Monday, 10 September 2012

one year ago

Our first wedding anniversary was one year and one week ago today.

Since that wonderful, beautiful day on the blustery hill we have moved several hundred miles away from where we used to call home. We are buying a home of our own - a tiny house in this still-strange city.

People that I barely knew a year ago are now good friends, for which I have the internet and blogging to thank.

And the wedding, our wedding, seems unreal - like a vague memory of a movie we once saw. Remembering it, I have a huge feeling of happiness - but with an edge of sadness because it was so wonderful, and because it won't happen again. That day was soaked in giddy love and warmth. But it feels OK that the detail memories are starting to fade. It's leaving behind what matters.

I still feel sad that there are now people that are a part of my life (many of whom I met through blogging and Twitter) that weren't there at the wedding. I feel sad too that people that I became so close to through the wedding are now so far away.

My dress is hanging in the wardrobe, wrapped with an Ikea duvet cover and still wearing the mud from the farm. I know I should get it cleaned and encased in a box, but I feel sentimental about that mud, much more so than I do about the dress. The mud is fun and real. The beautiful dress is better for it. I like seeing the wrapped up Ikea duvet dress it in the wardrobe, brushing past it and sometimes feeling the weight of the skirt and touching the lace at the back. It's better there than in a box in an attic.

I always meant to post more photographs up here - of the mad, mad dancing at the end of the night; the raucous party that followed the genteel ceremony. But as time passed, it seemed less important to share it and more important to preserve it for ourselves.

I'd guess that it's obvious that this blog has run its natural course. I might pop by and update from time to time, but I'll be mostly over at This Glimmering World - my other blog.

This blog won't disappear, so you can still read all about it if it takes your fancy. And you can still contact me through all the channels if you want to - I still check them.  I'm also still @cakesandbunting on Twitter for now, though may change it to reflect the new blog name soon. I'm always excited to hear from new people or answer any questions.

All that remains is for me to say an enormous thank you to everyone that read this blog; commented, supported, helped, advised - and in some cases, even became friends. Part of what made the wedding and the planning so amazing was finding this supportive, wonderful community that welcomed me in with open arms. Thank you all for taking the time to help out a stranger. I can only hope that I've ever had the chance to help you in return.

Monday, 20 February 2012

the ceremony on the hill

I walked downstairs, followed by Liv, my mum, Hannah the photographer, Adam the videographer and Carly and Kim. I could see people in the garden through the window - Liv was right, everyone was there - and then stepped outside.

A weird moment - it's just you, facing 80 people, most of whom have cameras. I stood for a second embarrassed and laughing before suggesting we make our way to the tractor. On we got, and off we went.

Up the hill, everything was ready. On hearing the tractor approach, Jon and his brother (as best man) had hid, and while everyone took their seats on hay bales, I stood in the forest with my dad at the back of the aisle looking at Tom, the friend that would marry us. Dad asked if I was ready. Jon's brother was in charge of the music, and when we heard it start, we walked in...

Photos as ever mostly by the genius Hannah Dornford-May, with a couple by friends and family thrown in

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


When we got back to the farm, J and I posed for a couple of photos by the car, and then parted. I met the hair and make up ladies, who had been having a cuppa while waiting for me, and we went up to the room.

I hadn't realised the importance of this time - the reason there are so many photos of people getting ready when you see wedding photos online. There aren't many rituals in life now, especially for the non-religious. But this time - I felt the weight of ritual; the importance of what we were doing. I felt like I was taking part in something significant and old. Most of these hours were spent quietly, with only some music on at the very end. I enjoyed the quiet very much.

My mum and J's mum had their make up done while my hair was put in rollers, and then I was made up and dressed.  Best ladies popped in and out with logistical questions and moral support - and also with a big bag of snacks. I love the photo of everyone looking at the photo album (a gift from hen party friends with photos and words from each, given to me by best lady G the night before to read "once you're in bed, before you go to sleep") and tucking in.

My friend A, who was doing a reading in the ceremony, came up with a sixpence for my shoe. My lovely auntie came up and cried and hugged me over and over.

Hannah the photographer came and went, as did Adam the videographer, documenting this quiet time. Eventually, all best ladies came and said that it was time for them to go up the hill, to string some bunting a few minutes ahead of time. I asked one of them, Liv, to stay with me.

When I had been helped into my dress and my veil had been pinned on, Liv bought up my flowers and dried them off. "Do you want to see yourself in the mirror?" asked the hair lady. I hadn't even considered what I looked like, with no big mirror in the room, I'd only seen my face. I went to the mirror in the corridor and stood silently for a few seconds.

That was me, sure enough. Cool dress, great hair, lovely make up. Incredible flowers. Veil, shoes, the works. I looked like a pretty awesome version of me. I said only one word...


And everyone in the room, who had evidently been holding their collective breaths in silence, started laughing. "We thought you'd started crying," said the hair lady. My dad came up to see me, and I remembered to put the sixpence in my shoe (where it promptly fell out, and was reinstalled in the bouquet).

Someone suggested that it was time to go down. "Is there anyone down there?" I asked, suddenly wondering if the guests had arrived. Liv looked at me and laughed again: "Claire, everyone is down there!"

The credits 

Make up: Carly at Another Little World in Yeovil in Somerset - uses only natural mineral make up. Brilliant brilliant brilliant. And also so sweet, lovely - such wonderful company during that time. She even bought me a little present - a wooden heart with the word 'love' on it which she left for us to find after the wedding.

Hair was by Kim Lane of Signature Hair in Somerset. Now she doesn't have a website and all I have is an email address and phone number, which I'm not sure I should put online. So if you want a brilliant hairdresser based in Somerset, drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with her.

The dress was by the wonderful wonderful House of Mooshki, and as you know, was won in their incredible Christmas 2011 competition, in association with Love My Dress. Gratitude does not cover it. I love them.

Flowers by Marsh Mallow Flower Design, also in Somerset. Aren't they goddamnned awesome? Bec at Marshmallow is a genius.

And as ever, all photos by the genius Hannah Dornford-May

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

the register office

The legal bit was done. We didn't exchange rings, but just had a simple ceremony with family in attendance. Mums and dads, siblings and a few aunts and uncles. It was quick and fun and informal. I wore the shawl my mum had made. I couldn't stop giggling throughout, and on the way back, Jon and I scooted around the country lanes of Somerset, singing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros 'Home', all the way. The excitement proper was about to begin...

All photographs by Hannah Dornford-May

the morning - the second part

After the restorative cup of tea, I threw on last nights clothes and ran down to breakfast. That thing about brides not eating did not apply to me. One bowl of cereal, half a danish, half a croissant and three pieces of toast later, I ran back upstairs to get dressed before J came down (we had co-ordinated times to eat so we didn't see each other). On the way out, I clocked J's beloved old red car - a 16 year old VW Polo - festooned with ribbons and balloons, with a crooked 'Just Married' in the back window. I would later find out that he'd done it at 7am, unable to sleep, and that my best lady had helped him when his unsteady hands struggled to write on the window.

I pulled on dress number 1 - the short 1960s job that I'd managed to find at a vastly reduced price in an outlet store. A beautiful Kaliko lace dress that made me a feel a teensy bit like I should have kohl eyeliner and an unsuitable mod boyfriend. I put on the viking necklace that J had given me two weeks before, and my gran's 'something blue' - a necklace of Derbyshire bluejohn given to her by my stepgrandad. And with that, my charm bracelet - given as a Christening gift by an aunt and godmother, and added to every year. That's it in the top picture.

I felt the weight of ritual, that it was important to wear these things. I wore the dress with a comfy pair of peep toe shoes, and just as I was about to leave the room, realised I had no flowers. I grabbed two gerberas from a bouquet sent by a client and bought down the day before (shame to leave them at home) and wrapped them in a spare bit of lace I'd bought for something else and not ultimately needed.

Then with my mum and dad nagging me to hurry up (some things never change) we hot-footed it to the car, so that they could drive me to the register office.

the morning - the first part

The morning of our wedding was much odder than I expected. I had gone to sleep late, but didn't wake until my mum, who had probably been awake for hours, knocked at my door with a shawl I know she had spent months making.

Inside was a short note, with handwriting that got more crabbed as the carefully considered words made their way through. She quoted 'Poem for a daughter' by Anne Stevenson, which she had read years ago, and said: "I've never had you, as you still have me, Claire"

Poem for a Daughter

“I think I’m going to have it,”
I said, joking between pains.
The midwife rolled competent
sleeves over corpulent milky arms.
“Dear, you never have it,
we deliver it.”
A judgment years prove true.
Certainly I’ve never had you

as you still have me, Caroline.
Why does a mother need a daughter?
Heart’s needle, hostage to fortune,
freedom’s end. Yet nothing’s more perfect
than that bleating, razor-shaped cry
that delivers a mother to her baby.
The bloodcord snaps that held
their spheres together. The child,
tiny and alone, creates the mother.

A woman’s life is her own
until it is taken away
by a first particular cry.
Then she is not alone
but part of the premises
of everything there is:
a time, a tribe, a war.
When we belong to the world
we become what we are.

Anne Stevenson

We sat on the bed - me still in my pyjamas, and my mum in tears, holding me. And then she went, as mums are wont to do, to make me a cup of tea. I felt quite tiny and yet quite old at the same time.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

the night before and the tale of the smashed cake

The most beautiful sky

I don't know if you'll agree with me or not, but I feel that this blog is more than just a place for pretty pictures. I like to tell stories, and so alongside the pictures I'll be choosing the most interesting bits of the day to tell you about. I promise to try and keep it entertaining.

We arrived at our venue, Huntstile Organic Farm in Somerset, the day before the wedding. Our little old red VW was jammed to the rafters with stuff. It had been a fairly eventful drive down with two small mishaps - a misunderstanding about the presence of hay bales at the ceremony space, and J's parents forgetting the confetti.

At this point, I had given up. I didn't want to kick up a fuss for either thing; to be a b****zilla. I was going to let both go. Then, both times, J took the phone off me and did something that no woman to be could ever do, lest the evil B word be used. He politely but in a firm, no nonsense fashion got the hay bales sorted. And to his mum, who was only a little way from London but almost in tears at the confetti incident, told her it would be OK, but it was one of our main decorations and we had made litres of the stuff, so they did have to go back and get it. It would only add an hour onto their journey. (We weren't to know that they were driving at 50... and it added two and a half...)

So we arrived at the venue something magic happened. I felt pretty much all stress leave my body. I felt calm and capable. I had two dresses. I had J. All I was worried about was everyone arriving safely.

And slowly, people began to arrive. And those usual day-before things got done. Bunting was hung (we had twice as much as we needed). Things were set on tables. Hair trial. Make up trial (left until this last minute because I had to find new people at short notice).

And then, while I was having my nails painted, my mum came into the room.

Mum: Don't freak out, but something's happened.
Me: [thinking the worst: motorway pile ups, child fallen off trampoline in garden, ambulances] What? What is it?
Mum: It's the cake. It's a bit... smashed.
Me: Oh thank god. Is it stil edible?

All I could think was: phew. It's just a cake. I promised L (best lady and courageous bringer of cake) that I wouldn't care if something happened to it. I knew whatever it was wouldn't be her fault. More than the cake, I needed to find her (my mum having told me she was very upset) and tell her it was OK.

Then the amazing wedding organiser and farmer's partner Lizzie came into the room.

Lizzie: So your cake. It really is quite trashed. I need to tell you that before you see it. I guess everyone here is telling you it's OK but honestly... it's not... you should prepare yourself. But I've got a friend who might be able to fix it. So I'll call her, you go and look and we'll think of a solution.

I still didn't care. I was starting to find it a little bit funny. Hey the cake got trashed! If this was the worst thing that happened, we'd be OK. It would be a funny story.

Here's the cake:

It's wrong how hungry this makes me

That's the victoria sponge cake layer there. On top were to be carrot cake, and green tea, ginger and vanilla. My god, it smelt amazing. Still, despite a tiny stomach flip when the box was undone (it does look a little surprisingly smashed, no doubt about it), nothing could shake the calm - the same one that descended as soon as we arrived. That was it. It had happened. Never mind. The top two layers were less smashed. We could still put those on the table to cut in case anyone cared about the photos. Done. Move on. It's just cake.

L had been hugged and reassured as much as humanly possible. It was a freak accident. Just the extreme heat of the car. No one could have done anything differently. I could tell she still felt awful but I meant it. Not her fault.

So we went for dinner - delicious dinner, beef stew and then chocolate bread and butter pudding, catered by the farm. We sat upstairs in an old barn and got rather tipsy and then both parents brought out huge albums and packets of awful baby and child photos of J and I. Such a lovely evening. At some point. Lizzie's amazing mate arrived and began working on the cake in another building - I believed that she was patching up what she could.

Do I look like a girl worried about cake?

The next morning, as we ate breakfast, Lizzie invited me into the kitchen to see the cake. All decorations and icing had been removed and then carefully reapplied. The entire cake was re-iced and redecorated, and the bottom layer was an iced cake tin. The smashed layer would stay out the back and be served up - no one would be any the wiser.

And this is the cake we had the next day:

I know. That's pretty awesome, right? It was returned to every bit of its former glory - you would never know a thing (unless you tried to eat the base.) It turned out Lizzie's mate was actually a professional baker. Her forte? Rude cakes. As Lizzie put it "ladies in bikinis and corsets for stag parties and men's bums." What a brilliant woman. They had stayed up until almost 3am, drinking sloe gin, gossiping and redecorating.

The credits

The baker par excellence was Victoria Glass. The cake collapse was not Victoria's fault in any way. She did everything right and bless her, even offered to make us another cake as a gesture - even though it really wasn't her fault, just the extreme extreme heat and a very unexpectedly long car trip.

Her cakes are DELICIOUS of the highest order. Her flavour list is incredible (peanut butter and jelly wedding cake? No problem!) - and when you book her, you get a CAKE TASTING which will be one of the greatest afternoons you will ever have. Before we found Victoria (she did our friends' wedding cake) we weren't going to have a cake at all. That's how good she was - converted a couple of non-wedding cake fans into buying a pretty bloody big, awesome cake. I only ever wanted a tasty cake and I've said it before, but even the smell was intoxicating. I could have put my face into that smashed up bottom tier. Best. Cake. Ever.

The cake fixer was a lady by the name of Kate Legg. Now I can't find a thing about her online, but if you ever want a rude cake in the Somerset region, I suggest you call Hunstile Farm and ask Lizzie to call Kate.

All photos, bar the last one, are taken by friends and family. The last photo is by the wonderful photographer Hannah Dornford-May. More of hers to come...!