What I learnt from ‘say yes to the dress’

I’m putting it out there that if I ever resort to watching Jeremy Kyle, someone needs to host an intervention for me!

The problem with being home and binge watching TV series is that too much of some programmes can cause you to have an existential crisis, think you’re being stalked or about to be murderer all the time, or makes you start talking in olde English depending on the period drama. I did particularly like the heavily Spanish-accented male voice that started narrating my life after I watched back to back Jane the Virgin though!

Anyway, so I found the TLC channel which basically has Say Yes to the Dress and Cake Boss on repeat. Amazing. I hadn’t watched Say Yes before because I assumed it was a bunch of shallow, materialistic girls who have way too much money to spend shopping for wedding dresses. Which it sometimes is, but it got me thinking. And the main thing that came out of all of my avid TV viewing, is that not an awful lot of what we see is actually about the dress. The dress is just a vehicle for a bigger picture.

Everyone, even the most seemingly confident brides, is looking for approval from someone. Otherwise why do they bother taking anyone to the appointment? And the more people they have, the more they appear to like to be in the spotlight, the more they actually need that validation and approval. You can see it in their faces when they think they like something and someone disagrees. They don’t know what to do.

Aside from approval, the wedding or the wedding dress has some kind of symbolism that doesn’t have anything to do with their fiance or wedding. Some have medical stories where wearing a dress causes body image problems or signifies the end of something. Others don’t have family members who’d like to see them in the dress because they’ve died. One got ridiculously upset because her mum didn’t like the dress and burst into tears and it turned out that what looked like a stroppy tantrum from a shallow bride not getting what she wanted on the surface was actually because she’d spent years as a teenager being belittled by her mum about everything and finally thought she’d got to a place where she knew who she was as a person and didn’t need her mum’s approval and it turned out it still had a massive impact on her. She’d taken her mum to the appointment to be the bigger person but she hadn’t quite closed all of the anxiety she felt about it off despite therapy.

So what have I learnt? That everyone needs approval, even the most confident of people. In fact, the most confident often need that validation more. And that it’s ok to ask for approval or validation in certain circumstances, like when you’re trying on your wedding dress or showcasing something or making yourself feel vulnerable. If people aren’t willing to boost your confidence or say they’re proud of you when you’re doing something specific, like shopping for your wedding dress, that says a lot more about them and their insecurities than it does about you.

I think it’s really easy to project fears and anxieties onto even experiences which should be happy. Your mind can’t really handle the really deep rooted negative stuff by itself, but it can get irrationally angry about surface level things. I temporarily lost my scarf at a funeral once and all I could think about at the start of the service was ‘I can’t believe I lost my scarf’. And then I got really stressed because I was thinking about having lost my scarf rather than the person we’d lost and were burying! But it’s the same thing as people eating wedding dress consultants alive because their dress isn’t quite perfect. The mind can’t handle the hard stuff, but it knows how to let it all out on the not so important metaphors of life.

Don’t judge a book by its cover (or wedding dress). Just because you can’t see what’s going on immediately doesn’t mean that the reaction is coming from a shallow place, it’s probably a lot deeper a problem than you realise. It’s just a shame that some of these brides are spending $5k upwards to learn this!


Third Wedding Anniversary

This week, we’ll have been married for three years. It’s a bit funny looking back at the Facebook statuses and posts from three years ago and thinking about what I imagined married life to be like. If you asked me then where I’d be in three years, it would look very different! Three years is the leather anniversary because it’s supposed to be when things get tough and to remind couples that they have to be tough in difficult times. That’s what Google told me anyway!

I’ve been told a few times by people treating me that I’ve taken being ill in my stride and just got on with it. If you add up all of the crappy things that have happened in three years for me, most people would perhaps experience them in their lifetime, if that, not in three years. I can’t change anything health wise but I can do something about my attitude towards it, so I try not to be a bitter and twisted person. However, one thing that does make me feel a bit bitter and twisted is the way our wedding day panned out.

I should also say that I found the TLC channel this week and have basically been watching Say Yes To The Dress on loop. Which means seeing all the princess fairytales and evil step mothers in all their glory. Along with 90 Day Fiancé for balance 😉 It’s made me think about our wedding and buying my dress.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day. Timetable and logistics wise, it went perfectly. Everyone we wanted to be there was there, although now I’d get rid of some people who came and replace them with new friends instead. It was a lovely wedding.

But I don’t remember a lot of it. Now I know I really wasn’t far off keeling over and dying from low cortisol, but I didn’t know that at the time. Probably a good thing really! I put on so much weight in the month before because of steroids and prophylactic antibiotics that my dress had to be let out a whopping 4 inches at the last minute. So I didn’t feel like a beautiful bride, I felt like a sea cow! Our vows were coordinated between me talking inhalers and how long I could physically stand up for. My husband basically held me up for our first dance because I was shattered and just wanted to sleep. I had to take my dress off in the disabled toilet half way through because it was stopping me breathing and causing a lot of pain. Then we had to botch it at the back so I could actually be a part of my own wedding and not just sit on a toilet floor. I didn’t dance at all even though I wanted to. There’s probably more that I compromised on, but like I said, I can’t remember it.

So I do feel slightly bitter that this day that we’d spent so long planning and is supposed to be ‘the best day of your life’ ended up being blighted slightly (a lot) by illness. It would be great to be able to do it again and have everything perfect but it’s too expensive and I’m also a lot more sick now than I was then!

When I find myself getting upset about it, I try to remind myself that while everyone might want a perfect wedding day, marriage isn’t perfect. There are things which crop up which you aren’t expecting and you have to deal with because that’s how life works. One perfect day doesn’t equate to a perfect life, probably the opposite actually. The wedding vows about wealth, health and solidarity are there for a reason, even if most people just ‘say’ them and don’t think about the meaning.

It’s very easy to look at other people’s marriages and think ‘they have it easy’. But guaranteed they don’t. It might not be quite as stressful as serious illness, but it’s all relative and, realistically, you’re never going to know exactly what’s going on in someone’s marriage anyway because people won’t necessarily talk about it!

Things happen. It’s how you respond to them that’s important. It’s been a different three years from what I imagined but there have been good times despite the challenges. I wonder what the next three years hold!

Our 2 Year Wedding Anniversary

It’s our 2 year wedding anniversary today! If you’re expecting a soppy post about how I married my best friend and how I have the best husband ever etc, stop reading now. While those things might be true, I’m not that soppy a person and neither is he. Which is why we work well together!  

We got married in a Treehouse, which was lovely. We wanted to get married somewhere ‘different’ after we realised it would be virtually impossible to get married in a church (he’s part Jewish and I’m catholic), and didn’t want to have the pomp and circumstance that often comes with formal venues like hotels or country houses. The treehouse restaurant was quirky and different, which is why we picked it. And it had awesome food!

treehouse outside

Truth be told, I don’t remember most of the day, and it’s something I still feel upset about. Brides have a meltdown if they get spots on their wedding day, or a cold, or if the chair covers aren’t *perfect*. I was actually not that far off from dying that day, I just didn’t know it at the time. I know we had a lovely day and it was great having our friends and family there but I wish I could remember it. And that I hadn’t had to compromise on as much of the day as I did. 


Our seating chart, designed by my husband!

What have I learnt in 2 years of marriage? Pass. I don’t remember much of that either. Maybe that’s part of a successful marriage! 😉 Seriously though:

  • Having good jobs and earning a good wage means you can do lots of extravagant things but it’s not the be all and end all. Some of our best holidays were camping and some of the best presents free. 
  •  A sense of humour gets you out of most problems.
  • If you don’t trust each other to know the little things, then you’re never going to cope when anything big comes along.
  • People who overshare about the ins and the outs of their marriage or who try to dictate what ‘should’ be happening in yours tend to be the most insecure or the ones having problems. Ignore them.
  • Share things out equally. Everything, including the chores nobody wants. Or just both deny all knowledge!
  •  And, what we learnt, a wedding is just a wedding, it’s the years that come afterwards which are important. Having said that, I’d still quite like to renew our vows or something at some point so that we can have a day we both remember and can look back on.


My husband is pretty much my carer now. He does all the household jobs (although I did them all for the first few years we lived together, so it has balanced out!), makes all my meals for me… pretty much everything. I don’t have a job anymore so he is the only one earning. So you might be reading this thinking ‘isn’t he a wonderful man, staying with her despite her being sick‘, which is something I hear a lot. It drives me mad, and him too. I’m very grateful to my husband for what he does but people saying that to us implies that I bring nothing to our marriage whatsoever and that he’s only my husband still out of duty. I’ve been sick for the entire of our marriage, and before. It’s not like I trapped him!

I also get upset when we do things as a couple but people assume I’ve not had any input or my opinion isn’t valid. If people pointedly comment or only speak to him when asking questions (and this has got a lot worse since I started using a wheelchair when out), it can make me feel like I’m not worth acknowledging, that I haven’t tried to contribute, or that my opinion doesn’t count. Just because I need his help doesn’t mean I cease to exist- we’re a partnership. And that’s something that’s really important when you’re married. 

But I do bring qualities which make us work well together. I can find humour in most things, whereas he has a tendency to get really frustrated really quickly. Despite the fact that he’s good at fixing things (handy with me since I’m clumsy), he’s not always very good at problem solving or working out alternatives to problems. I’m not good at this anymore either, so we might grind to a halt soon! I’m pretty resilient and refuse to give up on anything whereas he used to be less so. We have a good balance. I already wrote a post last month about his qualities, but, to summarise, he’s generous, kind and can always make me laugh. 

Our 2 years of marriage has definitely not been the ‘wedded bliss’ advertised in all the wedding magazines, but I find it hard to believe that anyone actually achieves that- sadly, life doesn’t work like that. We’ve had some great moments, like our American road trip, but overall it’s been pretty uphill in terms of challenges thrown our way. You’re kidding yourself if you think that marriage is all about the Kodak moments people post on social media though (and a lot of those are staged anyway!). It’s easy to be together when things are going well, but a good marriage is one where you can still find funny things even when it’s really, really hard. 

My go to top tip if everything is a bit hard? Dominos pizza, chocolate, pjs and a film usually solves most things! 😉 

Photos taken by me.

Treehouse Wedding- Alnwick Gardens

When we were planning our wedding for Autumn 2014, neither me or my husband wanted a ‘traditional’ wedding. After some googling, we came across the Treehouse Restaurant at Alnwick Gardens and loved the idea. We arranged to visit before booking, spoke to Wendy who organises events there, and agreed a date before leaving. It was the only venue we looked at, we loved it. It’s also not as expensive as you’d think!

The day we visited was an awful day- raining (normal for the north), windy, dark. But it was still beautiful. It might be a treehouse, but it’s fully accessible for wheelchairs and push chairs. There’s a long ramp up to a covered viewing point and then a further walkway to the Potting Shed (bar area) and an additional space which we used as a place for our guest book and put some family photos on the screens in there. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are some rope bridges you can cross (good photo opportunity).




Covered viewing point and walkway


Potting Shed (right)

The Treehouse is magical. We’ve been there four times in total, including our wedding day. There’s a big, log fire in the centre, and everything is made out of wood- grand wooden chairs, tables, branches decorated with fairy lights. It’s not square- it has hidden nooks and crannies. Photos don’t do it justice. Coincidentally, BBC 3’s Don’t Tell The Bride episode featuring the Treehouse aired soon after we booked it and we both commented that the camera couldn’t pick up all of its qualities.



Organisation wise, it was a walk in the park. We live 5 hours from Alnwick, but Wendy and her team arranged everything for us- we told them what we wanted and what we’d provide and she sorted it. She also had some great advice which we followed, for example ‘don’t overdress the Treehouse or tables, it’s so pretty that simple makes everything pop more’- She was right. Last minute issues or requests, she sorted it. A man had a medical emergency when we were visiting once, she was cool as a cucumber.


Once we’d booked we were offered a complimentary tasting of the suggested wedding menu. We were able to choose 3 dishes for each course to provide our guests with options. We opted for: chicken liver pate; cream of tarragon mushrooms on toast, warm pigeon salad for starters. For mains: supreme of chicken; roasted lamb or cheese, red onion and chive filo parcel, and for dessert: lemon tart; Bailey’s Cheesecake or Chocolate Brownie. There were also options for the Children’s menu. The food is incredible. There were three options for hire: all day, from midday-midnight and from 5pm-midnight. We opted for the latter and it was the perfect amount of time. You pay for the venue hire (discounts were offered for certain months/days) and then there’s a minimum spend. After many calculations, we worked out that for 70 guests it was cheaper to order alcohol from the Treehouse rather than pay a corkage fee and supply our own.

We arranged a meeting with Wendy the day before to confirm arrangements for the day and drop off the table plan, wedding favours, photos, guest book etc. The wedding ceremony itself takes place with everyone standing facing the raised area with lanterns on the floor making the ‘aisle’. Chairs could be provided for elderly or disabled guests. Once the ceremony was over, we had drinks out on the walkway and in the Potting Shed and Wendy’s team set up the tables, chairs and places according to our plan. My husband came up with a table map which was complicated to set up (involving jam jars, battery powered tea-lights and lemon squash!) and they followed his instructions perfectly. We hired a pianist to play and sing (Ashley Humble) during the meal and made an iPod playlist for afterwards which we gave to Wendy. There is an area by the fire which can serve as a dance floor, but it isn’t large. There was a microphone available for the speeches.



Wendy recommended the Hogs Head for accommodation since all of our guests needed rooms. We also hired a coach (£200) to transport guests to and from the Treehouse- I’d recommend this as it made life much easier rather than trying to persuade 70 southerners that taxis aren’t common in the North. Getting a photographer who has worked there before is a must- like I said, photographs don’t do it complete justice. Andrew Davies, our photographer, was great. He listened to what we wanted, he didn’t ‘get in the way’ and he was prompt in sending us the photos.

We had lots of people say that our wedding venue was the best they’d seen and even our hard to impress family and friends were suitably stunned by the location and the food. I’m biased, but it was the best wedding I’ve been to!

Details based on Autumn 2014 Wedding. Photos used were taken by us or our guests.