Owls, Vows and Cupcakes: A K Wedding

Disclaimer: I wrote this report three and a half years ago, and I’ve changed very little of it.  Some things change, some things don’t.  It’s strange, to read this now.  I feel a bit vulnerable, like I’ve moved on from my wedding, and I’m well into the marriage part…which, after all,was the whole point.  But I want this report here for posterity.  

All photography by Simon Bills and Danny Zada,  formerly of Old Street Photography.

 

This isn’t your typical wedding report.

I’m not your typical bride.

I haven’t dreamt of yards of tulle and flower arrangements and colour schemes ever since I was a kid.  I spent the first couple of months of engagement being terrified.  Terrified that I would get it wrong, terrified that I would let people down. Everyone was so excited for me, and all I could think about was that I had this wedding to plan, that I’d never even been to one before, that I had no idea where to start, that I didn’t understand when the speeches came, when the dinner was served, what happened with vows, what favours were, should I wear white, should I wear a veil, should should should.

Instead of joy, all I felt were the wedding sweats.  Every time someone asked me about my wedding, I’d change the subject.

A very good, married friend of mine gave me the slap I needed.  “Anna, fuck “should””, she said. “You’re marrying Mr K.  Everything else is secondary”.

It was like being liberated.   And I realised, the only important things to me we the man, the venue and the dress.  Everything else could, and would, fall into place as far as I was concerned.

And it did.

The Man

We met online.  He’s everything I never thought I wanted.  Next.

Gratuitous picture of Mr K looking supremely hot.  And like he’s in a watch ad.   

The Venue

For a while I entertained Celtic fantasies about getting married on a windswept cliff or in a ruined castle wearing rags and having flowers in my hair and not a lot else.  Mr K works in a bank. Mr K is a logicist.  Mr K likes the modern world.  He looked at me as if I was mad, but gave me the benefit of the doubt, and we visited a castle.

Not just any castle.  We went to visit Hedingham Castle, which has a ruined Norman keep, and of course I fell completely in love, entertaining visions of Mr K jousting for my love and me riding a horse down the aisle and candlelight vows. However, it was insanely expensive and in the middle of nowhere, Mr K isn’t exactly the jousting type, and given that his family were coming to the UK from the Middle East, America and Europe it didn’t seem fair to make them trek from London to the deepest darkest countryside to stand in a windy castle.

But everywhere else I looked seemed like a compromise.  I DEFINITELY didn’t want to get married in a hotel.  Hotels were bland.  I wanted a venue with Character.  And Integrity.  I wanted a venue that didn’t compromise my values.

What bollocks one talks when planning a wedding.

Of course…two weeks later…fickle me found the perfect venue.  A hotel.  Of course.  In the heart of London’s Bloomsbury…vintage, unique and charming, The Montague on the Gardens seduced me completely with its warm and inviting interior, its relaxed atmosphere, its oddball sense of style, the fact that the staff made us feel like we were the only people they ever wanted to meet.  Even Mr K liked it.  Whenever we went in, it felt like home.  And they wanted nothing more that to make my wedding day perfect….and so they rooted out some HUGE kick-ass candelabras so I could get married by candlelight.

They had me.

The Dress

I’d done what everyone else had done.  I really had tried.  For months and months I’d been to numerous shops, with wall-to-wall white dresses…I’d been seen by immaculately made-up ladies who’s swathed me in organza wrap and told me what suited me and what didn’t and been assaulted behind velvet curtains wearing heels and my underwear and been zipped, prodded and hoisted to within an inch of my life.

This is a lesson in how to do a corset up too tightly.  I lasted about three minutes.  

And I loved the dresses, I really did.  I loved looking beautiful, I loved how a dress could transform me from a slightly cynical slightly podgy average-looking female into a shapely, glamourous woman.  Who wouldn’t want to spend their wedding day feeling that beautiful?

But the one thing I couldn’t justify, the one thing I couldn’t handle, was the price.

Now don’t get me wrong.  People should be able to spend whatever they want on a wedding dress. It’s their day, their moment, and no-one should have to compromise.  Each to their own, trust me, I am not on the moral highground here.  I just felt uncomfortable spending such a lot on something I’d only wear once.  I felt sick every time I thought about spending hundreds on..well..fabric.

So I trawled second hand shops and sites and couldn’t find anything I liked.  I knew what suited me, I was never going to be skinny, and as such I needed a dress that could contain…well….my bits.  After months of searching, one night, alone in the house on a Friday night, I found it.  On eBay.  For £112.  It was from the 2008 collection, Mariposa by La Sposa.  And I clicked Confirm, and spend half an hour having to have a lie down with a cold compress.

When it arrived, in a huge box, having been shipped from the Outer Hebrides or thereabouts, I burst into tears because it was completely perfect, and my ideal dress, and I’d taken such a huge risk leaving it so close to the wedding, trusting my bargain-hunter instincts that I could pull this out of the bag.  I got my outspoken, God-fearing, wonderful local seamstress, Maxine, to take it up as it was slightly too long and after scolding me for dabbling in eBay on something as important as my wedding dress,  she was silenced when I pulled out this magnificent creation from apparently nowhere.  And when she did it up, and put me in proper shoes, and made me stand up straight, even I, she of the eternal smart-aleck response, was silenced.

The Day

I’d always told myself that all the big things would be ready by the weekend before my wedding. The grand plan was to have all the stressful decisions and payments made by the weekend before, leaving the days before my wedding gloriously free, days in which I would get 8 hours sleep per night, and emerge on the Saturday a glowing, radiant bride, replenished with sleep.

I won’t bore you with the details, but you all know that didn’t happen.  I was a mess and an emotional trainwreck.

Tips for future brides #1: take at least two working days off before your wedding, even if you’re trying to save annual leave.  You’ll be a wreck at work and unable to do the simplest tasks.

At 6.30am on 13 June 2009 I opened my eyes, felt sick, and then tried to get back to sleep as no bride looks her best on 6 hours’ sleep, surely?  Alas, it was not to be as I kept sitting bolt upright thinking things like “blemishes!” and having to scrabble around in my handbag for my pocket mirror.  I’d always assumed I’d awake to a madrigal. No-one tells you what its really like.

At 7.15am I admitted defeat and padded over to the shower, where I embarked upon the mother of all deforestation sessions with my industrial-sized bottle of Veet. I moisturised and plucked and made myself smell delicious and was relieved to see that I was having a better face day than normal, and whilst I looked a little peaky I definitely didn’t look as ravaged as expected.

I headed down to my bridesmaids’ room where there was lots of excitement, and we all went for a champagne breakfast. The girls both managed fry-ups and I was gutted as all I could manage was scrambled eggs and a paltry bit of toast – eating is a hobby of mine – I’m very good at it -  and this never happens.  I felt like I used to at school when I had a big exam in the afternoon, with a huge knot in my stomach.

In the hairdressers was where I really started to feel like I was gonig to projectile vomit. I could hear my sister chatting away to her hairdresser saying “yeah she looks like she’s really calm but she says she’s churning away on the inside” and I remember thinking – I must stay calm, I must not freak out, I will not be the crazy bride with the half-done hair who flipped out in Marchmont Street. Zoe did all sortsof amazing things to my barnet but t I just couldn’t appreciate it as I was panicking about stupid things like whether to wear a bra and the fact that I couldn’t remember where my deodorant was.  A sweaty, bra-less bride.  The stuff of Mr K’s dreams.

My friend did my makeup. She was brilliant,and calm.  I, however, was not.  Reception calledto say the photographers were here, someone else asked me something about flowers, and I dashed into the bathroom and cried away Jo’s hard work.

Tips for future brides #2 – make sure you tell your bridesmaids when people are coming and where to send them – entirely my fault, I’d gone over it so much in my head I just assumed everyone else would know by osmosis.

Jo was an angel – she came into the bathroom, did a masterpiece of a repair job and turned me from Alice Cooper to bridal beauty, and there followed one of the most hilarious scenes of my life – a true YouTube moment – with Jo massaging my shoulders and my friend Tash humming Greensleeves to calm me down.  It totally worked, by the way.

Tips for future brides #3 – make sure you have some people getting ready with you who can deal with you in a crisis, who can understand that you aren’t yourself, who won’t take it personally, and who can drag you out of your irrationality and make you laugh.

At ten to 3 I got weak at the knees with nerves.  Dad asked me why I was nervous, as although marriage was a big step it wasn’t going to change anything. I replied that it wasn’t marrying Mr K I was nervous about, it was the ceremony – the most important part of the day and the one part you can’t control – it was the logistics of walking down the aisle, saying vows, that’s what made me nervous. Gerhard stuck his head in to say “let’s go” and we all walked across to the stairs. Claire and Bec went down the stairs and stood outside the ceremony room – Simon asked me to go next so he could get some good shots of the stairs with the gothic mirrors – and then Dad followed.

I was properly sweating at this point.  Amongst the most nervous I have ever been.  

We all gathered outside the room,  the string quartet started up with Bach’s “Sleeper’s Awake”, my cousin and my sister headed off down the aisle, and don’t you know it, I burst into tears. My head was screaming “NO! You do NOT want a snotty nose and blotchy face for your wedding pictures!” and my Dad was saying “take a few deep breaths” and I was looking at him like I needed Temazepam and the damn hotel staff all started crying too. They later told me this never, ever happens, there was just something about that wedding. To this day I have no idea what made me cry like that, I can only put it down to the onslaught of pure emotion.

The whole ceremony is a blur, apart from walking in, seeing a riot of colour and camera flashes from both sides of the aisle, and seeing Mr K seeing me at the end of the aisle. As soon as I saw him I knew everything was going to be okay, if I could just get to him.

 

The rest of the ceremony comes to me in patches – saying vows, laughing at the registrar, the readings, exchanging rings, and the only bit I remember fully is when the registrar was getting to the part where she would pronounce us husband and wife, and because I’d written the script myself, I knew it was coming, but I couldn’t wait, I simply couldn’t, and I started dancing and jumping up and down with excitement, and everyone burst out laughing. The moment when she pronounced us husband and wife was amazing, all I could see was Mr K and words cannot to justice to the feeling you get when you realise you’ve done it, you’ve done everything, and you’re in it together forever.

I had some time to recover as the witnesses signed the register and then we walked back down the aisle. From this moment on, the day was the best of my life. I enjoyed it all, from greeting the guests and thanking them for coming, to having photos taken in Russell Square Gardens.  I love owls, and by total coincidence there was an owl exhibition in the park right next to the hotel.  Unbeknownst to me, Mr K had slipped them some cash and asked them to stick around until I came out of the ceremony. And as if by magic, I walked out of my wedding to Willow, the eagle owl, who stole the show and features in many of our photos, to the family pictures, to me dancing in the fountain and running through the birds, to the blissful hour when Mr K and I went around the park and the surrounding streets having our picture taken, revelling in the happiness of having just got married, happy to be directed by the photographers, sitting under trees, walking through archways, kissing against railings, running past the hotel. We went back, elated, to join our guests for dinner.

Look at Willow. Straight at the camera.  What a camwhore.


When champagne had been served the speeches started. My dad’s speech was unforgettable – he used a letter I’d written my parents at the age of 14 to be allowed to go to an under-18s nightclub as the basis, which caused absolute hysteria. He said amazing things about Mr K, he said amazing things about me – his pace and tone were perfect. A tough act to follow, but Micol stepped up to the plate and did a unique and beautiful best man speech that struck the right note between gentle mockery and admiration for her best friend. And I have to admit, I was apprehensive about Mr K’s speech – all I knew was that it would be out of left field, because nothing my husband does is orthodox. And he delivered. Normal it wasn’t, but it recounted our history, our laughs, our adventures and at the end he said things about me that were so simple yet heartfelt that I couldn’t resist flinging my arms around his waist to hug him, – caught on the photographer’s camera, of course.

Much after this is a blur – people gathered upstairs for the free bar, milling around in the terrace and conservatory, old talking to young, old talking to new, we went downstairs to cut the cake and Mr K smeared it all over my face – caught on camera and probably one of my favourite pictures of the day – we had our first dance and I don’t know what I’d been so worried about, it was one of the easiest things in the world, and we got the DJ to call people up to the dancefloor 30 seconds in. And from then on everyone was dancing, drinking, laughing…absolutely fantastic. The dancefloor was full all night.

Everyone says their wedding was the best day of their life, and whenever thy do, I always think “yeah right”. It is. It was. In planning the wedding, I’d forgotten that I was getting married, and the raw emotion of that was the most incredible surprise of all. I’d also completely underestimated the support and love you feel when all of your favourite people are under one roof to celebrate with you.

I think about it now, three months on, and grin like an idiot, just like I did in France on our honeymoon, just like I will fifty years from now.

She was right.  Fuck “should”.

 

Categories: Wedding Reports, Written By Anna
10 interesting thoughts on this

10 Comments

  1. Posted January 21, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Forgotten how brilliant these pictures were, how smokin’ hot you look K and also how amazingly shoes-off-dancing in the fountain this is. Who needs a castle when you have all this? Plus an owl??

    Px

  2. Posted January 21, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Laughs at “looking like he’s in a watch ad” then goes back to read the rest.

  3. Posted January 21, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    AGH the blurry picture of you running. I’d so forgotten all of this!
    *scrolls back up and keeps reading*

  4. Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Bahahahahaha at Greensleeves. *makes mental note to prepare calming music*

  5. Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    OMG the mirrors! I had honestly forgotten all of this magnificence.

  6. Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Ah I feel all uplifted now having read it all again. That dress really was a knock out! And I’m loving the cake in the face (although thinking I’d be somewhat peeved if James did it to me). x

    • Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Amy, your comments are nearly (nearly!) as good as this write-up!!

  7. Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Gosh this is gorgeous – I can’t believe I never read this, and I’m so glad you reposted it for everyone to enjoy again. You look amazing, and goddammit, I wish I’d seen your tips to future brides before I got married!!

  8. Zan
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Awwww. Totally made me cry! In the good way :)

    Also owls = amazing.

  9. Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I just read this and I love it.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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