A Look Back: Our Marriage Vows (Part 2)

Our first year of marriage promises reveal more about our personalities and our lives than our vows do, which is why I would love to write vows more similar to these for any future renewal. Our lives moved quickly and before long our focus was again turning, this time to how we wanted to raise our children. Having together broken down and rebuilt parts of each other’s souls before and after our wedding day, by asking the most profound and heart-wrenching questions, we emerged certain of our shared principles and priorities. What we wrote was a manifesto that summed up what it was to be a Catley-Richardson, the new family we had created by joining our names.

This is your life
Do what you love, and do it often
If you don’t like something change it
Question everything
Some opportunities only come once, seize them
Life is not a rehearsal
Enjoy the little things in life – one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things
When you eat, appreciate every last bite
Travel often –getting lost will help you find yourself
Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and new people
Do not lose faith in humanity
We are united in our differences
All emotions are beautiful
You are part of a family that loves you very much
Life is a precious thing so don’t burn it up start living it day by day
Live your dream and share your passion
Don’t make do, make happen
Strive, don’t settle
Live for love

The manifesto was inspired by Holstee, but I’ve always been keen to have words on the walls of my home, because the written word to me is one of if not the most beautiful, precious human art forms. I incorporated some of my favourite quotations, borrowed from various sources of inspiration in my life, and we came up with a few key statements of our own that were the lessons of our first years of marriage. The manifesto serves to remind us and our children of what we consider the most important truths to keep in mind every day as you live your life. Less than three years on, the manifesto needs updating and improving to better reflect our reality now, so it is a living document.

How far our relationship has come in those short three years. Bubbles and bubbles – referring to prosecco in the bath – has become even more of an us thing, in the bath that we chose in the house we own together, it’s the centrepiece of Jam Jar Spa day gifts from him, and the at least weekly debrief and destress tete-a-tetes. We have embraced the Cotswold country lifestyle and Ben plays cricket when he can. We are absolutely convinced of staycations and local holidaying. We try to live our lives to the full, squeezing as much in as we can at the weekends, keeping in touch with good friends, travelling to see them and family, improving our home and garden, being involved in the community, individually doing the things we love and both striving little by little to realise all of our hopes and ambitions. We love each other completely, without any part of ourselves reserved, unconditionally, for exactly who the other is, openly and freely. When I gave Ben my hand, I gave him my life to keep. And keep my life he does.

Part 1 of the story is here

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Ceremony Music: make or break tips

1. Choose someone reliable to be in charge of setting up and starting and stopping the music
2. Make this their one and only job so they are there when needed and there is no delay in music starting
3. Test any equipment well in advance, not just the morning of the wedding
4. Try out volume levels for entrance, exit and mid-ceremony music
5. The volume for the exit song needs to be louder than other ceremony music, get a few people to clap and cheer over it and turn it up even louder

6. Mid-ceremony music needs to be low enough to talk over and be heard if used during Celebrant speaking
7. Mid-ceremony music may need to be looped so test how smoothly your chosen song can be repeated
8. Instrumental music is best for mid-ceremony whether or not the Celebrant is speaking over it
9. If playing music to be sung over see tip no. 5
10. Choose rousing, exhilarating music for the exit song to best fit the relief and elation of the Bride and Groom

11. Never abruptly stop a piece of music, always fade out gradually
12. Leave your background playlist on right up to the second the entrance song is started to avoid an awkward silence which heightens tension and nerves and makes time go ever so slowly (see tip no.2)
13. Start the exit song the second the Bride and Groom kiss or the Celebrant has stopped speaking – whichever is sooner
14. Start the after ceremony music as soon as the exit song finishes
15. Don’t assume the person in charge of the music will think of these points even if they seem like common sense, don’t assume anything, write instructions, and rehearse!

These are a few of my favourite things (about a wedding ceremomy)

As a guest albeit one with the role of Celebrant to play, having an excuse to dress up, wear makeup and jewellery, coif my hair and sometimes even wear nail varnish!
The mad rush to get out the house and into the car with the husband and kids, even though we sometimes snap at each other in the chaos, it’s so us, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s an exciting start to the day!
Reading the script and being impressed with myself and thinking to myself, I’m really good at my job.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Seeing the hard work of the Bride and Groom and their family of helpers, before any of the guests arrive.
Quirky signs using puns of their names and witty personal touches the Bride and Groom have thought of, such as their cut out faces on a wedding bake off trophy.
Checking out and comparing the toilets.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Nervous Grooms, especially if I can make them laugh; and people wishing the Groom luck.
Hearing the reactions of guests to the décor; and guests taking lots of photographs.
Seeing the wedding rings. Hearing the entrance song.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Seeing the Bride’s face (not her dress) as she walks in and looks for the Groom’s face.
Grooms with huge smiles and tears in their eyes when they see the Bride.
The Bride and Groom exchanging a few words when they are reunited at the front (usually sharing how nervous/overwhelmed they are or hot/cold/tired and how good they both look).
These are a few of my favourite things.

The Bride smiling at me. Guests smiling and crying throughout the ceremony, especially gasps of delight.
The ring and vow exchange because it’s such a personal and tender moment between the Bride and Groom we get to witness.
The fact that the rings hardly ever fit easily and have to be forced on (and how keen they are that the ring WILL go on).
These are a few of my favourite things.

Declaring the Bride and Groom husband and wife and everyone cheering.
Seeing all the love for the Bride and Groom in the congratulation hugs and kisses and photographs.
The parents of the Bride and Groom thanking and kissing me.
These are a few of my favourite things.

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

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.