What I learnt about marriage, two years in

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Two years ago, I married HWSNBN. In front of friends of family I vowed to:

‘love you til the seas run dry, until the sun grows cold and the stars grow old. And if there is another life beyond this, I will love you there too. With these words, and all the words of my heart, I marry you and bind my life to yours.’

One of the oddest things about being married is how natural it feels. I never dreamt I’d be this conventional. Growing up I wanted a loving partner eventually, but a husband never seemed part of my story. As HWSNBN delights in telling people in the early days of our relationship I vehemently announced I didn’t believe in marriage. But I love being married, and here’s the important bit, to him. Here is what I learnt about my marriage two years in.

It feels odd talking about our marriage even to a compulsive oversharer like me. It’s just not done. Other people’s marriages are another country, with their own secret languages and minefields. I am insatiably curious about what goes on there. (Seriously people, tell me more about what goes on in your relationship.)

In the first two years of a relationship you talk endlessly to your friends about ‘what’s going on.’ Why do the conversations about relationships stop? Is it because I don’t want to see the look of fear in their eyes when I tell them that sometimes when he has a cold he coughs in such an intensely irritating way I want to jab an icepick in his ear. Is it because if I have to hear about how my friends boyfriend prowess in bed or lack thereof and then sit opposite him in the pub, I might jab an icepick in my ear. Or is it because it gets bit boring.

People talk a lot about the wedding but not about the marriage. That ratio feels wrong. A wedding is day and if you’re lucky and I was it’s a really fucking good day. But marriage is what happens when the confetti has blown away, when the champagne is long drunk and live begins again. I really want to ask people questions like: how do you fight? How do you listen to somebody tell the same boring story about their day again? How do you stay together even when tragedy drops the sky?

Marriage is half luck, half work. As is said in our wedding reading. ‘Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.’ The fortunate accident is that in this big world we found each other because I cannot imagine doing this with anybody else. And yes, Tim I get the odds. But I still feel so lucky to have met you HWSNBN. As in I must have saved children from a burning building in a previous life lucky.

I try to not be complacent about marriage. I went into it knowing that half of marriages end in divorce. Statistically we have a fifty/fifty chance at best. I wouldn’t bet on anything else with those odds but I bet on us. And that’s not including the odds of us being separated by something outside of our control: death. So we try hard to be there for each other. To carve out little oasises of time for us. There are some things I just tell him. And vice versa. And whenever we can we dance by the light of the moon. It’s work but it doesn’t feel hard not yet anyway…

I love this quote from Tim Dowling: ‘A little paranoia is a good thing in marriage; complacency is the more dangerous enemy. You should never feel so secure that you are unable to imagine the whole thing falling apart over a long weekend. I can’t give you an exact figure for how many sleepless nights per year you should spend worrying that you’re going to die alone and unhappy if you don’t get your shit together spouse-wise, but it’s somewhere between five and eight.’

In recent months I seriously haven’t had my shit together spouse-wise. I work full-time and also am out most evenings counselling. When I’m not doing those things I am mostly staring at the wall and rocking. Connecting with my husband has moved further down the list as I struggle to find time to do the most basic things to keep myself functioning. I asked him if he felt abandoned expecting anger or hurt. But he simply said: ‘I miss you but I understand. This is not forever and it’s for us.’ I am so much harder on myself than he could ever be. Reader I loved him even more. For example: tonight instead of doing anything elaborate or romantic we’re spending it at home as I am bedridden with a cold. That is love.

People ask me what’s changed. Nothing has. Everything has. The most concrete difference is we fight differently. Before for me, at least, when we fought things felt unstable. There was always the nuclear options of running out the door. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Now when we argue it feels like we are both in the same ship bailing out from the tide. Sometimes we bicker fiercely over the tiller. But we still have the same goal, to keep the boat afloat. That helps. Knowing the way I know which way north is that we are in this together.

It’s nice to have somebody on on my side. So on my side he’ll call me on my bullshit.

There is a sweet spot between connection and distance. He’s my crack. If I could spent every moment together I would because I like the way he makes me feel safe as if nothing bad can touch me. Even if I know that’s not true. But it’s not good for me to always be together. It’s not for us. It’s not for our friends and family who want to spend time for us as people not as a couple. Spend too much time together and I begin to take him for granted. Being alone feels great the first night. I get shit done. I indulge in secret single behaviour (you know eating salted caramel sauce from a saucepan. With your finger. Just me eh?). But my day two I feel hollow as if some part of me has been amputated. I hate it. But I need time apart like a drink of fresh water to remind me of who I am without him. To remind me of how much I love and miss him.

Sometimes I spy him from a distance and I fall in love him all over again. His posture. That vulnerable spot at the nape of his neck. The way he throws his head back exposing his molars when he laughs.

We are stronger together. Without him, I would be a social recluse happier with books than people. Without me, he would be a bear in a china shop unaware of the undercurrents of polite behaviour.

We’ve been together ten years now. I’m not the same girl I was when I met him. My hair is shorter, my waistbands bigger. He’s changed too. But at moments I get glimmers of the boy he was when I first met him faintly like seeing something through water. His fluffy hair, the interest he takes in everything, the way he holds my hand. Softly as if I am precious.

Marriage is a choice we both make daily. I chose him when he’s popping to the supermarket and I chase after him kissing him ‘goodbye’ as if we’re starring in brief encounters. In case something awful happens I want him to know how much I love him. He hasn’t lived a life in the shadow of uncertainty like I have but he choses me when we kisses me back even though he thinks it’s silly. It’s on such small compromises that a marriage is made.

I chose him when I want to gnaw apart our relationship like an animal in a trap because I cannot stand another repetitive fight about who left crumbs on the bathroom floor but I stay. He chooses me when I woke from my frequent nightmares and he holds me close, strokes my hair and tells me I’ll be OK. He never seems to get bored or frustrated with telling me things are OK.

Over the last year we’ve been struggling with some tough things. But it’s only made us stronger. I chose him when I collapse in pieces on the bathroom floor knowing that he will catch me, always. He chooses me when he picks me up and patiently pieces me back together. He chooses me when he says he is sad knowing that I will hold him until it fades. Even if it takes days.

There are only two pieces of relationship advice I have. The first is figure out: what are you really fighting about? HWSNBN and have two main fights we’ve perfected through long and tedious repetition. The first fight is he loves order and cleanliness and although I like tidiness, I want a flat I can live in more. It was when we were conducting this fight like old pro’s for the 50 millionth time that I realised what we were really fighting about. He was really saying: I want you to respect my need to feel in control of my environment. And I was really saying: I need a space in our flat and to feel like I matter in this relationship. Once we discovered that we could talk about what we were actually fighting about.

My second relationship lesson? Be kind. This less a relationship lesson than a life lesson. You will never regret being kind.

OK, so talk to me in the comments about your relationships past and present. What have you learnt, what have you unlearnt?

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2012: the rollercoaster year that was

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2012 has been a real rollercoaster year. It contained the most magnificient high as I said ‘I do’ and married the love of my life surrounded by my friends and family. I felt so full of absolute joy that day I worried my body would not be able to contain it. I know it’s a total cliche but it really was one of the happiest days of my life.

But 2012 also hosted my lowest day as my best friend Lianne lost her battle with brain tumours and passed away this summer. I still miss her like I have lost a limb and this world seems quieter, duller and empty without her. At points, I really wasn’t sure how I would survive the tsunami of grief. But somehow I have and battered and bruised it’s time for another year.

2012 ripped back the veil I had been hiding behind ever since I was a small child faced with my sisters accident. As children we don’t have the resources to conceptualise sudden tragedy so I decided that if I looked after people and tried to control everything I could keep tragedy at bay. This belief was a comfort blanket but it cost me in guilt as people I love got hurt despite my efforts. Unable to realise that this is how the world works I thought it was my fault: for not planning better, for not loving more. This year I realised that no matter how many plans you make, or how much you love somebody, you cannot keep them safe. Life is random, chaotic and tragedy falls from the sky. You can love somebody so much and still they might be hurt or die. You can do your best and try with every fibre in your being but your life might still fall apart to ashes in your hand. I had a full-on existential crisis. This was both very exciting (as a newbie counsellor I had read about this in books but to experience one first hand!) and horrifically painful and disorientating.

However as my mother, a very wise lady, reminded me it isn’t just tragedy that falls from the sky but serendipity. Life’s a rollercoaster and sometimes you’re at the top and sometimes you’re down and the only guarantee is that everything will change.

And so my wish for you, all my readers and for myself, is sadly not that the year ahead is smooth upward climb for that is outside of our power. But that when the lows come you, and I, have the courage and resilience to hang on tight to that rollercoaster and get through that low until the climb begins again. And when all is going well, we’ll appreciate every tiny moment of it. Here’s to 2013 and whatever it may bring.

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Man and wife

Wedding days are subject to their own peculiar time zone. The morning drags, each minute ticking by ponderously but as soon as you are married time seems to speed up. Before I knew it, the clock had struck midnight and it was time for bed.

Let me take you back (cue wiggly lines) to after the ceremony when you left us dearest reader we had just been declared man and wife.

We did it

After the ceremony we went outside to stare at each other and have a ‘We just did that’ moment. It was very intimate moment just me, HWSNBN and Jamie our photographer, Andrew the day of co-ordinator and our Pimms guy. Yes, there was a guy whose only job was to follow us around with a tray of Pimms. We’d be walking in the middle of this emerald green lawn and out of the corner of my eye I would spy the Pimms guy lurking like a stalker who brings your own alcohol. I loved him. Even now I still get nostalgia that I can’t have a Pimms guys in my everyday life. Meanwhile everybody else was lining up armed with confetti.

Running the confetti gauntlet

Earlier I had bargained with god: if it rained please let it be sunny at 2.30pm so we could do the confetti run. Well the rain held off and the confetti gauntlet was every bit as wonderful as I expected. When I got to the end of the gauntlet I wanted to turn around and do it again. In practically every photo I am grinning with such delight it’s a wonder I didn’t swallow the confetti. For me it was a bit like that scene in Edward Scissorhands where Kim dances in the snow created by Edward’s snow sculpture

HWSNBN on the other hand was experiencing something different. He got pelted in the eye, confetti in his ear, and hated every moment. In all the photos he looks like his internal monologue is more Arnie from Predators ‘Get to the Choppa’

For the rest of the day when I walked little puffs of confetti would waft up from the inside of my dress like brightly coloured clouds.

Group photos and why everybody hates them

The confetti bliss couldn’t last as it was time for the group photos. Here’s the thing: everybody hates group photos. The bride and groom hate them because they get smile fatigue (it’s a thing, google it) and have to be in all the photos forgoing drinking alcohol and peeing. Guests hate them because you have to wait an hour to be photographed for a minute or two. And the photographer hates them because the more people you have in the shot the more chance somebody is a) blinking b) pulling a silly expression c) doing both at the same time.

The hell that is group photos was only increased as I saw the black clouds gathering. Some of HWSNBN cousins wandered off when where doing his side of the family so we had to redo those shots. Which convinced my mum that his family were getting more photos. Cue WWIII as mum started to promise our family that we shoot them again, just as we were trying to get some shots of me and HWSNBN. We managed to get about ten shots before the heavens opened. These unposed shots are still some of my favourites of the day. So even if rains on your wedding day Alanis, it won’t matter.

We went back inside and with Jamie covering for us, snuck upstairs for fifteen minutes alone to let the impact sink in.

Then before we got everybody in our day of coordinator showed me the Library. There were the piles of books I had carefully hand picked for each guests. The penguin book postcard and personalised menu’s marking each seat. The herbs cultivated in my parents garden bursts of green at the centres of each table. And then each table named after some of our favourite books with a cover on one side and a quote on the other. It was the first time I had seen it finished and it looked amazing.

The line up

You try to invite everybody you can to your wedding. And if you try really hard you will maybe talk to them for about a minute maybe two if you are lucky. Then you will spend the next month feeling guilty about all the conversations you did not have. The wedding line up was our way of at least guaranteeing we got to say something to the day guests. It felt a bit egotistical. Even though I knew that little under a hundred people weren’t queuing to hug me while I awkwardly blabber at them but rather are queuing for their food and drink. I felt a weird pressure to make it worth their while. Keep the conversation specific, targeted I told myself but make people feel comfortable. But if awkward conversation was an Olympic sport I would win gold, silver and bronze. Let’s take this not awkward at all exchange with HSWNSBN’S cousin and her new boyfriend. As HWSNBN cousin hugged me I said ‘Nice to finally meet you Steve, I’ve heard so much about you.’ Then I turned to Steve and said ‘Mel. You look stunning.’ like an android bride whose circuits are slowly fried. AWKWARD. In my defence, I was standing next to the sweetie table and I had last eaten four hours ago. And the only sweetie I managed to snaffle was a lonely flying saucer. I needed sugar stat.

Bad android bride.

The most expensive meal I never ate

Once everybody was seated and then had all gone to the loo and then was seated again. (By this point I was ready to stab somebody for some food.) We were introduced as the new Mr and Ms (yay feminism) double barrelled name and ushered in the Library for the wedding breakfast. A term that always confuses me if there isn’t toast is it still breakfast? I think the reason I am smiling so hard is because I finally get to eat something other than a flying saucer. Yummy but hardly nutritious. I’ve talked before about how I had to get my dress loosened mid meal to make more room but even after that I barely ate or drank a thing. A fact my dad found completely baffling. ‘Are you sure you don’t want a drink?’ ‘Wine, have some wine.’ ‘Go on, have a drink.’ It was like Mrs Doyle out of Father Ted except instead of tea it was alcohol. But I’d made a decision I didn’t want to get drunk. I really wanted to remember every moment of the wedding day. Afterwards I almost regretted it. I should have got trolleyed, I’d think wistfully imagining some other gaily laughing version of me then I remembered that I become a sleepy dormouse when I drink and narcoleptic bride is not a good look. So I got over it. In the end I drank half a glass of Pimms, a glass of champagne, a cup of tea, two red bulls and a shot of tequila. ROCK AND ROLL, not!

Speeches and sekrits

We cut the cake before the speeches. Or rather I tried to cut the cake while HWSNBN tried to take the knife away from me. I am not to be trusted around sharp implements.

My dad’s speech was lovely. Heartfelt, funny and full of random facts so very him. But I was so nervous about my speech I had to keep it together.

Then my mum read from the Prophet which gave me my favourite photo of my parents ever. I just love the way he is holding the mike out to her and she like a queen just accepts it as her due.

Then it was my turn. HSWNBN hates speaking in public so we decided I would do a speech on behalf of me and my new husband. Cue massive cheer from the crowd. I am not a natural public speaker (see Olympics of awkwardness above). So I decided to share the awkwardness and make everybody I thanked stand up to accept their applause and toasts. Awkwardness all round. I held it together until it came time to thank HWSNBN. What I wanted to say was: ‘HWSNBN I can’t possibly express what you mean to me. I promise to spend the rest of my life telling you exactly how much I love you’. What I actually said was: ‘HWSNBN I can’t’ Sob ‘I can’t even’ sobs. ‘I love you’ sobs. It was time to let go of the now soggy microphone and let the best man speak.

 

All throughout the meal I had been looking at the two suspicious screens placed at the end of the room. I had overheard whisperings of a top sekrit project HWSNBN sister, her husband and Mr Putt had been working on. So when they started playing a slideshow of me and HWSNBN I sat back confident I had guessed the surprise.

I was wrong not only was there an awesome love-themed film mash-up. This was then followed by an Axis of Awesome How to Write a Love Song tribute video.

Sub-titled the video that almost made me pee my pants. It much have taken so much work and it was amazing.

After coffee we snuck outside to take some photos of just me and HWSNBN frolicking and trying not to look embarrassed at the camera. Before we went back in to greet our evening guests and do our first dance.

Awkward swaying

Then it was time for our first dance or the awkward swaying portion of this evening. I have seen some amazing first dances where people move as if they belong together. Our first dance was not like that. Instead we shuffled around the dancefloor looking like two bears dancing. I think the expression on my face says it all. At this point I was begging people to join us on the dancefloor. They ignored me because they are mean.

Back when HWSNBN and I were still long distance many years ago, I listened to this song on repeat. Loving him was like breathing: I had no choice about it. I still love this song even after hearing it murdered by an Egyptian French singer on a casio on our first night of honeymoon.

I spent the evening trying to talk to as many guests and possible and alternatively dancing like an eejit with my sister. We literally cleared the dancefloor with our mad twirling but I didn’t care. It was my party I was going to dance like an idiot if I wanted to. Our lovely friend Martyn brilliantly kept the tunes coming. Even stopping a mini revolution when my dad started stropping at midnight. By this point in the evening I had started running on empty. I was still moving but all of the adrenaline had left my system. So much so that a friend after hugging me had to tell me to go and put a wrap on. Yes, like a toddler I needed to be told to wear something warm.

Goodnight moon

Having a quick pee break with my bestie I spied a harvest moon rising. I ran downstairs determined to find my husband. ‘I’m kidnapping you.’ I said pulling him off across the lawn until we stood in the shadow of the old Oak watching the mist rolling in across the fields. And together, bathed in the light of the moon we danced to the hushed music and the sound of our friends and family laughing. It was a perfect moment strung in day full of them.

It was time to bid everybody goodnight. Then say goodnight again as they all forgot because they were so drunk. One of our friends even tried to go to bed in a cupboard and others who shall rename nameless behaved very disreputably indeed.

We stole upstairs to our suite. There waiting for us was a bottle of champagne courtesy of the venue and a plate of cake. I had read in a wedding magazine somewhere that you should ask the venue to send you up some slices of cake. Best idea ever I thought as I scoffed cake as a post midnight snack. ‘I wish I’d done that with the hamburgers’ HWSNBN said mournfully. We took a bath together in the Olympic sized pool bath and then went to bed. I was too hyped to sleep. I would blame it on the day but I think it might have been the red bull. We talked until the wee hours. ‘Didn’t you think it was funny when?’ ‘Did you notice?’  Until finally HWSNBN said ‘Go to sleep wife.’ And then finally I did.

I knew going in to the wedding that I would be filled with such love and gratitude for HWSNBN. But I was blessed by the kindness of our friends and family, more than I could ever repay. Thanks for everybody who helped out with our big day. To all our lovely guests who shared in our happiness. And finally for you dearest reader for staying with me on this journey into matrimony, for reading my blog posts and for all your comments. I have treasured each and every one.

On saying I do – our wedding ceremony

For me, it has always been about the ceremony. It’s my favourite part of attending other people’s weddings. Here you get to see the bride in all her finery for the first time. Even better, you get to see the groom face as he sees her for the first time. The room swells with emotion as they say their vows. Finally there’s the relief as they pronounced man and wife. In short wedding ceremonies are brilliant.

They are also terrifying. A wedding ceremony is the great unknown. I had plenty experience of socialising with friends and family, guzzling yummy food and dancing like a loon. But reciting legally binding vows in front of 85 family and friends? I had not frame of reference, nada, none.

HWSNBN and I took rather differing approaches to the ceremony. HWSNBN wanted to keep it short and simple something to get through and then enjoy the day. I knew no matter how I approached the ceremony would be full of heightened emotions. It is the most important part of the day: the reason why it’s called a wedding and not just a really expensive party. So instead I focused on making sure the ceremony choices we made were meaningful, reflective of us and something to be savoured.

HWSNBN was unsure: he thought the Sing-a-Long was silly, he didn’t think the effort required to draft our personal vows would be worth it, why didn’t we just keep it simple? Reader, it took a lot of persuading but finally he gave in. One of the accusations about civil ceremonies in that they can be short and meaningless compared to church ceremonies. I wanted our ceremony to be the focal point around which the rest of the day revolved. As I rehearsed the day in my head in the months leading up to the wedding, I only ever got as far as the ceremony. But on the day the ceremony was nothing like I imagined. It was far, far better.

When you left us dear reader, I was waiting with in the foyer with my dad and sisters. I could hear the first couple of bars of At Last by Etta James, the song we were walking down the aisle to.There was never any alternative for us. I’ve always loved her voice, the lyrics seem like they were written for us and after eight years of dating, it felt àpropos. First my big sister set off. She had been petrified of walking down the aisle by herself as we rehearsed to the music the night before, and halfway down the aisle stopped dead with a beatific expression on her face. The registrar came and collected her, one of the many reasons why our registrars rocked. Then little sister starting walking after 25 years she was finally a bridesmaid.

I wish I could have seen both my sisters walk down the aisle. I think that is one of the greatest frustrations of my wedding that there were so many wonderful things I wanted to see. But I was too busy taking part. Oh to be a spectator at your biggest moments!

Finally it was the turn of me and my dad. I linked my arm with his and he held my hand as we walked down the corridor and turned into the room. At my side at this moment like he has always been from the beginning. Everybody was standing up, the small room filled with people, blocking my view of HWSNBN, damn them 🙂 I was so impatient, I had been waiting all morning to see him and those extra seconds seemed like a lifetime. I am really glad we didn’t see each other before the ceremony as it really helped add to the gravitas of what we were about to do. But it was the oddest feeling. For eight years HWSNBN has been the one I share everything with and then we were separated, unable to even speak on the morning of our weddings. I needed to see him. Now.

Then we reached the end of the aisle and I saw HWSNBN standing there, looking more nervous than I had ever seen him. I am the cryer in our relationship, I can count the number of times HWSNBN has cried on one hand. But as I came down the aisle, he started crying. I hugged my dad for the last time as a pure January. Then I turned to HWSNBN and hugged and kissed him even though the registrar told me mock jokingly I should wait until the end of the ceremony. I was so happy to finally see him.

As the registrar outlined the legal guidelines I began edging forward on my chair towards HWSNBN. We were already holding hands but any distance between seemed too much especially today. At one point I was practically in his lap. One of my best friends Ros came up to read ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ one of our favourite poems. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, and where have you been?, here it is:

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Monck

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”

Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”

They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

She had been practising by reading it to her baby and I had to bite my lip to stop from giggling at her clearly enunciated voice, which was so very Ros. Then as she recited the line ‘They danced by the light of the moon.’ she teared up and I started to cry too. I hug attacked Ros afterwards before she made her way back to her seat. I wanted to hug everyone in that room as if the joy I was feeling was too powerful it couldn’t be contained in just my body.

It was tough being up there just the two of us. I could see everybody I loved in the room and I wanted more than anything to talk to them. Traditionally the bride and her family and friends are on the left the groom and his entourage on the right. Symbolically it makes a lot of sense as you say your vows behind you is everybody you love backing you up. But practically it represented a problem, I could perfectly see HWSNBN family in the front row behind me. But I had to twist myself around away from him to see my family behind me. I wish I could have seen them as I said my vows. However, I have the photos and they are magical.

When we had both met separately before the ceremony with the registrar they had quickly run through the order of the ceremony. All we had to do was repeat the words back to them or in the case of our personal vows read them aloud. Simples, right? It was fine throughout the ‘I do solemnly declare’s’ But the registrar read a long paragraph of text. As she was speaking I started to panic, there was no way I could remember and recite all of that back and HWSNBN has an even worse memory than I do. Thank god he was going first. In response HWSNBN said ‘I do? I do!’ and the room erupted into peels of laughter. That will be my enduring memory of our wedding ceremony that it was full of tears and laughter. I laughed so much that my veil almost fell off and the registrar had to interrupt the ceremony to pin it back into place.

Then it was time for our personal vows.

HWSNBN said:

‘Rowan, I will always remember when we first started dating you said you did not see the point in marriage. I stand here today, gladdened that since meeting me you have change your mind.

‘I love you so much that you have become a part of my life and a part of my being. I promise to do everything in my power to look after you and make you happy and look forward to spending the rest of my life with you.’

Everybody laughed at the irony of me originally not believing at the point of marriage. HWSNBN said afterwards he was so nervous as he hates public speaking that initially he was annoyed at the laughter for interrupting before he realised that laughter was good. I had heard his vows before but I could still feel myself begin to tear up as he solemnly recited the words in front of everybody we loved.

Then it was my turn. I said:

‘HWSNBN, surrounded by the people we love, I give myself to you. In good times and the bad, I promise to share my life with you. I vow to love, respect, and trust you, always giving you the best of myself and forever believing that I am the lucky one to have met you. I can’t wait to grow old with you, as I know that together we will build a life far more amazing than either of us could even imagine alone.

‘I swear to love you til the seas run dry, until the sun grows cold and the stars grow old. And if there is another life beyond this, I will love you there too. With these words, and all the words of my heart, I marry you and bind my life to yours.’

I meant every word. Midway through I knew that I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Then it was time for the legal vows: the I do’s to seal the deal. I felt like we had the best of both worlds. As well as our personal, hand crafted promises to each other we said the words that millions of people had recited before us. As the best man stepped forward with the ring book I began to panic slightly. Not only did I try to put HWSNBN ring on his right hand. Damn you dyslexia. I was so pumped up on adrenaline that my fingers had started to swell. HWSNBN got down to the last knuckle before I took over and jammed that ring down to everybody’s amusement. Nothing was stopping that sucker getting on my finger.

Then HWSNBN’s close friend Roger stepped up to read an extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. For those who aren’t familiar with it, here it is:

Extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
by Louis de Bernieres

Love is a temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.

He read  it perfectly with the right mix of gravitas and sentiment.

Then it was time for the bit HWSNBN had been dreading the Sing-a-Long. I loved singing hymns at church ceremonies: a glorious release of tension as the congregation unites in song.

And so we chose Bring me Sunshine by Morecombe and Wise: a song that always  reminds me of my granddad and my big sister. Everybody really gave it some welly, some people even doing the Morecombe and Wise dance. And nobody seemed to mind too much that I hadn’t checked the printed lyrics matched the version on the song on the CD and cut off two verses too early. Ooops.

Then finally we were pronounced man and wife. And it was time for our first kiss.

We signed the wedding register. On the marriage certificate my signature is an indecipherable scrawl I was so nervous.

I showed HWSNBN my bouquet.

And we faced the wedding paparazzi.

Then we exited as man and wife to one of my favourite songs of all time Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Sadly we only heard one or two bars before we exited the room.

I did later make everyday dance bemusedly to it. Because I was The Bride, goddamit and I love that song! As we left we got tangled up somewhere near the door. Because of my train I had to walk behind HWSNBN all day in order to avoid tripping him up which I think he rather enjoyed. Like a game of snake I kept cutting people up the entire night as they hovered behind me waiting for my dress to pass.

Afterwards, HWSNBN said those three magic words: ‘You were right.’ Our ceremony was silly, it was moving and it was us. We were married.

The morning of our wedding

I can’t really describe how I felt on the morning of our wedding. It was like nothing I had ever felt before or I expect I will ever feel again. For somebody who loves words as much as I do it’s odd to have an experience you cannot conceptualise afterwards. But for the sake of you, dearest reader, I shall try. I felt like I was seeing the world from behind the biggest pair of rose-tinted spectacles. It was like I was in the middle of the best trip of my life but there was no comedown. I felt like my blood was with champagne was bubbling through my veins.  I didn’t feel blissed out, relaxed on wedding-zen like people had predicted. Instead I felt like a five year on Christmas morning who has just drunk a gallon of Ribena and was squidging a suspiciously My Little Pony shaped present. Everything was wonderful and nothing hurt.

I wake early, jumped out of bed and peer out over the grounds of the Elvetham. The sky is gray behind Elizabeth I’s oak; but it isn’t raining. Tiny triumph! I check the clock. It is 7am, seven hours to go. Too early to call anybody so I settle for sending a series of extravagantly exuberant texts to my loved ones along the lines of ‘I am getting married today!!!!!….!!!!!!’ just in case I had somehow failed to mention it over, say, the last year and a half. My mum roused by my text knock on my door and we curl up in bed together talking. Or rather she talks and I intercede every two minutes with ‘I’m getting married… TODAY’ proudly like a parrot that has learnt a new phrase. Until she leaves to go and ‘check on my sisters’. Translation: to converse with people who can say more than one thing. I settle back into bed, too hyped up to go back to sleep, and look at the clock. It is 7.12am. What am I going to do for six hours and forty five minutes?

It needs to be long and engrossing enough to occupy my attention but not completely distract me. I need comfort blanket television with a guaranteed happy ending something as familiar as the pattern of veins on the backs of my hand. I need Pride and Prejudice.

I watched Darcy say of Elizabeth that she was ‘handsome enough I suppose but not pretty enough to tempt me.’ while I lolled in the swimming pool sized bath under a mountain of bubbles. I didn’t know what the bridal suite was implying with the swimming pool sized bath but I was an almost married lady.

I watched Mr Collins’ rotund behind get out of his carriage while I scoffed my continental breakfast. From my room in the tower I could see for miles and amused myself by spying on my family eating below in the conservatory. Until I inadvertently spied on HWSNBN and couldn’t remember whether it was unlucky for me to see him or him to see me (the latter).

Then my hairdresser arrives and the morning seems to go into fast-forward. I watch Elizabeth meet Wickham as my hairdresser puts curlers in my hair. HWSNBN’s sister arrives like a knight errant delivering a love note from HSWNBN. I open it and it sprinkles heart-shaped confetti over the carpet. To my surprise I don’t cry as I read the lovely words.

   

He read my note at breakfast and is his sister tells me very, very nervous. Throughout the morning everybody who seems him tells me how nervous he looks and I start to worry. I, on the other hand, feel fantastic, so excited, so happy I wish I could bottle this bright sure feeling, taking sips to warm me in the future.  Let me tell you, whoever ordained that the bride and groom can’t see each other on the morning of the wedding is a GENUIS. HWSNBN has to make sure everything was done downstairs, setting up video cameras, instructing ushers, and greeting guests as they arrived. I have to have my hair and make up done. I’ll take that deal.

Then our lovely photographer Jamie arrives just as the curlers were being taken out and Darcy was watching Elizabeth Bennett play the piano at Rosing’s Park. We giggle over my propensity to pose thumbs up like an eejit. ‘Get it out of your system now.’ Jamie says and I oblige grinning like a loon.

When the photos come back there is something wrong and it takes a moment for me to work it out. What’s wrong with my face? I puzzle, far more used to myself pouty, posed, half smiling. Until I realise: I was happy. Face scrunchingly, chin dippingly, teeth baringly, squinty eyed with pure happiness.

Why am I making this face? *Sighes*

All the time this is going on my family are coming in and out of the room to have their hair done (mum and sisters) and read the paper and watch the madness from a safe distance (dad). While I fight an ongoing battle to prevent the January’s from dumping a tide wave of stuff in my pristine bridal suite.

Look at all the stuff! Bad January’s. No cookies

My bouquet arrives and it is nothing like I pictured but better. It smelling like English country gardens, the floral scent of the roses undercut by the sharpness of the herbs. The powder brush pink softness of peonies contrasting beautifully with the faded vintage glamour of the amnesia roses and sweet peas. As Darcy is botching his proposal to Lizzie, my lovely aunt and cousin come to give me a present. My mum has lent me my grandma’s gold locket with pictures of her and my grandfather which I’ve pinned to my bouquet. My aunt gives me a land army badge that used to belong to my dad’s mum Hilda. It is perfectly Hilda and now I have something from both sides of the family to pin to my bouquet.

It is 12pm and I still haven’t cried. Which must be breaking all sorts of records and if I were a betting women would have lost me lots of money. Then my best friend Debs arrives to do my make up and bringing a letter from my friend Lianne, who wasn’t able to make it. Clever lady that she is, she gives it to me to read before she does my make up and I cry. Inside the hand knitted pouch by Lianne’s mum Carole is a heart shaped necklace and don’t dream it be it pendant engraved with a quote from our favourite movie Don’t Dream it be it. A hour or so later just before going downstairs I try to wrap it round my bouquet. But my hands have stopped working now. In a panic I shove it down my bra. Lianne who taught me the two bra technique in college (‘One to lift and one to separate’) would approve.

As Debs does my make-up I graze nervously at the complimentary fruit platter the hotel sent up for me. Did I say how my venue was the best? As my mum decides she needs her make-up doing too, my nerves start to kick in. It’s getting close to 1pm less than a hour to go and it still seems like there is so much to be done. My big sister wants to get her bridesmaids dress on so me and my little sister start helping her into it in the bathroom. At which point I have to stop my little sister from screaming at my big sister who was moaning about how much she hated the beige underwear she had to wear. We get her into the dress at which point my dad calls, oblivious to the mayhem, asking if anybody wants cheese and biscuits. This incites the cheese and biscuit incident:

Big sister: I do

Everybody shouting: you’ve put your dress on now and done your make up. You can’t eat now.

Big sister: sulks Here’s the thing nobody ever tells you that even in the surreal madness that is your wedding day you will still be you with all your good bits and your bad bits. I was still Rowan even on my big day I was still acting like Piggy in the middle and peacemaker to my simultaneously lovely and dysfunctional family. In the bathroom I help my little sister into her dress, ignoring the commotion outside. She peers out through the door. ‘Row, you don’t want to go out there.’

‘Why not?’

‘Big sister has just started crying.’

My natural reaction as peacemaker is to get out there tissue in one hand, comforting words at the ready. But here is where I draw the line. Helping my sisters into dresses on my wedding day fine. Mopping up tears on my wedding day not fine. I decide to stay in the bathroom for five minutes before getting cross. A couple of days before the wedding I appointed Debs my morning off wedding bouncer.

Debs: ‘But what does that mean?’

Me, drunk on power: ‘If anyone annoys me’ read my family ‘you have to tell them to fuck off politely. Say something like ‘the bride needs peace and quiet therefore you need to leave.’ I don’t know what Debs and my mum do but when I emerge everybody is calmer.

Me and my wedding bouncer. I am so gutted I didn’t get any photos of her doing my make up

Finally it is time for Debs to help me into my dress. We’ve rung down to reception for rubber gloves because she’s noticed her nail varnish rubs off. To my relief the dress fits and after a quick glance in the mirror I realise I look OK. Debs leaves in a flurry of hugs. It’s just me and my family now and all we can do it wait. And I hate waiting. The bridal suite is the most beautiful room I have ever stayed in but I have been in bridal purdah since 10pm the night before and I’m getting incredibly antsy. In my head I look out the window fantasising about wrapping a cloak over my head and scampering over the grounds like a weird goblin bride thing. Which is how I end up hanging out of the window in my dress yelling at my friend Sarah and her little boy Benjamin I can see running over the impeccable green lawns. ‘Oi Sarah’ I say waving frantically until I realise that this is behaviour unfitting to a bride.

I look at the clock. It is still not time. In one of HWSNBN and I pre-wedding fights, oh yes there were many, was about whether or not I would be late. ‘I bet you a million, squillion pounds I will not be late.’ I promised him. Unless they get me downstairs soon I will lose a million, squillion pounds. ‘You look nervous.’ My dad says correctly identifying my mood then ruins it by saying ‘Don’t be.’ In my current state of mind this is an inciting incident equivalent to poking a bear in a wedding dress with a hornets nest. ‘Don’t tell me how I should feel.’ I hiss at him. I wanted to go downstairs NOW. Luckily at this point Jamie comes to get us and take some pre-wedding photos on the stairwell.

As we walk downstairs I realise that Jamie has got confused and taken us downstairs before everybody has moved into the ceremony room. I am faced with a wall of the wedding paparazzi made up of eighty of our nearest and dearest. I start to panic what if HWSNBN comes and accidentally sees me in my dress. I remember reading in some magazine that guests take their cues from the bride and groom.  If you look unhappy people will pick up on it, so instead I decide to smile and wave at everybody. So some people had a sneak preview, by five minutes, of my dress? I don’t care: I’m getting married. Did I already mention that?

The venue staff shoo everybody into the ceremony room and I meet with the registrars. They interview me and as lovely as they are the questions still feel like they asked under water. I feel giddy with nerves as we wait in the foyer to go inside. The ceremony is the most important part of the day. I must not screw this up. After all my worries about how I would feel tearful or detached I am nervous but dried eyed and utterly present in this moment. I hug my mum goodbye and stand arm in arm with my dad behind my sisters. I can hear the last bars of the music I had chosen and can’t help my feet from moving in a little dance.

After what felt like days it was finally time to see HWSNBN. I couldn’t wait. We were getting married. It was time.

How to be the perfect wedding guest

This weekend I will attending my fifth wedding this year, including my own. There’s comes a period in everybody’s life where you begin to identify heavily with Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Never with noxious Andie MacDowell (‘Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.’ Aargh).

NOOOOOOOOOOO, don’t do it Charles! Fiona is much funnier and can act

Obviously if I had to choose it would be Scarlett 🙂 Barely have you shaken the confetti out of your best frock when you’re off to another church/hotel/country house/barn/marquee/yurt wedding (delete as appropriate. So far I have never been to a wedding in a yurt but I am ready!) This week I’ve been thinking about what makes the perfect wedding guest. It seems like everybody knows the basics, don’t wear white, but beyond that wedding  etiquette gets a little murky. I’ve made so many mistakes that I’m barely qualified to write this blog post. But I’m hoping that by confessing my shortcomings I’ll save other people from following in my footsteps as the worst wedding  guest ever.

“BTW, I can attend your wedding. Now on with my speech”

RSVP, in writing

I’m sure I RSVP’ed in person to the many weddings I have been invited to in the past. I mean I think I did. I really hope I didn’t just assume that the bride would know via telepathy I was coming. But I am not certain, a fact that now makes me cringe in mortification. I’m not a stickler, I don’t think you have to necessarily write a letter of acceptance or decline, text or email are fine. But you do and should reply in writing not just verbally so the bride can double-check acceptances. Don’t be a dick like me.

“You asked for what?”

Don’t ask for one little favour

When my best friend was deep in wedding hell, she said the worst thing was how many people would ask for a favour. You see the thing they fail to realise, she said, is that if I accommodated all the favours I would have to tweak things for 80 different people. I listened, sympathised and then at the next wedding I went to proceeded to do exactly what she had warned me about. I asked the bride if she do me a little favour and move me to a different table a day or two before the wedding (I told you, I’m the worst.) So sit where you are put and don’t ask for favours.

Or hats. Hats are like snacks but don’t eat them unless you are trying to demonstrate a metaphor in action

Carry snacks

Weddings are long, particularly church weddings. And the likelihood is even if everything does run on time with a 2pm start you won’t sit down to eat til after 4.30pm. Which is a long ass time between breakfast and the wedding breakfast. Don’t get me started on the term wedding breakfast. If it doesn’t include breakfast food it’s not breakfast. If like me you get hangry (angry when hungry), carry snacks in your handbag. Because I become a total grouch bag if I’m uncomfortable in any way I even have a mini wedding kit which includes snacks, painkillers, a plaster and some flip-flops if I am wearing heels. If this makes me sound ancient, it’s because inside the nubile (heh), 30-year old form is a ninety year old woman struggling to get out.

Avoid the rom-com run

Arrive on time

You know that time it says on the invite? That’s when the bride arrives. Even though it took me four weddings to work this out, due to my pathological deep-seated fear of being late I always arrived ‘early’ and then was surprised to see everybody else there. A surprising number of people don’t know this. At one wedding I went to the bride had to pause for a friend to sheepishly slink down the aisle, clamber over people to his seat before the wedding could start.

“What do you mean I was only invited to the evening do?”

Check your invite

At our wedding not one but two people didn’t check their invites and arrived for the day when they were only invited to the evening. The first was extremely mortified and lovely, helping out my mother-in-law and guarding the sweetie table from toddlers high on E numbers. The other, despite having the right invite (evening), and HWSNBN confirming with him by email and by text that he should come at 7pm showed up to the day. ‘What so and so doing here?’ I thought worriedly as I saw him after the ceremony but was soon distracted by other guests. It wasn’t until everybody was being seated for dinner and my new brother in law emerged in flap. ‘There wasn’t a space for X.’ Sadly uninvited guest happened to share the same name as one of my cousins. I started to freak out, how could I have forgotten to include my cousin on the table plan? WORST RELATIVE EVER. Then the uninvited guest walked out: ‘You forget to set a seat for me.’ At which point I had to tell him that the reason there was no place for him was because he wasn’t invited to the day. He checked his invite, realised he had got it wrong. AWKWARD. And a whole lot of stress I didn’t need. Don’t be That Guy, check your invite.

Or instead of a card how about this lovely heart ring?

Send a card

Look here’s the thing, weddings are expensive: for the bride and groom, their families and also their guests. As a guest not only do you have to pay for accommodation, if it’s out of town; drinks; possibly a new outfit and then there’s the present. So presents are optional, dependent on what you can afford, but cards are not. At most a card costs a pound. You can afford a pound. The day after our wedding it was wonderful to open all the cards and read all the lovely messages people had written. They are still sitting on our sideboard a visible reminder of everybody we love. I know that in the years to come I will read through our cards over and over again. Words matter. Use them.

Not bitchy like Fiona

Be understanding

Before I planned my own wedding, I didn’t quite understand what a huge timesuck all those major and minor details are. That as a bride, you are expected to have an opinion on everything from the dress to the napkins. Even more of a surprise was how ridiculously expensive everything was – like sell a kidney expensive. I’ve overheard friends who have been really hurt when they’ve ‘only’ been invited to the evening do. Get this: a wedding invite or lack thereof is not a referendum on how much you are loved or your relationship it might just reflect the capacity of the venue capacity and couples budget and/or preferences. Now when I am invited I know what it means: that my name survived twenty rounds of guest list wrangling because the couple wanted me there to witness one of the biggest moments of their life. I look at all the little details and know how much thought when in to everything I see. I understand.

Like this moment the happy couple will want to treasure forever: poor Duckface

Take photos

There’s been a lot of posts recently on wedding blogs about brides freaking out about unflattering photos of their wedding on facebook. Although always check before sharing on social media sites as some people might for a variety of reasons limit the information they share online. Getting married is a really odd experience: you spent the whole day being photographed and then you have to wait almost a month, sometimes more, to see the results. I loved it the next morning when my cousin showed me a picture of our wedding that had been posted to facebook on her phone because I knew for sure that there was one photo of me not gurning with spinach in my teeth. I love all the photos of our wedding even the ones of me gurning with spinach in my teeth:) In fact, some of my favourite shots of the day are the ones taken by friends on camera phones as they show a different side to our wedding. Less polished, more real. Maybe, I just have really talented friends. But if you get a chance take photos.

Tea vs shots…

Have fun, but not too much fun

At one wedding HWSNBN and I were on a table of very lovely designated drivers, pregnant ladies and one other drinker. Which is how at 6pm I ended up swigging from a bottle while drunk-crying to the speeches. Oh the shame. ‘Why are you crying?’ HWSNBN asked warily. ‘Be-cause… it’s just so moo-ving.’ I sobbed. I told you guys I am the worst wedding guest ever.

This is not the most shameful drunk wedding story I have. One of my closest friends who shall rename nameless got incredibly drunk at a mutual friend’s wedding. He called everybody lesbians including the bride and her very staid mother-in-law, had to be physically restrained from joining in the first dance, then passed out in reception where he was carried to a room we had to rent for him, where he threw up over himself. Legendary. But for your own sake, maybe alternate wine and glasses of water. Your head will thank you the next day.

Any bad wedding guest confessions please leave them in the comment box. Til next time reprobates x

P.S: Liked this post? Fancy sponsoring me to plummet to my doom? I’ll love you forever… if forever means til the end of the next month where I die horribly 🙂

Pre-wedding nerves

I wasn’t nervous three weeks before our wedding. On the contrary, I didn’t feel much of anything at all. I was so focused on finishing my essays I *almost* forgot about the wedding. Almost. It was like my brain decided it could only stress about one thing at a time and the essays were taking up more than enough headspace. But at the niggly back of my mind I was aware that the wedding was looming. Then three weeks dwindled to two weeks, then single digits.  I couldn’t really be getting married in a week could I? People kept asked me how I was feeling. ‘I’m fine, a bit nervous.’ I’d reply because that’s what your meant to say but I didn’t feel anything at all. I kept waiting for the emotion to kick in and boy did it! The plan was to take five days off before the our wedding to finalise some last-minute wedding projects and relax (insert maniacal laughter here).

I felt it in my body first the gradual tightening in my chest until each breath felt constricted. Now, as HWSNBN would tell you if there were gold medals for sleeping I would win. I can sleep anywhere and at anytime, it’s a true skill. But the week before the wedding I started waking earlier and earlier, literally shaking with terror. In my mind I felt OK but my body had other ideas and it was expressing it the only way it knew how. Pure unadulterated terror. My counselling tutor is fond of saving the difference between fear and excitement is a deep breath. But the week before the wedding I felt starved of oxygen.

Tuesday  – six days

I was still numb the night we finished work and packed up the car my little car to the brim and set off to Farnham. I ‘d felt glimmers of uncertainty as we left our little flat knowing this was the last time as an unmarried couple. I picked up my wedding dress and hugged my mum and tried not to cry when I realised I wouldn’t see my parents until Sunday, the day before the wedding. We drove to HWSNBN’s mum and dad’s house and by the time we arrived HWSNBN’s mother was asleep with his father was waiting up for us with parcels. I bought up a storm on ebay not only for the wedding but for our minimoon. It felt like Christmas as we opened parcels containing bikinis, chalkboard signs, and my personal highlight: our wedding rings. Not only that but HWSNBN’s father started showing us the card box he created from scratch. I couldn’t believe how wonderful everything looked. Finally after only existing in my fevered imaginings I could see everything together. And it looked wonderful. A little after 1am we crept to bed to see that my future mother in law had decked out the bed in ribbons like some pagan fertility ritual. As I’m called Rowan I nervous I might wake inside a Wicker Man 🙂

Wednesday – five days

The next day I left HWSNBN and his father checking over the final table plans as I saw one of my best friends and her baby. For me, that summed up what our marriage would mean. The fact that HWSNBN looked at me: pale, stressed and just plain knacked; and said just go, I’ve got this. And that I, paranoid editor type, in turn trusted him to do it. I really needed a break with somebody who loved me so I could just be and talk about anything other than weddings. It was utter magic. Babytime heals all wounds, don’t you know?

When I got back to the house HWSNBN and his father had done so much work and everything looked amazing. (Seriously if there is one lesson I learnt from wedding planning it’s when to let go.) Yes, I had the best fiancé in the world and no, you can’t have him.

That evening I went over to (another) best friends house to get my make up and hair done. Seriously, Debs is amazing, get her to do your make up. And hair. And plan your life. Also, I look good in curlers no?

This is when the obsessive checking of BBC weather started. I told myself not to do it. One of the many things you cannot control is if it rains, so don’t worry about it. But I couldn’t help checking daily as the weather turned from hot, to overcast, to torrential downpour. Fuuuuuck.

Thursday – four days

We went out for lunch for HWSNBN’s mother’s birthday and picked up the suits. Saying goodbye to his aunts and uncle was when I started to realise that this was the last time I would see people before the wedding. Eeek. That afternoon with HWSNBN’s sisters invaluable help we poured sweets into jars (it was when we were dusting the sweets with icing sugar so they didn’t stick together that I started to worry we had Gone Too Far. And then I thought, nah.) and organised boxes full of stuff ready to transport to the venue. It was finally starting to feel real. And the stress was kicking in, as I had to remember where everything should go and with what.

Then that evening the sky fell in.

Friday – three days

We drove over to the Elvetham to drop off our wedding stuff and meet the venue staff. Even given that our wedding was DIY free, we had accumulated boxes of wedding crap. It felt like such a relief to have Andrew and the team takeover and let go of the burden of worrying about where everything had to go. In my mind this is one of the huge benefits to a hotel wedding, they do most of the heavy lifting and you don’t have to worry about it. You can let it go. I was so relieved we didn’t have to spend the day before setting up the venue and we had the weekend to ‘relax’. Hah.

That evening I went for a mini hen do with my close friends. We wore creepy peel off face mask. We ate pizza. Did a little magic. And watched this film.

Yes, I have the best friends in the world and no, I’m not sharing them.

Saturday – two days

Otherwise known as the day I went off the reservation. While HWSNBN went off to pick up the cakes with his mother (translation: to escape the bridezilla I had become). That morning I woke certain I needed a fingerprint tree. To his credit my father-in-law did not laugh at me, he did not point out that due to people dropping out at the last-minute he had redone the seating plan four times. Instead within an hour he had drawn up a fingerprint tree and had it printed. Yes, I have the best parent’s in law in the world and no, I’m not sharing them.

That afternoon I got shellac done the first and last of my beauty treatments. We were broke but I wanted vampy red nails, goddamit! Fuck french polish, I’m not changing my style just because its my wedding day.

That evening I was finalising the playlist. It was 10.30pm at night and I realised we hadn’t practised our wedding dance. ‘HWSNBN we had to practice our first dance.’ I called out at which point he hid in a cupboard. I didn’t even bother looking because why would my future husband be hiding in a cupboard. Instead I ran upstairs and cried a lot. I’m not proud of this but there was other stuff going on, I wasn’t sleeping, I had worked to finish wedding shit all week and I had officially Had Enough. HWSNBN came upstairs and said sorry about the cupboard hiding. I said sorry about turning into a crazy person.

Sunday – the day before our wedding

I woke at 7am shaking with terror as HWSNBN held me.

Everything was done, all we could do was count down the hours and survive the limbo until we could check in to the hotel at 4pm. So off we drove HWSNBN and I in one car, his mum, sister and her husband in the other. It was the oddest feeling as soon as I arrived at the Elvetham the night before, the tension started to seep from my bones. It wasn’t so much that wedding zen came over me, more than I got intensely excited. It would all be OK. I knew it the way you know your name and the feel of the ground beneath my feet. Paradoxically, it was now that HWSNBN, who had been calm all week, began to freak out. It was like we had a deal. Only one of us could be nervous at one time and it was FINALLY his turn to be It. As I said goodbye to HWSNBN we both had to fight the urge to cry. We wouldn’t see each other again until I walked down the aisle.

When my parents moved to Brighton mixed in with the happiness/trepidation at them being closer was sadness. We moved to the Farnham house when I was ten so it was never my childhood home. But I lived there longer than anywhere else. Falling asleep in my corner bedroom to the trees creaking I’d dream I was on a ship. When HWSNBN and I started dating I was living there, chafing at being back home after the freedom of University.

In my head when I imagined the morning of our wedding I always saw myself waking up in my old bed staring up at the plastic luminescent stars on the ceiling and knowing that today was the day I was getting married. That did not happen and it was for the best. If I had got ready at home I would have been stressed out trying to find everything. Cramming hair stylists and make up artists in amongst the clutter would have wound me up. I would arrived at the venue hours early worrying that something would happen to delay us en route. For my psychological well-being there was something about the emptiness of a hotel room that I craved, free from any ties to the past.

When I checked in the guy at reception asked me if I wanted to stay in the bridal suite the night before the wedding, for free. ‘Some brides don’t want to stay in the bridal suite without their husband.’ Reader, I was not one of those brides. The bridal suite was the most luxurious room I had ever stayed in with beautiful views over the grounds and space for us all to get ready in. I felt like a princess in my tower room gazing out over my kingdom. I unpacked laying out my jewellery and toiletries for the next day.

My family took me out for a picnic at Waverley Abbey where HWSNBN proposed, where I played growing up and my favourite place in the world. The weather was worsening, it had been raining torrentially all day but as we sat among the ruins and drank champagne it felt blissful to just spend time with my family. Dodging the rain we went out for dinner and back to the Elvetham for a bit of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Yes, I have the best family in the world and no, you can’t have them. (Pictured below minus Daddy January who was taking the photo.)

I couldn’t sleep so I sat in that big bed all by myself and surfed the internet. I could hear the music from the other wedding beneath us and the adrenaline was pumping through my system. I called HWSNBN. He couldn’t sleep either and had been taken out by his cousins to the pub. Halfway through our conversation I noticed it was past midnight. ‘We’re getting married today.’ We kept whispering to each other like a promise. It was finally here.

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