Adventures of a Wedding Belle – Practice and Preparation prevents Piss Poor Performance…

I have many, many things to say about Bella’s 7-moths-and-counting piece. The first is that I am so very sorry it didn’t actually go up on the 8th-the 8th being yesterday. Yesterday wasn’t the 7th, like I thought it was. Duh.   

Secondly, I KNOW that I said the very same thing last month, but how WONDERFUL is Bella’s writing? It was also fantastic-that’s why we leapt on her to become a regular writer for us. With each month, she gets better and better and last month I thought she’d peaked. Yet here she is with a piece that, as I sit here in my PJ’s with a cup of tea and a cat purring on my lap, has made me cry. I can’t put into words why, or how, because it will give away the sheer beauty of her writings, suffice to say that you should should take some time and really read this. 

Bella, you never have to apologise to us, evereverever. Just don’t stop writing. Ever.

Also, I loves me husband with a beard on his face.

I think we all need a healthy dose of anti-apologetism. Yes, that’s a word. It means we blooming well don’t need to apologise for anything to do with our weddings. It’s ok to love the wedmin, to want to lose weight, to wear your glasses (seriously, why would anyone ask? Of course I want to see. All you’ve left me with is a complex) or to run off into the night and do it your way. We all know it, and I have loved all of the comments over the last few weeks to this effect, so massive thanks to the much needed perspective. 
 One exception, though. It’s probably not ok to be a nightmare and demand kittens and puppies and white calla lilies hand-sprayed with the exact shade of glitter to match our shoes/headbands/garters/hotel room carpet so the pictures look better. (Although I would love a kitten as a wedding present. That’s by the by.) So, like all good 12 step programmes, I’ll start with hi. My name is Bella and I want to spend time planning my wedding. Phew. That’s better. Now, where was I?
Last month was, as you’ll know from my last post, a bit of a detail oriented one so thank you so much for all of your advice. To keep you in the loop, we said yes to the wedsite, and stopped feeling bad about the plus ones. The jury on the dress is officially out, and will be for another month or so…. Which means I am now trying to sell two dresses online. Silly Bella.
January brought with her a need to focus on the BIG bit. You know, that bit. The ‘fficial bit. The ceremony. This was, obviously, always going to be important and I felt, as I know a lot of you have done, an awful lot of pressure to make it oh-so-us. Which is ridiculous, no? It’s the ceremony! It’s about us! What more can I do?
Our C of E service is shaping up quite nicely, but I got genuinely upset when the readings didn’t pop into my head. We have our bible reading, and are asking Betrothed’s dad to choose what he reads, but wanted to choose the third together. I wanted something a bit different, but that meant something. Something that wouldn’t be impossible to read (so Jabberwocky is out then) or would make me think of my late Grandmother (When I am old I will wear purple. I love my Grandma but I will just cry) – and Betrothed vetoed this, one of my favourite parts from Much Ado about Nothing (although it will be on the back of the order of service):

Beatrice: Just, if he send me no husband; for the which blessing I am at him upon my knees every morning and evening. Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face. I had rather lie in the woollen!Leonato: You may light on a husband that hath no beard.Beatrice: What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel and makehim my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.
[For those of you who haven’t seen him, which is all but 2 of you, this is funny because Betrothed has a beard and apparently my chat up line revolved around said beard… I don’t remember this.]
But en route to marriage preparation class our third reading fell into place. Having debated the various merits of a sonnet or two, I piped up that there was a song that I felt summed us up perfectly, a song that made me think of Betrothed, that I couldn’t listen to in work because it makes me go all googly-eyed. Betrothed answered with ‘I have a song in mind, too’ and thankfully, it was the same one. We haven’t quite worked out if we should use the entire thing, and we definitely have to run it past our Rev, but fingers crossed it’ll be fine! I feel it’s only fair to give you lovely ladies (and gents, hi!) a clue as to which song: it has this beautiful line in it “I could do without a tan, on my left hand, where my fourth finger meets my knuckle” – now that’s my kind of romance.
This month I wanted to talk to you all (write to? Share with you my thoughts…) about marriage preparation class. The journey from church service to civil and back again was quite bumpy, and definitely confusing, but as soon as we met our Rev (Rev Lovely, not her real name) the deal was sealed. One thing we were prepared for was marriage prep. Over the last eight months or so we have had those words bandied around, usually with awful stories of embarrassing chats and out of touch priests, by every person who has asked where we are getting married – often in quite a derisive ‘oh, you’re getting married in a CHURCH?!!’ way. I was quite surprised by how much I have had to defend our decision to marry in a Church, but having now been fully prepped for marriage I can safely say that although marriage preparation class didn’t ever seem necessary, by golly was it an eye opener.
For Betrothed and me it came at the exact right time, and made us take a step back not just from the wedding planning but from various stressful situations we are currently facing, individually and as a couple. It was, quite frankly, fricking awesome. Even Betrothed said so, and that’s saying something.
So, there we were, slightly chilly, at a church in the same parish at ours in Berkshire. Rev Lovely and her fab team were waiting, with tea, juice, biscuits and bucks fizz – a great start I’m sure you’ll agree. The idea behind the whole exercise wasn’t, as Rev Lovely explained, to lecture us on how to live together and what marriage means in the eyes of the Church. Instead, it was to encourage us to take the time, without outside distraction, to think about the vows we are going to be making – vow by vow. I can imagine if you are able to write your own vows you choose your words after careful consideration and with much heartfelt thought. In a CofE Church you need to stick to the outline the Rev says, which is pretty great so I don’t have any complaints – but had we taken any time to think about the specific words we would be speaking? The exact vows we would be making? Well, no. Not really.
Each vow had an activity, and it was up to us to make our way round the Church, completing these activities. One couple finished the course in 45 minutes, another took over three hours. Bethrothed and I looked at each other at this little revelation, safe in the knowledge that we’d be on the quicker end of that spectrum. We’d even booked a taxi for precisely 2 hours later, allowing a bit of wiggle room to eat a few extra biccies and discuss our readings.
At first we were really nervous, as if we were getting silently marked and if we didn’t ‘pass’ a massive klaxon would sound and the wedding would be off. So to ease the nerves we scoffed the biccies and I went into bossy overload! It would take me another couple of thousand words to outline precisely what we did (although if anyone wants to know, message me) but highlights were:
To have and to hold: writing down what we thought we as individuals would bring to the marriage, and discussing these. A great way to see how your partner really sees you, in comparison to how we see ourselves. We found out we have very different definitions of the word ‘practical’…
From this day forward: 12 months, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, 60 years on footprints – we had to write down what we wanted to have accomplished and compare them. Betrothed found out I wanted to be travelling round the world in 66 years time, and I found out he wants children slightly later than me – both interesting developments!
For better for worse: a snakes and ladders style game, which hits you with zingers from elderly and infirm parents (what would you do?) to ex-partners to unemployment, challenging you to talk about how you would approach these tricky situations.
For richer for poorer: This one was great! We had to blindly pick a toy car from a big box and discuss how we would feel if we were driving these in ten years time. (I decided to park the fact I can’t drive. Haha… park…) I got a massive airport transfers van and Betrothed got a Porsche, but an old battered one, which he thought was very apt as we would like to be financially secure for the opportunities it allows for us and our children, but not to be of any particular status or to be boastful.
In sickness and in health: We felt quite well-versed in this one  – A game designed to highlight the need to lean on friends and family in times of illness. We also had to break a chocolate heart in two and mend it together. It tasted great…
To love and to cherish: This involved making rose tinted spectacles (hilarious) and telling each other what we loved, and what we didn’t – one couple left their heart shaped post it notes on the table, which read “you don’t empty the dishwasher”, making my slightly more detailed, robust complaint seem a little too harsh….
Til death do us part: Embarrassingly I completely crumbled at this one. Who knew loud sobs would echo round a Church? Rev Lovely was great and didn’t make me do this one, but the idea behind it was to write on a mobile phone shaped post it note the last text you’d want the other person to read. We took the post its and have agreed that at some point we will do this, and keep it in our special silver bag given to us to keep all of our bits and pieces in.
According to God’s holy ordinance: See, this is where we were fundamentally going to disagree, and I quite honest dreaded this part. I’m not trying to convince Betrothed of anything, but, as Aisling’s post so brilliantly discussed last week, when it comes to Children religion is a difficult one to broach if you’re not squarely on one side of the debate or the other. We’ll figure it all out in our own time, our own way. 

We both felt, before the session, that we had been through a lot and have learnt to work together: bereavement, unemployment, financial difficulties, serious illness, depression, family difficulties – in four years we are seen each other through an awful lot. But we came out afterwards feeling far more prepared for our future together. I know we’ll falter, I know we’ll still have fundamental disagreements and those horrid tummy twisting arguments. We will still struggle like the best of them, but talking through the vows we will be making in 7 months (!) has really made it hit home – this is it, isn’t it? I am guilty of taking Betrothed for granted sometimes, and I’m so glad that our time talking through and thinking about our vows has made me appreciate, and love him more than ever.

But what about you lovely ladies? Have any of you had any marriage prep shockers (I have heard a few..!)? Did prep leave you feeling, well, prepped, or did it leave you a bit cold? And for those of you who didn’t need to go through this Church requirement, what do you think of it all?

PS: If you’re interested we broke all records… 3 hours 40. That’s a lot of biscuits.
Categories: Engagement, Real Bride, Wedding Planning
10 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 9, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I'm all for marriage prep, when we went it was a big group sesh, there were 10 couples and I was shocked to hear that so many of them hadn't even discussed kids or who cleans the car or who takes care of the money etc.

    Granted a lot of it was old fashioned and a bit sexist at times but overall I think it did us good.

    We did laugh at the "how to survive being married to a Catholic" book which was handed out to all the non-Catholics…!

    We also laughed at the priest telling us that we're very different people (based on quiz answers) and will have to work hard on compromise. No shit Sherlock!

    Oh if anyone is still stuck for a non-religious reading we had An Apache Blessing.

  2. Kate
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    We're having a civil ceremony so won't need to do the marriage prep courses but I think they sound a good idea. I've had friends get married and then totally disagree on (to me) really important things so it's good to get stuff straight. I'm not sure I'd be very good at it in a group session though, I'm not very good at outpouring emotions on cue (which is why we aren't writing our own vows!).

    Hopefully being together a long time (8 years) will mean we've covered most of the topics (I know I checked about the kids thing very early on) but I'm going to keep them in mind for future discussions.

    But I am wondering how accurate the discussions can be when it's all hypothetical, how can I really know how I'd deal with elderly parents/illness etc until it's a real life situation?

  3. Kate
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    We're having a civil ceremony so won't need to do the marriage prep courses but I think they sound a good idea. I've had friends get married and then totally disagree on (to me) really important things so it's good to get stuff straight. I'm not sure I'd be very good at it in a group session though, I'm not very good at outpouring emotions on cue (which is why we aren't writing our own vows!).

    Hopefully being together a long time (8 years) will mean we've covered most of the topics (I know I checked about the kids thing very early on) but I'm going to keep them in mind for future discussions.

    But I am wondering how accurate the discussions can be when it's all hypothetical, how can I really know how I'd deal with elderly parents/illness etc until it's a real life situation?

  4. L
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Sounds great! We got married in Church of Scotland service but didn't have any of this. We did have 3 meetings with our minister, none of which lasted less than an hour and a half and we always came out feeling really excited about our service.
    Might try some of these at home now though – just to see what it throws up!

  5. Posted February 9, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I don't actually know if we have to have marriage prep, I know we have to have a meeting with the Vicar to discuss what marriage means and generally check we're okay with the whole thing, but I don't know if we do anything like this! I hope so, it sounds kind of brilliant. Although I must say I did cry on the tube reading the bit about Until Death Do Us Part and trying to imagine what in the frack I would write. Probably something hopelessly inadequate and flippant.

    It does make you realise the importance and value of the vows you say, and how meaningful they are. I think even if we don't do this with our Church I might sit down with G and just read through this post and talk things over.

    K x

  6. amy f
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I wrote a really long comment earlier but my phone deleted it instead of posting! Grrr.

    Bella – have you written anything on that mobile phone post it yet? I honestly wouldn't know where to start and I know it's perhaps immature but I don't even want to think about it. Instead I prefer to just stick my head in the sand and assume that we'll both die together in our sleep at some point in our 90s.

    The rest of the vows I think we're ready for (although as we're having a civil wedding they don't necessarily apply), we've grown together for nearly 10 years now and been through a lot. I do find it strange that there are people who've never had the big talks before getting married, although I've seen it myself.

    Hmm, that was a ramble, my original comment was far more coherant.

  7. Posted February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I'm sorry my comment will be so brief (I am desperately behind on my honeymoon packing and my taxi to the Heathrow Express arrives in, ahem, an hour. Ooops).

    I just wanted to say that we have an incredible time during our marriage prep classes. We draw upon the skills learned regularly and I have absolutely no doubt that we will rely on them throughout our marriage. I will be forever grateful to our delightful (and very funny) Rev Kev (formerly a drummer in a rock band, obviously…).

    I'm glad your experience was so positive, too.

    See you in a few weeks, AOW, mwah x

  8. Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks SO much for sharing this Bella, really interesting. I loved hearing about the course. And have a great honeymoon Sarah M!

  9. Posted February 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Bella your marriage prep day sounded so much more fun than ours was! Ours wasn't horrible so no scary stories to tell (though we really were dreading the worst before we went – I was imagining we'd have to swap partners and discuss our feelings with strangers) but it also wasn't as well planned or thought provoking as yours sounds.

    There was only one other couple on the day with us which thankfully meant our vicar kept it a bit more informal. We had group discussions and then had to write things down separately and see if our answers matched up with our partner's. I enjoyed it mainly and we were pleased to discover a lot of our answers were the same or at least similar. (You'd hope so after 10 years together!) But the way your vicar structured the exercises around the vows is a genius way to make them mean so much more to you both! Ours was a good day but not thought provoking enough for my husband to think about it after we'd left.


    P.S. Stick to your guns with your glasses, I went through 5 long sessions of wasted lunchtimes at the opticians getting contacts sorted so I didn't have to wear my glasses and I ended up forgetting to put the lenses in until I had all my make-up on so abandoned them and didn't wear anything! I didn't notice things being blurry too much but I was so glad to have my glasses back the next day so I could check I'm married the right guy! ;)

  10. Anonymous
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Haha love this! Organised fun – why didn't we think of it ourselves?! L xxx

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