Last month we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. TWO YEARS! Can you believe it. I look at pictures of that perfect day and I’m just filled with so much joy. There’s no other word for it.
I decided that I’d like to stick to traditional wedding presents, so this year it was time for Cotton. If you don’t know what this is all about, here are the traditional UK wedding presents for the first 10 years of marriage:
Salt / Bronze, Pottery (depending where you read!)
Copper / Willow, Pottery (depending where you read!)
Gift giving on anniversaries dates back to around the Middle Ages, and supposedly in some forms back to the Roman Empire; however, the above is all a twentieth century concoction – for commercial reasons, no doubt. Even so, it’s nice to have a guide, though the Sugar and Salt ones won’t be easy…!
Last year for Paper I bought Martin a (paper) ticket to a football match with his friends – this year I wanted to do something slightly more romantic, so I headed over to Etsy. Etsy is a treasure trove for unusual presents, and I eventually stumbled onto FinchandCotter, a store based in Michigan, USA.
I liked the idea of our first dance song lyrics printed on something, and FinchandCotter do both wall hangings and cushions. I loved both, but we happened to be looking for a new cushion and I figured we’d see that much more than if it were a hanging in our bedroom, so the cushion it was! Our first dance was to Stay With You, by John Legend. The song was released not long after we got together and it was the soundtrack to the early part of our relationship, so a natural choice for our first dance together as husband and wife.
Here’s the final product, hand designed, printed and sewn all the way from Chicago. Definitely more romantic than a football ticket (though knowing my football loving husband, he’d probably disagree…!) It’s made of a seriously sturdy cotton, and has an envelope opening at the back. I got ours in the 16″x20″ size and it is pretty big, but I quite like that – though it does come in 12″x18″ if that’s more your thing. You can choose from two different colours of cotton and loads of colours of text, and the order process was really smooth. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for an unusual anniversary gift!
Four weeks ago Martin and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Saying it came out of the blue would be a bit of an understatement – the last few months have positively flown by… all of a sudden, it had been 12 whole months since I’d stood in front of all my family and friends, agreeing that I would marry the love of my life, my soul mate, my best friend.
Lots of people ask me, “How is married life?”, or, “How have you found being married?” and I actually find it a really difficult question to answer. After being together for 8 years already when we got married, life post-wedding / honeymoon settled into our normal routine. It isn’t *technically* any different on the surface, but it’s just always difficult to know what people expect me to say. How deep do they want me to go? I generally reply with something along the lines of “Nothing’s changed, really… Everything’s great” and leave it at that. It’s true, but not the whole story – but like I said, how deep should you really go? I could tell them that while not a lot has changed on the surface I feel as though our relationship is stronger for it. There’s an underlying sense of This Is For Life. We’ve not quarrelled all that much since the wedding, and the arguments we do have are shortlived – petty arguments just don’t really seem worth the time when This Is For Life. Don’t get me wrong, of course there’s day-to-day gripes – usually because I haven’t tidied up or he hasn’t put the clothes on the line in the right way (YES, there is a ‘right’ way to hang clothes on an airer!!) – but it’s just not worth it.
Maybe they want to hear about how happy it makes me to be around him? How I love nothing more on a Saturday night than cuddling on the sofa together watching trashy TV? (quickly losing my street cred..) or maybe how I still get a little thrill saying, “my HUSBAND”? I don’t know. I guess I could say that – for now, for me – being married is being happy and content in each other’s company, knowing that we are building the rest of our lives together.
So that’s life since, but what about the wedding itself? I have the worst memory at the best of times, but most of that day will stay with me forever. It’s the little things that come to mind, in particular…
…Getting ready in the morning, with my Mum, Mother-in-Law and bridesmaids at my flat, and our wonderful photographers (Matt and Brenda of Foden Photography) commenting on how calm it was!…
…Getting our bouquets from the florist (Well’s Flowers, Bromley) and being so proud of how good a job my Maid of Honour Katy, my Mum and I did when we spent a day putting the table flowers together! They just looked so perfect next to each other…
…In the cab on the way over with my Dad, and him saying something along the lines of, “Jen, I’m at great risk of getting emotional today” – if anyone knows my Dad, you’ll know why that’s such a big deal and why I was suddenly at risk of ruining my make up…
…Standing just outside our beautiful ceremony room (the Orangery at Oaks Farm) with all the bridesmaids, our ring-bearer Archie and Dad, and realising we’d not organised / rehearsed walking down the aisle…! Queue a panic and getting everyone in line, and my dad moaning that he hadn’t expected instructions for how to walk (slowly, one step at a time, a short pause for me to turn into the aisle so I could swivel my dress round, and to stop at the end so I could give him a kiss before he ran off!) – and not realising that he was on the wrong side of me until we got to the end of the aisle…
…Watching my sister Vicky doing one of our readings – about dinosaurs – with aplomb. Anyone that can take a reading about dinosaurs and do it seriously, with confidence, is pretty awesome in my book (it was “A Lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton if you’re wondering!)…
…Saying my vows, looking into Martin’s eyes and seeing the emotion and love in them. Then, catching a glimpse of my Dad over his shoulder, taking a big gulp and looking at the ceiling, and that’s when it really hit me. My voice croaked and I had to take a moment! Advice for future brides – make sure there’s some tissues waiting on the table!…
…Finding out our ‘welcome’ cocktails were absolutely lethal, even after being watered down with more juice…
…Our friends raving about our magician, Roberto Forzoni – who amazed everyone with his up-close tricks and mind-reading – best last minute booking ever (and they still talk about him!)…
…Having to do our confetti shot twice, after our over-zealous guests threw before the photographers were ready! luckily we’d bought extra…
…Despite not being able to find his notes (they were in an elusive suit pocket), Martin soldiering on and giving a lovely speech…
…Taking some time to have a chat with my Mum over the scrumptious dessert, plotting to steal my Dad’s and Katy’s (but they came back too soon!)…
…Watching the ‘there’s-always-one’ table, full of my friends from uni, school and our neighbours play drinking games at the end of the meal…
…Having 10 minutes to myself after dinner in our cottage on the grounds to let everything sink in – I. Am. Married!…
…Dragging everyone on the dancefloor for the Macarena. Good request, Vicky & Carlos…
…Jumping around to Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” with my two favourite Frogs, Julia & Rachel…
…Reading through all our cards and guest book before bed…
…The next morning, helping ourselves to the lovely breakfast in the cottage, just the two of us, before packing up the detritus of one of the best days of my life…
Planning a wedding can seem like a momentous task. Whether you’re planning on a simple, low budget wedding or a big white bash, you will always start in the same place. When you first get going with planning, the most important thing is that you are honest with yourself and each other.
Here’s a quick list of the very first things to consider when you get going with planning.
1. Talk money
How much can you really, honestlyafford to spend? Be realistic about what you have already saved and what you can save until the wedding. Will you be compromising other areas of your life to spend money on the wedding – and are you both in agreement this is what you should be doing? Similarly, if parents or other people have offered to help, have an open conversation about what they will help with. You may find it easiest to ask them to cover something specific, such as catering, the dress, etc – this means both sides will be clear on what is expected of them.
2. Work out a budget
Once you have had the important money conversations, you can begin to work out a rough budget. There are LOTS of budget planning / tracking spreadsheets on the internet – I can’t remember which I used now, but I highly recommend you find one and start using it from day 1. It will become your best friend. Even Google has its own suite of planning tools, which I only recently stumbled upon. Some may provide rough ideas of what average couples spend in different areas – even if your budget is significantly lower than the ‘average’ wedding, you can still use this to give you an idea for what percentage of your total budget is likely to be spent in each area.
3. Decide priorities
Now you have your budget, you need to apportion it out. Do you dream of a sprawling country house wedding, while your partner would be happy with the local registry office? Would you prefer to pay more for a top-class photographer and have a buffet, instead of an expensive 3 course meal? Work out first of all what’s important to you personally, then share it with your partner. From there you can work out together where you should be focussing your efforts (and cash).
4. Investigate costs
It might seem odd to say to do this after you’ve worked out your budget, but unless you have unlimited funds (unlikely), it’s very important you’re aware of how much you have to spend before you get carried away with looking at wedding pretty. When you’re ready, take some time to look around at what your prioritised items are going to cost; you might find that one, or both, of you needs to make some compromises – either for the sake of the budget, or for both of you to be happy with the overall result. I had absolutely no idea how much flowers cost – I rarely buy flowers at a florist, preferring supermarkets and markets out of pure ease. I was SHOCKED. You don’t want a nasty surprise like that further down the line, when your important budget has already been spent on other things.
5. What can you DIY / Who can help?
I’ll talk more in detail about this in a later post, but it’s important for the budget in this early phase to consider what you could do yourself – for example, rather than buying expensive decorations, could you make them? Do you have friends or family with specific skills that can help you save cash? You will probably find that they will be more than happy to contribute. Make the most of it!
6. Re-evaluate, add a contingency, get insurance, and start a saving plan
Make sure your budget is now realistic and representative of how you think you will go ahead. Then, add a contingency plan! Sometimes there are unforeseen costs, or you may find you need to pay for some things upfront. Make sure you have a buffer of cash that is at your disposal should you need it – though ideally, you shouldn’t. Next, if you have even a small budget, GET INSURANCE. It costs basically nothing (about £35-70, depending on what you need to cover) and could potentially save you if one or more of your suppliers goes bust. Check the small print as some won’t cover you for things you’ve booked prior to taking out the plan – hence why I say you should get it now. Also, if like most couples you will need to save some cash to put towards your big day, then I fully recommend having a saving plan to run alongside your budget planner. This will help you keep track of how much money you have coming in, when payments are going out, etc.
7. Get started with the fun stuff!
Now, it’s time to get going with the fun stuff – gathering ideas and starting to book… The best place to start is your venue, as this is likely to be the majority of your budget (often a third!) – it will also determine other things, such as local suppliers, whether you need transport, etc. I’ll talk more about how to choose the right venue for you in a later post.
In the very next post in this series though, I’ll talk through some top inspiration sites and tools to help you get going. Good luck!
The more flexible you can be in the early stages will allow your planning to flow more naturally, and your ideas to evolve. While you should have your priorities set, everything else can be more fluid. For example, we set our date based on when our dream venue was available, and we were able to pick a Friday, which saved us a fair amount of money.
This is the first post in a series based on my experience of planning our wedding last year.
In the series I will go through the planning process with you: How to begin planning, and tools that I found useful; how to budget; saving money through DIY; the big purchases – the dress, the photography, the venue; and finally, lessons that I’ve learnt; among other things.
The first full installment (Planning) will come in the next few days. Let me know in the meantime if there’s any aspect in particular you’d like me to cover and I’ll make sure I include it in a future post!
Now, let me set the scene…
I was never that interested in weddings when I was younger; I’m not religious, so never really saw in my head how it would pan out. So even when I got engaged at the rather early age of 23 (5 years into our relationship), being ever-practical, I decided we should actually get on the property ladder first. Skip forward 2 years and we had bought our first flat – a few months later we decided that maybe we should start thinking about setting a date.
I began investigating and realised something: I do want a white wedding. I want it to be beautiful. What I want is likely to be expensive.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fritter money away. I am a serious saver. We paid for our flat deposit by ourselves, no help from parents; even if I wanted to have the wedding of my dreams, then the way I would do it was to be no different. That meant planning, spreadsheets, and saving money wherever possible – mostly through doing things ourselves.
“It’s just one day after all” was something I heard A LOT in the months before the wedding. It was just one day; but it was an amazing day, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It set our marriage off on the best start possible – surrounded by people that love us, with memories and photographs we will cherish for a lifetime.
So no matter your budget or the dream in your head, I hope that something in this series will be useful to you!