So in a couple of short weeks I shall be tripping up the aisle (not literally, fingers crossed) in our pretty little church to renew the vows I made fifteen years ago to love, honour and erm…look after my long-suffering Hubby. We’ve had our ups and downs – neither of us have been angels, but we’ve survived fifteen years without killing each other (it’s been close on occasions), produced two lovely sons and, as the eminently sensible Revd Craig pointed out, that’s got to be worth celebrating.
When he asked me this time last year if I’d consider doing him the honour (‘properly, this time – church… dress… party – the whole nine yards’) who knew that half the fun would be in the planning. I heartily recommend getting married (or remarried or blessed – don’t let the fact that you already have the ring stop you) quite a few years down the line in a relationship. Okay, so the downside is you have to pay for it yourself, and I’ll never make a wedding planner (‘what do you mean the Rally of Ireland is on the same day as the wedding and we can’t use the carpark as it’ll be stuffed full of rally cars?’) but the advantages are enormous. In fact, here are my top ten reasons for planning a wedding once you’re mature enough to make all the decisions:
1 The dress. Every girl knows it’s all about the dress. I had a bit of a false start here, purchasing a sensible, grown up cocktail dress from Monsoon then lying awake at night wishing I’d bought the wedding dress of my dreams. After all, you only get to walk down the aisle once, okay twice. And hey, if I want to do it wearing acres of pink tulle, looking like a cross between Katie Price and the Bride of Frankenstein, then it’s my shout. I don’t, but I reserve the right to.
2 The guest list. Don’t want to invite that maiden aunt with the moustache who frightens the children? Cross her off the list. Let’s face it, by the time you get to your forties (6 months to go before the big 4-0!) you know who your friends are and who they aren’t. We’re delighted that we’ll be spending the day surrounded by the people that we love, and who love us back, and not with the people we felt we had to invite.
3 The service. Now it helps here to have a good relationship with your clergyman. We, happily, are onto a winner. Want a relaxed, child-friendly, happy, intimate service with lots of music and fun? No problem. Craig’s suggestions and ideas have added so much to the ceremony that we just can’t wait. And the locals secretly can’t wait to get a shufty inside the C of I church either.
4 The details. ‘I want the church full of flowers!’, I said to the florist, presenting her with my lovingly-made collage cut from several hundred wedding magazines. ‘I’d love the scent of beautiful lilies, freesias and roses to hit the congregation as they walk in… and I want my bouquet to be huuuuge and smell gorgeous and be full of bright colours: pink and orange and lime green…’ [cue sound of needle screeching across record.] Okay, so my original remit for the florist might have been a little extravagant. Flowers are slightly expensive and the sound of Hubby’s sharp intake of breath when presented with the quotation was enough to send me scuttling back with a slightly amended version of my original flamboyant request. These things cost money, y’know. The advantage is that you know exactly what you want. Even if you can’t actually afford it.
5 The cake. Don’t like fruit cake? Bit of a fan of Ace of Cakes? Happen to have an incredibly talented friend who just happens to make the most fantastic cakes in the world? You’re onto a winner. Jen and I have spent many a happy hour discussing the merits of white chocolate sponge with raspberry filling versus dark chocolate sponge with a lime-scented ganache. In the end we decided we’d have a layer of each one we liked. See, when you’re grown up you can make those kind of decisions.
6 The music. The fantastic night we spent at JD’s wedding convinced us that their band was the only one we wanted. It didn’t matter that they’re based in Waterford, and that there’s six of them plus a ton of equipment to find room for. We had to have them, so we took budget money away from other stuff and juggled the sums until we could afford them. You can do that when it’s your money.
7 The poncy bits. Don’t want buttonholes (‘why would I want a flower on my suit?’)? Don’t have ‘em. Ditto all the awkward, expensive and largely pointless bits that nobody cares about like favours. I mean, who actually eats those sugared almonds in a bit of netting tied with ribbon anyway? Cross ‘em off. Equally, if you want every car to be decorated with bright pink ribbon, for example, or have a friend mental enough to agree to sit with you and tie 85 bows of ribbon around 85 order of service scrolls then go for it. The poncy bits are all yours.
8 The grub. You get to pick the food you like. We’re lucky because the chef at the hotel didn’t run away screaming when he saw me enter our meeting with a clipboard and a list of requirements twenty feet long. Even better, he suggested fantastic local produce that we could incorporate into our wedding feast: beautiful fresh crab from Annagassan on the coast of County Louth… fresh local wild salmon and sides of beef sourced locally from the wonderful beef farmers of County Cavan (a couple of whom will be there with their families, which reminds me of my favourite conversation so far: ‘thanks for the invitation…you do know that I have five kids don’t you?’ Me: ‘Yup and we want you to bring them all along – don’t worry, we’ll reserve you a pew!’).
9 The chiselers. You get to enjoy it all with your kids. The boys’ friends will all be there and they’ve had enormous fun planning the day with us. They’ve picked out their suits and selected a couple of lucky local girls to share their ‘first dance’ with. The lovely Revd Craig suggested including them in the actual blessing ceremony and they’re breathless with excitement. What better way to teach them about the importance of family than to get them involved?
10 The fun. Oh we have some tremendous fun stuff planned. Some really bonkers off-the-wall stuff that will have our guests astounded and amused. Again, a flexible, forward-thinking vicar is de rigeur in this situation. But, I mean, blimey, it IS supposed to be fun, isn’t it?
Oh, but it’s not all romance and roses. We’ve had our fair share of doubts too. Are we mental? Does anyone really give a shit if the crab’s local? Is it wise that 35 of our 85 guests are children? Why have we spent all this money when we could have had two weeks on a tropical beach and renewed our vows barefoot on the sand with the boys in hawaiian shirts?
I collar the Hubby while he’s watching the grand prix. ‘Are we mad?’, I ask him. ’Would you have preferred the beach?’.
‘I don’t know’, he says, ‘I’ll tell you the day after the blessing’.