February, 2011

Feb 11

J gets involved

amazing thing happened this week. J took a real interest in his own wedding. Not just a “yeah, whatever” but a fully-fledged interest.

Wow, wonders never cease, right?

Back at the start, while we were both still basking in the rosy glow of just “being engaged”, J happily told me he would leave me to plan everything with his mum, and he would just turn up on the day.

I laughed with him at the time, though I knew there was a small part of him (or perhaps not so small) that would be overjoyed if he could actually do that.

In many ways it would be the perfect arrangement. I love researching stuff, making lists and finding the best possible option. If my calendar is full of scheduled things I am a happy woman.

J, on the other hand does not share my views. In fact, the only arguments we ever seem to have arise because I want to plan every second of our lives and he wants to just go with the flow.

Perhaps that’s the biggest cultural difference between us. Or maybe it’s because I’m an anally retentive weirdo.

Either way, it soon became clear that largely, I’d be left to my own devices with a lot of the finer details of our wedding. And it’s what I was expecting really. Do I really want to be marrying the kind of man who frets about the colour of tablecloths or the font we use on the wedding invitations?

Indeed, friends on both sides – and Linda even – said it was for the best. “This way, we can do exactly what we want,” she told me with a conspiratory grin.

She went on to tell me about a friend’s son-in-law who turned into groom-zilla and got fussy and picky about everything – including the flowers! – making it a nightmare for everyone. I certainly don’t want that.

“What are you moaning for?” a Spanish friend Chucho asked me. “He did his part, didn’t he? He asked you. Now it’s your turn.”

And so it went, and I didn’t really mind. But then about two weeks ago, things got to me. I was worried about the paperwork, I couldn’t find a dress and all the photographers I liked were taken. I was really stressed out for the first time, and as I sat there, manically searching wedding sites with my head in my hands, J noticed me.

“You look really stressed out,” he said. “Relax, you’re supposed to enjoy planning your wedding.”

Why wasn’t he stressed out too? Why was he talking to me like he was an outside observer? It was all wrong.

But all of a sudden, things began to change. First, he took charge of sorting out the hotel accommodation for the guests that want to stay overnight in Cabanillas del Monte. Then he decided he wants to come and help pick the food we’re going to have.

And just last night we were sitting together having what was sort of our first ‘wedding planning meeting’ (but don’t tell him I called it that!) He had printed out documents, stapled them together and even put them in a plastic folder.

Right in front of my eyes he phoned the caterer and the priest to arrange meetings and went through a load of videos of possible musicians we could have play at the ceremony, even getting enthusiastic about one we saw.

“I’ll email them tomorrow,” he said. “And I’ll call the guy who supplied the DJ equipment for my sister’s wedding and see if he can help us.”

Wow. Was I going to wake up any moment and realise it had all been a dream? Amazingly no. It was for real.

“At the start I was like ‘I don’t want to know anything…,” he told me by way of explanation. “But this is my wedding too. I want to be involved.”

So there you have it. I’m thrilled about J’s change of heart. And more than happy to hand over the reins. I won’t be letting go of them completely though.

Feb 11

The dress hunt is over

Well, it happened. That “this is the one” moment. But it’s not a dress I would have ever picked out for myself in a million years.

After getting a call from Eva at the posh dress shop near my work, I went back to try on a dress that I’d requested, but they didn’t have the first time around.

dress-hunt-story.jpgIt was one of my favourites from the brochure, and the fact it was called ‘Scotland’ seemed like a nice touch too. (Whenever Spanish people ask me where Durham is, I end up telling them it’s almost in Scotland.)

I’d been checking it on the internet all day (when did I turn into the sort of person who does that? Does getting married turn your brain to mush?) and was liking it more and more.

And when I was back under the hot lights of the changing room and put it on, it was definitely my favourite so far. But there still wasn’t a “eureka” moment.

Maybe I’d end up like the girl in the news who couldn’t make a choice, so she ended up buying 18 dresses, nine of which she wore for her big day. Then again, she spent £20,000 – so maybe not.

“Do you want to try on any of the ones from the other day?” asked Eva, after listening to me going “umm” and “err” and complaining about how wide my shoulders looked from behind.

“Oh, yes, can I try the Grecian-looking one?” I asked her.

But that one just looked kind of boring and drab after the Scotland dress. And it had been one of my favourites from the other day too. What was going on?

We had time for one more, so I asked to try on another of my favourites from the other day. But Eva pulled a face. That was not a good sign.

“It’s in another one of our shops,” she said. “And they don’t want to give it back to us, I asked the other day.”

God it’s cut throat, this wedding dress business!

“But I do have a one with a similar skirt that you could try, just to get an idea.”

When she brought the dress it was unlike any of the other dresses in the shop – in fact it was totally unlike any of the ones I’d ever seen. Something quite different. If I’d seen it in the brochure I would have ruled it out straight away.

But when I put it on it looked fantastic. And Linda thought so too.

“Don’t you breathe a word about what it’s like to anyone,” she told me. And she wagged her finger at me while she said it, so I knew she meant business.

The lovely lady is getting me the dress as a present so, of course I have to respect her wishes. And it kind of feels more fun that way too.

Plus, what if I describe it to someone or show them a picture and they think it’s horrible, then have to pretend they like it? It’ll be much easier for them to do that on the day, when I’m actually wearing it.

So it looks like I’ve found my dress. I’m going to think about it for a day or so (after all, you can never be too careful about these kinds of things).

But really, I think my mind’s made up.

Feb 11

Wedding = stress

More and more, planning a wedding just seems like the experience of trying to find a flat to rent in London. You’ve got to be quick off the mark with things or else they might be snapped up by the person who’s looking at them after you.

That horrible feeling you get when the estate agent tells you: “Well I wouldn’t think about it too long if I were you because I’ve got more people coming round to view it in two hours” is exactly the same as the one you get when a wedding-related company tells you: “We have other couples who’ve made enquiries about your date, so you should confirm soon if you want it.”

stress-blog-story.jpgThe only difference is that I always suspected those pesky estate agents were lying to beat their co-workers to a fat commission check, but I believe every word these caterers, photographers and so on say.

Why would they lie? They hardly seem short on people requiring their services.

When I’m waiting to hear from one of them re: availability or prices, I turn into a love sick teenager – obsessively checking my phone and email every five minutes to see if they’ve got back to me.

If I didn’t know myself better I’d say that I’m doing what I promised myself I would never do – getting stressed.

In my first ever post I wrote “I don’t really feel like the whole focus of my life has changed”. But now I realise that’s because I hadn’t even started thinking about the planning. Now it’s hard not to. But how do you switch off, that’s what I’d like to know?

I just want everything to be perfect. Take the photographer for example – that was one of the most important things to me.

After seeing my friend Gemma’s lovely pics, I knew I wanted something like that – more arty and fashion than simple and classic. But finding a photographer like that is hard.

Linda has a snapper who’s done all of J’s siblings’ weddings, but her photographs – though lovely – were just too straightforward for my liking.

I found one girl who I really liked, but I dithered, and by the time I went to book her, she was already taken. Seven months in advance! She gave me the details of two more photographers who looked equally as good, but I got in touch with them both, and they were also busy.

By this time I began to panic. Have I left it too late, I thought? Will I end up with my dad and his disposable camera?

But then an email dropped into my inbox from a photographer in Valencia, and everything was sorted. He’d been passed my details by one of the other photographers who couldn’t do my wedding.

This guy took pity on me after I said oh what a shame, thanks anyway, but could he please please recommend someone, anyone in the same style as I was “pasando una pesadilla” (having a nightmare) trying to find someone. He said he would help me, and he kept his word.

I checked out the photographer in Valencia’s portfolio and prices, and was very impressed, so at the insistence of Linda, I called him up immediately – at 11am on a Saturday morning.

I now have a photographer. And after this whole episode I also have a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to wedding planning. Maybe that’s the secret to not being stressed?

Feb 11

Get dressed

It’s a funny feeling the first time you try on a wedding dress. There’s your face in the mirror, staring back at you – but it looks as though someone has photoshopped your face onto someone else’s body.

A body swathed in white satin, or tulle or lace, or whatever. The body of someone who’s definitely getting married.

dress-blog-story.jpg“What do you think?” asked Eva, the nice – but brisk – lady who was helping me.

“I like it,” I told her.

“Yes, but is that because you really like it or because it’s the very first wedding dress you’ve ever tried on?”

Ah, she was smart, that one.

I’d gone to my first ever wedding dress trying on session with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. After all, it’s meant to be the most important dress you’ll ever wear, right? I love shopping, most of the time. But I really hate it when shop assistants are breathing down your neck and asking you if you need any help. And there was going to be plenty of that going on.

I know what I like when it comes to clothes usually. But it’s not like I have a lot of experience with wedding dresses. How am I supposed to know what I like in that department?

Most of all I was just worried the underwear I was wearing wasn’t nice enough, but I don’t have a lot of white stuff. Why I got it into my head that I had to wear white I don’t know. It wasn’t like any of it was going to be on show.

My mother-in-law Linda accompanied me to the posh-looking shop, which was handily close to my office. I arrived before her, and like a total chicken, waited outside for her to arrive. Posh shops always put me on edge.

Once she arrived, we went in and were sat down with the assistant, Eva, who took my details. When she found out my wedding is in September she told me it was just as well I was looking for a dress now, as they usually need seven months for the whole process. Seven months? Crikey, if I’d known that I would have started looking earlier.

“And you have to remember,” she told me. “We don’t work in August so you’ll have to have your dress practically ready for the end of July.” Ah, yes, I forgot Spain as good as shuts down for the whole of August.

After flicking through the catalogue at lighting speed, we selected some dresses to try on. But there was absolutely no way we would have the time to try them all – as we only had an hour, right from the moment we walked through the door.

The whole experience was quite surreal, not helped by the fact that I kept giving Eva electric shocks (caused by friction or my brain short circuiting, I’m not sure which). And we were slowed down a bit by the fact she kept getting her pin cushion tangled up in the dresses.

I must have tried on at least six, and they were all perfectly nice, but I didn’t have a “wow, this is the one” moment. Which apparently will happen at some point, according to nearly everyone I know who’s been through the process themselves.

I left almost feeling like it would have been better if they’d all looked foul apart from one, then my mind might have been made up.

When I went to bed that evening my mind was swimming with thoughts of wedding dresses. What if I never find one I like? What I pick one that looks just OK, and end up hating it?

The thing that put me off a little about the shop was that I felt a bit “production line bride”, the same sort of feeling I got when we went to visit our first wedding venue. The whole place was full of brides racing to find the perfect dress before their allotted hour ran out. It didn’t seem fair that things seemed so rushed when we were all potentially spending so much money.

It was an exciting experience, but it was also – dare I say it, quite stressful. No wonder I couldn’t get to sleep that night.

In the end I told myself to stop being so silly. I was getting married one way or another. It didn’t matter if I wore a bin bag, it was still going ahead.

I’ll find the perfect dress in the end, won’t I?

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