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

A Month Of (Hungry Mummy) Lunches

I thought I’d do a few ‘day/week/month in the life of’ type posts, and since I hear about a lot of moms (that’s mums for the non-Brummies out there) not having the time or inclination to eat well, I wanted to document my own eating habits. In keeping track of what I ate, I couldn’t help but take note of the context of each lunch. I love food. I love cooking and eating in equal measure. I’m like Nigella without the sultry sideways eye flirting. Happy reading x

NB. Halves or thirds listed have resulted from (un)intentional sharing with my husband, two year old son, and occasionally my six month old daughter…

  1. Bacon, red onion and cheese with Worcestershire sauce grilled on a split brioche; orange juice mixed with apple and elderflower juice and water (sat at my laptop on the dining table)
  2. Lemon crème fraiche tuna and sliced cucumber on granary roll, with lightly salted kettle chips; coffee and homemade olive oil chocolate cake (while watching Toy Story 2 again)
  3. Divine/sublime olive oil fried tuna cheese melt on fresh white bread (Seb pulled a face at his mouthful but I could tell Cali wanted a taste)
  4. Late morning: half a chicken and mushroom and half a steak, port and mushroom pie from local butchers; late afternoon: cheeseburger, fries, 1/3 chocolate milkshake (from McDo after swimming and Seb meltdown so it’s allowed)
  5. Husband-made chorizo, tomato, spring onion and various cheese scromelette with asparagus and half a toasted multiseed bagel (in garden in paint-stripping work gear)
  6. Cheese toastie (without the crispy melted cheese crown Jamie Oliver suggests makes it ‘ultimate’)
  7. Leftover tomato mascarpone penne pasta bake; slice of shop-bought chocolate raspberry cream roulade (feeling ill today but plotting a new campaign anyway)
  8. Bit more pasta bake leftovers (somewhat distracted from lunch waiting for Health Visitor to call)
  9. Ham and brie baguette and lightly salted kettle chips (at a new friend’s house!)
  10. More ham and brie on baguette (this time popped in the oven to go melty, eaten while working at laptop)
  11. Leftover roast chicken pickings sandwich with cheese and onion kettle chips for a change
  12. Husband-made bacon and posh tomato ketchup on buttered fresh bread (outside having got filthy working in the garden) choc olive oil cake I made AGAIN, this time hot out the oven
  13. Cotswold home baked ham, brie and fresh bread and butter – eaten stood up in the kitchen eager to get back to ‘exciting work stuffs’ on the laptop – then ate an obscenely big shop-bought white chocolate raspberry (a fave combo of mine) cookie
  14. Our son is ill and days go by in a blur, cant for the life of me remember what I ate for lunch, I mostly get by on homemade low-sugar chocolate fruit cookies
  15. Husband-made ‘for the love of pasta’ our go to al dente spaghetti with butter, nutmeg and parmesan
  16. Red pepper hummus, Moroccan couscous and pea shoot leaves in wholemeal pitta, half a pork pie, bought for husband working from home
  17. Traditional bacon sandwich made by husband we fantasised over while doing the tip run in Swindon
  18. Non-existent, fridge is bare, instead prepare lunch for Seb who turns face away. Some passionfruit yoghurt, a chocolate Freddo and fruit toast for me, later quite a few tomato and olive mini bruschettes while doing the online food order
  19. Really thick and warming homemade roast squash, sweet potato and onion soup; followed by leftover homemade bread and butter pudding served cold
  20. A fave from gestational diabetes pregnancy: three new potatoes microwaved into something resembling a jacket potato, with ample butter and cottage cheese
  21. Toasted bagel loaded with butter, cream cheese, smoked salmon, black peppper and lemon juice, hungrily scoffed in relief
  22. Half a bagel with scrambled egg (Delia style) mixed with smoked salmon and homemade watercress cheese sauce leftover from dinner, not as amazeballs as I imagined it would be
  23. A yoghurt and some fruit toast before rushing out to the shops without the children, while around the shops I grab a’detox’ smoothie
  24. Lip-lickingly satisfying real spaghetti carbonara made with our own eggs on a wet and cold Sunday
  25. Southern fried chicken breast with lettuce, our own tomato, grated cheese and honey mustard dressing sandwich, a husband work at home special, we have to wait for my Mom (who lives with us) to get in with the loaf of bread

Most weekdays I don’t ‘get ready’ because I don’t go out with the kids unless I have arranged a meet up with friends or a full blown day out with them. I’m to be found in the garden, in the bath, in the kitchen or in the Snug with my two young children. Most days when Daddy gets home from work at least one of us is still in our pjs, with dishevelled hair. And most days all three of us, the carpet, and every surface in the kitchen will be covered in the remnants of the day’s meals. This will only be my reality for a short time in my life, and I sure do love it.

Symbolic gifts for anniversaries

I haven’t come across a definitive list of the traditional gifts or symbols associated with different wedding anniversary milestones, but this is one I’m happy represents the British consensus quite well.

1st – Paper
2nd – Cotton
3rd – Leather
4th – Linen
5th – Wooden
6th – Iron
7th – Copper/Wool
8th – Bronze
9th – Pottery
10th – Tin
11th – Steel
12th – Silk
13th – Lace
14th – Ivory
15th – Crystal

Ben and I celebrate our third anniversary next week and I haven’t bought him anything, much less anything in leather. Like many couples we can rarely justify spending money on ourselves or each other. Afterall, we’ve got each other, and back massages are free! Yea we’re happy and don’t need gifts to remind us we are loved, but I do love to buy Ben gifts, even if there’s no occasion. He deserves little treats and surprises and it makes me so happy.

For our first anniversary we bought each other papercut design cards, papercut being an ‘us’ thing. Last year we didn’t exchange gifts but we decided to have another baby, who we bought plenty of things made of cotton. I love the idea of us buying ourselves a joint gift. Something for our bedroom or bathroom, something we’d use every day, for each anniversary. It’s ideal that the list of traditional anniversary gifts suggests objects of quality and craftsmanship. Anniversary gifts are among those gifts you’d like to cherish and hand down to your children. Objects that come to define your home and space and lifestyle. We value handmade pieces, prefer unique and unusual pieces, and I love anything with a past and a story.

Cotton: I bought Ben a Liberty print handkerchief for our wedding, a handkerchief he’ll keep and love forever. Leather: the year after we were married we bought an Italian leather super king-size bed, a bed that will last the rest of our lives, we share with our children. Linen: some nice dinner napkins would suit us as we use them every day. Wood: Maybe that year we’ll get round to making our bespoke coat and hat rack with mismatched hooks that reflect our personalities for each the family. Iron: A second fireside companion so each of the downstairs open fires has one each. Copper: copper bathtubs are pretty special and we’ll need a bath when we convert the attic into our master suite, however having just Ebay’d them gosh they’re expensive, I would love copper saucepans instead . Wool: we use throws and blankets a lot both in the snug and on the bed, a Cotswold wool blanket would be perfect.

Bronze: something for the garden. Pottery: maybe we’ll replace our crockery. I’ve been hankering after an Emma Bridgewater hearts milk jug forever. Tin: probably something else for the garden – when in doubt! Tin makes very cute hole-punched candle holders. Steel: We already have a nice cutlery set. I’m sure we’ll find something in one of the nice kitchen shops in Oxford or Witney. Silk: I’m struggling to think of silk items for the home, but I’d start by looking for silk cushion covers. Lace: Like linen, beautiful lace is always something I want to bring home with me from France. I think our Dining Room could pull off a lace table cloth without looking too geriatric. Ivory: Our kids will still be pretty young so we could finally get a piano (if we can make room for one) and it should still see some use as they grow up. Crystal: Instead of the obvious wine glasses, maybe we’ll treat ourselves to an expensive bottle of champagne! Scandalous!

20th – China
25th – Silver
30th – Pearl
35th – Coral
40th – Ruby
45th – Sapphire
50th – Gold
55th – Emerald
60th – Diamond
65th – Blue Sapphire
70th – Platinum

I think it’s sensible to switch to five-yearly gifts of significance once you’ve been married 15 years, but I don’t agree that after a point, a grand gesture every ten years is more appropriate! Anything longer than 50 years of marriage, with so many couples marrying in their 30s rather than their 20s, is bloomin marvellous! All the more reason to celebrate the passing of another five years. If you are fortunate enough to get to 70 happy years together well then you already have more than money can buy – a wonderfully long lifetime of memories.

China: we already have quite a collection of china tea sets, which we plan to use in our tea garden when it’s open, so it would make sense to buy something special for the tea garden this year. The rest of the list is suggestive of jewellery. I know I will much rather buy one of our children a piece of jewellery made of the stones and metals symbolic of our years together as family keepsakes. After all back massages will still be free 🙂

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.

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.

Top Ten Wedding Fails

Lots of things can go wrong at weddings. It’s a big day, the pressure is on, there are lots of eyes and ears scrutinising detail and quality. Most of the time, the little mistakes or mishaps make the wedding. They are memorable moments you look back on with fondness or a good sense of humour. But let’s face it, some weddings contain moments of sheer embarrassment, mortification, or worse. Those things you really wish hadn’t happened, and really want to forget, well that’s what this list is for. For brides and grooms to be if you are worried about everything running perfectly smoothly on your big day, this might help put things into perspective. Don’t let this list get you down, chances are none of this will happen. But if you want to be safe and not sorry consider my tips for avoiding disaster. And keep in mind that the wedding is for all its bells and whistles, ultimately a means to an end. Marrying the one you love and living happily ever after.

  1. Bad Musicians – This is a problem with all live music, but especially risky with church organs. Top tips: listen to the musician you are hiring beforehand. Try to go to a live performance instead of trusting their demo cd or website audio clip. Don’t use a church organ or bagpipes unless the musician is highly skilled and can pull it off. If money is tight, and you are using amateur musicians, choose simple songs or songs they can already perform well.
  2. Moody Blues – You won’t be able to enjoy your day if you are in a bad mood. There are so many reasons you might be: if disaster does strike, if you have a fight with your betrothed/mother/sister etc., if you’ve had very little sleep, if you feel unwell, if you are hormonal. Top tips: adopt a zen aura and let things that would normally bother you, slide off you. Take a herbal calming remedy. Try to relax the week before the wedding. Treat yourself, have a massage, a lovely bath and early night the night before. Plan and organise so you’re not running around like a headless chicken. Put some time aside for you and your partner to remind yourselves why you’re getting married and how much you love each other.
  3. Punch Ups – They say it’s not a real party until something gets broken, until there’s a fight, or unless someone is sick. Well weddings are all about love and apart from striking totally the wrong negative chord, fights be they verbal or physical detract from the important people, the Bride and Groom. Top tips: if you think someone might cause a fight, don’t invite them. Carefully arrange the seating plan to keep rivals apart. Don’t serve endless free alcohol.
  4. The weather – I’m not just talking about grey skies or a bit of rain. What if your day coincides with a hurricane, a storm, or a blizzard? These are things we simply can’t control, but you can do two things. Top tips: look into wedding insurance in case you have to postpone entirely to another date. Have a contingency plan which includes guest transportation and communication system for relaying the change of plan to everyone.
  5. Bridal Party Injuries – what better way to spend your first night as a married couple than in hospital? Top tips: keep an eye on clumsy relatives, badly secured platforms, uneven floors, avoid flimsy chairs and tables, steps and ledges! Beware long veils and dresses being caught in doors or go for a shorter dress, shorter veil, or no veil.
  6. Damages – This would include ruined wedding cakes and wedding dresses, those icons of the wedding day that above all must be pristine (at least for the photos). Top tips: falling over will often have the knock on effect of ruining cake and/or dress so see top tips for Bridal party injuries. Transport the cake and the dress carefully being mindful of sources of dirt, dust, bleach, oil, ink, blood. Dresses can snag on any sharp point including jewellery, heels, doors and flooring.
  7. Jokes Gone Wrong – Really wrong. The Best Man’s ‘funny’ speech that simply puts the Bride down whilst listing the Groom’s ex girlfriends. The wedding that can’t take place because of the missing Groom following a badly thought out stag do prank. The video reel your parents put together of your worst childhood memories. The honeymoon suite pranks that just kill the passion. Top tips: trust the people you give the privilege of speaking at your wedding to. Surprises are great, but if you suspect your well meaning relative or friend might not be on the same page as you and your bethrothed, double check what they have in mind! The day is about both Bride and Groom. No one wants to be sulky on their wedding day.
  8. Exes – Some exes become friends, some harbour resentment and grow bitter and choose your wedding day to strike! Top tips: think carefully about inviting exes who are friends but who haven’t become friends of your spouse. If you have a potentially devastating ex, mention them to the doormen, have someone look out for them, keep your wedding quiet!
  9. Food Poisoning – Don’t want your guests’ lasting memory of your wedding to be their toilets? Top tips: use a reputable caterer- check their hygiene certificates. Watch out for food kept warm or left out for long periods of time. Beware of rice. Sample the food before signing the caterer, or use a venue or supplier you are familiar with.
  10. Changing Your Mind – Lots of couples get cold feet, but what if you really don’t want to go through with it? Top tips: don’t leave it until the wedding day to make a run for it. Be brave enough to break things off after the engagement if you decide you’re really not marrying the right person. Everyone will understand, and if they don’t you shouldn’t care, it’s your life, you have to put yourself first. Give yourself an engagement period long enough to learn more about each other and to discuss all the big stuff that really can make or break a relationship when things get serious.