Helen and Stephen
How did you meet?
Stephen and I met at work. I joined the company where he was working and within a month, we were going out. Our first date was a KFC meal after some overtime out of the office.
Describe the marriage proposal. After four months, Stephen proposed while we were in the pub just after Christmas (1997). He wasn’t expecting my reply and I caught him mid swallow. We decided to announce our engagement on my birthday a couple of weeks later (January 1998).
How long did you spend preparing for the day and how was it? We started preparing right from the start. We were planning a May 2000 wedding and knew that in order to get the venue we wanted, we had to start early. We knew roughly how many people we wanted and although we weren’t going to spend much money, it was going to be a big wedding. The church and the reception were booked by March 1999. By April 1999, the car, the florist, the photographer and the videographer were booked. I thought that wedding planning was easy! By July, the honeymoon was booked. August saw the start of the guest list. By October, we had purchased the material for my dress and the pattern and material for the bridesmaids’ dresses. I wanted blue bridesmaids, but all the material I found was very purple. I eventually found some material that I liked. However, the colour scheme was no longer blue. It was now a terracotta red!
By the end of 1999, things were hotting up. We had been taking things far too easy and we still hadn’t designed the invitations. We finally printed them out individually (after getting card stuck in the printer) and I coloured in the rose design on each invitation and on the RSVP card. The invitations finally went out in the middle of February.
We had family and friends coming from Canada, New York, Prague, Scotland, the Lake District, Liverpool, Nottinghamshire and Birmingham. Almost everyone we invited (no matter how far they had to travel) had accepted. It seemed to take forever for people to respond. Goodness knows how long it would have taken them without the RSVP cards. My mum and nan started making my dress after Christmas. I finally had an idea of what I wanted (after trying on almost every dress in the whole of Poole & Bournemouth and finding nothing that I liked), but there wasn’t a pattern in existence for it. They used the bodice pattern from one and the skirt pattern from another. We made up the sleeves as we went along. I wanted an off-the-shoulder, embroidered, fitted bodice with an a-line skirt covered with tulle. I also wanted a long train.
Many long evenings and weekends later, the dress was complete. Work began on the bridesmaids’ dresses. I chose a maid of honour (Steve’s sister, Karen) and two little bridesmaids (daughters of friends), Katie and Ruth, who were both four. The little bridesmaids dresses were in a similar style to mine – fitted style bodice and tulle skirt. I chose the dress pattern for the maid of honour. I knew that Karen wanted something long and straight. Being four and a half hours drive away wasn’t easy, but Steve’s mum happily took on the task of making this dress.
The seating plan brought on lots of arguments. We had chosen circular tables with one straight top table. Who was going to sit next to old Aunt Maud? And where could the children sit without disturbing everyone too much? I was getting so stressed out at this point – confetti message boards to the rescue!
During the Easter break, my mum set to making the wedding cake. Stephen and I had chosen a plain, circular, three-tier design, with artificial flowers cascading down one side. My nan gladly sat and made hundreds of ribbon roses for the cake and all the table decorations. She also made tulle and ribbon bows for the ends of the pews.
What type of wedding ceremony did you have and where?
We had a traditional church wedding at the local church (St. Michael’s Church, Hamworthy, Poole) where my parents were married. We had pondered over going civil, but felt that it wouldn’t feel right not getting married in a church in front of God.
Where did you hold your reception and what was it like?
Our reception was held at Springfield Country Hotel (Stoborough, Wareham) in the country, about eight miles from the church. We had looked at lots of hotels in Bournemouth, but many were very tacky and most could not cater for our numbers. As most guests would be driving to the reception, adequate parking facilities were needed. This could not be catered for in Bournemouth. After we had chosen the reception venue, many people we spoke to had known someone who had their reception or a party there and couldn’tt fault the place. It seemed we chose well.
We decided on a served buffet with a sit-down starter and dessert. It was very difficult to choose the single starter and dessert and try to please everyone. We had guests who were vegetarian, lactose intolerant, pregnant and allergic to poultry. In the end, we went with melon for the starter and hot apple strudel for dessert. The buffet was the easiest choice as there was sliced beef, chicken, ham, salmon and vegetarian quiche with hot new potatoes and all manner of salads.
Thinking back to the ‘big day’ what things did you especially enjoy?
I enjoyed the ceremony and the photos afterwards. Even though I normally don’t like having my photo taken, on the day I just relaxed into my role as the blushing bride and went with the flow. Everyone around us was so happy.
The ceremony was very emotional. My dad was ‘losing it’ as we walked down the aisle and both Stephen and I cried whilst saying our vows. It sounds silly, but I just couldn’t stop myself. After all the stress of the previous year or so, it finally happened. I walked down the aisle and saw Steve stood there in his finery and I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening to me.
Is there anything you’d change, with hindsight?
Maybe we would not have chosen young bridesmaids and pageboys. The day was not any better with them in. But I don’t think that we could have left children totally out of the day. I wouldn’t have wanted to ostracise the few friends that did bring their children.
We had a buffet in the evening but most of the guests were made up of the daytime guests who had just eaten at the wedding breakfast at 4.30pm, so the buffet was hardly touched. A few nibbles probably would have sufficed.
What advice would you give to couples currently planning their wedding?
Make sure you have plenty of time to organise. Have definite ideas in your mind of what you want out of the day and stick to them. When you are getting stressed, try Kalms. They are herbal relaxation tablets and in the couple of weeks up to the wedding (after a few arguments with my mum) I found them great – they just seemed to take the edge off everything. I don’t think I could have coped with work as well otherwise.
Advise guests nicely with the invitations that a gift list is available on request. We did not do this (thinking it was very bad etiquette) and it was a bit of a mad rush at the end with people running about to get presents. Definitely have a gift list.