Tag Archives: wedding

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 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 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

Goff:


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.


1000 Cranes

Ancient Japanese legend holds that folding 1000 origami cranes will bless the craftsman with any wish and that the 1000 cranes, if given as a gift, will bring the recipient good luck. As such, they are traditional wedding gifts and decorative emblems.

So now can you guess what is going to happen?

Yes. I bought 15 x 15 cm sheets of royal blue, sky blue and grey origami paper, and Guy painstakingly cut each sheet into nine 5 x 5cm sheets from which we folded over 1000 origami cranes.

I’ve never been a fan of table crystals. In fact, before I got my engagement ring, I never found myself attracted to the sparkly sparkly, and even now I like it strictly in moderation. But I wanted something to scatter across the tables, and since no confetti was to be thrown inside the venue, I didn’t think they’d be that impressed with it strewn all over the table tops.

The idea of 1000 origami cranes came to me when I was rummaging for “blue things” through my old room. They weren’t blue, they were multi-coloured (but you’re supposed to make your own anyway, aren’t you? And it was on this occasion that I turned up the blue stones for the flower vases) – and had come as packaging round an ebay item a friend had bought many years ago.

I didn’t know how to fold origami cranes, but I did not let that deter me.

I knew people who did.

One of the most beautiful things about having the cranes at our wedding was that they weren’t just made by me, or by us, but by a huge collection of our friends. To James (my best man) and David (one of our readers), who are keen on origami, I sent 200-250 little pieces of paper for crane-folding. Kay (whom I will mention later) kept inviting herself round “to make more cranes” – and bringing friends with her. We folded cranes at our housewarming party; we folded cranes on the train; we even produced a crane assembly line. Iris tried to join in with the cranes, and continued to try to jump in the box full of them, or tear open it’s sides (naughty Iris!).

It was truly a marathon of cranes.

My mum, on the phone, thought I was talking about folding paper cranes.

But no, not quite.


Structure and Timings

Circumstances thus prevailed that in the last summer of Oxford, the opportunity arose for the best kind of wedding research – another wedding! We were quite excited to go along, especially since we’d each only been to one wedding before, and I made sure to note all the little details and especially the pattern of the day, since Guy and I had really very little idea of the structure of a wedding.

It was a great day. One thing we did note, however, was the importance of organisation. The ushers need to know exactly what they’re doing and how the day will pan out so that they can provide support to you and your guests throughout it. What is more, buying matching ties/buttonholes/other items for the ushers is very important because it allows guests to identify them to ask questions.

I am a very organised person, and I was determined that our wedding day would live up to my high expectations. So we decided to tackle the issue with military organisation.

In their wedding album, Guy’s parents have a copy of the Op Order his dad wrote for his ushers and best man team (all friends from the army). We had absolutely loved this, and so decided to have some fun too. Each of the ushers and our best man and woman were given an instructions pack, indicating their roles and responsibilities chronologically throughout the day as gauged in mock-military tone. The pack included

– Step by step instructions for the day with initials/job roles to indicate who did what
– A contacts sheet, which contained the numbers for each other (with their names and roles) and of important contacts on the day: the florist, the Town Hall, Somerville, the rickshaws, the car hire company and the caterers.
– A list of the formal photographs we wanted with the groups arranged in a sensible order (Guy thought stripping people away would be easier than adding them in) for people to be gathered (do note to define terms though: we used “wedding party” to mean something similar to “bridal party” (i.e. all the ushers and best people) and some thought we meant everybody – every single guest. Oops).
– A quick guide to setting up the cake stand for Cecily (pretty simple, but you never know).

The pack contents were printed nicely on our wedding paper and handed out in plastic wallets (in case it rained) with the owner’s name on it (to avoid fights).

Not everything was done military style though! We produced non-military Orders of Celebration (neither of us liked the term ‘Order of Day’ – I thought it sounded German and Guy thought it sounded military) outlining the breakdown of the ceremony and then the various other components of the day so that the guests would have a clue what was happening and when. We printed enough for just over one between two and I think they were mostly snaffled as keepsakes.

And now I come to the other important thing we had learnt about weddings – don’t abandon your guests!

A lot of people are not familiar with the wedding location, so unless you have a church literally across the road from your reception venue, they will often need a bit of help. We did provide a map in the invitations, but felt it was important to go that bit further. If the venues had been far apart and parking was available, we might have organised car pooling, but as it was, Somerville is only a 15 minute walk from the Town Hall – in a dead straight line. So instead we arranged for ushers to guide the walkers and provided transport for a few people, with priority to ourselves, people we needed and elderly relatives.

And really, it’s a bit silly to hire pretty vintage cars for a 15 minute walk – they can get very expensive!

So we hired rickshaws.

The parasol you see here only got put up for the rickshaw rides, but I’m so glad I bought it (even hunting high and low for the off-white my mum insisted upon to match my dress and hat – which are different off whites from each other anyway). As we moved through town I had this big white orb around me and people recognised that we were a wedding party and cheered! It was lovely!

Some of the best rickshaw pictures were taken by my uncle Kevin, for our photographer was needed at Somerville to start taking the formal shots and spent much of the time we spent in a rickshaw in one herself. Kevin seems to have been very excited about the rickshaws and I have chains of second by second shots of them on their way.

We also used a rickshaw to transport my mum and me to the ceremony in the morning. I get carsick and hated the idea of getting into a taxi with a roof when I was nervous, so this was an extremely fun alternative!

The rickshaws were supplied by oxoncarts. Initially we had a lot of trouble getting hold of them (the only way to get an intial response is to leave an answer machine message – something neither of us like to do!), so I was very nervous about them being unprofessional and not turning up on time, especially for the morning journey. However, they were absolutely fine and in very good time on both occasions; we ended up leaving for the Town Hall a bit early because he was there waiting and I had to manoeuvre my mother away from another coffee (which would have got left or made us late)!