Sunday, 27 February 2011


Ladies and gents (but really, I'm thinking mostly ladies), I have a guest list question or possibly even a slight dilemma.

Workmates. I like mine. But I don't really see them outside work. They're not friends, or not yet - they're colleagues. Good colleagues, but still colleagues.

I work in a small office and there are eight of us. One works part time and won't be invited, but will be fine with that. But the others - I'm still left with six colleagues. One's the boss, and we know her partner so he'll need to be invited. One other has a partner I know. Three others have partners but I don't know them and if we get the invitations out soon we can get away with just those two plus ones. So that's eight invitations. Out of 85 guests. That is, let's say, a large proportion. A huge proportion, in fact.

However - they are all very excited for me and I think I should invite them. Discussions with my best ladies this evening began with, "don't invite them if you're not sure, save the money" to, 'it'll be more trouble than it's worth if you don't invite them," and, "at least they are a discrete group and can look after themselves." There it is: the wisdom of crowds. I should invite them.

But as with this wedding, if you come, you're there for the lot: ceremony and evening event. However - something about saying the vows in front of my colleagues makes me feel uncomfortable. These aren't people that know us intimately, and barely know J at all. Two have just worked there for two months so far.

As I type this, the solution is starting to seem obvious - invite them to arrive after the ceremony. But everyone else would be arriving before - with just colleagues there later. Am I being daft? Does it matter if they are there for the ceremony or not? I'd even need to print them special invitations.

In an ideal world, I'd invite them and half would politely decline. But isn't it wrong to invite people who you secretly hope won't turn up?

Friday, 25 February 2011

the should haves

How naive I was to think I'd be immune from this. The 'should haves' have started and coming at the same time as a couple of other things, it's been a rather stressful week.

In a week when my tiny baby nephew was taken very ill indeed (as in - on a ventilator in intensive care ill - but he's ok now, almost ready to come home) I ended up getting the 'should haves' from people about the provision of savoury snackfoods at the wedding.

W. T. F.

To provide some background: by last weekend, it was clear that my little nephew was improving, about to come off the ventilator. We couldn't visit (200 miles away and visitors not really allowed - especially as I had a cold), but didn't fancy going out much - we were exhausted from work and the stress. So we finally, finally took a proper look at the budget. We also went for our cake tasting. And we worked out a plan for the day.

At this point, we realised that:

1. We were due to go over budget
2. We would be feeding people afternoon tea a mere two hours before dinner and then two hours later, cheese and cake. There would be too much food.
3. The cake would be amazing. We'd hate for it to be not really eaten at 10 o'clock at night when people were already stuffed and drinking and didn't really want it.

The new plan emerged: instead of afternoon tea, we'd serve the wedding cake in the afternoon with a glass of prosecco and that would tide people over until dinner. Trouble is we've already paid for part of the food, including the afternoon tea. Would it be too late to change plans?

Thankfully it wasn't officially too late to change. Though the lady at the wedding venue - who is amazing, btw - started the should haves first. Clearly losing several hundred pounds isn't good for her, but it's essential for us.

She told us we would need to tell our guests IN ADVANCE that they would not be eating until the evening. Our guests are arriving at about 1.30 - when I have arrived at weddings at that time, I certainly have not expected lunch and dinner. And they WOULD be eating - a great hunk of cake!

And then she said that people would expect a sweet option alongside the cheese later that night. Now since when did people expect anything of the sort? I've been to weddings. People aren't all that hungry in the evening most of the time unless they ate lunch or an early dinner at 4 or something. Anyway, we can justify an extra 20 portions of cake if we don't have afternoon tea - there will be leftovers. But also - people will be eating a huge meal with pudding. They might not want any cheese or cake at all.

And my mum, bless her, then did it too, suggesting that people may not want sweet things in the afternoon and we should have a savoury option. Which has resulted in us relenting and agreeing to have some bowls of crisps, nuts and maybe olives too, or some small savoury bits. But I really don't want people stuffed for dinner.

And then on top of everything, the friend doing our ceremony went AWOL. Well, not totally - we knew he was alive as he'd been on Facebook, but he didn't answer our calls or return our texts. We started to panic, thinking this was a repeat of the photographer situation - where he'd realised he couldn't do the ceremony but didn't know how to tell us. I spent yesterday morning with a knot in my stomach trying to think of what else we could do, or who else could do it, and getting really upset as it was so out of character for him.

Then, thank god, he emailed to say that he'd been moving flat at short notice and he'd had a deadline and it had all just come at once. And that he was really sorry, and that of course he'd still love to do the ceremony. PHEW.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

the dreams

I'd heard about the wedding anxiety dreams.

But until now, I'd had just the one dream about the wedding and it had been hilariously relaxed. I'd dreamt that we'd had to move the wedding and had just two weeks to organise everything.

We'd changed the venue, bought a cake from some little bakers, got me a Monsoon dress, gone to the offie and bought a tonne of booze and it had worked out great. In my dream, I was walking around the grounds of some big old house (which in my mind, was a hybrid of a National Trust house I'd been to some time ago with my favourite park in London, Gunnersbury Park). I had some cake and a glass of something in my hand and was watching J play cricket with our friends while everyone stood talking and laughing and the sun was shining and the dream version of me was thinking 'well, this turned out pretty well, considering'.

I woke up feeling pretty chuffed with myself, despite having only actually dreamt that I was a kickass organiser and super-relaxed. HAHAHA.

Then last night, I had another dream. In this dream, the florist (who isn't being totally responsive on email at the moment - she's fab, but she took a month to confirm she'd got a deposit) had forgotten the date. We had forgotten to write a ceremony, vows and to basically do anything. I seem to remember we also forgot to send invitations (may have something to do with the real life email problems with our card supplier - I got confirmation of my expensive card order four days after placing it and having the money leave our account - a failure their end apparently).

In this dream, I was standing in a side room with J and our friend who is doing the ceremony, desperately trying to write the thing in three minutes. We had to go and try and find flowers for the tables. No one had a suit and all our guests were just standing around and wondering what to do and where to go.

I really don't want to be one of these people that gets stressed about things. But my brain seems to have other ideas.

Friday, 11 February 2011

why we're spending money on our wedding

We should know better. Every time an article about spending any sort of money on weddings appears in the press, we read it and agonise over it. This one appeared today. We’re already blogging about it.

And worse than reacting – we read the comments below the articles, where folk hold an informal competition to prove that they are more down to earth and spent less than the next person. Then we get wildly and incoherently upset at the criticism. It’s like the Four Yorkshiremen sketch:

“We just went to the register office and then had a drink in the garden. It was good enough for us – why isn’t it good enough for you? Everyone said our wedding was the best!”

“Well in my day, we had got a single cocktail sausage and they only gave us half a pint of Strongbow. Now THAT was a wedding!”

For God’s sake. It makes me admire the Gypsy tradition of telling everyone that what you spent on anything is none of your goddamned business. Because really, it isn’t.

Let’s get this straight. A wedding is a luxury purchase unless you literally just go to the register office and spend nothing else. Albeit a luxury purchase with a little more meaning than a £500 handbag. It’s like a car, or a holiday, or a gap year, or a house. You spend what you want, and what you can.

So I thought I might tell you why we decided to spend money on our wedding. Why we might want to do such a thing. Not what we are spending, but why we are spending it.

It’s a lot of money. But it’s not £21k. It won’t be as much as the £12k spent in the Guardian article. But we’re definitely spending money on it.

Before we were engaged, I thought we’d keep costs down to a minimum. I thought, in my head, we might spend about £3-5k as an absolute maximum. Spending money on something - or not - does not confer significance.

But when we started to look into it, we realised that for this money, we could have a tiny wedding out of town, or stay here in London and book a local restaurant.

But neither of us really wanted that. We have parties like that all the time and they are fun. It would have been good, I’m sure. It just wasn’t what we really wanted.

But we thought about it. What did we want? To be outdoors. Being outdoors makes us happier than anything. Probably not to be in London. Not to get stressed. And to celebrate with lots of people we care about. Music, a hogroast. Some booze. Lovely.

We found an amazing place to get married and worked out how much it would cost for everything. It was more than £5k. But less than £12k.

That was the choice. The wedding we both wanted, or a cheaper thing that would suffice.

Would we spend the money?

It is a lot of money, there’s absolutely no denying it. We’ve never spend as much on anything. We never had gap years, either of us. We don’t own a house. We travel rarely and frugally. And before anyone says anything about a house deposit – where we live, we’d need at least three times this much to buy anywhere, plus liquid cash to pay solicitors. And we don’t want to buy because it just doesn’t suit us right now and won’t for a few years. Yes we could save the money for some indeterminate point in the future. But we could also get hit by a bus tomorrow, or watch house prices rise even further out of reach.

When we got betrothed, we decided on a long engagement so we could save money and I could lose weight (something that was already underway), so we worked out that we would have time to save.

When we told people we were engaged, our parents also made it clear that they wanted to help – we never ever asked for a penny and did protest. But they are excited, and it turns out they’ve been planning for it. They wanted to give money, despite all our reassurances that we were fine.

So we started to think that maybe we could do this. Maybe we could have this amazing, once in a lifetime party.

And the fact remains: if you want to invite a lot of people to your wedding and feed them, you will have to spend money. Because food costs money. And unless you are unemployed or have lots of friends who are willing to spend loads of time making food, this is the way it is.

I read all the time about people who had amazing DIY weddings, DIY-ing their food, having the party in someone’s garden. Well, let me tell you about the people I know. They all have jobs. Their gardens, if they have them, are tiny. They might fit a BBQ for 10 at a push.

I can almost read the comments now. What’s the matter – wouldn’t you be satisfied with a BBQ for 10? Are you an attention-seeker? Do you demand everyone plays a little part in your big charade of a day? Isn’t a wedding just between the two of you?

Well no, it’s not. A wedding is a party because of you, but it’s a day for lots of people. A day for your parents and friends. You might be the reason for it, but it isn’t YOUR day. I don’t feel I have the prerogative to demand that people pull together and take days off work (oh yes, I have a full time job and I work on the side as do most friends) in order to make couscous salad for 1000. We want to throw them a party because we like them, because this is one time we justifiably can, and ask very little in return.

There’s no denying we are lucky. There is also no denying that we want this, and have worked hard for it because it matters to us. We don’t judge people who buy a £10k new car that is worthless mere minutes after purchased. This day will never be worthless. We are spending money because we deem it to matter to us, much more than some shoddy flat in zone five, much more than a swanky new car.

I would never dare to judge someone who got married for £20. I wouldn’t judge someone who spent money on their dream car or on an amazing trip away. That’s why we are spending money on our wedding. But whatever you spend on your wedding is no business of anyone else.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

an update for you

So I realise I haven't talked about the practical stuff for a while. It might be useful for some of you, or just good form to let you know how everything is going.

We have got a date booked in to taste cake. I'll be putting all the suppliers up here after the wedding (gotta keep up that anonymity) but suffice to say I am damned excited about this and have to choose flavours today. We’re thinking carrot cake, some sort of apple cake and the third layer either fruit or a wildcard.

I have got some dates in to go and try on wedding dresses, which I need to do so I know what to tell Mooshki when I see them in the summer. One day is in London, and with the ma and ma in law, and the second is in my hometown with my ma and sister in law. I will emerge the other side with a fully formed idea of what the hell I’m going to wear and hopefully without a stress-related migrane.

Invitations are underway. We are going to Hobbycraft to buy card for invitations and then all we have to do is design the RSVP card and info sheet, print the invitations, glue the shit out of them, write them all, put them all in envelopes, put stamps on the RSVP cards, write the envelopes (getting all the addresses first, of course). And then set up a spreadsheet so we can see who replied. No sweat.

These have been a bigger ballache than they should have been in all honesty, because like all good DIY brides, I looked to Martha and bought a paper punch. Then I got the printers to print samples. But they only have 100gsm paper or 300gsm card. Martha’s wonderpunch can only cope with about 210gsm. But the reply postcard will need to be 300gsm or it won’t survive the post. So I need matching card in both weights, plus some nice transparent vellum for the info sheet to give to the printers. They can’t order it themselves because the minimum trade order is £90. I don’t need that much card.

So when I say ‘invitations are underway’ – I mean purely in my head or a theoretical sense.

Oh, and I bought envelopes, so in fact, some small part of the invitations now actually exists.

Operation jam and chutney is also well underway. This is where my mum and mum in law and maybe also me if necessary (but these women are jam and chutney MACHINES so this may not be necessary) make a pot of jam or chutney for every adult present. We tie their names onto them and they are sort of favours too. This is 85-90 jars, but I think my mum is already well past 20 (piccalilli, marmalade and whiskey marmalade) and J’s mum normally has about 150 jars of various allotment specials in her pantry. I’m sure this is an indie wedding cliché now but you may guess that I couldn’t give a toss. I love chutney and jam and why not work with your strengths? Or in my case, the maternal strengths.

My mum is also going massive on the bunting. She's made about 150 flags so far and is ordering industrial rolls of tape from eBay to string it along.

The venue is booked, the hair and makeup person is booked, the band is booked and the florist is booked. The venue does the food, so that’s all good. I’ve got the corkage costs secured and a wine merchant who will deliver. The venue and food are two thirds paid for and a wedding website with info is about 80 per cent done.

The honeymoon is probably about half booked (still missing many crucial details, like how we get there and some nights where we have no roof over our head. This weekend should sort them.) The register office is booked (after much begging). And as you all know, we have sorted out the photographer.

Oh, and even though I know nothing about it, I am having a hen do in a couple of months’ time. I won’t know anything about it either, until the time I turn up.

What does that leave?

Actual dress and little white dress for register office
Going to the town hall to declare our intention to marry
Suit for man/maybe also best man
Honeymoon account
Write ceremony and vows
Dress shopping with best ladies
Seating plan

I must have missed stuff. What have I forgotten?

Monday, 7 February 2011

a post about changing my name - or not

It's hard to say when this got so complicated. I think it's just one of the many things that I hadn't considered until we got engaged. I'd always maybe thoought that I'd just keep my name, and that would be fine.

Except there are several reasons why it won't be fine.

J would love it if I took his name. His family would too.

My mum even wants me to change my name.

And I want to be of one name, when we are a family. J won't change his name - not to mine, or not to a third option.

But if I change my name, what will people think of me?

At work, people assume I won't change and that I would be betraying something essential to myself (office contains many feminists (myself included), divorcees/children of divorcees) and their experiences have shaped their opinions, which are obviously all very good points.

We visited Iceland last year, and I learned about their naming system, whereby the children take their father's first name as part of their surname. So David's son James would be James Davidsson.

David's son Jane would be Jane Davidsdottir. In some progressive families, some children take their mum's name as part of their first name. But it's not standard.

When women become wives in Iceland, they don't change their name. But their family lineage most often passes down without any part of their name in it. This is how they trace their family back to the founding Vikings and they are very proud indeed of how they can do this.

I won't pass on my name to any children. We're a patrilineal society in Britain, and that's just how it works. They will take J's surname. That's how we keep records and trace ancestry.

And in a way, what would my family be, without my father's name? I currently have a man's name - my father's - and his father's, and his father's, until the time we hopped off a boat and landed in this country (I have a very old, very unique surname. But so does J.)

In the balance of things, I may take his name. One of us has to give if we want to be a family. But you know what worries me most?

The thought that people will think I just took his name, without a second's consideration. I am making a conscious decision. I am a feminist. But it won't look like that to many people.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

dress shopping

Even though I was lucky enough to win my wedding dress, I must be one of the only engaged ladies in the world who hasn't at least tried one of the blooming things on. Ever. And because I'll need to know what to ask for from the lovely people who will make it, I'm definitely going to have to go dress shopping.

Except I think there must be something wrong with me. After a bad first experience in a dress shop, I thought I'd got over it - I would only go to nice shops. But visiting two of these stores with their kind and helpful staff the other day - and not even trying on a dress - brought me out in an almost physical panic.

So last weekend, I took the first steps down the road of mental preparation for dress shopping. I booked some appointments at a couple of shops for a few weeks' time and then, with my Mum, went into a couple of different shops to browse.

The second I walked in to shop number one, I had an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach, It was as if I was about to go on stage, aged seven, for my debut as a snowflake in the school play. It was so close to excitement - those lovely butterflies - but it wasn't nice.

The place was a bunfight - people were hauling dresses from racks, cramming themselves into unforgiving gold satin bridesmaid frocks and cooing, all of them cooing. In the whole shop, there might have been two dresses that I could have envisaged myself wearing - the rest just made me feel odd, a little bit sweaty and shaky. I felt slightly queasy.

In the second store, the room had four special corners, like stages, where brides could stand in their large white confections and stare at themselves in a dozen angled mirrors simultaneously. One girl was standing there, on the verge of tears, surrounded by middle-aged relatives who were all asking again and again, "Is this the one, d'y'think? Is it? Is this the one?' She just kept dumbly nodding and squeaking.

I left feeling wobbly. I've got to deal with the fact that there is a day booked soon when I will be the one in the dress. I really want that day to be fun. I really need to get over this.