Our next wedding graduate is my dear friend Cate Subrosa of Project Subrosa (formerly of What Guilty And Baddie did next). Cate got married in the late fall, and wrote this post after reading and taking to heart the last crop of wedding graduates thoughts. So, because of that, she gave extra care and thought to these words, knowing the weight that they might have for all of us as yet un-married. As I was blogging this wedding I noticed, somehow even more poignantly than with other weddings, that what really mattered was not the cute or clever details but the emotions. Before I turn it over to Cate, I just want to say that not only is Cate a wedding graduate, soon she’s going to graduate into parenthood, and I wish her, her beloved Nate, and their teeny tiny bundle of joy every single happiness in the world. One day their child will treasure each of these pictures, delighting in the evident joy on their parents faces.
The traditional British wedding takes place in the early afternoon on a (hopefully beautiful) spring or summer’s day. When my husband and I got engaged on Christmas Eve 2007, we immediately knew that an all-day affair in a country house, beautiful though it could be, was not right for us. Firstly, summer 2008 felt too soon and spring 2009 too far away. Secondly, if you get married at one or two o’clock in the afternoon, and you intend for the party to go on all night as we did, you have to feed your guests twice, which makes the whole affair a lot more expensive.
So with the help of my best girlfriend, in the back of a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, we hatched a plan for a late afternoon winter wedding. We would be married at 4pm and have dinner at 6pm, then serve the cake at 9pm when our guests might be getting peckish again. It would be cold and dark outside, and dinner would be held in a room filled with candles.
Lots of couples choose to get married at their favourite time of year, but I saw the wedding as an opportunity to brighten that dark time when the clocks have gone back and months of dark evenings lay ahead of us. We settled on 8th November, six weeks before Christmas with the sun due to set at 4:30pm. As I expected it to be, the weather was perfectly terrible, but without it we never would have got photos like this.
The last thing we knew was that we wanted to get married in the city where we live. My husband was born here, I’ve lived here since I was 12 years old, we are very lucky that most of our family are here, and this is where we intend to raise our children. Also, the town hall has a beautiful regsister office, which just happens to be right by the sea. (I love being reminded of our wedding day every time I pass that part of town.)
Although I never thought about it much at the time, I suppose I stayed sane by never really considering veering from this plan. I had a clear vision, trusted my instincts and went with what felt right. For example, we only looked at one reception venue. I was walking along the seafront with my brother’s girlfriend one day and she said, “let’s see if this hotel has a function room.” It did, it was the right size and shape, and the prices were reasonable. People asked me if I didn’t feel like I should look around more, but I just thought, “We’re having a party there, not buying the place.”
So, with the plan in place, we got onto the details.
Deciding on the guest list was very simple. The room in which we were to be married had a capacity of 50, which felt like a good number to us anyway. We counted up our immediate family, our very best friends, some extended but close family on my side, some special family friends on his side, and hit the magic number. We had always planned to have a big party in the evening and this allowed us to include everyone with whom we wanted to celebrate, while keeping the ceremony and dinner intimate.
I am very fortunate to have five siblings, all of whom were very happy to help out wherever they could. I asked one of my brothers to be my best man, and in the event he performed a day-of-co-ordination-type role, as well as organising the music (to which we’ll come back). Another of my brothers, with the help of his girlfriend, was responsible for showing people where to go. My eldest brother collected and helped to set up the sound system, toasted us as we cut the cake and announced our first dance.
I asked my little sister to be my best woman, and she really was my right-hand lady all the way through the planning process and on the day itself. Finally we asked my elder sister to be master of ceremonies, to organise and introduce the speeches and make the other necessary announcements.
My colleague kindly offered to design our wedding invitations and my mother-in-law addressed the envelopes. My elder sister made my bouquet, a boutonniere for my husband, and two wrist corsages for her and my other sister, and tied all the nametags around the serviettes with ribbon. My mum made the cake and decorated it with the help of my aunt.
I wore an Alvina Valenta bridesmaid’s dress in ivory. I had touches of midnight blue in my jewellery, birdcage, bouquet handle and (after a slight costume change pre-dinner) a ribbon hanging down my back. I bought my best woman’s dress in the same colour on eBay and she bought her own shoes and shrug. My husband wore a suit he already owned, but treated himself to a made-to-measure shirt. I don’t think it every crossed my mind to tell anyone else what to wear. Somehow my mum, sisters and I always end up wearing complimentary clothes anyway, especially for special occasions, and this was no exception.
We kept the invitations simple and put the rest of the information on a website. This included a request for song choices to be sent to my brother. I had read the scare stories about iPod weddings, but I knew I could trust my brother to sort it out and the music was fantastic. He spent days working on the line-up and was there with his laptop at 10am on the morning of the wedding, checking everything. In my opinion no DJ could compete with this set-up, as we had friends and family coming up to us on the dance floor all night saying things like, “ I chose this one! Remember when we danced to it at that party…?” Oh, and they danced all night too.
Lastly, I had an idea to do the speeches slightly differently. Traditionally, the father of the bride, the groom and the best man make the speeches, and increasingly, the bride will say a few words too. But this still didn’t feel right to me, this patriarchal tradition of the men holding the floor while the women sit there looking pretty. I had already redressed the balance somewhat by asking my sister to be master of ceremonies and I was planning to say a few words myself, but, without putting anyone under any pressure to speak, we wanted to open it up. So we asked anyone who was brave enough to make a short speech.
Two weeks before the wedding, it was looking like no one was going to take us up on our offer. But then, by the time the day came, we had eight speakers: me, my husband, his best man, my best man, my best woman, an old friend of mine from school, my mum and my dad! And then, just when we thought the last person had spoken and we could laugh nor cry no more, my sister-in-law’s boyfriend, the best man’s mum and my mother-in-law all made impromptu speeches!
It’s true what they say: the details you remember from your wedding will having nothing to do with any of the silly little decisions you have to make during the planning process.
I expected to cry during the ceremony. In fact, the only thing making me nervous was the fear that I was going to cry the whole way through it and not be able to say my vows properly. In the event, I stood there looking at my husband thinking, “oh my God, I’m getting married right now, this is the coolest thing ever!” and I didn’t shed a tear.
But later, just before dinner, my best girlfriend showed me our present. I had known what it was going to be – she had made us a photo guest book, using images from six years my husband and I had already spent together – but when I saw it, I finally started to cry. The book had nothing wedding-related in it, no engagement shoot (we never had one), no photos from my hen night, nothing. Just six solid years of real life that we had spent together, pages and pages of us – alone, together, with family and friends. The stuff that really matters.
So, brides-to-be, my one piece of advice to you would be this: focus on the people, ask your loved ones to get involved, and everything else will fall into place.