Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gongs for Gavin

How did Gavin and Stacey slip under my radar? Essex boy meets Barry Island girl. They fall in love and plan a wedding. Perfect material for a sit-com – as anyone who’s ever been involved in the marriage merry-go-round will know.

The BBC3 series picked up three gongs at last night’s Comedy Awards so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to catch up with it elsewhere on the Beeb at some point. I’m just kicking myself that I missed out on such gems as a wedding fair with Matt Lucas as the ultimate stag do organiser and goodness knows what else.

I blame it on the grandson. He’s just too distracting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Diamond Geezer

It was, after all, a love match. That could be why it has lasted for 60 years. Or could it be down to the fact that in the 1940s people still had a touching belief in concepts such as doing your duty and honouring your promises.

Either way, let’s raise a glass to Elizabeth and her diamond geezer and toast them and times past. I doubt we’ll see young Harry celebrating his diamond wedding.

To mark the occasion, Buckingham Palace have revealed 60 things you might not have known about the events surrounding the wedding. (You can find all of these on the BBC website.)

I always assumed that wedding favours were a vulgar modern extravagance. But then I read this:

40. Individual posies of myrtle and white Balmoral heather were placed at each place setting as "favours" (gifts to the guests).

That's me corrected then.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A-bidie with me

Co-habiting is not a pretty word. Co-habitee sounds even worse. But I’ve just discovered that the Scots have a lovely way of describing a live-in partner: they call them a bidie-in.

I expect most of you knew that already. Sorry to be so, well, southernly. But maybe you won’t have heard of a poem I came across at the same time. It was submitted as part of an exhibition called The Art of Love, held in 2005 by and written by the poet Diane Hendry.

The poem is called Application. It goes like this:
O let me be your bidie-in
And keep you close within
As dearest kith and kin
I promise I’d be tidy in
Whatever bed or bunk you’re in
I’d never ever drink your gin
I’d be your multi-vitamin
I’d wear my sexy tiger skin
And play my love-sick mandolin
It cannot be a mortal sin
To be in such a dizzy spin
I’d like to get inside your skin
I’d even be your concubine
I hope you know I’m genuine
O let me be your bidie-in.

I like the sound of Diane. I’m now off to track down some more of her work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mr MacCool

I know I’ve been quiet for a while – it’s because of a metamorphosis. No longer Mother of the Bride, not even Mother-in-law, we are (as Mrs Thatcher once famously said) a grandmother.

The young man on whose account the wedding was fast-forwarded a year is called Finn. And here he is.

Friday, October 5, 2007

In sickness or health

I was thinking about wedding vows the other day. My conclusion was that sticking to the ‘for richer or poorer’ bit - or it’s modern equivalent – is actually a lot easier than keeping the promise about ‘in sickness or health’.

Years ago, when my husband found himself unexpectedly unemployed it was a challenge to do a week’s supermarket shop for a fraction of what we were used to spending – but one that I rose to without complaint. In fact I quite enjoyed it.

But I have never been good at playing Florence Nightingale. If I’m ill I like to go to bed, dose myself up with OTC remedies, watch daytime television and hibernate until I’m feeling better. However long that takes.

I don’t appreciate being told I should go for a walk in the fresh air to blow the germs away, or being brought plates of food that I have no appetite for, however lovingly prepared.

Of course that’s ungrateful – I know, I know. And I know, too, that I should be happy to look after my husband when he catches the horrible cold I’m recovering from. Only he won’t go to bed. He is in the kitchen, opening cupboard doors, leaving his germs everywhere.

I’ve just asked him what he would like for supper and instead of saying that anything would be wonderful, he’s come up with a proposed menu that involves peeling and slicing and grilling and will make several pans dirty. And he doesn’t want it now - which is when I want to cook it – he wants it in an hour’s time.

Why? Because he’s just found a pot of hummus in the fridge and has helped himself to a snack.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The good, the bad and the ugly

It’s been a romantic year, what with the daughter’s engagement and then the wedding. The husband decided it was our turn – so he whisked me off last weekend to Paris by Eurostar. (You may not realise how romantic a gesture this was on his part unless you happen to know that on Saturday he was missing England playing cricket, the rugby world cup and something else, probably football)

The good:
*Going by train – so much more civilised than queuing at airports – and I could take all my make-up and moisturisers instead of doling out tiny portions and sticking them in a see-through plastic bag.
*Being turned away by a snooty greeter at a restaurant we’d booked after seeing it recommended in the Observer – it looked like an overlit, overblown tourist trap so thank goodness they had muddled up the reservation. We found a much more interesting place to eat nearby.
*Getting upgraded to a junior suite at the hotel – but only because our room wasn’t ready for us to check-in until tea time.

The bad:
*Housekeeping at the St James & Albany – which was 4-star, not cheapo fleapit and therefore inexcusable.

The ugly:
*Having our Visa card refused on the Metro and again when it came to checking out of the hotel. Then, back home - on finally getting to talk to someone at Lloyds bank to see why this was - being told the card appeared to have been cloned and used illegally in the UK.

Now Lloyds say the whole matter will have to go through some kind of dispute procedure and we will have to prove that we couldn’t have used the card in Norfolk or wherever on Saturday because we were in Paris! Good thing I kept that restaurant receipt.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Dress Dilemma

I didn’t wear a conventional wedding dress on the day I got married, so the question of what to do with it afterwards never arose. And I have no idea what my daughter plans for the ivory and gold number she wore on her wedding day.

It wouldn’t surprise me if she shortened it or dyed it black to get more wear out of it –she’s not usually sentimental about possessions. But I suppose she might wrap it in tissue paper and store it at the back of the wardrobe.

So what should you do with your wedding dress once the wedding is over? Give it to a charity shop? Sell it on ebay? Dig it out to raise money for charity on National Wedding Dress Day like the readers of Take a Break, some of whom are pictured above?

This week I read a news story about a wedding dress that had been passed down through four generations and worn by six different brides. That’s what I call recycling.

My mother was a war bride. I have no idea where she managed to lay her hands on a wedding dress or what happened to it afterwards. Sadly, she’s no longer here to ask. But she was so slim in the 1940s that, forty years later, I would never been able to squeeze into her gown even if she had mothballed it for me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

An atom of meaning?

I’ve done jury service once. My husband was recently called for the third time. That makes once for the coroner’s court and now twice for crown court – although it’s a different London crown court this time.

We discussed his deferring it, but in the end decided he might as well get it over and done with. (It appears to be much harder to duck out of altogether than it used to be.)

So he duly pitched up a week ago yesterday – and he hasn’t had a day in court yet. At first he was sent away in the early afternoon. Now he simply rings up between 3 and 4 and asks if he will needed the next day.

My fear is that on Friday he’ll be chosen for some complicated case that will go on for weeks. Surely that won’t happen, will it?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ye Olde Fleet Street Tour

Today it is 10 years since the death of the ‘people’s princess’ – a fact which will have escaped no-one who watches tv, listens to the radio, reads a paper or gets their daily fix of news and gossip online.

On the day Diana married her prince I was a young hack working in Fleet Street and by leaning out of one of the windows it was possible to see, far down below, the guests and the main players as they passed by on their way to St Paul’s. At the time I was pregnant with the daughter who has just had her own wedding, so hanging out of windows was rather uncomfortable. But last night I found myself pointing out the building to a mother from South Africa, here to visit her son.

The son’s partner is a journalist and we were all there because of an invitation we’d had from our boss: We are proud to announce that Ye Olde Fleet St Tour has been modernised, updated and refurbished at VAST expense and is to be relaunched next Thursday 30 August as the Incredible Fleet St Holistic Experience 2008 and Beyond, sponsored by Sol, the touchy-feely Mexican Lager.

In other words, the annual Fleet Street pub crawl (with a bit of history thrown in for newbie journos who have no idea what life used to be like on the Street of Shame).

Last night, we started the Fleet Street experience at the Blackfriars pub (terrible service, stunning interior, named after the monks who lived there in medieval times); moved on to the Old Bell (which backs on to St Bride’s church - burnt down when the Great Fire crossed the River Fleet, rebuilt by Wren, bombed in the Blitz); and from there to Gough Square (Dr Johnson and his dictionary) to the Cheshire Cheese (full of tourists – including a couple with a child in a buggy).

It was as we crossed Fleet Street on the way to the Cheese that I found myself pointing out that window. The South African lady looked suitably impressed. But not half as impressed as I was when she told me later that her daughter got married in the summer – and she had made all the dresses for the bride and the bridesmaids herself!

PS: St Bride’s is the journalists’ church. It’s where some of us get married or go to sing carols at Christmas and it’s where we hold memorials for friends and colleagues, before decamping to El Vino’s to swap memories. If you’ve ever wondered why Fleet Street became the centre for printing and newspapers, their website has a good explanation

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two's company

Togetherness is tricky. It’s an odd thing to find yourself saying to a newly wed, but it’s true. As I told my daughter, however much you love someone, the day always comes when you wish they were somewhere else. Just so that you can do your own thing, in your own way, in your own time. On your own.

Take shopping, for instance. Most women complain that their men hate shopping. That they have to drag them to malls and supermarkets. My question is – why bother?

I’m married to someone who likes shopping. Only he shops in a different way to me. He plans each trip with military precision. Operation Brent Cross usually involves a series of missions (buy new socks, check out laptops in Apple Store, get birthday present for grandson in Early Learning Centre) carried out at maximum speed in order to return to base by the time the football kicks off on tv.

My way of shopping couldn’t be more different. I may have a vague objective (present for friend’s birthday next month) but I’m quite happy to go into a number of stores seeking inspiration while simultaneously keeping an eye out for: a) an outfit to wear to the birthday party that would be nicer than anything I currently own, b) a pair of shoes to replace the ones I wear when it rains, only I can’t any more because one of the soles has split and c) a bean-bag because my daughter wants one and I’d like to know how much they cost.

It’s quite possible I’ll come back hours later empty-handed. But it's a sure bet that I won't be greeted with ‘Hallo darling,’ but ‘What took you so long?’

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

Thanks must go to the Mirror newspaper for alerting me to another must-see tv programme about weddings (ITV1 tonight). This young lady staggered down the aisle in a crystal-encrusted dress weighing 20 stone.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

One Big Con?

I have a confession to make. I have been sneakily watching The Big Day on bbc tv. The show is a cross between a house makeover – in this case it’s a venue – and a wedding reality show.

The premise is that some poor couple on a limited budget allow their families to get together with the BD’s ‘experts’ to arrange their wedding in the space of a week. The bride has no idea what her dress will look like, and neither bride nor groom knows where the reception will be held. Will it be in a Scout hut or a stately home? Will the theme be Hollywood – or Robin Hood?

I am clearly not the only wedding-obsessive who’s been watching this. Nor am I the only one who thinks the Beeb’s been cheating again. Rose, who’s been chatting on, says:

I absolutely am so impressed by what they achieve on that show! They actually brought the beach indoors- very fab- but was anybody else wondering like me? How on earth would they get it back outside again?!!! We never get to see the tidying up that must go into it after the event- it must have taken a while! Also, is it just me or at the end when they total up the cost of everything are there parts that are deliberately missed out such as the wedding make-up, hair, suit hire, accessories, church venue costs, transport, or is that all included in the price - because if it is I'm very impressed that they could produce everything with just £7000!!

Exactly. I smelt a rat, too. I think we should be told.

Friday, July 20, 2007

When Lilibet married her naval officer

Such excitement. This summer an exhibition is being held at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 60th wedding anniversary*. I’m no monarchist, but I can remember how important the event felt back in those belt-tightening, post-war days of rationing and cod liver oil.

Our family had a cardboard cut-out book from which you could create a model of the pageant. It had everything, from the Household Cavalry on their horses to the glittering fairy-tale coach which took pride of place on our mantelpiece. Goodness knows what happened to it (the coach, not the mantelpiece).

I expect my mother chucked it out along with her Lloyd loom chairs, her utility furniture and any other 'vintage' items we might, years later, have been able to put on ebay.

According to Elizabeth Grice (writing in the Daily Telegraph), the morning of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding didn’t go entirely to plan. The bride’s tiara snapped and needed a hasty repair. Her bouquet went temporarily AWOL, and she left the string of pearls she wanted to wear in the wrong palace. As you do.

Isn’t it comforting to learn that a Royal Wedding is as prone to last-minute hitches as any?


Some mistake surely?

Organising a wedding – especially when you only have ten weeks – requires so much attention to detail that it’s difficult to keep on top of everything else you should be doing at the same time. While I was configuring seating plans and ordering flowers I was (with my work hat on) looking for a new assistant. I picked the wrong one.

She started the week after the wedding and I think we both suspected from the start it was a mistake. I felt pretty sure when I asked her to find me the Times splash and then discovered she'd been keying those exact words into a Google search. No doubt she felt pretty sure when she discovered she had a grumpy old woman as her boss.

Anyway, she’s gone and I’ve started the process all over again.

Under less pressure now, I have time to despair at the applications. Or laugh. Here is a selection (from today’s 2:1 graduates):

*I knew from an early age that I wanted to get into journalism but instead opted to do French.

*The job will be the perfect platform to give you the boost you need to start a career. Therefore many people and me will be applying for this position.

An ambitious graduate journalist …

*I have been writing since childhood and have developed my own distinctive style without losing the ability to be fluid and can write using a style guide and to a brief on time whilst under pressure.

After a while I lost track of the number of misplaced apostrophes, misspelt driving licenses and other basic errors.

I learned to hate the phrase ‘field of journalism’ – why limit yourself to a field? Why not a meadow or a prairie?

I identified ‘third eye syndrome’, a condition where the first three paragraphs of a covering letter (possibly more) all start with the word I.

I never want to have to read another statement that talks about people skills ever, ever again. (See, it’s contagious).

Interviews start next week.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Time goes by

My daughter has now been married for seven weeks and four days. I wonder if she’s counting.

Back in 1965 – the year I had my first real boyfriend - I used to keep track of how long we’d been dating. My diary entry for Monday Jan 25 reads: 2wks. Met Tom after school. Waited for bus with me. Washed hair. Planned Chas 1 essay. Half-heartedly began revision.

Clearly the Swinging Sixties were passing me by – although prior to this I do recall being taken to see the Beatles at the Finsbury Park Astoria by a young man whom I subsequently (and ungratefully) dumped.

I had to stop and think about the length of time I’ve known my husband. I was mildly appalled to work out it has been 32 years. We’ve only been married for 22, though, which makes me feel slightly less ancient.

With luck, I think we might make our silver wedding. Maybe I will get my set of matching towels after all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Time Travels

Weddings are a wonderful source of stories. Loved the latest about the Toronto-based teacher Dave Barclay. He flew 3,500 miles across the Atlantic to attend a mate’s wedding only to find that - unlike the hapless Huw Grant character in FWAAF - far from being late, he was a year too early.

The misunderstanding arose after he got an email from a mate in Cardiff, saying he was getting married on July 6. The trouble was, he meant July 2008.

Dave - who clearly has no idea how long it takes to organise most weddings - has taken it all in good spirit apparently, telling BBC Wales that at least it should assure him a mention in the speech next year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Happy Ever After?

What’s the collective noun for bridesmaids - a bevy? A beauty? Or even a bother?

How could I possibly stop writing about weddings when I keep stumbling across stories like this one in today’s Daily Mail.

When Michelle O’Reilly - a 44-year-old mother of three – got married on Saturday she was accompanied by a grand total of 24 bridesmaids. She just couldn’t bear to leave out any of her nieces, friends’ daughters or her own girls.

As the Mail observed, she is obviously a total romantic and believer in happy ever afters. She even named her youngest daughter Cinderella Rose.

Check it out on
(Sorry – haven’t figured out links yet.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

What's in a name?

Just got back to Blighty after a much-needed, thank-goodness-it’s-all-over holiday. I suppose I should now shut up. Or rename this blog.

I began it not long after New Year’s Eve. We were at a Wild West murder mystery evening with friends. When the daughter’s boyfriend rang the mobile just after midnight, my husband asked him if he could call back later as we were just about to learn whodunnit.

To his credit the boyfriend didn’t take this the wrong way. Particularly since it turned out that he hadn’t called to wish us Happy New Year. He wanted to ask if he could propose to our daughter.

When I started Mother of the Bride I thought it would have a shelf life of at least a year. But the happy couple’s decision to bring the wedding forward means I have gone from one persona to another in just six months.

And I’m not sure I like the sound of Mother-in-Law half as much.

Friday, June 8, 2007

3 tips on organising a wedding

1. Don’t expect official photographers to think.
You may have specified that you do not want formal firing squad family group pix – but you still have to explain what you DO want. It might seem obvious that you would like informal pictures of key family members such as the groom’s father with his wife or the bride’s brothers who are acting as ushers, rather than six photographs of empty tables just to show how nicely they had been laid. But take nothing for granted.
Oh, and should the reception be held in a school where the bride and groom teach there is really no need for the photographer to go to the trouble of snapping the school badge and motto – especially if it is in Latin and they don’t have a clue what it means.

2. Having a table seating plan is no guarantee of harmony.
It helps if you are acquainted with who you are putting next to whom. If not, do not assume that two people who are married to each other and live at the same address are still a couple – or, indeed, on speaking terms.

3. Sale and return is always sale and no return.
If drink is available, it will be drunk. Why would anyone ever think otherwise?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Barking mad

As my husband likes to put it, we haven’t lost a daughter – we’ve gained a dog-in-law.

The dog in question is the bridegroom’s Springer spaniel and we are dog sitting while they are on honeymoon. We are cat people and I don’t think this is a fair test.

The people at say that basically, ‘Springers are strong willed and active, always on the go. They love family life and are extremely affectionate, but need to be controlled.’

In other words, they take no notice of anything you say unless it suits them so to do. And they are probably the source of the expression ‘completely barking mad.’

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Isn't she lovely?

So ... what can I say?

The day went without a hitch. (We're not mentioning the mobile phone that rang during the ceremony as that belonged to the bride's father. And we were a bit taken aback by the Celtic blessing the Registrar sprang on us, since both sides of the family are more Anglo Saxon than Celt).

But the bride was beautiful. The sun shone. They looked a perfect couple.

We came in only marginally over budget. And it was worth every last penny.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Not doing an Amy

Amy Winehouse may just bave won an award – but she’s rumoured to be in the doghouse as far as her mum’s concerned. Mum was less impressed with the singer’s low-key Miami wedding and is insisting on a proper do back home.
Our proper do kicks off tomorrow. A tiny part of me thinks it might have been a good idea if my daughter had done an Amy.
But most of me is really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Buff Brides and other books

I normally have several books on the go at once. One for bed-time reading, one for the Tube, one that’s to be discussed at the next book club meeting, and probably one that made up the 3-4-2 but turned out to be more gripping than those I went out to buy.

The wedding has put paid to that. Losing myself in a book is usually the best way for me to escape from anything I’m finding tricky or emotional. But at the moment I just find myself reading the same pages several times over because I can’t remember where I’d got to.

Perhaps I should have bought some wedding-related books to dip into. Amazon has hundreds. Most are How To books – how to make the perfect speech, how to plan a perfect wedding, how to choose a perfect bouquet. Some titles made me smile.

I liked The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Weddings (what to do if things turn out to be perfectly awful, I assume) and Buff Brides (how to be the perfect shape for your perfect day – definitely not in the same category as Bad Girl Bridesmaids: three all-new erotic tales).

There are a handful of serious books by American authors with titles such as Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding. Another is White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture, in which the author Chrys Ingraham argues that over-the-top weddings marry two of the most sacred tenets of American culture – romantic love and excessive consumerism.

Romantic love – now we’re talking. Jane and Rochester, Anne and Gilbert, any of the Regency romps by Georgette Heyer. And somewhere in the house I have a box of books my daughter loved when she was little. I’m sure there was a wedding in Brambly Hedge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

11 days and counting

The countdown has begun in earnest. I have an outfit – actually I have a number of items which will make up the outfit once the bride-to-be casts her eye over them and decides which jacket and pair of shoes she deems most suitable for me to wear.

I am still resisting suggestions from Bridezilla to have Botox or eyebrow threading, preferring to stick with laugh lines and tweezers. It’s too late to lose a stone but I have had my highlights done.

Everything we needed to book or hire is booked or hired – and quite a lot of it is already paid for. Those who provide wedding services, it seems, work in a different way to the rest of us.

I work freelance and don’t get paid until I’ve done the job. So I’m the one who gets stuffed if the company I’m working for goes bust before I get my cheque. With weddings this works the other way round. That’s why we took out insurance.

It will pay out if the heavens open and the register office is closed due to flooding. Or the caterer gets stuck in gridlock on the Bristol ring road. Or the photographer loses her cameras before she’s downloaded the images. However, it won’t pay out if either the bride-to-be or the chosen one change their minds.

In America you can get insurance to cover every eventuality. A story in yesterday's Seattle Times notes:

Even a "change of heart" can be insured in a special option that Fireman's Fund Insurance began offering this month that costs about $25 on top of the policy. It's for those who pay for a wedding only to see the groom or bride back out, said insurance broker Rob Nuccio of RV Nuccio and Associates, who wrote the option.
"Oftentimes, there is an innocent person involved in that. There is the poor father who lays out 50 grand and he's just left dumbfounded," Nuccio said.

My husband will be pleased to know that, whatever happens, I don’t think the final total will be anywhere near that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Empty nest

Of course the wedding is my daughter’s day, but it has started to sink in that it is also another turning point for me as a mother. Maybe that’s why in the midst of all the joy and excitement I feel a little sad.

I tell myself that I’ve done my job well now that my children pay their own council tax, make their own dental appointments, put out their own rubbish. But I still miss them. I wrote this after they had both left home.

The front door opens easily
without the log-jam of trainers.
The heart-beat thud of drum and bass has stilled.
Empty sockets of contact lens containers
no longer stare up at me each morning
And there is a lone bottle of shampoo
on the side of the bath.
Food in the fridge reaches its use-by date
and when I flip the car radio on
it plays Heart 106.2.

Note to self: enough sentimental tosh.

Friday, April 27, 2007

5 flowers to avoid at weddings

In the language of flowers candytuft is believed to signify indifference.

Other flowers one should avoid?
*dahlias = capriciousness
*hydrangeas = heartlessness
*oleander = caution
*larkspur (pink) = fickleness

It's probably as well that my daughter has chosen lillies and roses.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why hens?

Tomorrow is the hen night. Why not the doe night?

A quick Google only came up with this possible explanation on The Phrase Finder's bulletin board.

'A typical flock of chickens consisted of many hens and one rooster, if the owners were interested in breeding chicks, or many hens and no rooster if the goal was egg production. So hens hung out together, pecking and gabbling and roosters were solitary.'

Any one have any better suggestions?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reuse, recycle ...

Oxfam is appealing for more second-hand wedding dress donations because demand at its bridal outlets is booming.
The charity runs nine dedicated bridal stores in England, with an average wedding dress price of about £250.
It said more brides-to-be were seeking a cut-price option in order to give their big day a more "ethical slant".
The charity's need for more stock was highlighted by the month-long waiting list for appointments at Oxfam's bridal shop in Eastbourne, East Sussex.
Barbara Warmsley, the charity's bridal co-ordinator, said: "It's great that so many brides are coming to Oxfam for their dresses, but we are desperate for donations to meet this growing demand.
"If a donated dress sells for £250, this can provide 100 people with clean water, build two toilets, train one midwife and feed a family for a month."
Source: BBC news

Puts it all in perspective really ...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Doors to manual

Two weeks ago I posted 40 invitations to my daughter’s wedding ceremony and reception plus a further 40 invitations to the party in the evening. I had filled in the names, handwritten the addresses on the envelopes and tucked a specially printed map inside the specially printed and beribboned cards.

Knowing that letter writing is virtually extinct these days, I included my phone number and my email address for people to reply informally if they wished to.

So far I have had:
11 emails
6 phone calls
8 cards
1 letter
Of these, only 2 have been in response to the evening party invitation.

It’s not just a question of manners. It’s the catering. We need to have a fairly good idea of numbers so that we can order enough food and drink and let the caterers know how many staff to supply.

I’m thinking of saving on the catering and hiring bouncers to turn away anyone not on the ‘has replied’ list.

My husband says I am losing it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Second Thoughts

As the bills start to roll in for assorted wedding paraphernalia - chair hire, coat stands, confetti - I add the following to my list of surveys I wish I’d never heard about:

Market research firm OnePoll has found that a quarter of those who are married wouldn’t wed their spouse again if they had a second chance. Of those, 14 per cent would rather have married an old flame and 33 per cent felt being single was more fun.

Apparently, one in seven of us has doubts while walking up the aisle. And although most of get married for love, one in three ties the knot because he or she wants to have children, buy a house or receive gifts.

Gifts weren’t part of the equation for me. My husband’s romantic gesture of arranging the register office ceremony in secret and pretending we were going out to lunch meant that there were no presents from friends and family. Indeed my only complaint then - and all these years later – is that I missed the one opportunity I might ever have to own a set of matching bathroom towels.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Love shouts and whispers

When I married my husband in Burnt Oak Register Office we seemed to be in and out in a matter of minutes. It may have been because we were the last couple before lunch and the Registrar was starving. More likely, it was the absence of hymns and prayers that sped up proceedings.

The Register office my daughter is to be married in is a far cry from the Portacabin where I got hitched. It’s a Grade II listed building that cost £2 million to restore. The press release put out by the local council when it opened for business last year said:

The Old Council House was designed and constructed under the supervision of Robert Smirke between 1823 and 1827. The neo classical building features a spectacular marble tiled staircase, a beautiful internal courtyard and a number of ornate rooms in the Greek revival style.
Much of the original furniture is still in place alongside a number of oil paintings dating back to the 18th century. Many of paintings were specially commissioned for the building, depicting scenes from Bristol's historic past.
The building is located on one of the most important historical sites in the city and archaeological work during the restoration uncovered medieval walls below the existing building and unearthed a medieval gold ring.

How appropriate is that for a wedding venue?

Anyway, it seems that couples are now encouraged to pad out the civil proceedings with poems, songs or readings, especially if they are getting married somewhere as splendid as the Lantern Room and inviting busloads of guests. I think the Registrars want everyone to feel they are getting value for money, which is a refreshing change from many of the other service providers I’ve been in touch with in my role as MOTB.

The daughter isn’t sure. We’ve both looked at various websites and the same inevitable suggestions come up time and again. Sidney’s The Bargain, Shakespeare’s sonnet 116, Donne’s Good Morrow, Barrett Browning’s How Do I Love Thee. I remembered poems that the daughter loved when she was younger and suggested Love Shouts and Whispers by Vernon Scanell - although I also pointed out that since the daughter and fiancé met at the school where they both teach, The Young and Hopeful Lover might be more apt.

It begins:
I knew that I would have to wait
Years and years before
I carried, as my bride, Miss Hyde
Through my own front door ….

And goes on:
But now I’m told she is engaged –
And this you’d never guess –
To Mr Tench who teaches French!
I’m shocked I must confess

Bizarrely, the daughter has now decided she doesn’t want anything that rhymes. Suggestions gratefully received.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who's on the A-List?

My husband says there should be a rule about weddings: never invite anyone you haven’t met at least three times.

It’s seems as good a rule as any – although since we (as the bride’s parents) are formally sending out the invitations to our daughter’s wedding that would rule out most of the bridegroom’s family including his parents.

The invitation list has been causing me a great deal of angst. Most of the time I feel like a one-woman peace-keeping force.
The husband feels that the wedding is a joyous occasion and he would like the friends who have watched our daughter grow up to share it with us. (Besides, he believes that he who pays the piper should be allowed to call at least part of the tune.)

My daughter and her fiancé feel that it’s their wedding, not ours, so their friends and colleagues should take precedence. (I can see they have a point.)

The daughter doesn’t want aunties, uncles and cousins. The fiancé does. My husband says his sisters will be upset if they are not invited. I point out that we were not invited to his niece’s wedding.

The trade-offs begin. One family friend equals how many of the groom’s mates? Is a cousin worth two aunties?
The List changes every day. Wozzers has broken up with his girlfriend so he won’t be a plus one. Tim and Susan are back together. And so it goes on.

There are, in fact, three lists. One for the ceremony and reception. One for the reception. And one for the party in the evening, to which everyone who has been to the ceremony and/or reception will also be invited.
The invitation cards have now been ordered. I just pray there will be enough to go round.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Oh my ears and whiskers

I am beginning to feel like the White Rabbit. Or possibly Alice after she’d eaten the magic mushroom. Pressed for time and losing my sense of proportion. The reason? My daughter is not getting married next year. Instead, the wedding is to take place in ten weeks’ time.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’ve scaled down their plans.

So far:
√ the register office is booked
√ the school where they both work has agreed we can hold the reception there
√ the dinner ladies can’t do the date but I have a choice of two local caterers who can
√ my husband has found two photographers, ditto
And that’s it.
But at least we can now get the invitations out – if only we can settle the Auntie Question.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What not to watch

5 films to avoid if you're having nightmares about your daughter's wedding

Kill Bill
The Wedding Singer
The Runaway Bride

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Hurl(e)y Burly

Marriage is the result of the longing for the deep peace of the double bed after the hurly burly of the chaise longue

Not much deep peace yet for Elizabeth Hurley. As weddings go this must be one of the longest ever. And the most expensive.
First came the secret but legal civil ceremony in the library at Sudeley Castle. Then the blessing in the church in the castle grounds. Now she’s in Rajasthan, probably being decorated with henna (is this a henna night?), in preparation for the traditional Hindu ceremony: her bridegroom will arrive on a white horse leading a procession of elephants and camels while she waits, decked out in a jewel encrusted sari. So far, so Bollywood.
At least this belt and braces approach to marriage means she won’t have made the same mistake as fellow celeb Jerry Hall who thought she had married Mick Jagger on a beach in Bali. But when the romance had died and divorce was on the cards it turned out their ‘marriage’ had never been valid under English law.
So what happens if my daughter decides to join the growing numbers of those who wed in far-flung sunny corners of the world instead of rainy Britain? How can she avoid making the same mistake as Ms Hall? I’ve discovered that overseas marriages are legal in the UK so long as you comply with all the marriage laws in the country you get married in. But – unless one of you is in or attached to the British Armed Forces – you won’t be able to register your marriage in the usual way.

You can have it recorded, though, if one or both of you is a British citizen and you married in a country that the General Register Office accepts formal notifications from. (They’re called Article 7 countries and there’s a list on This involves paperwork. You have to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the local authorities in the country where you married. You must take this to the British Embassy in that country. They translate it, possibly for a fee, and forward it to the General Register Office in the UK (another fee). The documents are then held by the GRO so that you can ask for a copy of your marriage certificate if you need it for some reason – such as getting a divorce or proving to a high street bank that you are not an international criminal and money launderer.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Chocolate Heaven

There may be something to be said for a proper wedding after all – heavenly chocolate cakes. I have just stumbled across

who make glorious chocolate wedding cakes like the one above. And they are based in Bristol – just on the daughter’s doorstep.

Just one cornetto

We were sitting by the side of the Grand Canal when the gondola drifted by. Seated inside were a bride and groom in full wedding regalia. The gondolier was singing. They were smiling. We went on tucking into our pizza.
The pizza and the wedding were real enough. But the rest was fake. This wasn’t Venice, Italy. This was The Venetian in Las Vegas.
To be honest, my memories of ‘the wedding capital of the world’ are anything but fond. The husband and I were nearing the end of a two-week fly-drive holiday with our teenage son in tow. Nobody was getting on very well with anyone else.
The son was outraged that we had taken him to Vegas but he couldn’t drink, gamble or do anything remotely interesting. The husband was cross that I’d refused to do my share of the driving. And I hated the heat. And motels. And my husband. (Not necessarily in that order.)
So when my daughter suggested getting married in Las Vegas I admit I was underwhelmed. Since then I’ve done some research.
Clark County issued 112,631 marriage licences in 2006. That’s a lot of weddings. In Vegas you can have an Elvis Blue Hawaii wedding package with ‘Elvis’ performing the ceremony and singing his hit songs. Apparently, ‘This Las Vegas wedding ceremony is highlighted by a lush tropical set, hula girls dancing to Elvis' rendition of the Hawaiian Wedding Song, and theatrical fog and lighting effects. Your guests may even want to sport their best luau-wear.’
Or there’s the gangster themed wedding which includes the Godfather as the Minister plus an Italian waiter, theatrical lighting and fog (why fog?). You also get a classic bouquet with five flowers (I assume that’s five kinds of flowers, otherwise it would be more of a posy) and a live webcast during the ceremony. Now there’s an offer you can’t refuse - unless you prefer the helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Prices start from $3350 and for this the happy couple, plus two guests, a minister and a photographer fly over Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, landing in the Grand Canyon on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Here you exchange your wedding vows (you can write these yourself if you like), enjoy a champagne picnic and pose for the photographer. Oh, and a Johnny Cash impersonator can sing at no extra charge.
All together now … I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I read the news today ...

Have you ever noticed how blinkered we are most of the time? Before I was expecting my daughter I never really noticed mums with babies and buggies. But once I was pregnant I saw them everywhere.
It’s the same with weddings. Now that the daughter is a just-got-engaged adult, I can’t seem to escape from them. Every time I pick up a paper or log on to the internet there’s a new story.

Fewer couples chose to tie the knot
The number of adults choosing to marry is at its lowest level since records began, according to new figures. Some 244,710 people wed in 2005 - the lowest number since 1896 - and, as the number of unmarried adults rose, it was the lowest marriage rate since 1862. (Source

Five per cent of people consider a final fling
A survey of more than 2,000 people carried out by wedding website revealed that five out of every 100 would consider having a final fling before the big day. It also discovered that 26 per cent – more than one in four – had skeletons in their closet and planned to keep it that way. (Source

My daughter and fiancé are clearly not in the first camp. It’s to be hoped they are not in the second either. In any event, the wedding plans appear to be under revision. They have completed the deal on the house they are buying together and moved in at the weekend. The daughter phones.
The loo is blocked, the washing machine can’t be plumbed in yet, they need to get the dogflap fitted urgently and the tv aeriel seem to be on the blink. She hasn’t got time to think about weddings. But perhaps Easter would be a better time than the summer because then they could go ski-ing for the honeymoon. Oh, and have we bought our new fridge/freezer yet because they’d like to come and get our old one. Oddly enough we have. Galvanised by the prospect of being without one altogether (it’s hard to deflect a daughter with a fridge/freezer in her sights) her father has surfed the internet, made two trips to what is depressingly called the retail park, and bought the one that ticked all his boxes. It was reduced by £200 but, more importantly, it dispenses chilled water and two different kinds of ice at the push of a lever. Or at least it will if our plumber ever turns up and manages to connect it to the mains water supply. But that’s another story.

When they come to collect the fridge/freezer - not to mention a sofa, two pairs of curtains and all my spare coat hangers - I try to raise the topic of an Easter wedding, aware that the timescale now appears to have shrunk. However, I gather that the Auntie Question has yet to be resolved. How many aunties do you invite? And how many cousins? Whose day is it anyway? The bride’s - or the families’? These are the kind of negotiations best settled without the intervention of a third party, especially one whose only contact with aunties, uncles, cousins and so forth was at Christmas when I accompanied my father to drop off the obligatory presents. I change the subject.

A couple of days later the daughter rings. Her best friend (the chief bridesmaid-to-be) is coming for the weekend and has suggested they look at local wedding venues. The daughter is not keen. ‘I’d rather just go off and get married in Las Vegas.’ Without aunties, presumably.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stunned by the venue

My daughter - she who is getting married – calls. They have decided they want the ceremony and reception at Ashton Court Mansion in Bristol, the city where they live and work. The venue (I’m getting the hang of wedding speak) has a special meaning for them. It’s where they walk the dog.
Not being a dog owner I’m not sure why this is so significant. Indeed, walking this particular dog has always seemed to be more of a nightmare than a dream date since it often involves altercations with other dogs, not to mention their owners, and a great deal of running round in circles on one of those very long leads (the dog, not the dogwalker).
Nevertheless, I check out the website, talk to the man who will be footing a large chunk of the bill, and pick up the phone. My daughter has told me that even though they don’t want to get married until July 2008 – 18 months away – it is necessary to book the venue as soon as possible. Vicky, who is called the Ashton Court Mansion Sales Co-ordinator, confirms this.
However, as they are offering money-off deals for some dates this year (Fantastic room hire offers for all 2007 weddings booked during January) I suspect booking a wedding venue is not unlike booking tickets with Easyjet or Ryanair.
To be sure of getting the day you want at a reasonable price you have to book as far ahead as you can. But if you are prepared to be flexible – not insisting on a Saturday, for instance - you’ll probably get a much cheaper deal nearer the time.
The daughter is not interested in being flexible. I make a provisional booking and agree to send a deposit of £1000.
Then we hit a snag. The daughter says the booking form she has specifies a minimum number of 100 guests. We were planning to have 50 to the ceremony and sit-down reception and about 100 to the evening party with a buffet. I call Vicky back to check.
“Oh no,” she says. “The minimum I would consider on a Saturday in July would be 80 for the reception.”
I am rapidly going off the idea of Ashton Court Mansion. There is almost certainly going to be another wedding going on at the same time. The wine list I have seen is uninspired and overpriced and the corkage charge is horrendous - £12.50 plus VAT per bottle of cava, for God’s sake. The grounds are open to the public until the evening and if we want to be sure we don’t have gatecrashers we will have to hire our own security.
We would have to supply and bring everything apart from food, drink, table linen, cutlery, glasses and crockery. That would include flowers. The cake. Favours (don’t ask).
And I have done some more research. The venue is run by Sodexho.
“Actually,” I tell Vicky. “I think I would rather my daughter’s wedding wasn’t done by school meal caterers.”
She bridles. “We are Sodexho Prestige. We do the catering at Blenheim Palace and Royal Ascot.”
“Exactly,” I say.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

So what's wrong with eloping?

I thought I was going for lunch. It was actually a wedding. Mine.
My partner had taken a day off work which, in itself, should have alerted me. And I should have wondered why he tapped his watch when my mother rang to wish me Happy Birthday just as we were leaving the house.
True, I was taken aback when he tried to overtake a slow-moving hearse as we neared the crematorium. After all, lunchtime trade in North London restaurants on a cold day in January is rarely brisk. No one minds if you turn up later than you said you would – they’re just grateful that you turn up at all.
But it wasn’t until he turned the car into the forecourt in front of Burnt Oak Register Office that light began to dawn. And when he produced a bouquet from the boot as two sets of friends jumped out from behind the bushes, I knew for sure.
So, reader, I married him. And then we went to lunch.
Everyone – except my mother – thought it was so romantic. She said she’d never get to wear a posh hat now. Even I, a one-time Women’s Libber who didn’t see the point of marriage (just a piece of paper, doesn’t prevent divorce, obey???? for goodness sake!), was moved.
But now, all these years later, I realise that the romantic gesture has not prepared me for my newest incarnation. Mother of the Bride.

Type wedding into Google and you get more than 2 million hits. No wonder M&S include cover for stress counselling in their wedding insurance policy.