Men are from Mars and women are from Venus – and no more so than on their wedding day. Our Editor Antonia and her fiancé James share their opinions on their bridal preparations.
On the Engagement
I had my blackberry strapped to my ear for most of our holiday in South Africa and it was our last day. Make-up-less and hair un-brushed I did not expect James to propose. My mother had joined us on holiday and James had made it quite clear that he would not be popping the question. So whilst being marched on a hot and sticky walk along the Robberg Peninsula, a ring and the magical question were the last things on my mind. In fact, I behaved appallingly! Skipping and throwing tantrums in equal measure, I was nervous about returning to reality in London.
The beauty of the walk was beyond question and eventually it dawned on me that my love was preparing for something. In response, I tried to distract him by refusing to sit on the bench at the beauty spot he had obviously earmarked. I protested that it was dangerous (a sign warned of freak waves) and we were surrounded by mad sea gulls, but sit I did! One big wave, an ‘Oh my gosh’, the swoop of a kamikaze sea-gull and there was James, on one knee with a ring pulled out of his sock. ‘Will you do me the honour of being my wife?”’ he asked. It was a ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’ as he slipped the beautiful Victorian ring onto my finger – sealed with a kiss. It was perfectly romantic until my playful mood got the better of me and I began to run along the cliff edge shouting back ‘All I wanted was the ring!!!’
I had been together with my beautiful bride-to-be for six years when I realised that the next step on the ladder of life was to make her my bride. For me, this had never been a big deal as I whole-heartedly love and adore her but the big question I faced was when and where? I had at least five ideas jostling for space in my head. However, after she had guessed four of them, I informed her that if she continued down that path there would be no proposal at all! After this, she got the hint and the pressure was back on to be inventive, creative and romantic.
Eventually a simple stroll in the park yielded the ideal proposal scenario.
We would go on holiday to South Africa. Jackpot! There were a plethora of beauty spots, priceless backdrops and remote locations to choose from. And so it was just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. When it did, in one of the most spectacular locations on earth, I pulled the ring from my sock and dropped to one knee. Although it was somewhat expected, her eyes grew teary and never left mine as she said ‘yes.’ Admittedly, I had been expecting this answer, but the timing, the place and the emotion of the event still takes your breath away as you realise this one person wants to spend the rest of their life with you. A magical but overwhelming moment was over, and the relief of having surpassed all expectations left me so drained that I slept for two days straight – very contentedly, I might add!
On the Venue
Rousham Park was always my venue of choice. My grandfather has a tree in the gardens, planted in his honour and the beauty of both the church and grounds is breathtaking. The gardens are designed by William Kent – so temples and Cotswold stone abound. The bliss of having the church and a reception in one location was a major advantage, but it has meant that we have to rent a marquee and bring in caterers. This can be more expensive and logistically testing than going for a hotel option, but at this stage of the preparations we were excited by the challenge.
Tradition dictates that your venue be somewhere your bride-to-be has a connection with. Don’t stray from this! Let her choose as it keeps a personal element to the occasion. All that matters is that your bride is comfortable and happy in her surroundings.
On the Royal Wedding
Lots of people have asked me what it feels like to be getting married in the year of the royal wedding and I can only say that it fills me with even more excitement. A ridiculous romantic at the best of times, I take a fairytale princess wedding in 2011 as a good omen for my own nuptials. In fact, there are even some parallels – Kate and William got engaged in Africa (and so did we), their courtship runs for the same number of years (eight) and our beaus went to the same school. But mine is not a prince, damn it! This small fact aside, it will be a year remembered for weddings and I am just very relieved that Kate will be an April, and not a June, bride.
Now don’t get me wrong – I think its great Will is marrying Kate (or Catherine, to be officious) but I’ve got my own wedding to organise and I don’t find all the media coverage of ‘the Royal wedding day’ details particularly helpful. Purely because I am expecting my own bride to suddenly want a couture dress, fourteen bridesmaids and a venue to rival Westminster Abbey. Oh wait, she already does…
On the Debrett’s Wedding Guide
The Debrett’s Wedding Guide has been an essential guide through the minefield that is wedding planning. With glee I had delighted in buying all the wedding magazines in publication, preparing scrapbooks and searching for ideas. However, I was left wanting by the endless reams of ‘cupcakes and butterfly’ ideas that left a lot to be desired. So it was back to Debretts and their guide to wedding etiquette and proper form.
From the excellent introduction by Lucia Van de Post to their practical timelines and sophisticated guidelines, it has become my wedding rulebook! I read it in the bath scribbling in pencil over things I have or have not done yet. Showing parents and quelling fears by stating ‘well Debretts agrees with me so…’. In fact it has been a fabulous smokescreen behind which I can disguise my inner Bridezilla – as my requirements for the day escalate into the realms of fairytale fantasy!
Wedding guides – a wonderful way to plan your big day with helpful tips from traditions to logistics. However, be warned that this will become your bride’s bible and if ‘Debretts says’ then it must be followed! I won’t lie, I have thought about burning it on several occasions but just as it’s become synonymous for something I haven’t booked, organized or thought of yet – it does have its practical uses. Sorry Debretts… I love you really.
On Bridesmaids and Ushers
I originally asked four of my old school friends to take on the role of bridesmaid with one given the title of maid of honour. However, a girlie dinner and a few bottles of wine later and I could not resist asking five more of my treasured friends to support me in this way! I am the first of my friends to get married and having been very close at school (going through everything from braces and hormones to exam stress together) it felt wrong to exclude anyone. I now have thirteen beautiful bridesmaids – an amount so excessive that James refers to them as my harem!
Due to this rather controversial number of bridesmaids – I have had to come up with some new ‘bridesmaid guidelines’:
- The girls can wear a dress of their choosing in either seal grey or nude/antique pink. It can be long or short, chiffon or lace, Grecian or modern. No white!
- A harmonizing feature will be a beautiful headdress made of crystal beads and ivy (made by my very talented bridesmaid Jennifer, who works for Eva Menz chandeliers).
- They will wear a rose on a ribbon tied to their wrists. Bouquets can be awkward and restrictive and I want them to have the freedom to dance!
- They will not walk down the aisle with me (it is a tiny church) but I will have three little flower girls and a pageboy to walk with me.
- James had to employ a few extra ushers to balance the bridesmaids out…
When choosing ushers and a best man, take into account one thing – when you announce your engagement your normal, want-for-nothing mates suddenly turn into ambitious, tactical spymasters capable of doing what you would not think possible of a human with a Y chromosome – they start playing mind games.
You’d think there would be one or two who you would need to choose between for best man duties, but three or four will come out of the woodwork and like silent ninjas they will strike when you least expect. They will remind you of all the good times you’ve shared and then quite blatantly state that this is their only chance to be a best-man, as you’re their closest mate. Suddenly, you’re in a world that isn’t black and white anymore and it’s a decision that could test friendships to the limit if you don’t understand its gravity. It’s a strange and unyielding path so beware the political vipers nest of selecting your ‘chosen ones’, as it’s not just your big day but theirs too.
On the dress
I have Bruce’s sketch of my dress. I can imagine it in detail but ultimately it’s still just a pencil drawing waiting to be brought to life. Bruce Oldfield is the perfect designer for a tall girl like me. He knew instinctively that I did not want a meringue, but something youthful, romantic and just a little bit sexy. I sent Bruce photos and mood boards galore and was presented with the most beautiful interpretation imaginable.
- Romantic and feminine (a chance to wear chiffon, tulle and lace)
- Corseted (to ‘re-structure my physique’ – to quote Bruce!)
- ‘Strong’ with a serious train (two meters from my bottom)
I am walking myself down the aisle so I need the dress to have an element of armor to it! It should say ‘I am a modern bride capable of walking down the aisle towards my husband-to-be, with a full belief in my decision and dedication’.
If it’s bad luck to see the dress before, don’t tempt fate by trying to find out more. Keep it for the wedding day. Plus you will save yourself the hassle of having to comment on it! In my view, that’s a bullet dodged…