. Going back to Somerville was important to us and whilst we were busy socialising and having photos, I feel it made our wedding ours and was an important tribute.


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!

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.

Implementation – the New Name

The UK Deedpole office provide a nice list of everybody you may need to contact to update details of your change in name. I have also included my list.

These are the ones I have done:

Passport – I actually got a postdated passport so that we could travel on honeymoon as Mr and Mrs; details of how to get a postdated passport with appropriate links are on my blog. It cost me about £76 + £5 for recorded delivery (I did not use the check and send service, as it ain’t cheap, as they say).

Driving License – if you have already got your passport sorted, this is a piece of cake to do and also free (we all like free). Go to your post office and pick up a D1 form for application for a driving license. You need to fill in hardly any of it!

HMRC Revenue and Customs – contact them to update your PAYE, National Insurance, Child Benefit, student loan, tax credits and government pension! It’s also free and easy, just requiring filling in a quick, well-explained online form. They do the rest.

Work – this shouldn’t be too complicated, but alas for me I have had to contact them asking for a name change or manually alter my name in 8 different locations. Apparently the university is bad about centralising personal data. Hopefully you will just have to tell Payroll…!

The Opticians – easy. I did this over the phone. I love Vision Express!

The Banks – NatWest made a bit of a fuss and needed me to make an appointment at an awkward time, even though the transaction took seconds; Nationwide just slipped it in quickly when I turned up – so this may be very dependent on your bank and its branch. You will need your certificate for them to view and photocopy – that is all. I also took my updated driving license to Nationwide so that they could update my address. I had already previously updated my NatWest address.

Council Tax and Register of Electors – Guy actually did this for me when he was contacting them about something else, so I don’t know how to do it, except that it’s over the phone and requires no proof of anything. He just told them to delete the previous occupants and update my name and they did it. Easy. And free. If you have an election coming up, I strongly advise you to do this fast as the polling card that comes through in your new name constitutes proof of address.

Climbing – You may not be a climber, but most people will have a gym membership or membership to some other sports centre.

The Wednesday after we got back from the wedding I went climbing and happily asked them to update my surname. This may have been fairly simple, except that I am actually a member of five climbing centres across four different cities and the BMC and need to update my name with all of them (I did the BMC over the phone, and otherwise I am just updating as I visit in person). I also did the Climbing Wall Award soon after the wedding and had to make sure my name and contact details for that were up to date. Some centres like to see a CRB form, so I have to carry my marriage certificate with that to explain why it’s in a different name.

Graze – Every two or three weeks we get a Graze box through – we used to get them before exams at uni and my best man embroiled me into signing up as a regular. They actually charge for each box by card as an individual transaction, so the moment I changed my name on my bank account their payment errored and they cancelled our box and sent me an email. Beware that things like this may happen with card transactions. Luckily I could update easily on their website.

Abel and Cole – This is the name of the company (whom I highly recommend) who deliver us our fortnightly organic fruit and veg box. The same thing happened with them as with Graze, except that they delivered us our unpaid-for box anyway (yay!) and then sent us frantic messages saying we were behind payment. I gave them a call and sorted it over the phone in a few seconds and they were very nice about it.

Ones I have yet to do:


Phone provider


Direct debits to charities

The Royal Society of Chemistry

Insurance – I have heard horror stories about insurance companies charging a £26 admin fee for change of name, so be careful what you’re dealing with. After my student home insurance ran out, we added me jointly to Guy’s insurance, but now that his is due to expire he is looking around for the best policy for both of us and is going to change companies. For this reason we haven’t bothered to update my name on the policy.

We only have home insurance (we did have wedding insurance, but I get the feeling that’s not valid any more…), but you may have home, life, car, travel and business insurances too – on some policies, such as car insurance, it may actually go down if you are married, so it’s worth both of you checking how your marital status effects these.

If you haven’t also done this, it is worth checking how your engagement rings and wedding bands affect your insurance. We have decided to get ours valued, since they were all bought on deals and we want to ensure that if any are lost we get as much as possible towards replacements. If they come above a certain value (which ours won’t, but if my engagement ring and wedding band were a “set” they might have done) the policy either won’t cover them or won’t cover them in full unless we upgrade it. I definitely recommend making sure you’re sorted.

Other ones I’ve thought of which would apply to most people (but not me):


Store Cards


Changing My Name

The naming of things is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games,
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter,
But we’ve all had those long discussions on names!

Once, when I was little, I asked my grandma why she changed her name when she got married; perhaps I should have asked my aunt why she didn’t change hers, but to a child, lacking the social history and blind to the pressure of stigma and expectation, not changing it had seemed the default.

My grandma told me that her married name was more interesting than her maiden name.

She could have tried to explain, but she didn’t. And there was no denying the logic of this response: she had made a choice based on aesthetics.

And even though I grew up and learnt more about it, what she had said stuck. So I always imagined that if I got married I would change my name if I liked his more. And afterall, I wanted to change my name – it was an adventure.

It was also a graduation.

When I get my PhD, I will be able to use the title ‘Dr’. Not everybody who gains this privilege choses to adorn the title, I know, but I have only met one such individual – everybody else wears it proudly. At graduation, my facebook was swamped by people updating their statuses to ‘Charlie Chaplin BA’, ‘Hercule Poirot MChem’ and the likes – they were proud of their new letters. You see, changing part of your name to mark career progression is exciting and rewarding.

And I see no reason why changing my name to mark a romantic progression should be otherwise.

And then came along Mr Fletcher-Wood. Fletcher – common, Wood – even more common. Fletcher-Wood (including hypen) – obscure beyond belief! It would, of course, make my name impossibly long and prohibit it from fitting into any boxes on future forms, but I wanted to take Guy’s name, and told him so. Guy was pleased: unlike me, he felt it was important socially for a husband and wife to have the same name as each other and any children, and with respect to this priority would have changed his name. I value this very much because I don’t feel name-changing should be a woman’s responsibility. It isn’t anything to do with being a woman at all – except historically. It doesn’t even have anything to do with women as property, because women were definitely property in Roman society, and never changed their birth name.

I do think that being a woman in a society with the tradition for a woman changing her name opened me to the possibility early, and prepared the possibility in my mind. And I wanted to change because I didn’t want to stay the same name forever. My first name is special to me because it was something that my mother chose for me, but my surname is just a default. Nobody chose it. And now I had a choice.

I don’t believe that I am the same person I was born as: the world has shaped me; we are all of us changing entities. As a child I couldn’t understand things like ‘personalities’ because every action a person performs changes and evolves their identity. You can’t be just one thing – you grow. Yesterday is not the same as today. It’s scary – it demonstrates a lack of control, more information than you can contain and reason with (which is why we simplify things), but I embrace that. I want to change and grow, move forwards, do new things and become a new – and hopefully improved – me.

So I wanted my name to evolve too, and mark the changes in my life.

Nevertheless, I was put under a lot of pressure by friends and family members who disagreed with this choice. In particular, two people, who felt that

a) Your name is integral to your identity and your achievements; giving that up would mean giving up part of yourself and part of your independence.

b) Being an independent woman meant defying typically female ‘sacrifices’ like giving up a name, and that it was wrong to follow these traditions because it condoned the domination of women.

Given that I do not associate with a concrete name-tied identity and that I do not feel that changing my name will inhibit women’s rights, these arguments were not for me. To me, it was an act of independence to choose to change my name upon my marriage: I was at no point pressured by tradition into changing, and in fact pressure was exerted in the opposite direction!

And remember, you sign the register in your legal name at the time of your marriage, which is always your maiden name. The registrars will usually check this before your ceremony, just in case you’re overexcited – so your first signiature with a new name is usually on changing your documents!