The case for same-sex marriage

Just because civil partnerships between same-sex couples are legal in England we tend to think that marriage has been legalised. It hasn’t. The English law states that marriage is only marriage if it is between one man and one woman. I do not see this only as an outrageous affront to same-sex couples, but as more generally sexist, and as a grave insult to the human rite of marriage. The idea that law may dictate who together enters into emotional, intellectual and physical unity pronounced and celebrated in a marriage ceremony is absurd. The only people fit to choose are those entering into this committment of love, sharing, and lifelong loyalty.

My views on marriage are humanist, that is to say that I view marriage as an expression of our humanity. I can not see marriage in a cynical way, expecting it to fail, or blame it for the church, the law, or society’s failings in its name. Marriage hasn’t had a perfect track record. Many marriages have failed. Marriage has been used as a weapon. It has been used to control and disempower. However, this history and these associations cannot taint the concept of marriage or the wholly natural impulse we have to join together under the banner of marriage.

http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmI am very aware that opinion is divided on the issue, and that not all same-sex couples wish to marry – instead preferring the quite separate option to ‘wed’ in a civil partnership. My case for the term marriage to be applied to all those wishing to express their intentions to share their lives with one or more particular partners is that there is no justifiable reason not to. Objections to certain types of relationships come from societal rather than human concerns. The only concerns worth our considering are limited to the sincerity and seriousness with which the partners in question are approaching marriage and making their commitments to each other. The question is not whether marriage is good for society, but whether marriage is good for personal happiness and fulfilled lives.

Civil partnerships and marriages may differ legally but within a humanist wedding ceremony they are treated with http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmexactly the same degree of respect and are looked on as having exactly the same status. What is more, I will most certainly refer to a same-sex partnership as a marriage if that is how the couple see their union. Even if the lived experience of marriage and civil partnership is the same, the symbolic distinction matters to me. Humanist wedding ceremonies are chosen for their symbolic significance, and while they can be used to mitigate the inequality of the legal situation, I would still like to see same-sex marriages given the legal status and recognition they deserve. Couples who feel unaffected by the distinction may not see this as an issue. Not everyone wants to fight to be allowed to marry, while to them marriage seems to be conforming to a repressive and outdated institution. Not everyone can see a reason for calling civil partnerships ‘marriages’, but I hope that every thinking person with a regard for human happiness can see no reason not to.

Click here to read about the British Humanist Association’s campaign for legal humanist weddings and legal same-sex marriage.

Making an Entrance!

Following on from yesterday’s post about the significance of holding onto something as you walk down the aisle, today I’m exploring options for making an entrance with a difference.

Who gives this woman…?

The overwhelming majority of Brides still choose to be given away by their Dads. For many Brides, their Father is the ideal person to escort them down the aisle. Long gone is the traditional meaning of being given away. Brides are no longer considered property (or burden) to be passed from man to man. Still, many of us feel that is important to be given away by our Fathers as a show of their blessing and approval of our marriage and choice of Groom.

There are many reasons why the Father may not be the obvious choice for this very important role. Some Fathers will be sadly absent. Other Brides may feel another member of their family played a more significant role, or is a more fitting escort on their wedding day. In choosing our escort(s) we should honour those who have brought us up, those who have shaped us, those who have been there for us and provided us with support and guidance. I personally wanted to honour my Mom as well as my Dad by asking her to walk me down the aisle. The idea being they hold an arm each. If the width of your aisle doesn’t allow for this, do as I did and ask your Mom to walk down the aisle with your Maid of Honour.

Mothers often fall into the conventional slot that is made for Mother-of-the-Bride, without thinking they can take part in wedding ceremonies in these kinds of ways. Just ask what each traditional element means to you, and invite whoever means most in that regard to be a part of the tradition. Traditions are created by regular people, and there is nothing but ourselves to stop us creating our very own new family traditions.

The French have a lovely tradition of the Mother of the Groom giving him away to the Bride. I think this act has the potential to have a powerful effect on all those involved. If, as all rituals should be, it is enacted with an appreciation of why it is being done. Marriage is undeniably a watershed moment where the key players in a newlywed couple’s lives change places forever. The wedding ceremony is the perfect opportunity for those key players, generally parents/guardians and spouses, to acknowledge this handover of power, and the resulting shift in priorities. A father’s daughter becomes a married woman. The most important person in her life becomes her husband rather than her father. A mother’s son becomes a married man. The most important person in his life becomes his wife rather than his mother. Love is not lessened and no less respect or regard is felt. This is simply what marriage requires. Acceptance of inevitable and necessary change is essential to family harmony.

http://thepunypundit.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/father-of-the-future-brides/

Going solo…

Many couples incorporate a unity ritual into the main wedding ceremony but don’t think to start the ceremony with one. If you are not escorted down the aisle but instead enter alone, this serves to highlight your togetherness at the front. If you both walk down the aisle alone one by one, this only heightens your individual nature before coming together in marriage. There is no reason why the Groom should wait for the Bride at the front rather than make an entrance himself. If it is possible to enter the room at the same time from opposite directions before walking down the aisle together, this can be very symbolic of couples who already feel unity before marriage whilst acknowledging that you are coming into the marriage from different places.

Your walk down the aisle can represent your final steps as an unmarried individual. Whilst your wedding ceremony will reflect your personality as a couple, and combine elements of your individual personalities, your entrance can be exclusively yours. Instead of choosing entrance music: a wedding march, or processional; instead choose your own personal theme tune. This goes for both halves of the couple. Choosing markedly different music from each other will show beautifully and effortlessly who you are separately and celebrate that fact as your guests recognise YOU in your music choice. The entrance music does not have to be classical. It can be a TV theme tune, a pop song, disco tune, opera, anything. Your individual songs can be cross faded or blended so that they are both separate and as one.

Taking your time…

Whatever music you choose and whoever you choose to enter with, it is important not to rush down the aisle. Walking through your guests should be savoured. Give yourself time to look at and smile at every row of guests. Soak it up and take your time. This is your wedding day and you want to remember Every. Last. Bit.

If you think you might rush on the day, choose music that will slow your steps down. Think of it as a dance. Match your steps to the beats of the song. Don’t feel self-conscious. All eyes are on you, but they should be! No one has anywhere else to be. They are all there for you.

Try not to look at your feet. If you’re worried about this, choose a dress that is ankle length or shorter.

And finally, practice with your escort if you are having one.

More than an aisle…

The first and only thought for an aisle, especially in outdoor ceremonies tends to be the red carpet. If you want carpet, choose a colour that complements the rest of the ceremony and the wedding. For something more personalised, you can get aisle runners that are specially printed with your initials or monogram.

Consider a thick carpet of petals, or outlining the aisle with candle holders, lanterns, petals, or other markers that tie in with your theme, such as seashells or driftwood.

Turn your aisle into a tunnel. Guests can be asked to blow bubbles towards you and upwards, making an arch for you to walk through. Alternatively, guests nearest the aisle could turn inwards and join hands above your head(s) as you walk past them.

http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2011/air-new-zealand-fit-to-fly-with-richard-simmons/

Things to do…

If you’re not holding a bouquet, your hands are free to do any number of things. Likewise, don’t feel that you have to simply walk forwards. If there’s something more active than walking that is an important part of who you are that would lend itself to an entrance, you should do it. Just to throw some examples out there: breakdancing, moonwalking, skipping, riding a horse, pogoing, performing magic tricks, combing your hair. It’s all about expressing yourself.

When you get to the front, consider your options. Who would you like to kiss or shake hands with? Would you like to take a bow? Would you like to pick your Bride up? Again, if it’s YOU, do it. Have the confidence to inject your personalities into these first minutes of the ceremony, and you’ll have set the mood wonderfully for the rest of the day.

Alternative Bouquet

I’ve written before about having fun choosing the perfect flowers for your wedding but what if you don’t want a traditional flower bouquet?

When I was planning my wedding, I didn’t want to do anything just because it’s the done thing. I decided against carrying a bouquet despite warnings from florists that I’d miss it (I didn’t) because I found the idea of handing it over to my sister when I reached the front clumsy and silly. I didn’t want the bouquet to end up as a table decoration. The tradition itself held no importance for me.

I knew I wanted flowers on me somehow though, so I experimented with real flowers in my hair, but ended up finding the perfect vintage silk flower to wear instead. My Mom made me a wrist corsage to wear so I could have flowers on me all day, even when kissing, hugging, and dancing. It worked out just right for me. Still, I wish I had researched my options more thoroughly because I’ve come across some really exciting alternatives to the traditional bouquet. I’m sneakily making a mental note of my new faves for a Renewal of Vows I might get to have in… 49 years 😉

source: newherbgarden.info

The tradition of carrying a bunch of flowers down the aisle comes from the belief that herbs could ward off evil spirits. Before bouquets became the ‘in’ thing, Brides wore herbs in their hair for this purpose. If you want to retain this tradition you could ask your Flower Girls or Bridesmaids to scatter herbs in your path so that you release their aromas as you walk over them. I’m a big fan of herbs, and if you love cooking, why not use herbs in place or alongside flowers to reflect your tastes? Herbs look great and smell great so it’s a win, win. If you want to wear flowers instead of holding them, you can wear a wrist corsage or pin flowers onto your dress. You can wear a garland around your neck or present each other with garlands or flowers as part of the ceremony.

Another reason for carrying a bouquet down the aisle is so that you have something to toss over your shoulder to over-excited female wedding guests hoping to be given a sign that they’re next to wed! However, the original significance of the tradition is that the Bride’s clothing and by extension items belonging to her were considered good luck. Therefore Brides, feel free to choose an alternative to the bouquet as your lucky offering.

http://whatireadandwatched.blogspot.com/2011/06/muriels-wedding.html

Finally, you might be struggling to think of an alternative to the bouquet to keep your hands from fidgeting as you make your big entrance. Maybe you’ll feel less self-conscious with something to hide behind. Maybe people have told you Brides look silly without bouquets in their hands. Here I can help!

So what are the alternatives?

If you want a bouquet shape without the flowers, replace the offending flowers with:

  • Buttonshttp://www.iheartbuttons.co.uk/#
  • Silk butterflies
  • Lolly pops
  • Sea shells
  • Feathers
  • Christmas baubles
  • Beads
  • Crystals
  • Macaroons
  • Bonbons

If you just want something to hold onto:

  • Umbrella

    My dear Dad escorting me down the aisle

  • Parasol
  • Dog lead
  • Dog/Cat
  • Balloon string
  • Magic Wand
  • Fairy Wand
  • Purse
  • Fan
  • Lantern
  • (my personal favourite) The arm or hand of the person giving you away

Hen Night Hangover

I recently rewatched the movie the Hangover. I turned to my husband and said something like “…but that is THE destination though isn’t it. If you lived anywhere near there, you just would, wouldn’t you? It’s pretty hard to beat!…”

I was of course talking of Las Vegas. Sin City. The adult’s play ground. It’s like a much, much more glamourous and much, much more serious Fun House for adults many of us early 80s kids have wished someone would invent! More than anything I think Las Vegas is super cool. You can really fancy yourself in Las Vegas, you can take yourself seriously as a grown up, but have an absolute blast. You can be pampered, you can indulge, you can completely lose track of time. You can act like a big kid or you can go all classy and demure. Anything goes.

image from ioffer.com

But let’s face it, most British hen and stag dos cant stretch to that airfare + hotel tarifs + spending money! So where else could you go on your bachelor/bachelorette party as the Americans call them? It got me thinking of other super cool destinations for your party of a lifetime…

The first and largest hotel made of ice can be found in Swedish Lapland. A trip to Ice Hotel offers amazing experiences like taking in the stunning Northern Lights, snowmobiling and skiing, but it’s only open December – April. The mindboggling thought of sleeping in an ice bed in an ice room in an ice hotel actually sounds lovely! You get togged up in your sleeping bags and sleep on reindeer skins. They bring you a hot drink in bed in the morning. Then you warm through in the sauna and showers before breakfast.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/northernlights

Closer to home, Ice Bar London is a fabulous venue, with the bar itself and various lounges available for private hire. The bar is made entirely of ice, and is open year round. Dine here before sipping cocktails out of glasses made of ice! How fun! The Ice Hotel project is a must for art and architecture lovers. These party venues are art installations in themselves.

Staying with London – think big! If you have the budget, you can hire any number of places to hold your party including museums, performing arts venues, and royal palaces! If you’re hiring a venue like this for your wedding, it’s a nice excuse to try it out with just the girls (or boys)! Whatever you do, DO NOT search for “hen/stag party venue” and click on one of the many event management sites that hire venues as part of a hen/stag package. It might be easy but you pay for the ease of a package. If you go down the private hire route you’ll get a better deal, and your event will be tailor made to your requirements. How about chocolate tasting in a private capsule for 20 of your closest friends, on the London Eye?

http://www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/blog/when-is-an-envelope-not-an-envelope/

Now think bigger than London. Is a hot air balloon ride something you’ve always wanted to do? A basket can hold 16 guests! Choose to fly over the place you got engaged, your old school and stomping ground, magnificent castles or beautiful countryside. Now think boat party. River boats are cool, but how about a yacht on the Solent? Or off the Devonshire coastline? Onboard jacuzzi and sunbathing, a dip in the sea, dolphin spotting, BBQ, and of course oodles of champagne. What more could we want?

Your hen or stag do can be anything you want it to be. As with weddings, they should not be generic and impersonal but reflect who you are and what you love. Get creative and go all out. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend some high class, quality time with the girls/boys and to make lifelong memories. You probably wont be organising your own shindig but that doesn’t mean you can’t drop big hints. Just send your Best Men and Ladies over to my blog, or email them a few links to check out. 😉

Lucky in Love

I’m not sure whether bridal charm of choice depends more on where you grow up, or family tradition. All I know is that I was adamant that on my wedding day I REALLY wanted a horseshoe. I don’t think I hinted to anyone that I was expecting/hoping for at least one trinket to dangle off my wrist, but boy did my family come through!

I hadn’t even considered how much I wanted wooden spoons until I was handed two. One had been lovingly handpainted by my sister and the other was fit for a Princess, white and glittery. From my Dad came the biggest, tackiest silver plastic horseshoe he could find. Good old Dad. From my Mom a much more restrained, gorgeous tiny gold horseshoe, and from my Uncle and Aunt a larger gold horseshoe embossed with hearts. Cousins on my new husband’s side gave me more modern interpretations of these good luck charms – wooden hearts on rope and letters on wire.

These good luck charms meant the world to me. I’m an old fashioned gal, and I know being adorned with a variety of clashing, clunking wrist furniture would not please every bride. For me though, the humblest wooden spoon filled me with an overwhelming sense of being loved. These offerings conveyed the sincerest of wishes for our marriage. They will be on show in my house always, as I will treasure them always.

Most of us know the rhyme ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ but did you know there’s more? ‘A silver sixpence in your shoe’ is apparently part of the same ryhme. Traditionally, the Father of the Bride provides the sixpence for his daughter to wear in her shoe as she walks down the aisle. How lovely, I wish we had known that.

Horseshoes are said to be lucky for a number of superstitious reasons. As well as being said to ward off witches, and the devil himself, the metal iron is said to be lucky as is the very shape of the shoe, representing a crescent moon.

Wooden love spoons were made by men in Wales while courting. The spoons would be carved intricately to show the depth of feeling the hopeful gent held for the lady.

The four leaf clover doesn’t seem particularly associated with wedding luck, but is considered lucky because of its rarity. They carry lovely symbolism, with their leaves meaning in turn: faith, hope, love and luck. Very apt for a wedding then.

We wish newlyweds luck with our words and gifts without really believing that any amount of luck can really make for a successful marriage. Still, it is a caring sentiment to wish the happy couple the smoothest transition into their new lives together; to wish them no untoward misfortune as they make their way together as husband and wife; to wish them patience and resolve in times of difficulty. We wish Brides and Grooms luck in marriage, not luck in love, because they have already had that in finding in each other.

Joy with the brakes on

Be happy, but not too happy.

Congratulations, but

That’s great, now what about...

Not to put the dampers on things but

Joy with the brakes on is a phenomenon that can plague both preparation for marriage and having a baby. You might recognise it in well-meaning warning comments designed to check you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Checking that you’ve thought it through. That you’re not rushing into something. That you’re ready and prepared for reality.What is well-meaning about these bubble bursting comments is that they are often based in care. Some people can’t help but worry on the behalf of others. Some can’t help but project their own cautiousness, regrets or misgivings onto a happy couple. Some can only express their urge to protect a happy couple from surprised disappointment by preparing them for the worst.

Entering marriage and parenthood are both, should be, life changing events. There’s the romance and magic of both. There’s also the lived experience of both which doesn’t always live up to the fuzzy disney happily-ever-after ideal. While we enter into these new beginnings full of love and hope and optimism we generally have our eyes open to the ups and downs that will no doubt come our way. Surely that is why we vow to love and support our partners in sickness and health, and for richer for poorer? In our wedding ceremonies we acknowledge the risks and increased responsibilities marriage can bring, through our vows. More importantly we call upon our guests not only to witness our joining but to pledge to support us in our marriage from that day forward.

If listening to the scare-mongers, those well-meaning warners is a rite of passage into marriage and parenthood do we feign appreciation, nodding and smiling politely or do we fight back? Clearly ‘ignorance is bliss’ would be the polar opposite view to take here, but not a very mature thing to enter a serious committment with your eyes closed. How about rose tinted glasses are nature’s way of propogating the species? What’s so bad about entering into these new life states with positivity and optimism anyway? I believe that negativity begets negativity and positivity begets positivity. Not that you can stop awful things happening by thinking happy thoughts, but that you will find whatever you are looking hardest for.

This explains why when the forewarned couple actually doesn’t complain about the baby crying, about the sleepless nights, about their kids bleeding them dry, or about being hen-pecked, under the thumb, their sex life becoming non-existent – the scare-mongers will cope with this challenge to their world view by insisting that it’s only a matter of time. That so far they’ve been lucky. That the baby must be a good baby. It can’t possibly be because the couple have worked hard to communicate well in their marriage, chosen to be completely honest with each other, are actually in love, or have chosen to parent in a way that makes them and their child happy.

Joy with the brakes on has no place within a Humanist ceremony because there is no place for a joy-sapping anti-human potential attitude in Humanism. Not all Humanist Celebrants are Humanists and so although you will find Celebrants whose natural styles embrace self-deprecating sarcasm, if you are looking for a ceremony that focuses on the harsh reality of marriage, or parenthood, sorry but I am not the Celebrant for you. I believe in unbridled passionately romantic love shining through my ceremonies above all else. If I don’t well up with at least one tear when I read your ceremony script back to myself, it’s not good enough.

We can all appreciate worriers in our circle of friends and family, but I think I can say on behalf of all engaged couples and expectant parents: Please… trust us, and let us, as adults should, learn from our own mistakes. Be happy full stop. Congratulations full stop.

Destination Weddings & Dream Honeymoons

When we were planning our wedding I seriously considered holding it abroad. I knew I didn’t want the conventional form of CeremonySitdownmealDJ and wanting an outdoor ceremony I was drawn to the idea of marrying in France or Italy instead of beloved England. It would of course have meant sharing our day with fewer family and friends, but this too would have made sense for us – we had to either invite everyone, including children and spouses (I have 13 cousins) which meant a minimum 100 person guest list; or draw a line around immediate family and close friends which would enable a much more intimate feeling day. In the end, we achieved the intimate feel despite our 100+ guests because of all the style, venue, format choices we made. Because we were on a budget we then held an evening meal for just 15 of our closest family.

If you did choose to marry abroad, with a small number of witnesses, you could hold a reception for everyone else on your return. I love this idea of two weddings. By using a Humanist Celebrant you could even have two wedding ceremonies! If you love the idea of marrying abroad but are bewildered or just a bit nervous about navigating the legalities and cultural rules of marriage abroad, why not legally register your marriage in an English Register Office and have your Celebrant perform both symbolic ceremonies abroad and then again at home? You could also split the ceremony and save parts like the Blessing for your home ceremony so that your guests can be truly involved.

A Room with a View

Had money been no object, I would have flown our guests out to Tuscany for our wedding long weekend, and then have had a split destination honeymoon. I have always wanted to go to Florence, not Venice or Rome, but Florence. I have made my husband promise that the one thing we will do before we die is to be able to say ‘We have a view’ in Florence. So that would be one half of my dream honeymoon, a city adventure taking in the sights and sounds and smells. I’d like to go sufficiently out of season to feel we had it relatively to ourselves. You cant beat that. For the other part of the honeymoon, a luxurious, private villa in the Tuscan countryside. We would do nothing but swim, lounge, cook, and make lurve. Perfect I think!

I adore Europe, so while I admit to hankering after a tropical paradise with unlimited cocktails, warm sea water and amazing exotic animal spotting, I can live without it. Give me the South of France, give me Catalonia, give me the Greek Islands any time. I’m a believer in exploring hidden gems close to home, and hope I’m fortunate enough in my lifetime to visit Jersey, return to Belgium, and Germany, and see more of Scandinavia. I love that we will be able to take our children on holiday to the Isle of Wight, where we had a most romantic and nostalgic English honeymoon in June 2011. I have a theory that the less overtly dramatic a place is and the less expectation of grandeur there is, the more you will appreciate the subtle magic in the details of a place.

Of course we choose holidays which suit our needs, or what we think are our needs. I don’t have a stressful job or a stressful life so I dont hanker after two weeks of doing nothing but reading books and sunbathing because I need a break. I want to do the opposite to escaping life when I holiday. I want to explore and engage. I want to see as much as possible. But I dont seek out high adrenalin holidays either. You know how they say a change is as good as a rest? I see holidays as opportunities to break out of whatever is normal for you. If you usually cope by zoning out in front of the TV, why not try a different approach to relaxation, and find a non-stressful way to actively engage your surroundings. Your honeymoon should be as memorable as your wedding and although it WILL be memorable because you’ll be on your newlywedded high throughout, we should make sure we take every opportunity to make memories.

On honeymoon we were both floating on a cloud of bliss left over from the fact that we had married each other and had shared a most emotionally beautiful day with our family and friends. Sure we had a few deep and a few awkward discussions, all part of adjusting to the newness of our lives together. It was a unique chance for us to engage with each other, with our usual routines out of the way of getting down to what we needed to say to each other. Our honeymoon was the start of so many things in our lives. It provided my husband with inspiration for a new novel, and prompted us to decide to look for a new place to live as soon as we got back to Oxford. You’ll inevitably buy souvenirs on honeymoon. If you can, bring home something that will be in your lives every day, whether it’s a wall hanging or a pair of mugs. His and hers items are the cutest. Here’s to you, honeymooners, you lovebirds, you newlyweds at heart everywhere.

Marriage: a name-changing event?

One of the things you’ll want to decide in the run up to your wedding day is what to do with your names.You don’t need to decide so that you can tell the Registrar what name to enter on your marriage certificate, because no married surname will be entered on the mariage certificate. A marriage certificate changes your legal marital status only and not your name at all. Your legal names will remain as they were before the ceremony, on your marriage certificate. You will want to decide on your names however, so that your Wedding Celebrant knows what to announce you as at the end of the ceremony. Your guests will want to write your new married surname on cards and cheques. It’s a really nice idea to let them know your intended surname on the wedding invitations.

It’s no longer just the Bride who must decide to keep or lose her maiden name. You both have several options, but what are they?

No change. If you love your surname, and don’t mind it differing from your partner’s, you can opt to keep your names as they are. I wanted our children to have the same name as both of us so we didn’t go down this route even though I love my maiden name.

You both take the Groom’s name. If the Bride isn’t that attached to her surname, and the couple want to go with the most traditional name option, the Groom can keep his name, and the Bride can take his.

You both take the Bride’s surname. If like us, one of you has a relatively common or boring name and the other has a name that means alot to the family, you can both take the Bride’s surname. A good alternative to the traditional option if you want to share your surname.

Double-barrelling. If your names are equally important to you or you want to emphasise the joining of two families and you two as individuals, consider double-barrelling. The order is up to you and you can hyphenate or not bother. We went with the order that rolled off the tongue best and had the nicest ring to it. I also got to keep the familiar transition from first names to surname instead of it being interupted by the other surname. Win for me! We went with the double-barrelling option despite it resulting in quite a long name. One compromise is that we will run out of space for our names on certain forms and we now have to be more considerate when naming our children, but it’s worth it for the other reasons.

Meshing. A way around a really long double-barrelled name for those couples who dare to break the mould is meshing the two surnames together in an order that works. Half the surnames and butt them together and see what works. For us it would have meant CATLEY + RICHARDSON … Catardson? Richardley? Catlerdson? Richley? You can see why we double-barrelled!

What’s the deal with Deed Poll (UK)?

Deed Poll is the only way to legally change your name, whatever you choose to call yourselves. In theory you could refer to yourselves socially as your new married surname without changing your name with your bank, without changing your passports, without notifying companies you use, of the name change. The important thing to remember is that your passport must match the name you are travelling under. Your passport does not need altering just because you have married. Only if your name has been changed must you change your passport. What this means for us is that if we travel abroad our trip will have to be booked in our unmarried names until we change the passports. Banks will generally change your name if you present your marriage certificate, contrary to what the Deed Poll website tells you. If you want everything to match your bank account name, then your passport will need changing at some stage. This can be done without Deed Poll too, although the cost of a new passport could put you off by itself. The DVLA will accept just your marriage certificate to change your name providing that a clear link can be seen between the names on your certificate and what you are trying to change your name to. If you are meshing your names, you might have more trouble than if you are double-barrelling. As far as I can tell, you can name your children after your chosen married surname on their birth certificate without ever having legally changed your own surnames to the surname you give your children. And finally, because children (even babies!) now need their own passports, having a different surname to yours will not complicate your passport situation.

Ms. or Mrs.

Ladies, it’s up to you. While Mrs is the traditional title for married women, Ms might be more appealing to you and still set your status apart from the pre-marriage Miss.

Monograms

The nice thing is, no matter what you decide to call yourselves after your wedding, you can use all of the initials from your names in a monogram which can be used throughout your wedding. Your wedding day is that unique cross over moment of past, present and future. You are at once celebrating your former singles lives, and so your former single surnames; and your new lives together and your new married surnames. Monograms elegantly combine one or more initial into a coherent symbol. So you could try combining the initials of your first names or your old surnames, or choose to use the initials from your new shared surname combined with your first name initials. If you like the idea of a monogram, there are lots of monogram generators online. Do use them, instead of giving up (like I did) when my freehand efforts failed to impress my own exacting standards. Monograms can feature on all your wedding stationary, favours, your cake, and even in your flowers and are a lovely symbolic expression of the meaning of marriage.

With this ring I thee wed

Your engagement ring will probably be the first wedding-related purchase you make as a couple, whether you or your partner choose and buy it or you do it together. The ring can be a first chance to prove how well you know each other, if you’ve particular tastes or expectations. Or it can be a haribo jelly ring, hula hoop, or ring-fashioned tin foil to fulfil the role of ‘ring’ and be all you need. The engagement ring can set the tone for the wedding to follow. Much like the invitations, your ring will give your guests an idea of what to expect from the wedding. Is it contemporary? Antique? Traditional? Restrained? Elaborate? They will be looking for clues!

The choice of engagement ring will probably have most bearing on your choice of wedding bands. Do you intend to keep wearing your engagement ring after the marriage? Will you keep it on the same finger or move it to the other hand? Will you want to wear it alongside your wedding ring on special occasions or keep it in a box to hand down to the next generation? If your partner will only wear silver coloured metals or only yellow coloured metals does this mean your wedding rings will now not match? Do you need to consider a multi coloured gold band to tie the three rings together?

Jewellery is pretty. We love the decadence of it. It is never needed. This makes it all the more desirable. Getting married gives you a great excuse to buy not one but two rings plus jewellery to wear on the day! But spare a thought for your other half. The Groom will generally get a nice new pair of cufflinks out of it – if he’s lucky. After our engagement I decided to buy my fiance a watch. Not just a functional watch, but one that was special. One that was a bit over the top., a bit ornate. One that really spoke to him and spoke to me of him. He adores it to this day and wears it every chance he gets (whenever not at work). It’s a ‘for best’ piece, and because it was frivilous, because I told him to choose whichever one he wanted, instead of weighing up pros and cons or thinking of the watch as a practical purchase, it’s basically his most prized possession. A true gift, a treat, not a concession.

When we were shopping for his wedding cufflinks we were so bored by the masses of jokey modern Groom offerings. We eventually came across a pair of cheeky vintage links. My top tip: don’t search under the Groom or Wedding category for cufflinks. Think about the kind of design or look that would work with your theme. While we’re talking about thinking outside the box, there’s no rule that you have to have wedding rings. If you’re not really a ring person why not go for something more you – jewellery or otherwise? The purpose of rings in the marriage ceremony is firstly to symbolise your first gifts to each other, so you could opt to exchange pretty much anything instead, eg. roses, garlands, tokens, coins. Secondly, rings symbolise infinity. This could mean to you your unending love, your unending support for one another through live, or your unending bond together in marriage. Rings symbolise these things because they are circles so have no end. You could replace rings with any other circular object, for example, a bracelet.

With my own wedding jewellery, I thought about what I’d like to wear every day after my wedding around my neck to remind me of the promises we had made. I had been coveting a chunky heart pendant for ages but not being able to afford a gold one, I fell in love with a Murano glass range and ordered some bespoke earrings to match. This way for very little money, I got a necklace and earrings I had designed myself, having chosen exactly the perfect beads and fittings to go with my dress and my wedding theme. I ordered brooches for the Moms and pendants for the Bridesmaids from the same jewellery maker so that everything was in Murano, but as individual as the girls I was buying for. I ended up wearing my other Nan’s pearl necklace on my wedding day instead of the pendant, but I wear my Murano wedding jewellery all the time. It was really nice to have things to keep wearing on the honeymoon that reminded me of the wedding. It was one of those things you don’t plan but then just really appreciate at the time.

As for my rings, well I wanted an old ring that resembled one I had admired on my late Nan’s finger. When she died, I inhereited the ring but discovered it was damaged and not worth repairing. We scoured Oxford for something similar or reminiscent, and finally found ‘the one’ in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, which meant a great deal to me, having a long line of ancestors from the city. Ben was very easy to please with a plain yellow gold band, but I wanted a design that symbolised our union and set about getting quotes for a bespoke ring with entwined threads of rose and yellow gold. Rose to symbolise me and the yellow to symbolise Ben. Our budget just didn’t stretch that far so I found a half diamond crossover design that would represent our differences and our joining well enough although I’d still love to get the ring of my dreams made some day. We had our rings engraved with words that meant the most to us. Ben’s ring says ‘Whole’ because he feels that our relationship has made him a whole man, ready for the rest of his life as his true self. It’s really nice that our words make sense when they are put together too. My ring says ‘Life’ because that is what I feel Ben gives me. The real start of my life, as a wife, we are a new family, setting out on a new adventure. By giving my heart and soul peace at finding him and knowing that he will always love me, Ben gives me the grounding to fully live and enjoy my life.

Jewellery and especially rings can be far more than just pretty. When it comes to your wedding, it’s up to you to take the opportunity to inject meaning into everything if you want to. There’s no reason why everything you choose to be a part of your day should not hold a special (and secret if you want) meaning to you and your beloved. How often do we get this chance? The world is your oyster. Happy shopping, and remember: the only limit to possibility is your imagination.

 

Engagement: the long and short of it

The length of an engagement can be decided before the proposal even takes place. Indeed you might see this kind of agreement as a prerequisite. Say you’ve got your heart set on a short engagement. You might want to insist that no proposal takes place until the time is close enough to your preferred wedding date. If the proposal comes ‘too early’ for whatever reason – practical, emotional, financial; you might be stuck with a really long engagement.

The average engagement is for 18 months. This strikes me as a long time. Too long? While it’s pretty obvious that a short engagement could cause you problems in hiring all the suppliers and goods for your wedding, or mean that you have to compromise on the exact date, venue, or supplier; it’s less so why a long engagement would cause a problem.

Ways an engagement can be too long:

Wedding planning doesn’t necessarily become less stressful or less complicated the longer you allow for it. Quite the contrary. When you’re planning a wedding, you have to hold lots of information in your head at the same time to retain an overall picture of the event as well as every individual detail. I can tell you from first hand experience that this is remarkably similar to how a PhD student feels throughout their three or more years of project management and thesis writing.

The experience can be intense and can take over your world. You might find it hard to think of much else besides the wedding. you can fail to see the wood for the trees, with details multiplying with the time your brain is given to imagine the infinite possibilities of what could be. If you put the wedding planning to one side for a number of days or weeks, when you try to pick it up again, it can take you ages to become reacquainted with where you are with the different strands of planning. It can soon become overwhelming, even with elite organisational skills, folders, lists and multi coloured page markers and post its. 🙂

You can end up spending more money. Chances are if you limit the planning time, you’ll limit the options you allow yourself to consider. The more options you expose yourself to, the more you will stretch the budget to acheive your dream day. If you are bargain hunting online, don’t be fooled into buying things you don’t actually need or have budgeted for, just because they are a bargain. This is easily done when you have wedding shopping fever. You see it on house building shows all the time. In an attempt to save money, online bargain hunting goes mad and impractical purchases end up costing much more because they have to be somehow blended into the scheme by yet more purchases, or adjusted to fit. You might not want to return items that aren’t quite right if the postage costs as much as they did.

Indecision sets in. If you’ve got loads of time, you can put off making decisions. Confronted with so many ways to go, you may find yourself unable to make decisions. This loss of momentum or sense of urgency can get you down, you can lose connection with your wedding, it can seem so far off it becomes ethereal, unreal. Ever watched paint dry? That’s what it would be like for me, as I just like to get on with things. I’m very impatient. If you are this way inclined, why put yourself through the wait? List your reasons and think about whether it adds up. Or are you putting it off to give yourself time to do all those things you think you’ll lose once married? Are you giving yourself time to get used to the idea of marriage? Are you giving yourself time to get to know your partner better, or to see if any cracks appear? It’s a good time to ask yourself the hard questions, and to be honest with yourself.

Your ideas can change. I found that I wanted to combine a few different styles in my eclectically vintage wedding. However, even within my fairly short 9 month engagement my ideas evolved so much that I wish I had had even less time so that I would be more likely to pick my theme and stick with it. When you are conceptualising the wedding at the beginning of your engagement you might be onto a fairly unusual theme or look, and by the time your wedding rolls around, you could have been to 10 weddings with the same theme as yours, and the mags could be proclaiming it the ‘in’ theme. Wedding trends come and go. If your engagement and wedding span more than one fashion season, you could end up oh-so-last-season. What may have been widely stocked a year ago might now be near impossible to find. The wedding industry is fickle.

Your life changes! Take any 18 months of your adult life and consider the changes that occured from the start to the end of that time period. Will your guest list be the same? Will your tastes? Will your priorities? Will your location? Will your family have seen new additions, or sad losses? Think about changes that might occur in other people’s lives. In the lives of your suppliers and the businesses you are depending on. They may go out of business, see a change in management, or direction. Their standards may change.

When you’re thinking about the length of your engagement, think about what would work best for you and your partner. Forget about the norm, the average and what your parents expect. While an engagement of 9 months is perfectly adequate, the benefit of a 12 month engagement is that you will get to see things at the same time of year as your wedding date. This can give you a much more accurate picture of how things will look and what will be on offer when your big day comes. Having said that, if you just cant wait to tie the knot, I’d advise no less than 3 months to plan your wedding. It can be done, but I’d stick to these rules to see you through.

Rules for a successful short engagement:

  1. Choose a theme/style/look/concept and stick with it. Do not hesitate. Things will jump out at you. Go with your gut instinct.
  2. Draw up a battle plan. You will need a schedule so that you don’t leave vital jobs too late. Pin down deadlines for EVERYTHING.
  3. Delegate. You can be Head Planner AND have as many little helpers as you like! Give your nearest and dearest specific tasks. Whether it’s sourcing a good band, doing a price comparison of florists, or picking up the invitations. Give your assistants a brief, so that they know what you expect.
  4. Prioritise. With a short engagement you might have to trim down the list of to dos. Think about what matters to you both. What can your day do without? Simply strike things off that list rather than stressing over compromises, and you’ll feel relieved and empowered.
  5. Enlist the help of professionals. I don’t mean a wedding planner. Your team of suppliers need to be professional, trustworthy and helpful. You may find an indispensable venue coordinator, celebrant (me!), or caterer who goes above and beyond to help see you through the planning process. If you can leave them to it in the run up to the wedding and on the day, great. If you are finding yourself chasing them, and picking up their slack, replace them.
  6. Be prepared to compromise. I mean really compromise. If you can take a more laid back attitude to the specifics, you can still get exactly what you want. It’s all about the overall effect, the essence of the day, the feel of it. Keep these things in mind rather than brand names, bestsellers, or expense as a guide to what’s right for you.
  7. Keep calm and carry on. If you get super-stressed you’ll become indecisive and snappy. Take time out from the planning to relax, and reconnect with your partner about why you are getting married. Keep perspective, take a deep breath, eat some cake, and get on with it. It’ll all be worth it.

And finally… Don’t be a slave to must have and must do lists, budget sheets, or timelines set by wedding companies. Every wedding is different so draw up your own lists and charts. If it seems overwhelming, change it, until it no longer does.