Monday, 27 May 2013

When You're With Me It's Always Summer

I'm starting to type this as we fly to St Lucia on the final leg of our epic honeymoon.  With a mere 8 hours 15 minutes to kill (not including the delay caused by late boarding passenger Alex Fruger, who they had the courtesy to name and shame) it's probably a good time to address mine and Kate's wedding, which took place on 27th April.  I'm now in the position where I feel we've banged on about this for long enough and that we're probably boring people, but in time honoured Jonablog tradition there's probably a blog left to wring out of it before we wrap this one up!

Long-term readers will remember me writing about our engagement nearly two years ago. We knew from the start we'd probably be getting married in Spring 2013, due to needing to save up and us both being quite keen on a Spring wedding.  Despite this I think we both found that first ten months or so a bit of a struggle, and the finger of blame for this can be pointed at Islington Council.  Since she moved to London in August 2005 Kate had always said she wanted to get married at Islington Town Hall, after moving into a flat in the local area and seeing couples emerging from the building when going past on the number 30 bus on a Saturday morning.  Unfortunately for us, the council operates a strict "year in advance policy" which means it is literally impossible to book your ceremony until there is a year or less to go, which in the world of wedding planning is a little restrictive as it means you then can't book anything else for the day until the venue is confirmed.  So we had the best part of a year of being asked "how's the wedding planning going?" with the answer being that it wasn't really going anywhere.

Luckily Kate managed to fill the time with heavily researching anything and everything to do with the wedding.  I was very lucky to have a fianc√©e who not only had a pretty good idea of what she wanted from the ceremony but also had rather excellent ideas that chimed with my own! I think there must be a gene in women that is unleashed the moment they are proposed to (or in some cases, before...) that contains all this vital information.  Put it this way: I wasn't much use when it came to choosing the "wedding colours".  She also became absorbed into the world of wedding blogs, the modern equivalent of those whacking great glossy bridal magazines, so much so I believe she has now read them all.  There are none left.


By the time our preferred date had rolled around (minus a year), we were ready to pounce on Islington and then to book all our suppliers in turn.  Luckily 27th April 2013 at 1pm was free, but I was amazed to find out that when I rang up on 28th April 2012 - ie. one day into the booking window - the midday and 5pm slots had been taken on our chosen day already! So we weren't the only ones.  Now the real prep could begin - and save-the-date cards were sent out at the start of September accordingly, accompanied by some superb artwork by Kate's brother Lee depicting us in the style of Lichenstein.  Full invites followed in January, and I have to give credit to Kate again for creating wonderful innovative fold-out invites that were so incredible they are hard to describe.  So here are a couple of pictures.

The buildup to the wedding itself was a bit of a blur. After the first 18 months feeling like a small ice age, the final furlong from January flew by.  At the start of March we had a "pre-wedding shoot", a service offered by our photographer (the peerless Eliza Claire), which by fluke took place on a rare dry and sunny day.  We held the shoot on the Parkland Walk, a former railway line-turned-nature reserve local to us which we're lucky enough to be able to walk part of our daily journey to work on.  Eliza produced some really impressive shots, although one was unplanned - local gigantic-bear-dog Winston out for a walk trying to get in on the action, nose-to-nose with me!

Two weeks prior to the ceremony, on the same day were our stag and hen nights.  I think both of us were touched by quite how many people turned up, many of whom travelled to London especially.   Credit is due to my Best Man Tom who masterminded a brilliant afternoon of the Thames Clipper, followed by the British Music Experience and then climbing the O2 in the pouring rain - which felt like one hell of an achievement! After a curry we then went onto a club in Angel, later being joined by the hen party, which was a fantastic end to the day given we don't really split our friends down gender lines in any case.  It was also just down the road from where we'd be getting married a fortnight later...!

Although Kate can rightly take credit for the vast majority of the wedding ideas, I was quite proud of one of mine.  We'd talked for some time about themed table plans at the Wedding Breakfast but not quite nailed something right for us.  Eventually I suggested: why not numbers 1 singles from various points in our lives?  There were bound to be some duds in there but they would undoubtedly make great talking points as well as confirming my chart nerd status.  We decided to have tables themed around Kate's birthday (Only You by The Flying Pickets), my birthday (Hello by Lionel Richie - perfect!), the date we both started at the University of York (some Will Young and Gareth Gates duet, how very 2002), the date we started going out (Obviously by McFly - because she's out of my league!), the day we moved into our first flat (Crazy by Gnarls Barkley) and the day we got engaged (something by Pitbull - my timing not especially romantic here).

For all these Kate managed to get hold of the original vinyl or CD from eBay, the artwork from which would be on the table plan and the discs on the tables themselves.  We took a huge gamble though by saying the the top table would be whatever was number one on the day we got married - ie. announced the Sunday before, giving us not much time to arrange it.  Thankfully virtually no singles are released on CD anymore (I'm amazed we got hold of the 2011 Pitbull one) which meant all we had to do was print off the artwork and label up a CD-R for the table.  Throughout April we nervously watched the charts and at various points thought we might end up with "Let's Get Ready To Rhumble" or "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" as the lead record.  The last week saw a battle between a dire Bieber collaboration and a nice enough Rudimental track.  Thankfully the latter won, although we wished Daft Punk's epic Get Lucky had been released a few days earlier as we both love it!

Our last day at work was Wednesday 24th April. I'd arranged for some flowers to be delivered to Kate at the Google fortress a few streets away, but I was then surprised by cards from both the London and Leeds presentation teams and bubbly in the office, which was a great way to start our longest ever holiday! 

Before we knew it, it was Friday 26th April: t-minus one day, and quite an epic day of organisation.  We always knew that having the wedding in London in two different venues would be quite tough given that a huge chunk of our guests would be visiting London especially and hardly anyone we know has a car.  Luckily my sister bucks that trend and so we spent Thursday picking up the six hire suits from the tailor in Barking, and then Friday dropping our wedding night suitcase off at our hotel, greeting our family off the train, shuttling all the suits, the dress and the ceremony stuff to my hotel (with Kate's stuff then taken from there to her hotel by taxi) and finally taking all the reception decoration to the pub where it would be held.  And while all this was going on, Kate was getting her nails done.  Not that we were conforming to gender stereotypes, you understand.  After a quick run through at Kate's hotel of all the details in the "bible" we'd put together with all the horrendous detail I won't bore you with about who needed to do what when, with most of the bridal and groom parties, Kate and bid farewell and I headed to Islington for some drinks with already-arrived guests.  And then, to bed...

The day of the ceremony is always said to be something of a blur.  I think the presence of a photographer is required not only to immortalise the day but also to remind you what actually happened! Given the huge amount of coordination I'm delighted to report everything went pretty much to plan.  After much nervous checking of the weather (which remained stubbornly stuck on "showers" throughout) we were relieved that not only was a was it dry when it needed to be, there was beautiful sunshine around the time of the ceremony! With my ushers, best man and a number of other guests in tow we walked the ten minutes along Upper Street to the Town Hall.  We'd been told by Islington Council that there was a fairly tight turnaround between ceremonies and so we'd need to make ourselves scarce fairly promptly after our ceremony avoid getting in the way of the 2pm booking.  Sadly that message hadn't filtered through to the midday party, who were stood on the steps having every combination of photo lineup under the sun taken, until we decided we would have to edge past in order to get the council chamber ready.  It was then we found another party on the grand staircase having more photos that needed to be navigated past.  It was like some sort of wedding-themed computer game.  I was half expecting to find an end-of-level baddy at the top of the stairs.

The previous group delayed us by about ten minutes in the end but eventually the ushers got everyone inside and we were ready to go.  The Council Chamber is an incredible space, as you can see from the photos.  The amazing thing about it is that everyone is sat around you in a semi-circle, so you can really see everyone as you're sat there.  Thanks to the previous group I didn't have a long wait but it's a lonely position, sat in the the middle of that room on your own!  I knew that the bridal party would be entering before Kate and her Dad, but I didn't want to turn around too soon and end up staring down the aisle for a long time.  In the end this was made easy for me when I heard Kate's Grandma say "oh, isn't she lovely"!  The moment I saw Kate in her dress for the first time is captured on camera but I was genuinely blown away by how incredible she looked.  Nothing can quite prepare you for the arrival of your bride in the dress you've been forbidden from seeing for months, looking more beautiful than she's ever been before. 

The ceremony was brief but really, really lovely.  My sister Laura read John Hegley's Beliefs and Promises and Kate's brother Lee read John Cooper-Clarke's i wanna be yours,  both wonderful poems that mean a lot to us.  We chose some of our favourite music for various parts of the ceremony.  While guests were arriving we played Digital Love by Daft Punk, Two Doors Down by Mystery Jets and Make Me Feel Again by Edwyn Collins.  Kate walked in to TrueLove Ways by Buddy Holly and we signed the register to Something Changed by Pulp and I Love You by The Pipettes and then, before we knew it, we were married!  We walked out to Don't Falter by Mint Royale, a track that wasn't a massive hit when released but both of us loved independently at the time - it encompassing both of our musical tastes, with the dying embers of Britpop coupled with the big-beat sound popular at the turn of the century.  After some photos on the grand staircase and the confetti shots outside the town hall (in glorious sunshine!) we were off!

We'd solved the issue of transporting people from one venue to another by hiring a Routemaster bus, continuing the London feel.  We'd asked that the bus go to the reception venue via Alexandra Palace, partly to drop us off their for some photos but also to extend the journey and give some of our northern guests a taste of north London.  This worked really well, as everyone had a good chinwag whilst sipping champagne that Kate's parents had kindly brought back from France.

While we were being photographed at Ally Pally - lest we forget the birthplace of what had brought us together, television - a little girl and her mother approached Kate and asked her if she was a princess, as they'd gone to the palace but the princess wasn't there!  Quite a sweet moment.  Before we headed to our reception - at a lovely pub called The Prince Albert in Camden Town - we had some more photos in the pretty streets nearby, before entering the venue.  Nothing can quite prepare you for the high of walking into a room with everyone cheering you - I know this sounds weird on your wedding day but you do forget sometimes that everyone is looking at you two!

After some amazing food - that pub really do food well! - we had the speeches. I'd had a good idea of what I wanted to say for some time - mentally writing it in my head when swimming, mostly! - but had a few nerves about it in the weeks before the wedding, rewriting it a lot. In the end, it went down quite well.  I was hugely encouraged by the reaction to Kate's Dad's lovely speech, and how everyone reacted to mine once I got going.  I did worry I would lose it at some of the more sentimental bits about Kate - and also in particular the section about my Gran not being able to be there - but one of the advantages of reading over it so many times in advance is that you become so used to the words that, to you at least, they lose some of their emotional weight, which did have the advantage that it was the guests who ended up blubbing, not me! Tom also gave a touching best man's speech.  Well, touching apart from the washing machine bit.  If you weren't there, that's all I'm saying.

Kate had decided she would give a speech too, at the evening reception.  I loved this: so few brides do it, and it really gave her a chance to shine.  Although she won't admit it she's really, really good at public speaking, and knowing Kate as we all know her it wouldn't be right for her to go the whole day saying little more than "I do". Plus she said some really nice things about me, so that was good too!  She received so much praise not only for making a speech but for how brilliant it was, and rightly so.

A long time ago, before we decided much else, we had chosen what our first dance would be.  We both love Dusty Springfield's I Only Want To Be With You so, so much. The lyrics are pretty much spot on for how both of us feel about each other, the sound is so evocative of the 60s look that Kate was keen for, plus it does have the bonus of being quite short! Neither of us are particularly any good at dancing but we did really want to do the first dance. We kept the song choice a complete secret: only our DJ James knew about it, but Tom nailed it when he said that the lyrics pretty much summed up what we'd both said in our speeches.  We rehearsed it quite extensively, but neither of us are convinced it was that great on the night.  Still: looks good in still photos, and what a tune!

I was tempted to not do "thank yous" in this blog having done them at the time and privately since, but so much of the day was a result of the fine work of so many wonderful family and friends.  So, very quickly: both sets of parents, Steve & Sandra and Anne & Les, for all the financial, creative and general wonderful support they gave; our siblings Laura, Lee and Nick for the readings, design work and general organisational help with the big day; the bridal and groom parties: Tom, Rowan, Dave, Vanky, Graham, Morgan, Claire and Oliver for generally being ace and supportive and making the day go without a hitch, our witnesses Chris and Jamie for returning the favour we did for them at their Civil Partnership a few years ago, the staff of Islington Town Hall and The Prince Albert for giving us such a wonderful, flawless day, Dunns Bakery and my new Grandma Audrey for the tasty cakes, our superstar DJ James for keeping everyone dancing until 1am, Jack Bunneys and Butterfly Vintage Brides for our outfits and finally our wonderful photographers and videographers Eliza, Hannah, Frances and Becky (girl power!). I'd also like to thank everyone that came, particularly from outside of London.  So much of the amazing wedding atmosphere was down to have such a great group of guests who all genuinely seemed to have a great time which meant a lot to us.  We're also very grateful for all the numerous and generous donations to our honeymoon fund.  We had the most incredible three weeks in St. Pancras Renaissance, Berlin and St. Lucia that we simply would not have been able to do without everyone's generosity, so once again: thank you.

I said in my speech but I'll say it again here, the biggest thank you for the day has to go to Kate.  So much of the vision for the day, the style, the look and the feel was down to her incredible taste and general scarily good sense for what works and what doesn't.  I'll admit that a lot of things I rolled my eyes at when they were suggested (giant illuminated letters?!) really made the day.  She could easily go into a career doing this sort of thing.  That she managed to do it largely off her own back is of huge credit to her.  She's currently writing an entry for an influential wedding blog who want to feature the wedding, which is really flattering.

So now it's all over, and the honeymoon we were on the way to when I started writing this has been and gone.  We're yet to have the infamous "wedding blues". I think this is mainly because the day was so, so wonderful and everything that we wished for.  It's a clich√© but it's true: it was the best day of our lives, and not only that but we're so excited about everything the future holds. We've nothing but good memories about the whole day and are so grateful to everyone who made it possible.  I still get a buzz out of calling Kate my wife, and I've a sneaking suspicion that's not going to change any time soon!  I'll end slightly on a slightly soppy note (hey, it's an occasion when I'm allowed to do so), with the lyrics to the chorus of Don't Falter. It's essentially "our song", and given that against all odds the sun came out for our big day, wonderfully appropriate.

Hey, don't falterYou know we ought to be togetherStrange, I saw yaI sort of knew it was for ever

Please stay with meAnd never miss a chance to kiss meBabe, I love yaWhen you're with me, it's always summer