WE had just four months to organise the wedding if we wanted to ‘squeeze’ it in before we moved house. It was either that or wait until we had settled in, because we were moving from London to Newbury, having only visited the place twice, and also both changing jobs.
My fiancé may have been only too pleased to have a long engagement – after the proposal, he looked some what startled when I asked him if he’d given any thought as to when and where we might get married, and stammered the words “Married? Er, I thought we could just enjoy being engaged for a while” – but like many men before him, he bowed to the pressure from not just me, but his mother, my mother, my sister, his aunt and every female friend from both sides, and we set a date...with a few conditions.
Fair enough, he wanted input, and I wanted him to have input and not let him think he had done his part until he was needed in his suit on the big day.
However, this turned out to be a very long list of things he didn’t want to do – “I won’t wear a silly suit, or a silly hat. I don’t want long speeches. I don’t want it to be too formal, definitely no line-up. I’m not getting married in church because I don’t want to sing. I don’t want a photographer trailing around after us all day and spending hours setting up pictures while all the guests get bored. I don’t want chicken in a sauce or a deep-fried beige buffet, and I don’t want your mother taking over.” (Who was it who said that women were demanding?)
“Oh, and one last thing, I don’t want it to cost us our life-savings.”
Which begged the question what did he want then? He thought for a minute and then said “a big party – in a pub”.
On paper that sounds like a relatively easy request, but compared to turning up at a hotel where it is all pretty much provided, bar the dress and the guests, there is quite a lot to organise. Add to that the fact that we would need to book two venues, one for the ceremony and one for the reception, and it was starting to look complicated for what was supposed to be a simple wedding.
With time of the essence, we did a deal; I would sort out the ceremony and he would do the reception. I’m not saying it was quite like an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride, where the groom organises the whole event as a surprise, but we decided that each of us would do the legwork for our own part and, other than the big decisions, we would have free rein (within our budget constraints, obviously).
Although some of my friends thought that this sounded like a disaster waiting to happen, I liked the idea that he would be not just involved, but responsible for the reception (“That’s exactly what I’m worried about” at least one of them pointed out).
However, having heard more than one male friend moaning about various aspects of their forthcoming nuptials, I didn’t want to give my intended that option.
My side of the day consisted of a civil ceremony in what was an old library, with a string quartet (I gave up some of my dress budget for that), followed by champagne and canapés, photographs (but not too many) and finally an old Routemaster bus ride to my ‘surprise’ reception.
And a surprise it was – but not a bad one.
Granted, I’m not sure I would have picked beer as the choice of drink for the toasts after the very short speeches but our guests didn’t seem to mind (and as one pointed out to me, guys can’t stomach more than a few glasses of fizz). And an evening buffet of triple-decker club sandwiches are not the easiest thing to eat delicately, trying not to spill sauce down your dress, but they did do the trick, , as my husband said they would, of soaking up some of the booze and filling you up.
He’d also chosen a meal of steak and chips as that was the speciality of the pub’s French chef, candles instead of flowers to decorate the tables (because the pub
provided them for free), and a chocolate fountain instead of a pudding (so that we can get up and move around again, in case you’re bored of who you ended up sitting next to).
OK, so he forgot to do a seating plan, but it didn’t matter. After all, someone had to sit next to my odd-ball uncle so why not let it be pot luck?
The money not spent on those extras that most people don’t notice, such as table decorations and favours (I say most, because my grandma not only noticed, but said so, at least three times that day and more since), was spent on the best surprise of all – a firework display.
So, what happens when you let the bridegroom organise the reception? Well, in my case, it was a stress-free run up to the wedding and a great party – what bride could ask for more?