I’m not even sure how to describe today’s wedding graduate post other than saying it’s one of those weddings where I feel sure that I should have been there (and maybe was in spirit). It took place in Wales, had serious food (Nora is a food blogger), and was photographed by Lauren McGlynn with photos so lovely and evocative you almost feel like you’re there. Plus it’s funny.
When Luis and I sat down with a nice meal and a glass of bubbly a few weeks before the wedding to write our vows, we were both surprised by how easy we found it.
The words came remarkably naturally to both of us and we found that we both knew what we wanted to promise each other. Thinking about it, I am putting this down to the wedding being just one in a long line of commitments we’d already made to each other.
First of all Luis left behind everything he knew in Costa Rica and moved to the UK to be with me. We have been through all the expense and stress of getting three visas (so far!), not to mention a separation of five long months while the first one was processed. We have gradually come to realise that by staying together we are committing ourselves to a lifetime of at least one of us being thousands of miles from our closest friends and family—and the other one heartbreakingly aware of being the cause of that separation. So just the act of staying together felt like a pretty huge commitment to both of us. Oh, and we got legally married in February 2009 in a rush to get him a visa. This wedding was our party to celebrate in style.
So it follows that our wedding wasn’t a transformative, magical experience that signified a huge leap forward in our relationship. It was just a really great party that we got to invite our family and friends to. And what more can you ask for, really? However this didn’t mean we got to escape the full on wedding planning stress.
So, in the spirit of passing it on, there are two things I wish I’d known—though they seem kind of contradictory.
First, expect trouble! Our wedding was not legally binding, and it took place at my parents’ house. My parents are not traditional about anything, ever. Luis’ parents weren’t even in the country until the week before, so we didn’t have to deal with their expectations. So I had rather expected to escape the traditional conflicts. But before I knew it my mum was talking about the people she was going to invite, my great aunt was phoning me up to find out whether we’d ordered the portaloos (and uttering the immortal words, “It will NOT be alright, Nora, something has GOT to be done!” about the toilet situation)…
…and my grandmother was phoning me at the crack of dawn to discuss wedding cake decorations. An argument that I thought had been long forgotten reared its ugly head. And my mother ended up doing a 240 mile round trip four days before to pick up the cake from my grandmother, who refused to take it on the train because it was “the size of an armchair” (which of course it wasn’t).
But second, don’t expect trouble too much. I found that I was so convinced that my parents were going to try to take over that when they showed the slightest inclination to do so, I freaked out completely. I really didn’t need to get that stressed, and if I hadn’t been building up in my head a scenario in which my parents took over, I don’t think I would have done.
So, the wedding day! It was nerve-wracking (I think perhaps especially so because we’d written our own ceremony, and we weren’t exactly sure how it was going to go). It was like hosting any party, in that I felt that I had to make sure everyone was OK. I had an argument with my parents about cake. And even though it lasted for about 12 hours, I still didn’t get to talk to everyone nearly enough.
But there were so many fantastic moments. During the ceremony I managed to ask Luis if he would take me as his ‘husband’. And the amusement from that stopped me from blubbing like an idiot during the ceremony. We ended up doing a full five and a half minutes of our first dance because the person in charge of stopping the track after two minutes didn’t want to look like he was ruining the fun. Mum gave a slice of wedding cake to Luis’ parents to take back to the family, at which point they had to explain that it wasn’t remotely enough for everyone (he has more than 50 first cousins, let alone uncles, aunts, etc). A game of giant Jenga had the entire tent full of people utterly engrossed—and was a fantastic way to cross linguistic barriers. Even just seeing so many people try out their Spanish on Luis’ family to keep them included was really touching.
So even though planning the wedding was stressful and actually made me unhappy at times, it’s those great moments that I will remember. And the bad stuff that happened beforehand is already making great stories. It’s so easy to laugh about it now—even though it was only a couple of months ago (and felt like the end of the world at the time).
I was also really blown away by the contributions of my friends and family. I don’t feel like one of those people who moves only in talented, artistic circles. But between them, my friends and family did all the catering, the invitations, the decorations, the ceremony, the live music, the DJing, the fireworks… I could go on and on. And as it happens my parents’ friends (those people on Mum’s guest list) worked their socks off in the kitchen. And they did all such an amazing job—I literally could not have asked for any better.
And it turns out that you can have a great wedding with no favours, no complicated table centrepieces, no bridesmaids, no best man, no bouquet toss, no long speeches, no table plan—and no one will even notice. You can leave your bouquet to a friend to sort out on the morning of the wedding. You can buy your dress in a sale in a high street shop.
You can just invent a ceremony (as long as it doesn’t have to be legally binding) and get your oldest friend to officiate. Just get the right photographer—and they will make your wedding look so completely how you remember it, but also really cool.