Thursday, 13 December 2018

You’ve said ‘yes’

THE DAY after I got engaged my best friend asked me if we had set the date yet.

THE DAY after I got engaged my best friend asked me if we had set the date yet.

I was incredulous. “He proposed yesterday,” I told her. “Yes but you have to be on the ball or you won’t get what you want,” she said.

“Weddings get booked up to three years in advance, and to get a dress designed you have to act straight away. You also need to book the cake, think about cravats, seating plans, favours, gifts for the bridesmaids, shoes and hair styling.”

I was, quite frankly, terrified. But she was not the only one. Over the next few weeks I was grilled about the minutiae of our wedding, from the colour scheme, what material my dress would be, where we would honeymoon and what the canapés would be.

Several people, it turned out, had handy scrapbooks that they were only too delighted to lend to me, detailing everything they wanted at their own wedding, including samples of fabrics, mood boards and a list of shops stocking bridesmaids’ dresses. I began to panic, wondering how I had missed this memo.

Luckily my own family were very laid back about the whole thing.

When I called my dad after a couple of glasses of Champagne to tell him the news, it was one of the most bizarre conversations I have ever had.

While my dad is not known for lengthy phone conversations, or, come to think of it, emotion, I did expect a little bit more than “did you say yes?” when I told him that Ian had proposed. Predictably my mum cried, just as she had when Ian had asked her for her blessing earlier that week, and apparently every day after that.

But she has been brilliant, advising me only to enjoy every moment of the engagement and do whatever we want to do with regards to the wedding.

It was also refreshing that Ian, like me, had no idea about where or how he wanted to get married.

But sweet as it was him telling me that all he wanted was to get married and nothing else mattered, I knew that this was not going to help in the long run.

As we chatted about weddings we had been to in the past, I realised that I knew more about what I did not want for my own wedding than what I did.

Very quickly we ruled out a church, despite both being raised as Catholic.

I felt that while I should follow the family tradition of getting wed in the church next door to our old primary school in Whitstable, deep down I wanted something a bit different.

We also felt strongly that we did not want a large number of guests.

However when we compiled a list of those who we felt “should” come, there were 95 names on the list.

I also got quite annoyed, perhaps irrationally so, about the prospect of inviting the girlfriends of Ian’s friends, some of whom I had not even met.

There was also the problem of having couples because they were friends with so-and-so who we definitely wanted there, and of course several sets of children.

When we went to visit a country house venue close to where my parents live, I was less than wowed.

While we agreed it was a beautiful place, something did not feel right.

That weekend we decided to each write down what was important to us and then compare notes.

Strangely, both lists included getting married outdoors, only family and close friends in attendance and a very relaxed atmosphere.

In the end it was an overpriced bridal magazine full of fuss that was responsible for the wedding we have chosen because on the very last page in the advert section was a picture of a wedding in Cyprus.

It was so simple but striking, and planted a seed straight away. When I mentioned having a destination wedding to Ian, he seemed very keen.

So we started thinking about options, and I was surprised to find that it was far cheaper to marry abroad than in the UK.

We have chosen a beautiful chateau in the Aquitaine region of France.Our wedding will take place on a Saturday in May, with guests staying with us in the chateau for four days.

Venue decided, now came the really hard work of putting it all together.

I wanted to arrange a priest straight away as that is, after all, the most important thing. With Colin in place, we also sorted a band, an English duo, and asked the chateau for a list of local florists and patisseries.

I really had no idea what a huge market the wedding industry has become, how much choice there was and where to start, so I was delighted to learn that a one-stop wedding shop had opened in Wallingford.

The Wedding House, run by Dawn Gigg and Keri Harvey, offers a unique concept in that wedding suppliers are all in the same place. It is one of only two of its kind in the county.

The friends only opened in January but have already secured the service of Suits Newbury, Kes Furniture, Cherub Chairs, Oxfordshire Wedding Entertainment and Beauty Essentials to name a few.

Their own businesses, Keri Harvey the Florist and The Glorious Bakeshop also feature, meaning that people really can sort out everything in the same place.

I spent a wonderful afternoon there with my mum and sister earlier this month, losing myself in a world of cupcakes, roses and lace.

I even tried on and fell in love with a couple of dresses, courtesy of Aisle B Yours.

Owner Charlyne Vickery was so helpful and after a quick chat, immediately knew what I was looking for and made helpful suggestions throughout the hour that I was with her.

Unlike other shops, where several brides-to-be had been vying for the attention of a couple of staff at the same time, this was a one-on-one experience and I felt that Charlyne really cared about what I wanted, rather than trying to force me into dresses which I was not interested in.

The prices were also fantastic, ranging from £600, a lot more reasonable than a number of other local shops.

Viv Cooper, of Best Dressed was also very down to earth and accommodating. She offers a wide range of mother-of-the-bride outfits at a fraction of the cost of high street stores such as Hobbs and Coast.

I was so impressed by how friendly all the suppliers were. Each took time to ask questions about my wedding and how I was getting on with arranging things, and I found the whole experience stress-free and pleasurable.

There is something for everyone here and I would highly recommend it in terms of cost, choice and service. For more information go to

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