March, 2011

Mar 11

Food vs football

Last year J and I attended a wedding back in England where the food was pretty good. When I complemented the bride on the tasty fish and nice dessert she’d expertly chosen, she started to laugh.

“Oh we just left it up to the caterers,” she said. “Luckily they did a good job – it wasn’t bad, was it?”

I had to laugh too – it was typical of this girl’s laid-back nature that she didn’t get stressed about things going horribly wrong. I don’t think I could have done the same.

blog-food-story.jpgWhich is just as well really, because with our wedding food, there’ll be no leaving it up to the caterers. Unbelievably we have about three different tasting sessions, and about 40 different dishes to choose from.

In our original meeting with the caterer – a formidable man named Fernando who recounted tales of organising food for a wedding party of 400 – I could see J’s mind wandering.

His ears perked up though when Fernando told him he could get any type of alcoholic beverage J wanted to serve.

But when it came to actually coming to the tastings, J had dithered over whether he would leave it all to Linda and me. In the end, the promise of a free dinner was too good to resist.

So along we went to the first taste session together, once we’d finally set a date for it. The problem was that football matches kept getting in the way. And it wasn’t just my husband-to-be who was kicking up a fuss; Fernando didn’t want to miss a Spain match or a Champion’s League showdown featuring his beloved Real Madrid.

When we did make it out to the finca where Fernando held the session, it was like going to a fancy restaurant on a night out.

We drove for about half an hour to get there – down two toll roads – and through a massive pair of sliding electric doors.

The place was amazing – all red brick and immaculate gardens. And there was something that looked like a windmill in front of the finca.

Fernando met us at the door, and ushered us inside, where there were about 14 couples already seated, tucking into the mini versions of the courses we could choose on the big day.

The food was amazing. I won’t list them all but the highlights were the merluza asada con cama de cebolla (roast haddock on a bed of onions) and the mint cream shot with melon and jamon. The lobster salad looked great, though it was just like eating a large prawn in reality…

So the jury’s still out on our wedding menu. But I’m glad we’ve got these tastings lined up, as everyone keeps telling me I won’t eat much on the big day. I’ll be too nervous and I’ll have too many people to talk to. Is that really true?

Anyway, it’ll be a while until the next session – April is a good month for football, after all.

Mar 11

Six months to go

In exactly six months to this day, I will be getting married. How did that happen?

Fast forward to the big day, and by this point I will be approximately 30 minutes from making my entrance at the church. I will be probably having some sort of deep and meaningful with my bridesmaids/my dad/Linda/my mum, or all of the above.


six-months-blog-s.jpgI’m sure I’ll have already made a mess of my eye makeup (deffo need to invest in some waterproof mascara).

Hopefully I will be calm and collected and looking radiant. That’s the way I see it in my head, anyway.

Six months away from W-day is the perfect stage to be at, I reckon. It’s close enough so that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s far enough away to give you that “I’ve got plenty of time to sort that out” feeling.

Not that I’m procrastinating, of course. Oh no, heaven forbid.

I would never do that. I’m sure that J would tell you that I am a total cabezota (stubborn head) when it comes to getting things done. If I get something in my head I won’t stop until I’ve got it done, no matter how much I annoy everyone.

Because now – and I can hardly believe this – I’m at the stage where I can write lists of things that are left to do, and not feel overwhelmed.

When I think back to when I started out on the long road of wedding planning, and how daunting it all seemed, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come.

I spent days looking at wedding venues on the internet and just thought “this is going to be hell”.

But it really hasn’t been so far. Sure, there have been some stressful bits along the way, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself through it all. Now we’re at the half way mark, and I’m really starting to believe we’re going to pull this off. More than that, we’re going to create something pretty darn special.

And a lot of that has been down to my wedding planning secret weapon, my mother-in-law Linda – who takes no crap when people are being rubbish, has impeccable taste, always offers good advice, and has so many good contacts from the three other weddings she’s planned already. I really am so lucky to have her.

In the past few weeks we’ve managed to sort out some musicians for the ceremony, meet with our priest (who assures me that my paperwork won’t be a problem, wow) and figure out what we want in terms of the invitations. It’s all rolling along nicely.

So while I’m feeling all smug and organised, I thought it would be a good idea to do a ten tips I can offer brides-to-be, based on my experiences so far. So here goes:

wedding-blog-s.jpg1) Just do it
The first step is always the hardest, but you’ve got to take it. Buy a wedding magazine, start browsing venues, or book an appointment at a wedding dress shop. Once you’ve got the ball rolling, you’ll feel better.

2) Find your own Linda
Unless your sister or best friend has got hitched, you probably have limited experience of planning a wedding. So the best thing you can do is draft in someone who’s been there, done that, worn the dress. Mothers and mothers-in-law may or may not be a good choice, depending on the relationship you have with them. So, if need be look further afield – aunties, cousins, friends. And if you’re completely alone (and if your budget allows for it) you might want to consider hiring a wedding planner

3) Start early, and give yourself plenty of time
The main times I’ve been stressed have been when I’ve struggled to get the people I want for the job because I’ve left it to late. Look at the photographer saga - I thought seven months was more than enough time to find the snapper I wanted, I was so wrong. So the best thing you can do to make things stress free is start looking at venues, for a dress, the caterer and the photographer as soon as possible, and overestimate the time you’ll need. The early bird catches the wedding worm. Prioritise – there are some things that can wait till later in the process, like picking your wedding disco music, choosing the rings, sorting out the readings for the service, etc.

4) Lists are your friends
You’ve got a million ideas buzzing round in your head, so get them down onto paper. It’ll clear your mind and help you prioritise. Don’t get overwhelmed though, deal with things one at a time, and set yourself deadlines if you know you need and extra push.

5) Make a wedding scrapbook
If you see something in a magazine or on the internet that you really like – whether it be a dress, hairstyle or bouquet – cut it out and stick it in a folder or book. Then you’ve got it all in one place. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in the situation later where you know you’ve seen a pair of shoes you really love, but you can’t remember where.

6) Don’t expect your other half to be as obsessed as you are
Why doesn’t he care about the flowers or which photographer you choose? Because he’s a man, that’s why. Maybe you’ll find yourself with one of those rare ‘Groomzilla’ types who want personal control of the seating plan, but chances are, he won’t give a monkey’s. So take charge of the fiddly stuff and give him jobs he’ll be interested in – like researching the honeymoon or sorting out the DJ.

7) Keep an open mind
Don’t rule anything out on the premise that ‘It’s just not me’. Try every dress on in the shop and go see as many venues as you can. You’ve never done this before, remember? How do you know what you’re going to like?

8) Remember, it’s your wedding – nobody else’s
Don’t be worried about what your friends will think of your dress, or the song you choose for your first dance. It’s your special day, so pick something YOU like. Don’t totally disregard advice, though. If someone close to you is telling you a fuchsia pink dress is not a good idea, it’s only because they have your best interests at heart.

9) Compromise
You want a quiet wedding and your mum – who’s forking out for the big day – has in mind a guest list of 400. Or you want an Eighties disco while your other half wants heavy metal classics. Weddings are epic argument territory, so you have to compromise and talk through things properly. And apparently that’s the secret to a successful marriage too, so think of it as good practice. Nine times out of ten you’ll find a half way point, a solution that keeps all parties happy. But if you don’t, don’t resort to emotional blackmail. Nobody deserves that.

10) Enjoy it
If things all go to plan (and why wouldn’t they?) This is the only wedding you will ever plan. In your whole life, ever. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and you should try and treasure every moment. Even the stressful parts. It seems like a nightmare now that every venue you look at is over priced and looks like a Butlin’s ballroom. But trust me, you’ll look back and laugh about it all once you’ve found your fairytale location

Mar 11

Bridesmaids? No meringues please

What to do with my bridesmaids? That was the little thing niggling at me right from the start.

Choosing them was easy, no problem there. Four special girls:

Nina, who I met during my clubbing days in Manchester back in 2000, and has been in my life ever since. Fun, loyal, always up for a laugh and my most frequent visitor, whether I was living in London, Ibiza, Barcelona, or now Madrid.

bridesmaids-story.jpgEmma – a constant friend for the past 13 years or so, ever since we ended up going on holiday together as part of a big group, though we’d never met. (A mutual friend brought her and her boyfriend Ed along, saying how lovely they were – the friend was so right) Over the years we’ve shared so much – I just know we’ll be in touch forever.

Amy – A kindred spirit in every way. She moved into my flat in Ibiza because she couldn’t stand sharing with her flatmates’ pet duck. (Typical Ibizan randomness.) It turned out to be one of the best summers of my life. There’s no-one like her and I feel like I’ve known her always.

And Phoebe – my maid of honour. I almost don’t have words to describe how special she is to me. I feel like we did our growing up together over the last 12 years. And she was there on the night I met J. She was the first to cheer me up when we split for the first time, and she was there the night we got back together. She’s a big part of our story – the night I met J we were out celebrating her 21st birthday.

So choosing them was obvious. and four felt practically minimal compared to J’s EIGHT best men. But what to put them in? I thought it would come to me after I found my dress. But I was none the wiser.

Usually, looking at pictures of bridesmaids makes me cringe. I don’t know what it is, but seeing them all in matching dresses in brash colours just looks so tacky. And what about the colours? I’m really more a monochrome sort of girl… grey at a stretch. I don’t really do bright colours.

“What do you think about having the bridesmaids in black?” I asked Linda during one of our many chats about the wedding.

“Noooooooooooo!” she half screamed. Then more calmly: “Personally I think there are two colours you should never wear at a wedding: black and white.”

I googled “black bridesmaids dresses” and kind of went off the idea. Even with silver shoes and some sort of coloured accessory it was still going to look a bit gothic for our countryside wedding.

Then there was the problem of me being on the other side of the channel (and a bit further) from my girls – who span the country – Glasgow, Bristol, and London, as well as one being temporarily in France. Chances of getting them together in one room for a fitting? Zero.

In the end my mum came to the rescue. After checking out some bridesmaids dress shops in England, she found most of them to be quite pricey and full of designs that were to flouncy or fussy.

She suggested I have a look online at some of the websites of chains and department stores like Monsoon, Oasis and Debenhams to see if there was anything there I liked.

And there in the ‘Occasions’ section of the Debenhams website I found something perfect – a deep purple taffeta prom dress. Immediately my ideas about putting each of the girls in a different dress went out the window – this would be great for all of them.

I would need to get Phoebe’s delivered to France, but for the others, I could get them delivered to the closest store to each of my girls and they could try it on, and if need be, request another size.

The dresses are now ordered. I’m just crossing my fingers, and toes, and everything else that they don’t run out of stock before my order is dispatched, and that each of my bridesmaids find a size that fits and they feel gorgeous wearing them on the big day. And comfortable – that’s why I’m leaving it up to them what they wear on their feet.

Phoebe is going to help me look for some accessories, but we can sort that out closer to the day.

So for now at least, that’s one less thing to worry about.

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