We met at the Grand Canyon in
Arizona, USA, whilst we were working there in a hotel restaurant.
I only met Jon by chance - we usually did different shifts, but
one day I swapped with a colleague and as a result got on the same
shift as Jon. We immediately struck it off and spent a lot of time
together in the following week, having those all-night conversations
and excitedly realising that we'd begun something really special.
I had to return to England but we kept in contact and visited each
other every couple of months, which kept the relationship going.
It was on one of Jon's visits
to England, in July 2001. We went to one of our favourite places,
a local National Trust property that has gorgeous gardens that
we like to wander around. On this occasion, we were walking along
a big gravel path that leads from the house to an obelisk, when
I felt Jon tug on my hand. I turned to find him down on one knee
(and wincing slightly because the gravel was digging in his knee!).
He asked me to marry him and I was absolutely speechless. We'd
known for a long time that we'd marry one day but I guess I never
believed that it would come true! He gave me a beautiful ring with
a marquise diamond and we held each other for a long time. People
walking by were giving us intriguing glances, which was really
sweet and an elderly couple took our picture for us. It was one
of those moments when time seems to stand still and everything
is absolutely perfect.
We had about a year to prepare
and I did much of it because Jon had to go back to the States.
I found a venue online and booked it quickly because it was the
only one I'd found that didn't charge a whopping fee for the venue.
They only charged for the catering! Most of the other preparations
happened in the six months before the day, and my Mum was tremendous,
helping me with nearly everything. I did a lot of things myself.
I made the dresses for my two youngest bridesmaids, I followed
a simple pattern and bought fabric that was easy to work with,
I made them over the Jubilee Weekend and had them completed in
3 days! I also made the favours - boxes for the women from Confetti
and little tins for the men from a company I found online. I made
a lot of the decorations myself and roped in relatives to help
with other arrangements. My sister took me for a makeover at a
Chanel counter, which was really helpful and left me with lots
of ideas and free samples. Our only stumbling block was when the
Ceilidh band we had booked split up six weeks before the day! The
booking agent then took four long weeks to find us another band
and we had to book them without having the time to go and see what
they were like!
It was a civil ceremony in a
medieval timbered barn at a country inn near my hometown in Dorset.
It was in the late afternoon and the evening weather was perfect.
We decorated the barn with flowers from my parents' garden and
some that my neighbours had donated, and Jon wove ribbons and grape
vines through the banisters on the gallery balcony that overlooked
the room. We hung flags above the big fireplace - a Union Jack
and Jon's Stars & Stripes from when he was in the Navy. Two
of my cousins and their parents read several poems and another
cousin manned the sound system, playing our favourite pieces of
classical music. We had about 35 guests, seated in chairs around
an aisle that was marked out with pots of white geraniums. There
was a long table for the registrar at the front, decorated with
lavender and wheat.
The reception was in the same
place - after going outside for drinks and photos we went back
in the barn and sat around five round tables, which we'd named
after 5 of our favourite places. The menu was simple but delicious
and a choice of dessert was a real winner with the guests. My father
and my brother, who was also best man, made hilarious, touching
speeches, and after Jon spoke I added a few words and toasted my
Gran, whom everyone had thought wouldn't be fit enough to make
it to the wedding. Later on the band arrived and played barn dance
music whilst an instructor got people up to dance. Nearly everyone
joined in, with a few propping up the bar or chatting outside.
Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and guests kept coming
up to us and saying what a fantastic day it had been.
I made the awful mistake of leaving
the honeymoon packing to the last minute. I'd read on Confetti
how you shouldn't, and promised myself that I wouldn't, but as
it happened, I ran out of time and spent the day before the wedding
hurriedly decorating the barn before rushing back home to pack.
As a result I was up really late and then had to get up early next
morning, just when I really could've used a lay-in! In the hours
before we had to leave for the ceremony, I was rushing around trying
to get the bridesmaids bouquets ready and ended up with only about
10 minutes to get dressed and do my makeup! It was a fantastic
day and I really enjoyed it, but I was so exhausted by the end
that I wished I'd been better prepared so I could've relaxed and
taken my time over my makeup and getting ready with my bridesmaids.
My top tip is to think outside
the box, to be creative. We had a limited budget but with a little
creativity made it go a long way. Get relatives to help out; my
uncle took the black and white photographs as a wedding present
and my aunt bought my eldest bridesmaid's outfit. I bought an off-the-peg
dress and had it altered by a local dressmaker. My Mum is a wizzo
cook and made the cake from a Delia recipe. I iced it following
pictures of a cake I'd found in a magazine. My Dad helped organise
the music and made little flags to go on top of the cake. I made
the invitations and printed the menus and place cards on my computer.
I made little organza bags out of fabric leftovers and filled them
with Love-heart sweets for my bridesmaids.
Even if you're conscious of budget as we were, allow yourself
a few professional touches - in the end I opted to have my bouquet
made for me. It only cost £20 but thanks to a really creative
florist it looked really great and very original. I also paid to
have my hair done and spent £50 on really well fitting lingerie.
In short, trawl magazines for ideas, don't let tradition confine
you, and always be ready to accept other people's help. If you
splash out in some areas and save in others, you can really make
every bit of your budget work.
All funniness aside: after all
the frantic activity of the morning of the wedding, when my Dad,
me and the bridesmaids scrambled in the limo we all took a big
sigh of relief, and the youngest bridesmaid even dozed off to sleep!
It was a really surreal half an hour. At one point, one of my bridesmaids
accidentally knocked her foot against the TV and a video of Tom & Jerry
came on! All we could do was laugh! And then, to make it really
surreal, my eldest bridesmaid suddenly realised that she still
had the price tag hanging off the back of her dress! It was hilarious
and really relaxed all of us. From that moment on the day was absolutely
wonderful and when we finally got to the ceremony and I saw the
smile on Jon's face, I really knew it was going the best day of