Tag Archives: travel

The Wedding Evening

It was a quiet evening – a time to relax, snack on our M&S picnic in the amazing corner bath – and generally chat about the day, letting ourselves straighten out to normal and get used to the idea of being married!

The Victorian Suite at Fyfield Manor was beautiful. The carpets were soft and white, and we were given slippers to wear indoors! It was also immaculate, but by the time we left little flakes of confetti had managed to get all over the place – oops! At least it was real petal…

After dinner and the bath, I made myself a cup of tea and we sprawled on the bed going through our cards and the guest book. This was really touching, and completely made the day. Some of the messages were funny, others were sweet, and one of them made me cry (only a tiny bit!) for the first time that day! The book got a bit battered over the honeymoon, but it was still worth it for the experience on our wedding night and a wonderful finish to our wedding day!


The Wedding Day

And so the day of the wedding arrived.

I’ve already said a lot about our plans, but here are some extra details the day itself. Often unplanned details…

We had ordered breakfast to our room the night before, so that we could have a delicious feast and soon-to-be husband and wife in our dressing gowns, rather than dressing, dining with others, then returning to our room to change! …Perhaps it works for afternoon weddings, but for a morning wedding, it just seems silly! We had toast and jams, poached eggs, fruit, and a small pile of pastries which we devoured. It was an impressive breakfast!

Then we started getting ready. I had washed my hair the night before after swimming, but Guy showered and used Vanilla Vanilla body wash (as he doesn’t wear scent. I wore my usual scent, CK’s ‘Eternity Moment’, because I thought it was important to wear my signiature smell on my wedding day!).

He also made sure to give himself a good, close shave. This was something he had put a lot of thought into, because he wanted his face to be perfectly smooth. He’d picked up some tips for following the grain of the hairs on Groom Power (which also warned him not to leave any polish on his shoes before he danced with a woman in a white dress!). So, a few pratices, a nice new razor, and a little bit of advice from – stranegly enough – Neil Gaiman‘s blog, worked the trick (for those of you who are curious, I suggest you hunt out the reference yourself!).

First, Karina, our photographer, turned up, and took some artistic pictures of our wedding outfits before we put them on.

And soon after my mum turned up – with bubbly and cassis – and began attacking my hair whilst I was still doing my makeup.

Then my uncle turned up – and started photographing us!

And then Caz turned up for Guy! She whisked him away for his steadying pint, and he went outside before putting on his jacket and waistcoat so that I wouldn’t see him all prettied up. By this point, I was still in my dressing gown.

Finally James turned up. My mum whisked off back to her room, and he had to zip me up! And then he left with our case to join the taxi group up to the Town Hall and I went back to lure out my mother.

Walking through the hotel, an elderly couple crossed our path and realised that I was a bride, despite the blue dress. They wished us the best of luck (then said we shouldn’t need it) and we continued on our way, weaving crazily through a very complicated hotel layout until we found ourselves in the foyer. Our rickshaw was early and already waiting!

We arrived at the Town Hall in good time and picked up our flowers. Actually my mum got given Guy’s buttonhole, and my granddad didn’t get one so they swapped halfway through the reception! The ushers were a bit rushed off their feet – but you wouldn’t know it seeing the ceremony room!

Guy was, of course, in the ceremony room by then, and I had to go to see the registrars. Several people saw me on the way in and gave me the nod – as if it were a bit cheeky for them to notice the bride before the ceremony. Brian was striding backwards and forwards across the stairwell rehearsing his reading.

I went in to see the registrars with my mum and best man, but both quickly vanished to other tasks. I think my mum had a mini meltdown, but she was back to escort me down the aisle in no time. The chat with the registrars was very straightforward and quick, so mostly I just sat there waiting. They asked me to confirm some basic details and then asked what I was going to write when I signed my name. I was a bit confused and tried to describe my signiature…! It turned out they just wanted to check that I knew to sign my maiden name.

I’ve already covered the ceremony, so I’ll skip to after it finished.

Guy and I stood outside (me shaking) hugging people and shaking hands as they all filed out. It was great to talk to everyone and be able to look them in the eye without freaking out this time! Somewhere about now, I was told that my necklace catch had slipped round to the front (I adjusted it) and that the lemon layer of the cake was collapsing (I asked them to remove the top layers and leavethe rest out for us to cut – you’re supposed to cut the bottom layer anyway!). So much for big disasters!

Everyone assembled on the steps and we came out and got bombarded with confetti. A lot of the boys were really keen to mob Guy!

Then we took the rickshaws over to Somerville for photographs and drinks! We got cheered by a group on the way there and another on the return, not to mention the people standing staring at the town hall. It felt bizarre, like we were on stage or something – and the smart clothes we were wearing seemed out of place in the middle of a busy city filled with ordinarily clad strangers!

The drinks reception steadied me a bit. And we also got a nice surprise – a flypast! It was a lucky coincidence, as we were only outside for a couple of hours, but it came directly overhead and people took photographs!

‘Our’ flypast:

Before we left Somerville, Guy and I shared our first moment alone together as husband and wife! But if you think it was a romantic one, you will be amused… We were due to get the last rickshaw out, so we lingered in the quad as everyone was going. Then we had an idea – we would be busy at the reception and may not get chance to pop to the loo! So we scurried into the Somerville toilets whilst we had the chance, meeting again between the men’s and ladies and then wandering out through the college together (luckily my dress did not require assistance: I only buy clothes I could climb a tree in). Yes, that was our first time alone together as marrieds!

Back at the reception, James announced us in his loud teacher voice, and we all happily tucked into our starters before the speeches (by then it was about 2.30, not that I was wearing my watch). My granddad did a nice speech, welcoming everybody to the event and then beginning, “I first met Rowena when she was 1 day old…” and including a story about me as a baby getting very excited about a gang of rough-looking hairy bikers. He managed to knock over some wine and call Guy ‘Clive’ once, but nobody minded!

Caz did a great best woman’s speech. She didn’t actually tell any embarrassing stories about Guy, but kept hinting that she was going to! Afterwards, she was definitely relieved that the speechmaking was over and she could enjoy her food.

Guy’s speech was a mishmash of parts of the proposal and relationship stories, with a few references in it just for me. He spent the entire speech bending over his chair and squeezing the back of it with his hands – I think he was nervous!

Then I said a couple of words and Guy and I did the thank yous together.

We actually called the caterers out to thank them, which apparently was appreciated and few people do – although they did point out to us that we hadn’t eaten most ofthe food yet, so our thank yous were a little bit premature!

Here are Guy’s parents’ faces after he revealed that I had named them the “sanest people” helping us with the wedding!

James didn’t make an official speech, but introduced them and recorded them on a little dictaphone I gave him. However, at the end of the reception, he decided to make an impromptu speech about how proud he was and how difficult he thought I would be to match, yet how perfect Guy was for me…

The reception food was amazing. I made sure to ‘share’ some of my vegetarian with Guy, but I was still massive when we finished. The caterers asked me if I would like a bit of all four layers of cake – yes please! – and the same for my “new husband” – so dessert wasn’t exactly dainty either. And a large slab of the rum cake went into our bag for the honeymoon along with the bag of cards the ushers brought us, the guest book and Cathy’s cork.

The Jaguar Royale was a little late, but it was worth it to see it sweep up and turn around in the road (cue more staring from strangers!). I put on my going away jacket and we jumped in (my mum was so enthusiastic about hugging us that she nearly came too!).

Then we waved our goodbyes and drove out of Oxford with the evening air rushing past us. We didn’t notice that we’d never had seat belts on until hours later!

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!

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


The Getaway

Our original getaway plan was to take an overnight ferry from Harwich, but the logistics meant that we would end up having to leave our own wedding reception early (about 5pm…), so we started looking for somewhere to stay in Oxfordshire.

My best knowledge of how weddings worked was Robin Hood and Maid Marian leaving the church and jumping in their getaway carriage at the end of the Disney film. Perhaps naturally, this had led me to believe that at the end of a wedding you drove away on honeymoon rather than organised a disco and got yourselves bladdered. And I quite liked this idea (the getaway not the disco) – it seemed romantic. Guy was also keen: he wanted some downtime at the end of the wedding day to sit and recover and enjoy being married together. So whilst 5pm was stretching it a bit, we were definitely determined to have a day wedding and escape as newlyweds that evening.

It is actually very difficult to find a place to stay on a Saturday night because most guesthouses require a booking for the entire duration of the weekend. We were actually lucky enough to find Fyfield Manor, who were at the time in the process of converting to this policy and agreed to allow us a one-night booking. The Manor is in part the oldest building in Oxfordshire and family-run – they even make you your own breakfast from local and home produce.

On the night of our wedding we spent a lovely relaxing time there reading through our cards and our guest book and having our picnic in the amazing corner bath!


In order to reach Fyfield Manor we decided to get a nice car. After a bit of research we uncovered what was dubbed the ‘car of sex’ – and then had to find one we could hire in Oxfordshire! We then discovered Christopher’s Cars, who were based in Reading and were happy to provide the chauffered service to Fyfield. Our driver was called Keith and did an excellent job.

Here is the beautiful Jaguar Royale Drophead –

It was an exhilarating drive. I don’t think we’d really had time to stop and being excited until this point!

Online Tools

During our wedding planning we discovered several online tools, which I thought I’d mention here as they were pretty useful. They also housed one major advantage over spreadsheets or hardcopy instructions: we could both access them (and so could our guests) from wherever we were – home, work or elsewhere in the world.

We likes the internet!

Gift List

Gift lists are controversial. You don’t want to look like you’re asking for gifts, but on the other hand you don’t want seven kettles. And what about if you have everything you want, but would really like an amazing honeymoon? How do you ask people for money or vouchers? Gift Lists are a “done thing” afterall…

Gift lists worked for us because we found a gift list where you could add things from all round the internet and didn’t have to confine ourselves to one shop which only specialised in certain areas and/or everything was very posh and expensive. I know people like to buy posh and expensive things for wedding gifts, but not all the things we wanted were posh and expensive, and why oblige people to pay more than they or you want them to?


We weren’t able to see who had bought what or their messages until after the wedding (although Kay, who agreed to be our gift list manager, could sort everything!), but we could see what had been bought and we could continue adding gifts!

Since the wedding, we have used gift money to buy some of the other items we were after.

You could also add vouchers to the list, or do what we did – ask in your introduction for whatever else you want other than the listed gifts. We suggested “wine, chocolates, or donations to the blood centre”. We got lots of wine and chocolates.

Budget Calculator

I originally tried to keep track of everything on a spreadsheet, but it ended up as an overcomplicated compilation of maybes and ideas as well as the actual things – planning got messy. And then I discovered weddingface.com, who have a very pretty budget calculator.

You can pretty much see how it all works from the image above.

So we dug out all our receipts and added every single detail. In addition, I calculated that, according to our budget, if little things hadn’t been included – like travel costs when doing wedding-related trips, things we bought and didn’t need, stock ups on things like glue, sellotape, batteries, the whole honeymoon, and et cetera, our “actual” budget would have been 117% of the “supposed” one. So just a warning, if you think your wedding is £15k budget, you will probably really spend more like £17,550.

Which is why obsessive adding up on budget spreadsheets is nice.

Weddingface also offer a guest list, which we and my mum used to keep mutual track of RSVPs and who to bitch about.

Hard Times

In the summer of 2011, everything changed.

Guy was working for Royal Mail in Oxford, but he saw this as a filler job whilst he was staying with me and was keen to start looking for programming work in a bigger city. I looked at several universities for an applied, environmental solid state chemistry PhD, and eventually found what we were looking for at Birmingham.

We had already visited the city the previous winter, for two of Guy’s friends had moved there. Here we (Brian, Kay and the Cherubs) are at the German Christmas market – it snowed very heavily that winter.

I applied to Birmingham, was accepted, and we began looking for housing. This turned out to be a terrible faff, but after one abortive visit where all our estate agents let us down and we didn’t see any houses, we managed to get in touch with some of the more upmarket ones and chose between five properties. We stayed with Caz (Guy’s best woman) and Kay, a Somerville friend, whilst we were there.

This is Damogran. Damogran the hot; Damogran the remote; Damogran the almost totally unheard of. Damogran, secret home of the Heart of Gold.

But before we moved, we had one more important thing to do. Holiday. We went to Split and Zagreb in Croatia

Ljubiana in Slovenia

And Budapest in Hungary

This was our first trip abroad together, and also very important because it set the tone for the rest of our holidays together. We like travelling (despite the fact that I am car, bus and coachsick) – and constantly moving from place to place, being busy. Relaxing on a beach dayvafter day is not our idea of fun!

We travelled between cities by train – including two sleeper trains: one of them we paid for a cabin and the other we made do with seats, just to see how much difference it made! It turned out quite a lot because we went through two passport controls, and if you’re in seating you have to wake up to show your passport (whilst the nice Deutchebahn man takes your ID and sorts this for you if you’re in a cabin). The seats weren’t bad – it was only the passport control that was a problem!

We returned in early September, in time for my birthday (Guy took me to Mrs Tiggywinkles’!) and then a massively busy period:

On the 23rd September I graduated from my degree.

On the 24th/25th we were in Bristol to celebrate Guy’s mother’s birthday. And from there I went straight to Birmingham, where I began my course on the 26th. Luckily we had moved most of our stuff a week before! But I still had a house full of boxes!

Guy joined me a little later. With no Royal Mail centre to transfer to in Birmingham, he quit his job, finished up the contract, and moved.He had been able to walk into a job in Oxford. We expected him to do the same in Birmingham. But no such luck. As the depression worsened, the job market plummeted, and the Birmingham scene was much worse than the Oxford one. He couldn’t get anything – not in a shop, not on the phones, nothing. Twenty-four years old, with working experience and a science degree from Oxford, and he couldn’t get work. It is the same for people all round the country.

Not for everyone though, and during the months that followed I would occasionally get very depressed reading about women on the forum who got sick or bored of their job, saw an advert for their dream job, applied idly, got it, and moved seamlessly from job to job. I was unable to be enthusiastic on their behalves. It all seemed horribly unfair.

Although he didn’t have a job, Guy still had to pay council tax. We had a 25% discount because I am a student, but if you’re unemployed you have to prove that you are signed on in order to receive exemption. You cannot sign on if your joint income exceeds a certain value – which my tax-free student stipend exceeds. So we paid council tax on a stipend that was exempt. And every month we were losing money. And we had just been on holiday and moved house. And the wedding was approaching…

We also had a cat. Whilst we were away on holiday, Rupert, my childhood cat and now my mum’s, was put down. We had been meaning to get a cat ourselves when we moved to Birmingham (and that factor had been instrumental in our choice of house).



We got on to Cats’ Protection, bought a basket, food bowls, 15kg of Science Plan and had Cats’ Protection visit and check out our house. We took the (£15) return bus journey to the centre and told them we wanted a young adult cat whom we could take that day.


When I chose Rupert, years ago when I was seven, he was the third cat we saw. Once again, the cat we took home was the third we saw (have you ever heard ‘third time luckiest’?). Iris chose us. She made it quite clear that she would be coming home with us, and after we’d left to sort out the paperwork, silent miaowed and scrabbled against the door upon seeing me again! Guy was immediately struck by her beautiful eyes.

Iris when we first got her (just one year old and very little):

Iris moves in:

(actually that was her ‘helping’ me with the wedding packing)

In February 2012, Guy did get some work. He did part-time counting people on trains for the company Peeping which, though erratic and not full time, paid okay and kept us going. I got a student (I do a bit of private tutoring on the side) and some demonstrating with the university.

On top of this, our families decided to be very generous. We had meant to pay for the wedding all on our own, but with their eagerness to contribute, high expectations and our financial situation, it endedup very much a joint project. My grandparents decided on an amount they wished to contribute to the wedding, and when we only took half of it (such that they paid for half of the catering), they gave us the other half as a wedding gift! My mum also contributed, and Guy’s parents paid for all our drinks on the day.

Getting started on my PhD wasn’t easy. The year before, I’d found the project hard to be enthusiastic about early on and unfulfilling for a long time. Once again, I experienced this, and the slow initial progress of the project, retarded by vast quantities of unnecessary paperwork and the gradual acquisition of materials and equipment I needed in order to start my lab work left me feeling frustrated and useless. Friends and family unintentionally made me feel more depressed about it by continually asking eagerly how it was going, as though they expected exciting discoveries monthly, whilst the truth was that pretty much nothing was different from the last month, and my greatest triumph was fixing the photocopier.

I was determined to battle through to the time when the project would pick up – as I knew it must. But it was the harder for knowing that I didn’t have a choice. With Guy’s situation, I couldn’t not continue with my PhD – we needed the money for our house, our cat and our wedding. The wedding. And so, in this mood, I distracted myself by plunging into wedding planning.