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.

20431643_10159120977660574_3829486544049241735_n20376207_10159120988010574_2409396836254114795_n20294140_10159120978180574_5316809937201761651_n20375826_10159120978315574_5361741976645763123_n20292586_10159120986700574_3999573603076966075_n20294253_10159120990065574_5206862591236319606_n20265040_10159120991685574_7713635804183983999_n

**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!

Advertisements

Longing for swimwear

I’ve been stuck for something to write about over the last couple of weeks. Therapy’s going well, work’s going well, everything’s good and I have nothing to report on. Or so I thought. However, I’m currently trying to buy a swimsuit, “trying” being the operative word, and suddenly I have something to write about. Stop the press!! Yes, I know it sounds riveting, sorry.

We’re heading off to sunny climes in the not too distant future. Spain to be precise. I haven’t actually been to Spain, ever, I don’t think. I’ve been to Menorca with extended family, but I was 7 and don’t remember much, except that it was sunny and nice. The one thing that does stick in my memory about that holiday, is standing on a balcony with my cousins and my brother, looking over into an apartment opposite and seeing a gentleman getting it oooooon with his lady friend. We didn’t fully understand what they were doing, but were aware that it was “rude!”, and so we threw olives at them. Said gentleman became understandably irate and retaliated with pegs. One of them hit my finger and really hurt, which brought our parents out on to the balcony, late to the party, to shout at irate gentleman about throwing things at children. To make matters even worse, they were amazed at how much we apparently liked olives and bought us some more.

“Dear amorous Spanish gentleman,

I hereby apologise for throwing olives at you when you were trying to get your end away. I was only 7 and didn’t know any better. I’m also sorry that we didn’t tell our parents the real reason you threw a peg at me until many years later. I’m also sorry that we all laughed about it, a lot. I hope you managed to get your leg over in the end.

Sincerely,

Charlotte.”

Anyway, that has nothing to do with swimsuits, sorry. So, up until last year, Tony and I hadn’t had many holidays in our 5 years of relationship. Other than a lovely week in Brittany with lovely friends, a gorgeous long weekend in Paris for my 30th birthday (he’s an old romantic about once every 3 years) and a week at Center Parks in the Lakes (never again), we hadn’t really seen much sun. For this reason my parents took pity on us and invited us for a week in the Isle of Wight last year. It was wonderful. The weather was perfect, good enough for a trip to the beach and a swim in the sea every day. It reminded us of how nice it is to have a holiday once in a while. So, off to Spain we go, also with my parents (our holiday enablers), for two weeks. It may seem strange for a 30+ year old couple to be going on holiday with parents, but we get on with them so well that it’s not a problem. Also, they like to do their own thing once in a while, as do we, so we don’t spend every day together.

The Glorious Isle of Wight

The Glorious Isle of Wight

I’m excited about the holiday, I am, but I’m also quite apprehensive. The weather in the Isle of Wight was a complete surprise, so this is the first time I’m actually expecting sunshine and heat, and planning my wardrobe accordingly. Now, fat people don’t do well in the heat, at least I don’t. Hot, sweaty and bothered is not a good look on anyone, and even though I’ve lost about a stone I am still not what ­­­­Protein World would call “Beach Body Ready”. Incidentally, for anyone who hasn’t seen the nation’s response, please click here as it is nothing short of wonderful.

Don’t get me wrong, I fall firmly into the camp that believes that the way to become beach body ready is to put your body, whatever it looks like, on a beach. I struggle with my own body image though and am not brave enough to wear a bikini, as many awesome women are. While I think they look fabulous, and am sure that the world would not end if I put a bikini on and joined them, I just don’t have it in me, not yet. For this reason, buying summer clothes I won’t overheat in, but that don’t show too much of me, is a horribly daunting prospect, and that’s before we even get to swimsuits.

So, plus sized swimsuits. There are some really great options available these days, and I should be spoiled for choice. Simply Be have a brilliant range with some really nice choices, as do M&S and Long Tall Sally. Yes, I’m sure there are more retailers catering for the bigger girl, but the reason I’ve used these three as examples is that I’m not only plus-sized, but I’m tall as well. Longer length swimsuits are few and far between – I mean swimsuits that are actually longer length, as opposed to those that say they are but fall short of the required length by enough centimetres to render the wearer a hunched-over Quasimodo impersonator. The alternative being standing up straight and choosing between your boobs popping out of the top, or giving yourself and atomic wedgie. Yeah, not ideal.

I’ve bought two swimsuits from Simply Be in the past, Exhibit A and Exhibit B. While they’re perfectly nice, well-made suits they each fall into the Quasimodo category. Neither are long enough, and while the purple one is wearable due to being fairly stretchy, I have encountered many an almost boob appearance whilst swimming. The black and pink option is not serviceable at all, I don’t believe that it is, in fact, longer length.

Not wanting to encounter this dilemma again, I chose to buy my holiday suits from Long Tall Sally. I’ve been buying from them on and off for about 20 years now, and they not only have great quality clothes, but they really are longer length and comfortably so at that. I chose two swimsuits, Exhibit C and Exhibit D. They were lovely, the fit was comfortable, the fabric nice, the designs attractive, and they were definitely long enough. However, for the larger busted amongst us, they are fairly obscene. Rather than having one of those clever shelf panel things to sit your boobs in, each suit had only an ineffectual, soft piece of foam on each side. The foam was not supported by a band underneath, neither was it stiff enough to actually support a boob. I wish that my breasts still defied gravity as they did when I was 18, but alas I am now 33 and they are considerably bigger, and therefore heavier. Unsurprisingly I chose to return these rather than to give everyone a show they didn’t ask for.

I’m still awaiting my latest choices. I’ve decided to turn to that old favourite, M&S, the place where Britain buys its underwear. You can’t go wrong with Marks & Sparks. I hope. Their suits are generally long *enough* – there isn’t much leeway, they could stand to be longer, but generally they’re alright. They also seem to understand the boob issue quite well, so I have high hopes for Exhibit E and Exhibit F (in red) and even higher hopes that they won’t exhibit my double Gs!

A very trivial blog post I know, but there we go. Wish me luck…

Me and The Girls

Me and The Girls