Sandra and Neil
How did you meet?
We met in a nightclub on 22nd November 1996. I saw this tall handsome chap at the bar smiling but didn’t realise at first he was smiling at me. It was thunderbolts, lightning and a collision of two worlds. I knew I loved him in less than two days…
Describe the marriage proposal.
I had organised a 30th birthday party for Neil to be held in the garden on 16th June 2001. On the day it was torrential rain so I didn’t expect many people to turn up. However more and more people arrived and huddled together under the gazebos. I just thought at the time, ‘How nice of them all still to come.’ I had quite a bit to drink and Neil came over and took me by the hand and everyone went really quiet. Then, I realised where he was -down on one knee. He asked me to be his wife and I just about got the word, ‘Yes’ out before I burst into tears. Then from nowhere came people with heart balloons, engagement balloons and bouquets of flowers. Neil’s dad produced bottles of Champagne from somewhere and led the toast. It turned out that everyone knew that Neil had planned to propose – except me. How he and his friends managed to keep the secret I have no idea but it was brilliant.
How long did you spend preparing for the day and how was it?
We set the date for 1st June 2002, soon after the engagement. We did the planning in short bursts and agreed to have some wedding free weekends to keep us sane! We both have very demanding jobs so it was important to keep focused on why we were doing all this work when things got stressful! I made all the stationery and favours myself and really enjoyed the experience. The biggest trauma was to find my dream dress in a size to fit (I am not a size 12!) and then underwear to go with it which I considered pretty enough. This involved driving many many miles but the search was worth it.
It seemed at times that I was doing all the work so I gave Neil specific tasks to deal with such as the transport. We did lots of legwork and research to find the venue for the reception and all this took up lots of time. Planning and organising the guestlist and keeping track of the responses ourselves was also quite tricky but we used the PC at home a lot for this. We met with all the key people such as the florist, photographer,hair and makeup and banqueting staff to make sure that they would listen to our ideas and take on board our suggestions for the day as we did not want a conveyor packaged wedding.
We already knew which Minister we would like to marry us as we had seen him conduct a blessing for friends a couple of years ago and sort of filed him away in our minds for if and when we set a day.We thought we were pretty organised but there were still lots of last minute things to be done in the final week.
What type of wedding ceremony did you have and where?
The day itself was just wonderful. I generally don’t enjoy wearing much make up but was determined to look good for the photos so had someone come out to the house and I could hardly believe the transformation. I truly felt like a princess/goddess- in fact that was the look I had requested princess meets sex goddess! When I was dressed, all the hard work, all those miles driving and shopping around, all the expense was worth it and the feeling was truly priceless. I can still recall the look on Neil’s face when he turned to see me as he waited at the altar. I was surprisingly not too nervous as I just knew we were doing the right thing.
We had chosen a church wedding at Christ Church with St Philip in Worcester Park in Surrey. Our minister didn’t want us to learn the vows to recite and this made the ceromony all the more personal as he guided us through the vows on the day – we felt truly blessed. A lasting memory was hearing all our friends and family singing and praying for us which was very moving. We had organised balloons for each guest to release after the ceremony and this was wonderful.
Where did you hold your reception and what was it like?
The reception was at Thatchers Jarvis Ramada Hotel at East Horsley in Surrey. It was about 30 minutes drive from the church but well worth it. We organised large pink heart shaped balloons to be placed all over the grounds and it was a wonderful sight as we arrived. The gardens were beautiful and we were lucky with the weather.
We had great fun with the photographs but didn’t really get time to speak to everyone. The arrangements went well and the staff were well organised and professional. We wanted nibbles for our guests on arrival but did not fancy the canape menu so chef prepared mini portions of Welsh rarebit which went down really well with the guests as some had had an early start.
We wanted the day to be traditional but with a twist to make the day our own so we did the receiving line ourselves and it was a great opportunity to greet everyone. The sit down meal was lovely. We had melon to start, chicken for the main course and summer pudding for dessert. The speeches went well and at the last moment I decided to make a speech too. I descibed my new husband as not the wind beneath my wings but the reason I want to fly, which brought out a few hankies!
Time went quickly and it was soon time for guests to move through to the function room to have cake, (which was a Star Trek cake made by my friend Alison) and tea and coffee. Before we knew it our evening guests were arriving and the function room looked great. We had clusters of massive balloons of stars and moons on each table in our themed colours of gold and pink and a balloon arch with twinkly lights on it which was very effective. We danced and partied with our guests until after 1 am then had to get up very early the next moring to make our flight to Jamaica. As we were having breakfast we could still see pink heart balloons in the grounds – very surreal at 6 am. A coachload of tourists arrived and were excitedly running around taking photos – a lovely memory!
Is there anything you’d change, with hindsight?
We would consider an even earlier ceremony to allow more time with our guests. We got married at noon which we thought was early but still felt time went so quickly. We would consider having a video. We decided against it because I am not normally photogenic but friends took video snippets of the day and a professional video would be a good record of events and memories
What advice would you give to couples currently planning their wedding?
1. Remember why you are doing it all when things get stressful and be nice to each other. You will have rows over the most stuipid things so expect this to happen and keep some perspective!
2.Take breaks and have whole weekends where wedding talk is banned – not as easy as it sounds.
3. Do plenty of homework and research before booking anything.
4. Make sure you meet with and talk through your ideas with all the key players.
5. Make sure everyone such as ushers know what is exected of them on the day and all the timings.
6. Spend your budget on the things that are really important to you
7. Search far and wide for your special dress – you will know it when you eventually find it
8. Be ruthless when making decisions re your outfits and where to spend your money. If it’s a choice between cheaper shoes and better tiara and veil, take the latter, no one will notice your shoes – really they wont!
9. Remember that men and women think differently. He wont be able to get excited about napkin colours so dont expect him to. But make sure he does things he can relate to like choosing the transport.
10.Take time to really enjoy your day and focus so that the memories will stay with you forever. You will find everyone rushing you to meet their schedules from the moment you get up but take a second to enjoy the moment. If, like me, you don’t wear much make up and never put your hair up, call in the professionals but be very clear about what you want.