Oh, happy Monday, readers. This post by Rach M will have you in stitches, as she recounts her Planning Woes in the run-up to her October wedding. (side note: Rach is back from Hong Kong now and I’m so excited to meet up with her I might burst). This post is colourful, emotional, witty and perfect, featuring cats, bells, treasure troves, lace and love.
Over to you, bride-to-be Rach:
After I tweeted a pic of our invites (and got a wonderful reaction- thanks ladies!), the ever-wonderful Katielase asked if I might do a planning update post. The reason I hadn’t offered to do one myself yet is (cue stage whisper) I haven’t much enjoyed the planning, but I’m getting there. This being AOW, it’s the most supportive place in existence, so I won’t worry about sounding negative but anyway, here goes….
I LOVE planning. I believe that loving-list-making is a trait of many an AOWette, and I can very proudly say that whether it’s a handwritten list (on a specially-chosen notebook or pad, don’t even get me started on the stationery love…no wait, I have a whole section of it coming up later), or an Excel spreadsheet, I’m in my bloody element. I plan things AGES in advance. I believe that my own love of planning may even have put fear in the hearts of my own (brilliant) bridesmaids. You get the picture, right? So then why have I baulked at almost every turn of wedding planning then? One of my friends back in London said “Oh I really had you down as a scrapbook bride, you know, sticking in all the swatches and that.” Just hearing that rooted me to the spot in fear and horror. I couldn’t BE more dis-Pinterested. Is that a failure?
Well here’s where we are, girls, for richer or poorer….
From Day One, everybody was banging on about the dress. Literally from Day One (not literally banging. Have a THING about the misuse of ‘literally’). “OOoohhhh The Dress!” was breathed at me down the phone from the UK on that sunny autumn afternoon in Florence when Moosh proposed. So. No pressure, then. Since this is a day for secrets, and letting cats out of bags (more about cats later), have this one: I HATE SHOPPING. I HATE IT. If I stay in a shop longer than 5 minutes I start getting the sweats. I blame this (like most things) on my Irish Mammy – for dragging me around the sales TOO MANY TIMES. It is her fault that most of my memories of the 1980s are of the inside of C&A Bromley. She is, of course, the complete opposite to me and has ‘bargain biceps’ – strong arms from all the hours spent rifling through the rails in TK Maxx. The thought of it makes my head ache.
I was not happy with my size when I got engaged and didn’t want to try on any dresses until I lost weight. I did try on a couple, with my bridesmaids last spring, but I felt like an oafish lumpen frump and the experience made me want to burst into tears of disappointment and fear. The girls were ace, but I just wanted to hide and cry and scuttle away at any mention of the D-word.
The summer came. We moved to Hong Kong. I lost some weight. I decided I wanted a vintage dress. I researched and found three vintage bridal shops. I went on my own. The first shop was very small and the girl in there left me to my own devices until after about 10 minutes when at least half my torso was consumed by a forrest of tulle, when she asked:
“You are looking for a dress for a wedding?”
I looked around me in open-mouthed surprise. Umm…what else would I be here for? It was a wedding dress shop. Baffled, bemused and dressless (I tried on a fringy-net-curtain horror that made me look like a cross between Bo Peep and a Morris Dancer), I went on my merry way.
Shop no.2 was run by a lady called Tadpole. Seriously. No, REALLY seriously. I know some of the English names people here have are unusual (I teach kids called Lemon, Jelly, Milky, Barbie..) but Tadpole..? Tadpole was very friendly but unfortunately her English wasn’t great and she kept giggling, which is not REALLY what you want when you’re trying on wedding dresses. When I arrived, she locked me into her shop and much confusion abounded when she began explaining to me a complicated system of charging for trying on the dresses after I’d tried on three for free. She told me this after I’d picked the dresses, so I then whittled them down to three. Then it turned out not all of the three I’d picked fit me, so where were those other dresses I chose? Oh….she’d put them back willy nilly, and I didn’t have the energy to look through the rails again. I did try on one though, which wasn’t bad. Tadpole didn’t want me to take pictures of it but kept telling me if I bought it now I could get my next one half price.
“But hopefully I’ll only need one,” said I.
She didn’t know what I meant. With the burgeoning language barrier causing us problems, she began spelling out words to me through the changing room curtain.
“Do you like P-U-R-P-L-E?”
“Are you S-I-C-K?”
Then, straight after my experience with Tadpole, I went to Salina’s beautiful shop, Satis Factory Vintage Emporium in Causeway Bay. Now a shopping hater like me was ready to throw in the towel with a vengeance (I could see the ghost of the C&A Clockhouse logo floating behind my closed eyelids), but I had an appointment and I thought, oh what the hell. Salina’s shop is hidden away in a building that looks like an office but is actually a shopping mall. The shop is beautiful. You ring a bell to get in and step behind a velvet curtain.
“This is a bit more like it!” I thought, and pulled myself together.
Salina is fantastic, the shop is beautiful, a real treasure trove full of beautiful things. I found my dress. It is gorgeous. It is also vintage and wouldn’t get around the girth of one of my legs, let alone the whole of me, so Salina has made me a copy.
When Bella came to Hong Kong, she came with me and we had the most fabulous time in there on a Friday afternoon, choosing the lace for it. What can I tell you about it? It’s long and has a lacy bodice. I love it. Salina and her shop made me feel so calm and happy. I even brought my Irish Mammy when she visited and she loved it too, delighted to get her paws on it and it ACTUALLY made her go quiet for at least 2 minutes. Salina is putting the finishing touches to it as I write, I’m going to collect it this evening. She has spent the past seven days sewing beads on by hand, glasses perched on her nose, accompanied by her cat, Mochi. A cat! That’s my idea of a perfect end to a story. Mochi oversaw the dress production with ill-concealed disdain and is clearly glad ALL THIS NONSENSE IS OVER and he’s getting Salina back from the land of the hand-sewn pearl.
Ps- Making this my phone wallpaper as this cat is just TOO frigging hilarious.
Last year (we have been engaged for AGES) I wrote an account of my visit to the venue with my folks. It was quite an experience and resulted in an email from the venue lady to me that contained the following thoughts:
“It was great to meet your parents – to be honest, they were like two small children in a sweet shop. It was magical to encounter their enthusiasm.”
Their enthusiasm has not flagged, either. Which is good, sometimes. We have had lots of ‘enthusiastic discussions’ about it all, I’ve felt that it has been a very good thing for all of us that I am living on the other side of the world. I will be back in the UK for the final two months before the wedding though and I don’t want it to be bonkersville, so Moosh and I are doing as much as we can from here.
I’ve found the biggest job so far was choosing a caterer, which I did over many a Skype conversation with the folks. They’ve taken to Skype like ducks to water.
“Click the yoke that looks like a hot water bottle!” shouts Mum to Dad if he hasn’t got the camera on. It’s like I’m right back in Bromley with them. Hmmm.
The funny thing is the pair of them seem to charm the hell out of all the suppliers they meet. This is a combination of Mum’s instant familiarity, her own style of Irish-Mammy-arm-holding, whispery ‘Isn’t that RIGHT!” collusion which never fails (why does it never fail? She doesn’t annoy anyone ever, it seems – except me. Everyone LOVES IT.) and my Dad’s salt of the earth Sarf-London joke-cracking chitter chatter. Our caterer, who is French, is very fond of them. Mum told me about their first visit to her.
“I left your father in the reception, as if he’d come up wit’ me he’d only be SAYING THINGS, and embarrassing me.”
God forbid he should SAY THINGS. Or that SHE might ever be embarrassing. But, to be fair, she does sort of have a point when a first impression is at stake. They’ve had the tasting. They love the food. When Dad was finally allowed to meet the caterer, he did SAY THING. In French. Pidgin French. Yep. See what I mean?
So! More reception stuff….we are having a ceilidh band for our wedding celebration and Mum and Dad have been the band’s groupies, following them around various London venues and yoo-hooing at them across the lobbies of the Royal Albert Hall and the National Theatre and such. At least…at least I am not back to see this and be mortified by it in person. Yet.
Right what else have we done? Stationery! I may have said I’m a stationery geek. If I haven’t, here I am. Hi, my name’s Rachel and I have a stationery obsession, probably. Aside from the getting married and loving each other forever stuff this was The Most Important Thing to me. All the time I was Actively Avoiding The Dress, I was Seeking Stationery. I proudly admit to having a collection of pantone swatches for stationery, if not for anything else.
In the autumn I met with a stationery supplier in our local neighbourhood in Hong Kong. I was really impressed with her, and felt myself starting to relax about the planning at last, now this Very Important Thing was sorted. She produced our Save The Dates for us, which were lovely, but which were also very late and were not ready for us to take home with us at Christmas and hand to family and friends, as I had really wanted to do. Unfortunately our customer service experience was less than ideal (I used to work in print, so I was reminding THEM of when they should be sending me artwork for approval and sending to print in time to meet the deadline, which they then missed and did not apologise for).
It was really frustrating being in the position of knowing we must be a small-fry customer to them, in the run up to Christmas, etc but, this was the thing I’d been so excited about. Cue hot angry tears and wailing about “The stationery is my most special thing and now it’s rooooooooooooined…..hic.”. Moosh was great at calming me down and in the New Year I met the lady and had it out with her and got it resolved, refund-wise to my satisfaction. But then! No stationer. As it turns out, all of this turned out for the best as then I found Kalo. Before I met her over on Kowloon side in her lovely studio (in which hung HER wedding dress, she’s tying the knot this summer too), we’d discovered we had a mutual friend. The world is a village, peeps. Mind boggling. I instantly liked and trusted her and came out of there feeling ten feet tall, chanting under my breath “emboss, deboss, letterpress, font” (stationery geek, right? Or maybe just weirdo), and it turned out I wasn’t wrong about her. She was awesome and created the most perfect invites for us, which we adore.
My bridesmaid dresses are done and hanging in my Mum’s wardrobe in Bromley. They need fitting to the girls when I am back and we’re going to do that on the day of my London Hen Do. Getting them (with my dear friend and bridesmaid Anna) in Shenzhen, China back in March was the first time that the planning actually felt like fun (this was before the invite and dress joy…could I have possibly turned a corner….? *crosses fingers*). We got the train up to Shenzhen and wandered around the magical Aladdin’s Cave of the Lo Wu Shopping City (a labyrinthine mall full of many tiny glass shops). We found ourselves surrounded by rolls of silks and fabrics, and many keeno salespeople, in the 4th floor fabric emporium. We got the fabric for a steal and then were introduced to Linda and Stephanie, our seamstresses. I had a dress of my own that I wanted copied for the girls, so we handed it over and off they went, fingers flying. I finally felt excited and got a bit emotional (happy tears!) over a McDonalds coffee, in China. I know. Everything about that sentence sounds so wrong, but somehow it was a beautiful moment, me and one of my best friends, having just sorted the bridesmaid dresses on a sunny day over the border. No need to worry about me, I don’t usually drink McDonald’s coffee, I promise.
I collected the dresses ten days later with Mum when she was here, who thought it was “A HOOT” that Irish citizens only pay £15 for a Chinese visa while Brits pay £31. “Wait till I tell them THAT at home!” she cackled. After we picked up the dresses, she wanted to buy some flipflops: “me corns are killing me!” she shared. Lovely. We found some flipflops. I knew as she stepped into them that despite them being clearly attached to each other, she would try to walk in them. She did. But I was standing in front of her, ready to stop her breaking her nose by breaking her fall. This could be a touching illustration of our mother-daughter relationship, but instead it was just bloody funny. Try explaining THAT ONE to the insurance.
What else have I done? We have our rings. I collected them on a day when Moosh was in hospital (long story, he’s fine now) and when the lovely man in the shop handed them over to me and asked where he was, I wailed “He’s in the hospitaallllllllllllllll!” and burst into tears. Lawks. Not my finest hour but in a way I couldn’t have been more aware of why we were doing this, that the fuss, the food, the font, the frippery are all very well (and now, finally, fun!), but that I couldn’t imagine life without him.