A United Front

I’ve noticed that most of my posts start with “So…”

So, I got married this year. A fact of which I’m sure you’re aware, especially since I’ve now joined Instagram. This would be a fairly momentous occasion in anyone’s life, and it certainly was in mine.

I literally just wrote “we all imagine our weddings”, but then deleted it, because this isn’t true. Just because I had a secret wedding Pinterest board long before I got engaged, just because that board mutated into seven boards once I became engaged, it doesn’t mean I’m the norm, it doesn’t mean that everyone thinks like me. This journey of discovery is helping me realise that there is no ‘norm’. Times are changing, and things that have always been seen as being in the minority are being revealed as more prevalent than previously thought. When my parents married, they married young for the freedom it gave them. It enabled them to live together, to go on holiday together, to really be a couple. That’s not the case anymore, so people are marrying older, or not marrying at all because they don’t fancy it. It doesn’t affect the longevity of relationships, it’s just something that people choose to do or not do.

I imagined my wedding though, not in an obsessive way, just in a “that would be nice” way. Over the years the colour schemes changed, the dress changed, and thankfully the grooms changed, but one thing remained constant, and that was my image of myself as a bride. I was slim, and to me that meant I looked my very best, the most beautiful I could possibly look. In reality, I committed the ultimate sin, I went against the magazines, the TV shows, the advice of relatives and in-laws, and the general feeling of the western world, and I got married fat. This wasn’t entirely by choice to be fair, if I’d had it in me to lose the weight I think I would have made a valiant effort, but I didn’t. I’d like to say that this was a feminist stand, a brave and empowering protest against perceived gender obligations, but in all honesty I didn’t have room in my life to lose weight.

A lot of weddings follow the traditional model of taking place in a hotel or other such venue, with prescribed package deals that can be altered to suit the couple. You choose your meal, your place settings and your drinks package from a list of options, and someone takes it from there. This is a sensible way to plan the most elaborate party of your life. This is a good idea. This is not what we did. We wanted to make the day our own; we aren’t formal people and would have felt uncomfortable in formal surroundings. The thing Tony wanted most was to get married outdoors, and the thing I wanted most was to feel like myself on my wedding day. We chose an outdoor venue in Yorkshire in June. This is not as easy as it sounds. Strangely enough, unlike the rest of the world, and America in particular where you can legally get married anywhere, even up a tree if that’s what floats your goat, in the UK you can only legally be married under a licenced permanent structure. Otherwise, you have your ceremonial ceremony and then go to a registry office, which is not what we wanted – we wanted the ceremony to be real. Our day was to take place at the only place in North Yorkshire you can legally be married outdoors, in the Cruck House at the Yorkshire Arboretum, or the Wedding Shed as we affectionately thought of it. Turns out this was a terrible idea as it rained and we had to get married in the visitor’s centre, but it was a lovely thought.

The main problem of an unconventional wedding is also the main blessing: there are no packages to choose from. You get all the freedom of expression you like, but a huge amount of work and no one to share the load. Our reception took place in a marquee (by the wonderful Will’s Marquees – can’t actually recommend them enough) in the Arboretum grounds, and we had to organise everything ourselves – the loos, the bar, the caterers, the music, the decorations, the drinks, everything. I DO NOT recommend this approach. It was wholeheartedly the most stressful thing I have ever done and I certainly wouldn’t do it again. It was beautiful, awesome and felt just like us though, and we loved every second of the day so, you know, swings and roundabouts**. Realistically though, I had a huge amount of work to do, on top of my full time job and cyclic mental health difficulties. Something had to give, and losing weight was the non-essential item that I didn’t have room for in my schedule. To be fair, I tried at first, but it was just too much pressure at a time when I needed to feel good about myself and my anxiety was already through the roof.

I’d thought that, as a result, dress shopping would be a nightmare, a hideous, embarrassing, humiliating nightmare of body shaming and low self-esteem. It was, in my own head, but actually not so much in the shops. The first dress I tried on was a size 14 (hahahahahahahahahaaaaa) at the wedding exhibition in London. It was utterly, utterly beautiful, and utterly over-budget, from a gorgeous shop in Brighton called Leonie Claire, and the owner deserves a special mention for The Thing She Said to Me. She encouraged me to try on the dress in question, stating that I’d be surprised what sizes I could fit into, just to get an idea of what they’d look like. I felt embarrassed and as though I had to justify my existence, so I said something along the lines of “well, the diet and exercise start here!” in a hearty, over-compensating way. She turned to me, and quietly said, “No. Don’t change yourself, not for this, not just for the sake of one day”. And I was floored. This person who makes a living selling wedding dresses, who didn’t stock a single thing in my size and therefore was unlikely to make a sale, went out of her way and actively advocated for me not to feel I had to change myself. I’m so thankful to her, I’m sure she thought it was just a small gesture, but to a plus size/curvy/fat/whatever bride starting on a journey through an industry that is inherently against her, it was everything. Thank you Leonie Claire, so much. I’m sorry I couldn’t afford the dress!

The dress I did choose was by Truvelle, an American designer, and I bought it from Heart Aflutter, a small studio in Hackney. If you’re looking for something beautiful and unconventional I strongly suggest you give them a try. They have the most amazing selection of floaty, glitzy, vintage-y, modern-y, and ethereal things, most of which can be ordered in plus sizes, and their seamstress is frankly incredible. I loved my dress. I loved the way it looked, the way it made me feel and, most of all, the way the entire bottom third was covered in matte rose gold sequins. It was perfect. It’s not remotely what I expected to wear, I’d pictured a lot of lace, but I’m so pleased I chose this dress instead.

Anyway, the fact is that I got married fat. I was a fat bride. I went against every promise I’d ever made myself to not be a fat bride, and instead was a fat bride. In my panicky moments pre-wedding I worried about people looking at me and thinking “bloody hell, she’s fat!”, I worried about Tony looking at me and thinking “aaarrghhh!!!”. In the wise words of my incredible bridesmaid though, who looked me steadily in the eyes and spoke slowly as if teaching a child – “I think they know”. No one spontaneously combusted of shock as I appeared at the end of the aisle in my dress. My groom didn’t pass out from sheer disgust at my inability to materialise as a size 12 on our wedding day. There were no Biblical plagues, no rains of frogs, and, most disappointingly, neither Buffy nor the Winchester brothers appeared to foil the inevitable apocalypse. I was fat, I was tall, taller than Tony, as I usually am, and we had a wonderful day that we’ll never forget, for all the right reasons.

Looking back, the day is basically a blur. The week before was the most stressful of my life, I slept for two hours each afternoon as I was thoroughly drained and exhausted, and I felt indescribably tense and anxious at all times. I’d made the mistake of being in charge – I was the person who knew what was going on, I had all the information, all the supplier details and all the timings, so I was the person everyone asked, and that was too much for me. When it came to the day itself though, it was easier. That was the day where the member of venue staff, our bridesmaids and our groomsmen took over, and we could just enjoy the ride.

I don’t actually remember what the ceremony space looked like. I don’t think I ever really looked at it. I walked in, nervous, excited, with my dad, and kept my eyes fixed ahead to where I was going, to Tony. At all times I looked at him, or at the person speaking – the registrar, or the reader – I tried not to look at everyone else and be overwhelmed by how many people were looking at us. What I do remember is the way Tony looked at me. In that moment it seemed ridiculous to have ever thought he might be disappointed when he saw me. The way he looked at me is exactly the way I always wanted to be looked at on my wedding day. He looked wonderful, standing there, waiting for me, I probably looked at him in exactly the same way.

I remember what he said to me, I’ll never forget that, and I remember the part where he stopped to loudly blow his nose before starting his vows *cue laughter*. I remember referring to Philip and Tiger Lounge in my vows *cue cheering*. I remember calling him weird, and having not anticipated the laugh it would get, and the subsequent fact that I would have to wait for it to subside before I could add “…and I’m weird”, so for a few moments it just looked as though I’d called him weird, with no explanation, on our wedding day. After that I remember interminable posing for the camera, feeling consistently buoyant and happy, barely eating anything, and, inexplicably, not needing a wee all day. Which was weird, but convenient. I remember the immense stroke of luck that was the double rainbow, and our guests running and shouting at us from too far away so that we’d turn around and see it. I remember spinning around like a fool with my new husband to Bellowhead. I remember the task force involved in bustling my dress, and those who attempted to shield the spectacle with skirts and umbrellas. I remember one guest going into raptures because she was “finally ON Sean Bean” (table name), and another requesting to take home the “Patrick Stewart” table flag. I remember feeling loved, absolutely, positively loved, and feeling immense love in return for every one of our friends and family members who were there. I remember how happy Tony looked, how much fun he seemed to be having. I remember the Jagger-off between my husband and the resident dance-enthusiast, how the guests parted to let it happen, and how one participant decisively removed his jacket when the song started.  I remember driving us to the B&B at the end of the night, just the two of us at last, and eating week old pretzels (courtesy of my glove compartment) and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries (courtesy of the B&B owner) in bed when the dust finally settled and we realised how damned hungry we were. In that moment, it was like the wedding hadn’t happened yet. We were snuggled up in bed, the same as always, feeling happy and content to be there with each other. It may sound like a complete come down, but it wasn’t, at all, in fact it was the exact opposite. After all, you get married because you like the way things are and you want them to stay that way all the time. We felt exhausted, dazed, unsure of what had happened, but content to be snuggled up at last, and very, very happy.

We missed Philip though, obvs.

On 10th June I married the love of my life. It was a frankly glorious day, but I couldn’t tell you all the details. Almost two months on I’m still not used to referring to him as my husband, and am surprised to see him wearing a wedding ring. I have officially (well, at work and on social media, I’m yet to fill in all the forms) transitioned to my married name, but I’m still surprised every time I hear it. Tony opened a letter addressed to me the other day because he glanced at the envelope and saw his surname! Life hasn’t really changed though, not really, we just had a really wonderful day with almost everyone we love, to celebrate the fact that we chose to spend our lives together.

Here are some pictures taken by Henry Lowther, our very, very talented photographer.

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**What does this even mean?! Yes, swings and roundabouts, these are standard playground equipment, and you’re stating their names. If you’re trying to depict a scenario in which occurrences balance each other out, this is not it!

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One thought on “A United Front

  1. It was a very special day for me too. I love reading this blog as it shows me yet another side to you, and punctuates just how creative and brave you are for speaking so honestly.

    Much love,

    Husbo

    Liked by 1 person

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