Don’t panic, this hasn’t turned into a wedding blog… I wouldn’t dare try to enter into that very crowded part of cyber space!
But I did want to share a few tips for women like me who hadn’t started dreaming about their wedding dress at five-years-old. When I got engaged I couldn’t wait to marry Alby, the man I’ve been in love with for the last eleven years, but I was not at all prepared to be thrust into the world of weddings. And if you’ve not been planning your BIG DAY for 25 years, then it can be a pretty intimidating place. So here are my top tips for getting wed, without getting (too) stressed.
1. Throw out all the wedding magazines… or don’t buy any in the first place
We got engaged in August and were married the following February. Six months seemed like a long time to plan an event lasting just a day (and fortunately we didn’t need extra time to save). But all of the planners and to do lists in the wedding magazine we bought started 18 months before the big day. By their reckoning I was already a year behind and this fact started to freak me out big time. On top of that all the magazines were directed at me (the woman) and I had no intention of planning the day alone. So Alby and I made our own checklist in a Google spread sheet and like the geeks we are we colour coded it, splitting up the tasks between us. If you’re marriage is going to be an equal partnership, make sure it starts with the wedding.
2. Make sure someone has some Vaseline with them
This will sound crazy, but my biggest fear about the day itself was that Alby wouldn’t be able to get my ring on my finger. When I get nervous my hands sweat and swell… attractive I know! I ditched the wedding magazines, but I did check out a few blogs, and these are far less scary as they’re more focussed on real people, who actually got married, not 6 foot models in long white dresses clutching puppy dogs. The best piece of advice I gleaned from my browsing is to have the Vaseline nearby if you’re exchanging rings. My best friend and maid of honour Rosie had a tin at the ready while I checked the marriage certificate with the registrar before the ceremony. I smoothed a bit over my knuckle and hey presto! You might want to warn your groom that things could be a bit greasy but trust me, it’s better than being embarrassed in front of all your friends and family because he can’t get that ring on your finger!
3. If you’re a feminist don’t be shocked by the marriage certificate
Alby and I have talked a lot about how to make our marriage an equal partnership. I’ve written before about all the negative connotations marriage has for feminists but why we decided marriage was the right step for us. So when I saw the marriage certificate I was, for a brief moment, saddened and disappointed. We had worked hard to remove any language that indicated I was chattel being handed from one man to another from the invitations and the ceremony. But on the marriage certificate there is space only for your father’s name and occupation, not your mother’s. I was raised by two parents, not one, so it seems an injustice that only one parent gets the credit. I am very close to both my parents, but if I had been raised by my Mum alone, or been brought up by a lesbian couple I would have found this very upsetting. Just a week before I got married a petition went online calling for mothers to be recognised on marriage certificates. Whether you’re planning a wedding or not, please sign it. Registers of births, marriages and deaths are one of the only ways the lives of most people are recorded, and we owe it to all mothers to stop their lives being written out of history.
4. Don’t feel you have to spend your deposit for your first home to have a beautiful wedding
Weddings, are expensive, there’s no escaping that fact. When you’re getting married people are so nice to you and it’s easy to throw money at them. Our parents were incredibly generous and we are so grateful for that. But there are lots of things you can do that save a few hundred here or there and soon the savings are adding up in a big way. Here are a few ways we cut costs without compromising on what we wanted. Use Ebay for decorations, make your own cake (trust me, if I can do it anyone can), ask friends and family to lend their help and expertise. Alby’s Dad and sister designed our wedding invites, his Mum made dessert, my wonderful hairdresser did my hair, a friend drove us to the ceremony and another friend was the DJ… and it sounds corny but having all these people that you love do these things, makes you feel so special. Getting married in February (or any Winter month) also helps on the money front in a BIG way. And let’s face it, with the way the climate’s going it’s almost as likely to rain in June as it is in February. There’s loads more ideas on the internet but these are the ways we managed to cut a few corners.
5. Spend on what’s important to you
We splashed out on some amazing photographers and it was the best money we’ve ever spent. We knew it was unlikely there’d be another day in our lives when all the people we love the most would be around us, so we wanted to get some lovely pictures of them. Pen and Cam, from Mckinley-Rodgers Photography, have given us a sneak peek of our snaps and we couldn’t be happier with them. If it’s the cake that’s important to you, get five tiers of rich chocolate, if it’s the shoes, head for Jimmy Choo… you won’t be getting married twice!
6. Prepare for people to feel it’s acceptable to comment your weight… ALL THE TIME
I collected my dress in December and wore it in February. I try not to worry about what I weigh – I don’t think it’s good for mental health – but equally I’m not immune to the pressure that comes from billboards, TV ads and magazines. I know where I feel comfortable and when I put on a few pounds I cut back on the cake and play more squash. It works for me but I rarely talk about it. In a world of thigh gaps, size zero and thinspiration I don’t think the constant focus on diets and weight loss is helpful. But when you get married your weight becomes everyone’s business. I found the pressure of staying the same weight from December to February – not even having to lose weight (!) – quite tedious. Suddenly I was obsessing over something I normally wouldn’t think about. The irony of it was that when I tried on my dress a week before the wedding it was too long! Well, I hadn’t shrunk, I just hadn’t paid enough attention at my final fitting to the length! So my advice is, concentrate on staying the same height, if nothing else!
7. Just be yourself
Ok, this may sound obvious, but people have crazy expectations of brides. It starts in the wedding magazines which have hair and facial routines starting months before the wedding. Now, I like to look nice, smart, and sometimes quirky, but I rarely wear more make-up than a dash of mascara, and a slick of (that famous) Vaseline and I’ve never had a facial in my life. A colleague asked me a couple of weeks before getting wed if I had my spray tan and waxing booked. Countless people asked me if I was going to grow my bob into long hair. When I didn’t they asked me if I was going to have my hair curly! I’d never thought about all these options and I started to wonder if I should go for curls and a tanned bod. Luckily my hairdresser (who’s known me since I was four) said why would you want to look like anyone accept yourself? She was so right, so I ditched notions of curls, long or short, and looked just like me. I had my normal straight bob, expertly blow dried, and my pale and interesting skin, which has never bothered me before. I did employ a make-up artist at the last minute because I had a panic about doing it myself and she was perfect – she made me look natural and normal, like a better version of myself!
8. Take 10 minutes with your husband/wife on the day
A few friends said to us, make sure you take some time out of your day to survey all your friends and family have an amazing time. It’s essential advice – the day goes by in a flash: you think at 11am you have all the time in the world and before you know it you’re on the dance floor boogying with family and friends and it’s all almost over. It’s so special to have so many people there celebrating you and your relationship. There’s a mezzanine floor at the Lobster Shack, where we got married, and we snuck up there for a while to watch the party below. I won’t forget that moment… of looking down and watching our friends run up the bar tab on jager bombs!!!
Getting married is the best thing Alby and I have ever done. But for women in particular weddings can be stressful and overwhelming. There is an incredible amount of focus on you, and if you’re not used to that it can be very scary. So I really hope this post is of some help to any bride feeling a bit nervous, a bit overwhelmed, or bloody excited but stressed about the bank balance. And if you’re reading this and have no intention of ever getting hitched, don’t let that stop you signing the petition to get mums on marriage certificates. At the time of writing they were looking for another 2,599 signatures and it would be great to contribute in some small way to helping them achieve that.