22
Nov 13

The wedding!

It’s exactly a year to the day since Sean first popped the question – and now I’m writing this as a married lady!

Our wedding was exactly what I’d dreamed it would be. Despite me having a mammoth meltdown the day before, it all went as planned – even down to the grey, autumn drizzle that greeted me when I woke up on the big day making way for the sun to come out 15 minutes before I walked down the aisle. I know it’s such a cliche but it really was the best day of my life. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of describing Sean as “my husband”!

Just married!

Just married!

Factfile

The night before the wedding: We spent separately. Sean commandeered the only pub in the village for the boys so my mum and grandma offered to host a bit of a gathering at our on-site cottage. We had lots of fizz and a nice spread of food and it was the perfect opportunity for everyone to get to know each other before the wedding. I must say I wasn’t on top form, though. I was so nervous I could have been sick – and I only managed to get about two hours sleep afterwards.

The morning of the wedding: ….was amazing. In stark contrast to the night before, I was the picture of calm. I remember lying in the bath with a glass of bucks fizz thinking ‘This is my wedding day’ and feeling so, so happy.

Getting ready before the ceremony

Getting ready before the ceremony – feeling nervous!

The dress: My dress was designed by Pronovias and I bought it at the Bridal Box in Oxford. I used to live in Madrid and knew I wanted a Spanish-style dress – this ticked all the boxes. It’s a mermaid cut with buttons at the back that go right the way down the train, with guipure lace detailing and extra guipure lace appliqués on the skirt. I chose a cathedral veil and a gold and pearl tiara to wear with it. I fell in love with it the minute I tried it on – it’s true that you have a moment when you find The One!

My beautiful bridesmaids (and man) - L-R James, Verity, Hollie, Sarah and Charlotte. Could not have got through the day without them all!

My beautiful bridesmaids (and man) – L-R James, Verity, Hollie, Sarah and Charlotte. Could not have got through the day without them all!

The flowers: Roses, roses and more roses! My florist Chris – from the Flower Lounge in Neston – did such an amazing job of making sure the flowers were autumnal, like I wanted, and the colours were just beautiful.

The hair and makeup: I decided to get this done professionally – for me, my bridesmaids, mum and Sean’s mum. Well, you don’t want to take any chances on your wedding day…! Kathryn was brilliant – calm, reassuring and lovely, and exactly the sort of person you want around you on the morning of your wedding.

Newlyweds

Newlyweds

The photographers: Verity and Richard from Cetra Studio were brilliant. They were fast, friendly, a joy to work with – and produced wonderful photographs. We met with them the day before to run through the family combinations we wanted and what other shots were most important to us, and they ticked off absolutely everything we’d asked for.

The music: I left this entirely down to family friend and amazingly talented pianist Lesley – with one stipulation. That she play Mariah Carey songs while we signed the register. She did. (Always Be My Baby and Hero, for any Mariah fans out there.) I walked in to The Bridal Chorus and we left to the Wedding March. Very traditional – very us.

With our ushers and bridesmaids

With our ushers and bridesmaids

The readings: Both our mums did a reading during the ceremony. My mum read After the Lunch by Wendy Cope (it’s a poem about Waterloo Bridge, where Sean and I met for our first date) and Sean’s mum read I Will Be There by Steve Curtis Chapman.

The table names: …were named after Arsenal legends. Obviously one of Sean’s contributions to the day. The top table was the Thierry Henri table. Lots of people asked me why I’d agreed to this – and it’s because it meant SO much to Sean. I think sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and forget that it’s the groom’s day, too. And also because it was the only way I could do a deal and persuade him to let me have Mariah played during the ceremony!

Good job I had my bridesmaids on hand to help me walk about in my dress...!

Good job I had my bridesmaids on hand to help me walk about in my dress…!

The food: …was yummy, though I have to say I couldn’t manage much of it. Our caterer did say she’s never seen a bride finish a meal and I now understand why. All the adrenaline and nerves plus a fitted dress don’t leave you in the mood for a big dinner! I’m told it was delicious, though.

Everyone!

Everyone!

The cake: …was the most beautiful wedding cake I’ve ever, ever seen. It was made by my bridesmaid Charlotte and even though I knew what it would look like, I was blown away. It was huge! The flowers on the cake matched the ones in our bouquets so it tied everything in nicely – and it was delicious, too.

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

The evening look: I took off my veil, put up my hair (well, my sister did) and added a flamenco-style headpiece that I’d found by chance about three weeks before the wedding.

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The first dance: We didn’t have to think too hard about this one. We chose I’ve Been Waiting by Foreigner which features in West End musical Rock of Ages – where we went on one of our first dates. It’s been one of our songs ever since. We made our entrance to the wedding breakfast to Hey Ho by the Lumineers.

The party: Our DJ played everything we asked him to – including Daddy Yankee. What more does a bride need…!

First dance! Which, by the way, is nowhere near as nerve-wracking/ embarrassing as we thought it would be...

First dance! Which, by the way, is nowhere near as nerve-racking/ embarrassing as we thought it would be…

The honeymoon: … The Maldives and Sri Lanka. In the Maldives we were lucky enough to experience two islands – the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi and the Jumeirah Vittaveli. Hands down the most amazing, luxurious places I have ever visited. Paradise on earth. And to top it off, the island the Dhevanafushi is built on is in the shape of a heart. It doesn’t get any more romantic than that. Sri Lanka was also amazing – a fortnight full of elephant rides, visiting ancient temples and wildlife safaris.

If I could pass on one piece of advice to other brides-to-be it would be this: GET A VIDEOGRAPHER! I know they can be expensive and I know they’re not classed as a necessity. But our wedding film is hands down the most precious, beautiful, amazing memory we have of our wedding day. If you’d like to take a look at it it’s online here… I still haven’t managed to get through it without crying. Rachael, our videographer, is super talented and was amazing on the day. I honestly can not praise her enough. So many people said they didn’t even realise we were being filmed because they were so discreet. Before the wedding every married friend I have told me I absolutely had to have a videographer – and what a good job I listened. The wedding film is something we will treasure forever.

So that’s it! After almost a year of planning (and dieting, and blogging, and panicking!) the wedding is over.

But now comes the exciting part – the rest of our lives, together. Forever.


11
Oct 13

Wedding nightmares

There’s just ten days to go until the wedding – and I’d be lying to you if I said I was feeling calm and relaxed about the fastly-approaching big day. In fact, getting married still seems like a bit of an abstract idea and although I’m definitely working through my ‘things to do’ list efficiently and ticking things off on a daily basis, I still can’t get my head around the fact that I’ll be walking down the aisle in a little over a week.

My subconscious doesn’t seem to need reminding, though! For months now I’ve been suffering from a serious case of bride-to-be nightmares, and my awful dreams have only got worse – and more frequent – the nearer to the wedding we’ve got. Last night, I jolted awake in a panic having had my most recurring nightmare yet again.

Apparently these wedding nightmares are very common. Still disturbing, though...

Apparently these wedding nightmares are very common. Still disturbing, though…

Picture the scene: it’s my wedding day, my excited guests are all in their seats and Sean’s waiting for me at the altar – and I’m just waking up, oblivious to the fact I’m about to get married. My mum coaxes me into my wedding dress but it doesn’t fit properly, I don’t have makeup on because I slept through my appointment with the makeup artist, ditto the hairdresser, and I forgot to fake tan the night before.

There are variations on the theme. Sometimes I wake up, it’s my wedding day, and I’m not even in the country and can’t get home in time. Other times I wake up and nobody has remembered to collect my dress from the boutique in Oxford. But they’re always so vivid. Like exam dreams, but worse!

This one made me laugh

This one made me laugh

This isn’t the only affliction I’m facing. Absolutely everything is making me cry. I can’t get through the readings we’ve chosen for the ceremony without my face crumpling into a teary mess, I can’t practice our first dance because it makes me cry… I was watching an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians the other day and Kim saying her vows to Kris Humphries set off the waterworks. And we all know that marriage only lasted 72 days!

What’s wrong with me?! Let’s just hope that everything that could potentially go wrong only goes wrong in my dreams – and thank God my makeup artist is amazing, and has promised that my entire face will be waterproof. I think it’s going to need to be…


07
Oct 13

Ten hens and a weekend in Marbs

In a way it’s a shame that marriage is supposed to last forever.* By default, that means I’ll never get to have another hen do – and my hen do has shot straight to the top of my Best Weekends Ever list.

Ten hens and a trip to Marbs. What's not to love?

Ten hens and a trip to Marbs. What’s not to love?

Eight of my best friends, my sister and I jetted out to Marbella for an action-packed four-day hen extravaganza. My bridesmaids had rented the most incredible villa high up in the Andalucian mountains. And oh my gosh – it was just insanely brilliant. It had its own pool, its own bar, its own roof terrace – and better still, nothing and no one else for miles around. Perfect for all the parties they’d planned – which had a different fancy dress theme each night. Amazing.

Finca de los Arcos - the most amazing villa ever? This was home to our four-day hen festivities. And what a home it was...

Finca de los Arcos – the most amazing villa ever? This was home to our four-day hen festivities. And what a home it was…

All the details had been kept secret from me – but they’d thought of absolutely everything I love and incorporated it into one amazing, jam-packed weekend in the sun that included – and this is by no means an exhaustive list:

-A day spent glamming it up at Nikki Beach

-A 90s party complete with padded headbands with our names written on in glitter (remember them?!), retro sweets and a Geri Halliwell Union Jack outfit for me

90s headbands! Why did these ever go out of fashion...?

90s headbands! Why did these ever go out of fashion…?

-My favourite food and drink – tortilla, martini, tinto de verano, gorgonzola, Don Simon sangria…the list goes on…

-A Grease 2 party, during which I got to wear a Pink Ladies jacket that said ‘Mrs D To Be’ on the back in diamante, painstakingly applied by my bridesmaids!

Me in my prized Pink Ladies jacket

Me in my prized Pink Ladies jacket

-A reggaeton party with a Daddy Yankee playlist, inflatable palm trees, flamingos and pineapples

Reggaeton night (excuse the fuzzy photo....)

Reggaeton night (excuse the fuzzy photo….)

-A night out in the sort of Spanish bar I frequented when I lived in Madrid, that let us take over the decks and play all our favourite Spanish songs

I was so overwhelmed by everything everyone did for me – not to mention the fact everyone had taken the time and effort to fly out there to help me celebrate. They’d even presented me with a beautiful book – my new ‘item to save from a burning building’ – with each hen getting a few pages to stick in messages, old photos, letters, and momentos from our friendships.

Me and my friends soaking up the sun at Nikki Beach

Me and my friends soaking up the sun at Nikki Beach

I spent the whole of the last day in tears saying bye to everyone and feeling incredulous that the next time I’d see most of them would be at my wedding.

Being a hen (or am I the bride and they’re the hens? Or are we all hens? We couldn’t decide…) is just brilliant. And when we all hit a small bar in Alhaurin El Grande in our pink lady costumes – my bridesman dressed as a T Bird, obviously – with me clad in my (very classy) flashing ‘Bride-to-be’ sash and flashing veil – I was very aware that it was the only night ever that I’d be doing this, so I’d best make the most of it.

Pink ladies!

Pink ladies!

And make the most of it we did. We stayed out until 5am and went to bed at 7. I haven’t done that for years. I definitely eked out every last second of wearing that veil!

So, that’s it. My hen do has been and gone, leaving me with memories I’ll cherish forever, some hilarious photos, a living room full of bride-to-be accessories, flower garlands and my treasured pink ladies jacket – and the knowledge that I have the bestest most amazing friends (and sister) in the world.

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my amazing bridesmaids (and bridesman) for throwing me the party of a lifetime. I love you all.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my amazing bridesmaids (and bridesman) – L-R Charlotte, Sarah, me, James, Verity, Hollie – for throwing me the party of a lifetime. I love you all.

And that those friends (and my sister) know how to put on a damned good fiesta.

* Only joking!


26
Sep 13

Pre-hen pampering and Perfect Eyelashes

With a long girls’ weekend in Marbella for my hen do fast approaching, I jumped at the chance to have semi-permanent eyelash extensions at celeb hotspot Perfect Eyelashes, whose impressive client list includes Lily Allen, Chloe Sims, Pixie Geldof and Lucy Watson.

Perfect Eyelashes have salons in Kensington, Harley Street and Holborn

Perfect Eyelashes have salons in Kensington, Harley Street and Holborn

But I must admit I was a bit dubious about the whole process – I’ve had bad experiences with eyelash extensions in the past. Some have left me with clumpy, spidery lashes than fall off in big chunks and leave a very uncomfortable, itchy and weird-looking effect, and some have actually resulted in my own lashes falling out. Definitely not something I want to happen before the big day!

As soon as I arrived at the lovely salon in Kensington though, my worries evaporated. I had a quick consultation with director Agnes, who, reassuringly, describes herself as an eyelash extension perfectionist. I was definitely in safe hands…

She reassured me that not only are their extensions good for your lashes (another bonus) but that they’d find a lash to perfectly suit my needs. For a long weekend by the pool I wanted a natural look that wouldn’t look too ‘drag queen’ by day, but also one that I wouldn’t have to apply mascara to for my evenings on the town.

Agnes and her talented team will advise you on which extensions to get during a pre-treatment consultation

Agnes and her talented team will advise you on which extensions to get during a pre-treatment consultation

“I think the diamond lashes would be perfect for you,” nodded Agnes, showing me a board that had individual lashes of different lengths and thicknesses stuck to it to demonstrate what she had planned. A full set of the premier diamond lash – which is lighter and naturally more shiny than the mink option – costs from £110.

Once that was agreed it was over to the (super comfy) bed, where I’d be spending the next hour and a half with my eyes closed while my lashes were expertly applied one by one by senior technician Petra. I’m not entirely sure I didn’t drift off to sleep at one point….

What a transformation! Before and after shots...

What a transformation! Before and after shots…

Once the process was over, I was absolutely thrilled with the results. Petra handed me a mirror and I couldn’t believe how natural, long and thick my lashes looked. I was given an after care kit and plenty of advice on how best to maintain my lashes. If you’re careful, they can last up to two months. I was told to steer clear of oil-based makeup remover, to try not to get them wet, and not to use eyelash curlers. (Not that I need to anymore!)

Et voila. Thanks, Perfect Eyelashes. Next stop: Marbella!


15
Sep 13

Hen celebrations underway!

“I can’t believe we’re celebrating me getting married!” I exclaimed, as my friend Rachel whipped a flashing hen party badge out of her bag and handed it to me to pin to my top. We were sipping champagne (through L plate straws) and tucking into a generous serving of cakes, scones and sandwiches over afternoon tea in a central London hotel last Saturday – which, excitingly, marked the first of my hen celebrations.

Check out my straw!

Check out my straw!

We dubbed it my mini hen. And what a mini hen it was! Rach had taken me out because she’s not able to come on my official hen – a long weekend in Marbella starting on Friday – and although I’m super sad she won’t be joining us in Spain (particularly because we met while we were both living in Madrid) we more than made up for it in London.

I’d even banned Sean from contacting me for the duration. That’s what you’re supposed to do on a hen, right? Well – he failed spectacularly! I heard off him when Arsenal won their match, and again when it emerged they were top of the league. Hmm.

YUM

YUM

Anyway. I was thoroughly spoilt. “All the stress of wedding planning is finally paying off!” I remember thinking, as we ordered another bottle of fizz. Rach had gone above and beyond with prezzies too – presenting me with a goody bag that contained everything from the practical – vitamin C (can’t be getting ill before the big day!), hairspray, underwear and party feet – to the touching, including a gorgeous jewellery box, a bracelet, and a beautiful home made scrap book containing photos of me and Sean and words from this very blog, that moved me to tears as soon as I opened it.

We gossiped, we laughed, we fell over, and we had a stab at some dares. It was an amazing, memorable day.

Afternoon tea, fizz and an old friend. Lovely.

Afternoon tea, fizz and an old friend. Lovely.

I enjoyed it all the more because pretty much everything is sorted for the wedding now. I went home last weekend and mum and I ticked off most things we had left to do. We bought flower girl dresses and wedding rings, we picked up the champagne (very important), we trialled a brilliant hair and makeup artist, I ordered presents for my bridesmaids and stationery for place settings and table plans, I sorted out our honeymoon visas and travel insurance, booked our trains home for the wedding, I visited our family friend Lesley to organize the music (she’s playing piano for us during the ceremony) and we visited the venue to run through the order of the day, tell them our final numbers and suppliers and choose table cloths etc.

Most our jobs are now done. Including picking up the champagne...

Most our jobs are now done. Including picking up the champagne…

Everything is pretty much sorted – so now, with just over one month to go, we can breathe a sigh of relief and get down to celebrating. Finally!


25
Aug 13

Keeping the dress hush hush (and other wedding traditions…)

I’m usually brilliant at surprises and keeping things under wraps. But I have to admit – I’m finding it so difficult to keep my wedding dress a secret from Sean! It all started a couple of weeks ago, when I went back to Oxford for my very first dress fitting at the Bridal Box.

I had butterflies in the run up to the visit and could only pick at my food when my mum, my sister and I went for lunch and bellinis beforehand. I was just so nervous – what if I hated my dress? What if it looked terrible on me? What if I was completely wrong about everything and it just wasn’t what I wanted? After all, when else would I ever buy an important outfit in January that I wasn’t going to be wearing until the following October?

Clink clink! There's always time for a cocktail pre wedding dress fitting, right? My sister, my mum and I think so...

Clink clink! There’s always time for a cocktail pre wedding dress fitting, right? My sister, my mum and I think so…

“Don’t worry, brides always arrive wondering if they’re still going to like their dress,” Dusanka, the lovely boutique owner, reassured me, after greeting us all like we were long lost friends and making us each a cup of coffee. “You’re going to love it. You chose this dress for a reason. Just you wait!”

Of course, she was absolutely right. Looking at my beautiful dress in the mirror, I was so relieved and so happy I could have cried. It was so much better than I could even have imaged.

“What do you think?” I asked, beaming, as I threw open the fitting room curtain to show my mum and Vez, who hadn’t been with us when we bought it.

Their reactions said it all. I hadn’t made a mistake. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face on the train the whole way back to London, and then I couldn’t stop looking at the photos we’d taken. (I still can’t, I scroll through them in a daydream when I’m bored on the tube. Sean is under strict instruction not to look through the photos on my phone in case he stumbles across them…) I was so happy I thought I was going to burst – yet I couldn’t even show him what I was so thrilled about.

It got me thinking about wedding traditions and where they stem from. I mean – why shouldn’t I show him the dress? (For the record, there’s absolutely no way on this earth that I will. He doesn’t know what style, material, shape, designer or even colour that I’ve gone for and it will remain that way until he sees me walking down the aisle. He agrees, he wants it to be a surprise – but I know plenty of brides who haven’t been so hush hush. And apparently, some brides even go wedding dress shopping with their grooms!).

I’m not hugely superstitious, and I have relented with one thing I thought I wanted to keep quiet. I wasn’t going to tell Sean anything about the bridesmaids’ dresses – but that went down the pan when we went to choose suits for him and the ushers and he was insisting on cravats in a hue that would have ruined the entire colour scheme of the wedding…

But other traditions we’ll be observing include not spending the night before the wedding together. No – Sean and the boys have commandeered the only pub in the village where we’re tying the knot so I’ll be in a cottage in the grounds of our venue with my mum, my mother in law, my sister, my grandma, my bridesmaids, a beautician, and any other female family/ friends who are on site and want to come over for a glass or two of fizz.

I’ve nearly decided on my something old (my grandma’s wedding ring), something new (my dress, obviously), something borrowed (perhaps some pearl earrings borrowed off my mum?) and something blue (…drawing a blank!), which is another tradition I don’t want to risk shunning.

I’m sure I’ll also throw my bouquet… but needless to say I won’t be walking down the aisle with a bunch of garlic and dill. Apparently that tradition, which has evolved into us carrying bouquets, originated in the times of the plague, when people covered their noses and mouths in a bid to just stay alive.

I also won’t be dressing my bridesmaids as clones of myself, which used to be done to try and trick evil spirits into not knowing which of them was the bride. (And therefore making them unable to curse her and her marriage, I suppose?) Evil spirits are also the reason behind wearing a veil. Which I will be doing – but purely for aesthetic purposes..!


22
Aug 13

A weekend spent at FitFarms

I don’t think my bridesmaid Sarah, herself a bride-to-be, will mind me saying that the pair of us are pretty unlikely candidates to ever sign up to three days of consecutive, non-stop exercise. Neither of us are exactly known for our athletic prowess – yet, a few months ago, with both our wedding dates looming on the horizon, we somewhat apprehensively signed up to an intensive FitFarms retreat.

“You’re off to fat camp!” laughed Sean, not so supportively, when I told him of our plans. He insisted I didn’t need to go – but then it’s not him who has to fit into a wedding dress this time in two months! Since my juice detox I’ve been doing twice-weekly bootcamp classes (which I love, actually – the first time in my life I’ve ever actually enjoyed exercise) but it was time to kick things up a notch.

We were welcomed at the FitFarms site in Derbyshire. They have two others in the UK - one in Somerset and one in Dorset

We were welcomed at the FitFarms site in Derbyshire. They have two others in the UK – one in Somerset and one in Dorset

I think Sarah and I were as surprised as anyone else when the date of our expedition finally came round and we found ourselves on a train whizzing up to the Peak District, munching on a last supper of jaffa cakes and mini cheddars with our backpacks full to the brim with newly-purchased and never-before-worn sports gear. (Fyi, prior to this I hadn’t worn a backpack since I went traveling round South East Asia in 2007.)

We were pretty nervous. And when we arrived at the station in Derby (after a quick trip to Costa for a latte and a banana loaf, ahem) we joined a group of equally as apprehensive looking ladies – we’d opted for a girls only retreat – waiting for a transfer to the FitFarms site.

Our bus journey did nothing to ease our worries. There were two people who had done the course before, who terrified us with promises that the weekend would be “hardcore” and that there was barely any food. Yikes.

They weren’t wrong, either. Upon arrival we were assigned our houses (the accommodation at the Derbyshire site is absolutely lovely, with big, comfy en suite bedrooms, lovely living areas and clean well-equipped kitchens. With empty fridges, obviously…) and then, after an emotional getting-to-know-you session with instructors Andy, Ian and Zu, and a light aerobics workout, our dinner was served. “Is this the starter…?” Sarah asked, incredulous, as we were handed a plate with what appeared to be three leaves on it. It wasn’t. (It was delicious though, Lynny in the kitchen serves up the most incredible food. There just isn’t much of it.)

The view from our house. Everyone at FitFarms was assigned one of these little holiday cottages

The view from our house. Everyone at FitFarms was assigned one of these little holiday cottages

As we retired back to our houses for bed (we’d decided to get an early night – after all, we had a pretty busy day to follow) there was a hen do setting up camp in a neighbouring cottage – pinning up bunting and laughing together as they sipped glasses of wine outside in the warm evening sun. I think we know who was in for the better weekend…

Day one

We were a little indignant about our 6am wake up call on the first morning. Particularly because we were only up that early to go and get weighed. After having our fat pinched, our lung capacity measured and our weight taken, it was time for our first work out of many – which was followed by a delicious (but small) breakfast of homemade muesli with chopped up dates, apricots and nuts, and almond milk. To my surprise we were allowed a cup of black coffee, too. Probably to help us deal with the shock of seeing the schedule of the day’s vast amount of exercise pinned on the board:

Not bad for a day's work...

Not bad for a day’s work…

Gulp. It was a pretty punishing itinerary. By the time we were on our way to the seventh class of the day, the neighbouring hen do’s bulter in the buff had arrived and there were whoops and cheers coming from their cottage as we all grappled with a tough resistance training workout before bed.

We were more than ready for sleep that night – but what had struck me most throughout the day was that I hadn’t been hungry even once. The portions I was eating were at least one quarter of the size of what I’d eat at home, and we’d done more exercise in a day than I would usually do in the space of at least three months. Interesting.
Day two

Day two

We woke up full of energy and raring to go, even though we had a 6.45am aerobics class. I wasn’t as achy as I’d thought I would be and anyway, the entire group of us – there were 27 people, some of whom had travelled from as far away as Cyprus, Belgium and Bahrain to take part – were so good at motivating each other that even if you did feel the odd twinge, you just worked through it.

The day’s activities included a gorgeous three mile hike, a spot of aquaerobics (which I loved!) at the pool in nearby Bakewell, and an educational talk on exercise led by instructor Andy, which was brilliant.

We hiked through this forest. Pretty, non?

We hiked through this forest. Pretty, non?

But tiring. And thankfully, that night it was time for our sports massage. Just the thought of it had kept me going all day. Everyone at FitFarms gets at least one during their stay, and it’s done by the masseuse whose full time job is working for Stoke Football Club – so it’s pretty darned brilliant. Unsurprisingly I slept like a baby that night, too.

Day three

I couldn’t believe it was already our last morning – and time for our weigh in. I must admit despite working SO hard – by now I was absolutely knackered – I wasn’t expecting any results after two days. Perhaps a pound or two loss just because the portion sizes we were eating were so small.

So I was incredulous when I was told I’d lost 3.8 % body fat, an inch off my waist, half an inch off my hips and 1.2lbs. In two days! Sarah had done even better, shaving an incredible 3 inches off her waist. Wow. We were suddenly wishing we were staying for the whole week. Imagine the results at the end of that…

YUM. This was a very tasty frittata dinner that resident chef Lynny served up one night

YUM. This was a very tasty frittata dinner that resident chef Lynny served up one night

We were also pretty pleased we weren’t going home before the nutrition workshop. I was really eager to learn more about what we should be putting in our bodies after realizing how little food (well – how little of the right sort of food) we need to be able to do so much physical exercise. As predicted, it was brilliant. (And not just because we got to spend a rare hour sitting down.) Even now I’m home I keep referring to my notes and I’ve made small changes, like swapping my usual skimmed milk to full fat milk and making sure I eat protein with each meal.

We were able to complete just over half the day’s programme before us weekenders had to leave. The rest of the team had another four days ahead of them...

We were able to complete just over half the day’s programme before us weekenders had to leave. The rest of the team had another four days ahead of them…

I am so, so happy we decided to go to FitFarms. It was fab, and not only because of the results. Let’s face it, when else would I ever do a kettle bell class, or experiment with martial arts? It let us try out a whole array of different exercises and I now know I prefer hula hooping to boxing, interval training to zumba and yoga to tai chi. (I still hate running though. Hate it with a passion.) And each class has different versions of the exercises so every single person is pushing themselves to the best of their ability. It isn’t cheap – a three-night course in a shared room will cost £599, and a week-long course in a single room is £1599 – but you get what you pay for, and this is one hell of a life-changing experience.

Also – I know we’d worked hard, but the remote location, limited phone reception and gorgeous countryside surrounding us really did make me feel refreshed and like I’d been on holiday. (The site may be in the middle of nowhere, but the staff are brilliant at making sure you’re not running out of essentials. I’d had a bit of a contact-lens related emergency and neither of us had thought to bring a razor, but someone headed out to the shops for us and it was sorted).

On our last day we squeezed in a 13 mile (uphill) bike ride. It was definitely my toughest point of the whole retreat. But it was a nice bike path...!

On our last day we squeezed in a 13 mile (uphill) bike ride. It was definitely my toughest point of the whole retreat. But it was a nice bike path…!

As we headed home, wearily trudging towards the transfer minibus with our now-extremely muddy and well-worn equipment, the girls on the hen do were looking hungover and fragile as they piled phallic-shaped inflatables into their cars ready for departure. I was no longer sure who’d had a better time, us or them – I was feeling pretty amazing (though admittedly, I looked shocking. My hair has never been frizzier nor my face a more makeup free zone…) But we were certainly sad to be leaving.

I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Here we are celebrating after we'd just bought Sarah's wedding dress last week! Ok, so we haven't managed to ditch the fizz... but Bootcamp has definitely left us healthier, slimmer, and with a reformed, positive attitude towards exercise

Here we are celebrating after we’d just bought Sarah’s wedding dress last week! Ok, so we haven’t managed to ditch the fizz… but Bootcamp has definitely left us healthier, slimmer, and with a reformed, positive attitude towards exercise

If any of you brides-to-be out there fancy trying out FitFarms too – or if any of you who might just want to lose a few pounds, kickstart a health and fitness regime or take a few days away to look after yourself and find a new lease of life, check out FitFarms online at FitFarms.co.uk


25
Jul 13

My out-of-control ‘to do’ list

I’ve just written a list that, quite frankly, is pretty daunting. There are a mere 12 and a half weeks left until the big day and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get everything done. At this stage, I’m sure wedding planning could easily become a full-time job. There’s just so much to do!

There are no fewer than 46 points on my list. Which is confusing, since I spent the whole of last weekend in frantic organization mode – fuelled by copious amounts of martini and helped by my amazing dad, who was in London for a visit and spent Saturday cooking for me and keeping me calm in the face of such an avalanche of wedding admin.

Dad came down to visit and we went to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. It was so hot we felt like we were on holiday (doesn't it look more like Brazil than London?!). Such a lovely break from all the wedding admin. Thanks dad!

Dad came down to visit and we went to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. It was so hot we felt like we were on holiday (doesn’t it look more like Brazil than London?!). Such a lovely break from all the wedding admin. Thanks dad!

I made headway into sorting out accommodation for my family, the bridal party, and all my lovely friends who are coming from abroad. I sent our invitations off to be printed (a BIG thank you to Phil on HELLO!’s art desk who designed them for us – we love them!), I wrote an ‘extra information’ sheet including taxi numbers, gift details, local hotels, etc etc, I contacted my bridal boutique to arrange my first fitting. (My dress is due to arrive in August and I’m nervous, I haven’t seen it since January). On top of all that, Sean went and picked up our ‘blues’ (official wedding documents) which went smoothly apart from him pretending that eight local women had objected to our marriage. I believed him for a fleeting moment…! Yet we don’t seem to have even made a dent into my seemingly ever-growing to do list.

Among the big things we have left to do (quite apart from the all-important business of paying for everything. Gulp…) are sorting out Sean’s wedding ring, booking a DJ, taste testing the menu, finding a hairdresser, choosing which version of the ceremony we want, deciding on logisitics – like how we’re going to get up north for the wedding, and back to London for our honeymoon flight that leaves Heathrow at 2pm the following day – buying dresses for my flower girls, getting the ushers measured up for their suits, organising our honeymoon visas, buying (and deciding on) wedding favours, and sending out the invitations.

At work we had T-shirts printed ahead of the royal wedding reading 'Keep calm it's only a wedding'. I might dig mine out and start wearing it for when I'm in organisation mode

At work we had T-shirts printed ahead of the royal wedding in 2011 reading ‘Keep calm it’s only a wedding’. I might dig mine out and start wearing it for when I’m in organisation mode!

Wow. That seems like rather a lot. And doesn’t even scratch the surface of the actual list.

One of my main concerns at the moment is the music. We thought long and hard about whether to have a DJ or a band for the evening reception. Due to the fact we both have a very clear idea of what songs we want playing, and our budget is now being stretched to the limit, we’ve opted for a DJ. (They tend to be far cheaper than hiring a band. In my head I think I’ve always imagined having a Glady Knight and the Pips-esque outfit providing the music at my big day, but we can’t have everything…)

Sean got on the case and found a DJ who lets you give him a playlist for the evening, which would be ideal for us. If we can ever get round to agreeing on what should be on it, that is. My music tastes are very pop, Motown, RnB and, ahem, reggaeton-oriented (thanks to my time living in Spain. Plus I think lots of my friends would be upset if the evening didn’t include a Daddy Yankee portion… I’m looking at you, Jude and Char!). I’m also partial to some 90s classics, whereas Sean prefers guitar-based songs that I’m not sure will work quite as well at a disco… Anyway, once we’ve reached some sort of compromise we’ll book, and that will be the DJ ticked off the list. I think we’ll create an iPod playlist, too. I don’t know what time the DJ goes home but one of the reason’s we hired our venue is because it doesn’t wind things up at a certain time. We can party on until dawn if we fancy it – so we need to make sure there’s enough music to take us through.

We’ve had to decide what music we want during the ceremony, too. I’d always presumed I’d get married in a church so there would be an organist. Since that’s not the case, we’ve decided to go for a piano, which our venue will provide for us in the room we tie the knot in. Luckily for us, an old family friend Lesley, who taught me the piano when I was at school, has very kindly offered to play for us. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather musically-accompany me up the aisle actually – she’s insanely talented and I know it will all be in safe hands with her. Not to mention how much it means to have someone you’ve known for years involved in such an important part of the day. I love these personal touches.

Our wonderful family friend Lesley has very kindly offered to provide the music for our ceremony. She is the most incredible pianist - I just know it's going to be amazing

Our wonderful family friend Lesley has very kindly offered to provide the music for our ceremony. She is the most incredible pianist – I just know it’s going to be amazing

On another note, my fitness regime is going really well – and I’m off on a FitFarms retreat this weekend. Eek. Wish me luck – I’ll report back soon!


02
Jul 13

Trying out a bride-to-be juice cleanse…

A couple of weeks ago we hit the ‘four months to go until the wedding’ mark – and it made me start to panic. Wasn’t I supposed to have started a new diet and fitness regime a while back, now? When we got engaged I was full of good intentions and felt sure I’d be all toned and in top shape by summer. But I haven’t done anything at all yet – and since Sean gave me this ring, it’s been an (admittedly very sparkly, very lovely) excuse to have cocktails, dinners out, and probably far too many cosy nights in with takeaways. I also blame the terrible ‘summer’ we’ve had so far. The cold weather hardly inspires you to eat salads, does it? But with the countdown ’til the big day ticking away, it’s finally, definitely time to get myself in gear.

A well-stocked fridge! Purifyne juices are all organic and come in loads of different flavours

A well-stocked fridge! Purifyne juices are all organic and come in loads of different flavours

I thought I’d kick start my new regime by signing up to do a juice cleanse. I’ve always wanted to do one anyway – so when I found out that Purifyne offer a bride-to-be package I was sold. And a little apprehensive… could I really go three days without food?

Well – turns out that yes, I can! And without even feeling very hungry. The programme is really easy to do, too. Purifyne deliver your juices in a package the morning of day one of the cleanse – and it includes absolutely everything you need to completely detox your system.

Last Saturday morning I was sent 12 juices – four to drink per day – colosan powder (which releases oxygen in the digestive tract for cleansing and also helps prevent some detox side-effects), beauty capsules (for healthy skin, hair and nails), aloe vera juice, acai berry juice (one shot of each to be taken every lunchtime) a green superfoods powder (brimming with nutrients), Epsom sea salts (for in the bath) and a purifying facial mask.  Oh, and a sisal brush to dry brush and exfoliate the body – always in the direction of the heart to aid the flow of lymphatic fluids. Amazing.

You have to do face masks too - the bride-to-be cleanse is all about making your skin, hair and nails amazing as well as giving your digestive system a break

You have to do face masks too – the bride-to-be cleanse is all about making your skin, hair and nails amazing as well as giving your digestive system a break and aiding weight loss

The juices are all made from fresh, organic fruits and vegetables with no added preservatives whatsoever. They’re packed full of nutrients and easy to digest. Basically, the point of a juice cleanse is to get rid of everything from your digestive system and give it a complete break, which is supposed to result in a whole host of benefits including weight loss, clearer skin and eyes, improved circulation, improved mental clarity and concentration. It’s all listed right here…

They even sent me a laminate with step-by-step directions of what to do each day – and I was allowed to sip on herbal teas, hot water with lemon, and mineral water throughout the day. They recommend you buy coconut water too, but I really don’t like it so went without. Oh, and in case your resolve is weakening, they send you daily cleanse tips via email.

These are all the powders and capsules I was sent to supplement my cleanse - Green Superfoods (one teaspoon to be taken with water every morning), Colosan Powder (one tablespoon to be taken with 1/4 of your morning juice), Beauty Oil capsules and Epsom Sea Salt for in the bath

These are all the powders and capsules I was sent to supplement my cleanse – Green Superfoods (one teaspoon to be taken with water every morning), Colosan Powder (one tablespoon to be taken with 1/4 of your morning juice), Beauty Oil capsules and Epsom Sea Salt for in the bath

I won’t lie – on day one I was absolutely miserable. It does say in the pack to alert those around you that you’re doing a cleanse in case you become irritable, and even though poor Sean made me promise I would try my best to be nice all weekend, I failed miserably. By lunchtime I was in a foul mood, I had no energy and a headache was definitely on its way. I so, so nearly gave up. Especially when at lunch time, Sean proceeded to cook himself a full on fry up with a fresh-from-the-oven baguette. So unfair!

I genuinely thought I was going to quit. But somehow, I persevered. And when I woke up on day two and hopped on the scales I found I’d already lost 2lbs. I didn’t feel hungry and I was full of energy – more than usual, actually.  And at lunchtime I was thrilled to discover my tastiest juice option to date – carrot, pineapple, ginger and cinnamon. Yum. It was definitely way easier than the previous day and my headache was completely gone. I was so happy I hadn’t given up at the first hurdle.

Step-by-step instructions are provided in the pack so you know what to do morning, noon and night

Step-by-step instructions are provided in the pack so you know what to do morning, noon and night

By the morning of day three I was well and truly into the swing of things, and it was plain sailing from there. In fact, I think I could easily have carried on and done another few days. I registered a total weight loss of 3lbs and felt lighter and more energized than I have in ages and I’ll definitely be doing one of these cleanses again in the future. So! My summer health plan is off to a flying start, and if you fancy trying out a juice cleanse too I’d definitely recommend you take a look at Purifyne’s website. Next stop – some exercise…


26
May 13

The wedding rings

The first time we went out on the hunt for the all-important wedding rings was Valentine’s Day weekend. We thought it would be a romantic thing to do on our first February 14th as an engaged couple – so we headed to Hatton Garden, where Sean bought my engagement ring from, to suss out prices and get a feel for what we were after. (And also to go for a cocktail and a game of table tennis at nearby bar Bounce, one of our faves.)

We had the best day – even though we didn’t end up buying anything. And I have to say, the staff at the shop my engagement ring came from were incredible. The moment we stepped through the door I heard a man’s voice exclaim “Sean!” and come rushing over. Excitedly, he said: “She said yes then! Tell me all about the proposal. You went to see the Northern Lights in Iceland didn’t you?” ushering us into chairs and taking our coats, and telling me what a pleasure it was to meet me finally.

I've been on the hunt for the perfect wedding ring for three months now. This is one I found on the high street.

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect wedding ring for three months now. This is one I found on the high street.

I couldn’t believe it. What amazing service. How many customers must they have a day, and they’d remembered Sean from back in November last year? And not only him, but everything he’d told them about me and the way he was planning on popping the question? The people in the diamond business are pretty damn good at customer service.

He was the jeweller who’d actually designed and made my engagement ring as a one off, and he seemed really proud of it. Consequently he was brimming with ideas of what sort of wedding ring we should buy to go with it. Because my diamond solitaire protrudes a bit from the band of my engagement ring, he recommended we opt for a wedding band with a twist detail to accommodate it, and suggested a few small diamonds to finish off the look. Unfortunately most display rings come in silver, so it’s hard to get a feel for what it would look like in the 18ct yellow gold I’m after. But this is what he picked out for me:

Potential wedding ring? This is what the jeweller who designed my engagement ring picked out...

Potential wedding ring? This is what the jeweller who designed my engagement ring picked out…

I liked it – but I didn’t get a “this is the one” feeling from it. After trying on about 100 more we decided to call it a day. There’s plenty of time before the big day to decide on this, anyway. Turns out Sean’s not going to be a problem to kit out. He declared he was happy with the very first one he tried on. He’s definitely not fussy!

A couple of weeks later I was at a wedding fair with my mum and sister when I stumbled across what I decided was my absolute dream ring. It was being sold by a company who don’t have a shop – instead, they come to see you in the comfort of your own home, which they claim helps them cut costs. They quoted me a great price for the ring and they had a gorgeous brochure, and a huge selection of bands both with and without diamonds, so I booked an appointment for them to come over the following month.

I thought this was my dream ring. Turned out it wasn't.

I thought this was my dream ring. Turned out it wasn’t.

Let’s just say it was a bit of a disaster. The woman, who was perfectly nice, showed up at our house, armed with a sample of the ring I’d picked out. Only it turned out I’d been quoted one third of its actual price when I’d been at the fair.

I was so upset. It was now totally out of our budget. But because this woman was in our flat, we felt completely pressured into buying something from her. In the end we reluctantly settled on matching plain gold bands (which were ridiculously over-priced, I think) and gave her my credit card details just to get her out of the place. I don’t know what I was thinking. Luckily, Sean came to the rescue and took charge, calling her later on to cancel the order.

Which left us right back at square one.

Another one I'd tried on...

Another one I’d tried on…

I had a look around the high street but couldn’t find anything I wanted there, either, and I was beginning to give up on finding something special. Then, my mum called one day and mentioned that I could use my grandma’s wedding ring.

I am SO close to my grandma. When we were little, she and granddad used to take me and my brother and sister on holiday – we lived right by them and saw them all the time, and always have done. Even though I don’t live down the road anymore, grandma and I speak every day, either on the phone or by text. (She’s a very cool grandma!) My grandparents are really my second parents. So I can’t think of anything more perfect, or anything that would mean more to me, than using my grandma’s wedding ring as my own. Especially as she and my granddad have had such a long, happy marriage. Definitely something to aspire to. (Incidentally, I’m not stealing the ring off her finger! Grandma doesn’t wear it anymore, because she wears her mum’s.)

It’s the perfect solution and I’m going to love it so much more than anything I could ever buy. So now we just need to find a band for Sean – which, judging by our trip to Hatton Garden, is going to be pretty straightforward anyway!

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