Friday, 23 December 2011

Lessons in Love: Part Two

        It’s twenty past seven. The TV has been dusted, the custard creams arranged on one of my best Whittards’ plates and the turtles placated with a large hunk of salmon. And I am sat bolt upright on the sofa, with a facial expression that looks like I am trying really hard not to fart.

        “Jonathan’ll be here in a minute,” Brawny says, rivalling Captain Obvious in the ‘no, dur’ stakes. I shoot him a disparaging look; the gesture is ultimately lost on him, mainly because he’s playing Batman on the XBOX. I am just contemplating changing into brown underwear, when the door buzzer goes.

        In a move obviously inspired by the Caped Crusader, Brawny leaps off of the sofa. His movements are fluid; he ejects the game disc and turns the TV off, whirls past the dining table, placates the turtles with a handful of mealworm, speeds down the hallway and opens the front door before I’ve even said “Can you get that babe?”

        I am incredibly aroused by this display. Then I remember where I am, and snap out of it.

        You see, I mentioned a few posts back that we had unanimously decided that our service had to be conducted by Jonathan, friend of the family and vicar of the local church. It was one of the easiest decisions of my life. The venue is perfect; spacious and bright, and the drama group where Brawn and I met is held in the church hall. Not to mention Jonathan himself, who is that fantastic rare mixture of kind sincerity and a good sense of humour.

        Upon arrival Jonathan was genuinely pleased to see us, enquired after our families, and graciously accepted my feeble offer of a cup of tea. He sat us down, gave us a little bit of reading material, and then told us to relax. Given how tense I had been until that moment, I almost trickled down the sofa into a puddle on the floor.

        First, he took down as much as he could about the ceremony. Given that it’s early days, we were only really able to give him the names of our wedding party. Jonathan went through the ceremony and where we would all be standing during each part. Unfortunately, most of the information turned to soggy cornflakes floating in the stale milk of my tiny mind.

Then, it was on to the vows. Sat on our sofa and gazing into each other’s eyes, Brawny and I talked through our vows to each other, with help from Jonathan.

Normally whenever Brawny and I have to focus on something important, it automatically becomes the most hilarious thing in the world. But this time, it was different. Marriage vows are a strange thing. Each one was a small transaction between us, in which we promised to care for and love each other in exchange for support, understanding and patience. We’d given each other so much already, and it is still only the beginning.

After an hour or two, Jonathan left us with a promise to catch up in the New Year. There’s apparently a gathering for the soon-to-be-married couples, which we’re both looking forward to. As always, I’ll keep you guys posted.

Just so we leave on a warm and fuzzy note, I’m going to feed you a few ‘wedding’ facts that you may or may not know. Jonathan actually quizzed us on a few of the more traditional ones – being the little Teacher’s pet that I am, I got them all right and sat there with an insufferable Hermione-Granger-like smirk. Let’s see if you can do the same.

The term ‘Best Man’ originates from when Scotsmen would team together to abduct a bride! In this case, the ‘Best Man’ was the most forthcoming chap during the abduction. Luckily for him, we won’t be expecting our BM Phil to cart me off over his shoulders.

The Groom stands and sits to the right of the Bride all throughout the wedding day, so his right hand (his sword hand) is free to ward off suitors who might steal her away!

Bridesmaids wear similar dresses so as to confuse evil spirits. Long ago, they would dress similarly to the bride for the same reason.

In Medieval times, the couple’s family bought many cakes to the reception. They would then pile them up one by one and have the couple kiss over the tiers, going as high as they could!

The wedding veil ensures that no other man sees the bride’s face on her wedding day before her husband does.

The veil also prevented unscrupulous Medieval fathers from ‘swapping’ the bride – which they sometimes did if there was an unwed older sister in the family! For the same reason, C of E marriages seldom take place in the evenings.

It was Pope Innocent III’s idea to put a waiting period between betrothal and marriage – so you can thank him for engagement rings!

Snake-shaped wedding rings with rubies for eyes were popular in Victorian Britain.

A couple marrying in a church must post the Banns three weeks prior to their wedding. This was originally to ensure that the Bride and Groom were not related – anyone in the community that knew they were could speak up before the wedding. If they miss their chance, they could speak up after the Officiate says “Speak now or forever hold your peace”!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Attack of Bridezilla

        “It’ll be fine. I won’t spill down it, or tear it on a door handle. I’m not precious about these things.”

        That’s me talking that is. I’m talking about my wedding dress: the dress I haven’t even picked out yet. Don’t I sound like an idiot?
        But what about the flowers? Said the cautious part of my brain. What if they don’t turn up on the day?
So? They’re just flowers.
        What if the caterers mess up?
        It’s just food.
        What if it rains?
        I’ll use a brolly. OK, so it’s the biggest day of my life, but I’m determined not to be ‘precious’ about it.
And just like that, I’d managed to convince myself that I was cooler than Mr Freeze’s underpants. I totally believed my own hype. So what if I trip and fall down the aisle? I’ll laugh it off and get up again. My Dad will probably shout “Drunk already?” Then we’ll all laugh, the photographer will get a lovely off-the-cuff shot of the Ushers chuckling as my new husband helps me up and it’ll be forgotten in minutes. There’s no point getting upset over the little things – I couldn’t possibly control them anyway, so what’s the use in crying over stumbling Bride?
I related this to both my Maid of Honour and to Brawny, and they both loved me too much to do more than raising an eyebrow.
“Seriously,” I said. “It’ll be fine. So what if Mr and Mrs So-and-So had cupcakes at their wedding last year. It’s no big deal.”
Pride comes before a fall, doesn’t it? Only I didn’t think I was being proud until one day when I was flicking idly through Twitter.
And then I saw it: a tweet from a friend who was at a wedding. Someone else had picked the same song as us for their first dance.
I was acutely aware of intense heat and a whistling noise. I looked around to see if the kettle was on, and then I realised it was coming from my own face. Steam was almost literally pouring out of my ears and nostrils. I stared at my phone in disbelief, as if it was playing a particularly nasty trick on me.
Brawny came into the kitchen to find a scene reminiscent of post-apocalyptic Tokyo: with me stomping around in the middle like Godzilla, ranting about sheer rotten luck and how it was ‘our song’ and ‘nobody else’s’.
I managed to chill out for long enough to explain the situation to him, and he looked nonplussed. “So?” he said. “Our wedding’s not for a while yet; people won’t even make the association.”
I mumbled something feeble along the lines of people having ‘seen it all before’, yawning throughout our first dance as Man and Wife, or even exiting the room in disgust.
Not for the first time in our relationship, Brawny looked at me as if I was mad.
“No they won’t.”
He gave me a big cuddle, and as my fuming ebbed and died off in the nook of his armpit I realised that maybe, just maybe, I was being a bit ‘precious’ about something. But it was really important – that song had been our connection while he lived in London some 200 miles away from me, it had been the song he once serenaded me with, and the lyrics described perfectly how we felt about each other.
Maybe I needed to get my priorities right. Just like I can’t control the weakness of my ankles or the weather on the day, I can’t go around putting a Fatwa on anyone in the world who picks the same song as us. This was personal for Brawny and I; and in the end it would be just us dancing together and nobody else. But maybe it’s also OK to want the best for your big day. I guessed I would just have to find a balance that would suit us both.
While my rage was gone, a dull sting of wistfulness nicked at my heart. But almost as if he was sensing my emotions, my fantastic fiancée leant down and whispered in my ear:
“Besides, I have big plans.”

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Lessons in Love

            Sometimes, couples take ages to make decisions.
Take Brawny and I. You’ve paired the woman who can’t pick a nail colour out of her 80-plus polishes with the man who makes Harvey Dent look impulsive. We live in a miniature-scale nightmare.
  But then sometimes we both have the exact same thought. One example of this is our Wedding ceremony. Like a bizarre episode of The Wonder Twins, when it came to picking a ceremony we both sat up straight, and looked each other straight in the eye.
“Jonathan,” we chorused.
The chap in question is the Vicar at Brawny’s family church, and the reason for our joint moment of clarity. He’s such a lovely guy that we couldn’t imagine anyone else marrying us. And that’s how it works: when something makes sense, you do it.
So imagine my surprise when I bumped into a friend in town who had recently been married by Jonathan. As soon as I said that we were looking to book his church, she offered some sage advice.
“You need to book ASAP,” she said. “If you’ve got your heart set on it, make it the first thing you book.”
Fantastic. I pictured walking down the aisle in front of the stained glass, affirming my vows in front of a close friend of the family I was joining…
“Oh, but you’ll need to go to marriage lessons.”
“Yeah, Jonathan will ask you things just to make sure you’re compatible and stuff.”
I was confused. Was it going to be like one of those love quizzes in Cosmopolitan? Or do we simply sit under a giant Love Calculator? WARNING: Under 50% compatibility means your relationship will be TERMINATED.
Though I know where all Brawny’s freckles are, his favourite film and the face he makes when he’s about to sneeze (of which I can do a wicked impression), that’s probably not the sort of things we’ll be asked.
So what makes you compatible? I’m pretty sure that although I may have liked the same books, films and music as any of my ex-boyfriends, we obviously weren’t very well suited. One partner didn’t share my religious views, one didn’t want the same sort of relationship as I did, and several couldn’t keep it in their pants didn’t view boundaries in the same way as me. Those issues never reared an ugly head with Brawny – or if they did, they were immediately scuppered by our willingness to see things from each others’ point of view.
Jonathan was kind enough to drop a pamphlet through the door which contained not only a few hymn suggestions and biblical passages but lots of little ‘reasons’ to marry. I’m going to hold off on those now, because we’ve got an actual meeting with Jonathan soon and I’d love to see how it goes and report back.
For now - Bride out!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Mag Hags

In all my adolescent life I have avoided one section of WHSmith’s for fear of appearing too presumptuous: wedding magazines.

A whole different breed, they’re not like the other magazines: they’re glossy and have a grinning woman on the front, but inside they have painted bird cages and biscuits shaped like teapots. When I gave it to Brawny, his forehead wrinkled to such an extent that I thought I was betrothed to a Basset hound.

Faced with the prospect of planning a wedding, I had the same reaction as the majority of my male friends (sorry guys). Surely there’s not much to deal with, right? I mean there’s the venue and my dress and Brawny’s suit and the cake, but that’s essentially it, isn’t it?

Wrong. Well not 100% wrong, more like partially right. There is the venue and the dress and suits et cetera, but there’s a world of other stuff to think about. Okay, so I don’t necessarily need teapot biscuits; they’re just sundries. But just imagine that I cover the basics.

Take me, for instance. I need a dress and some shoes, obviously. I may want a tiara or hairclip to keep my hair up, and a traditional veil. I’ll also need underwear. I’ll might want two lots of this because I won’t want to wear my Wedding night lingerie (you know, the special stuff) under my dress, in case I choose a dress that it won’t fit under, or in case my Wedding lingerie is a bit uncomfortable – don’t look at me like that, sometimes scanties are. That’s why we girls don’t usually wear our frilliest and laciest all day every day.

So we’ve covered what I’m wearing…almost. I might want hair and make-up done. If you don’t know anyone that will happily do it for you, you’ll have to pay for the privilege. And what if I want a spray tan, or a manicure, or a pedicure?

And what about the rings? Or the flowers? And of course there’s the Groom’s outfit – admittedly you can hire that, but it still costs money. And he’ll need a fitting appointment, as will the Ushers and Bridesmaids. Sometimes they chip in for their garments, which helps. And what about their shoes? Cufflinks? Neckties or cravats? Maybe I want the girls to have matching bags, or fascinators?

Already our sums are starting to climb the heights, and it’s not just money. We’ll all need to find the time for fitting appointments and Hen or Stag nights. The girls might want their hair cut, a manicure, a facial, a spray tan done. The boys might want a trim or a neat shave.

And then there’s (deep breath) printing the invites, wedding favours, decorations, thank you notes, gifts for the wedding party, the flowers, the cars, the reception, the marriage licence…

You might say it’s extravagant. After all, it’s one day. All this expense, all this time and trouble, just for one day! You must be joking, right?

Yeah, it is one day. But it’s also your day: your day to show the extent of your love for each other in front of your friends and family. It’s a chance to show your combined personalities: that’s why people have a colour scheme, or funny cake toppers, or different flowers. Nobody really wants a ‘Tesco value’, cookie-cutter wedding.

The trick is, I discovered, to do what you want. Our Bridesmaid Ro went to a wedding recently where the bride and her father danced down the aisle to Beyonce and the readings were performed by a pair of dinosaur hand puppets. Fantastic! She’ll be telling that story for years! Isn’t that great? Wouldn’t you love your closest friends to still be saying in five years’ time “Hey, remember at Brawny and Neety’s wedding…”

So I’m putting down the bridal magazines for now. Sure, they’re cool, but they assume I don’t have a lovely and talented bunch of friends that will happily bake a cake or fix my hair or help arrange flowers.

For now, I’ve got bigger fish to fry…now where can I get a wedding cake in the shape of a turtle?

^ From Cake Wrecks (url). Made by Studio Cake. If you get time, check out both great sites. 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A Decent Proposal

        I’m sitting on a towel on the beach on a beautiful sunny day in July. The sky is blue, the sea is calm, and in front of me is a picnic with all my favourite foods: smoked salmon, crusty bread, fruit salad and chorizo. There’s a flute of rose champagne in my hand.
        But I’m not looking at the view, the picnic or the people running around in swimming costumes. I’m looking down at a little box in my boyfriend’s hands.
        “Will you be my wife?” He asks.
I manage a ‘Yes!’ despite my initial disbelieving splutter-fest, and he slips a beautiful silver ring inlaid with diamonds and freshwater pearls onto my ring finger.
And we're suddenly in a whole new world – betrothed, enfianced, engaged. I find myself constantly blushing and smiling, exposing my left hand to anyone and everyone, joining my parents in gushing about my future husband and how lovely he is. Before now I don’t think I've ever gushed over anything that wasn’t a baby reptile.
Once the flurry of ‘congratulations’ emails, cards, Facebook messages and visits had passed, I went to see my best friend Liz who is herself getting married. (Being best friends, naturally we're each other's Maid of Honour.)
The date isn’t until April next year, but her cosy Southampton flat is packed with wedding paraphernalia. She hands me a thick wedge of magazines and we start poring through them.
And it’s just like trying to shop for a regular dress. In a shop with no exits. While you’re on Acid.

This is how to get yourself thrown out of Beales, in case you're interested.

You know those girls that demand a Magical Wedding Barbie at age four? The ones that have perfectly visualized their dress; the first dance, the fillings in the vol-au-vents right down to the last fragment of lace trim and glazed prawn. I’m not one of those. I literally have no idea what to do at a wedding ceremony. Plonk me in the middle of one and I’ll make a weird joke about communism and fall sideways over the master table.
And now the man I love has decided that he wants to settle down with me. Me; the woman who eats like a pig, the woman who loves her pet turtles more than most humans, the woman who makes jokes about Stalin at other people’s special day.
So because I’m such a fan of a good fish-out-of-water story, I thought I’d take the opportunity to start a documentation of my experience. After all, here I am on the cusp of everything I’ve ever really dreamed of: not the colour-coordinated flowers and the three-tiered cake, but a man who knows how awkward and weird and disgusting I can be and still wants in on it for the rest of our lives.
So you are welcome to join me on what promises to be an interesting trip towards the rest of my waiting life.