Q: How did you meet?
A: 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.
Q: Describe the proposal.
A: 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.
Q: How long did you spend preparing for the day and how was it?
A: 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!
Q: What type of wedding ceremony did you have and where?
A: 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.
Q: Where did you hold your reception and what was it like?
A: 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.
Q: Is there anything you’d change, with hindsight?
A: 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.
Q: What advice would you give to couples currently planning their wedding?
A: 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.
Q: Is there any other detail that you would like to share?
A: 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 my life.