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Talk About Getting Your Priorities Right

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I spotted this while walking through Kettlewell at the weekend and despite it being an old joke it did make me laugh seeing it in someone’s window:

Lost wife and dog sign

It reads: “Missing from home. Wife and Dog. Information Required. Reward for return of the Dog.”. I just hope their dog turns up! 😉


The Power Of Love


Steve and CarolineI had the pleasure of attending my good friend Steve’s wedding to his sweetheart Caroline at the weekend and it was lovely.

I was lucky enough to work with Steve in my first “proper” job (i.e. not for a University) and learned a great deal from him on both a personal and professional level. For anyone who’s ever heard me utter the words “phenomenal attention to detail”, you can thank Steve for drilling it into my head. His methodical approach to problem solving rubbed off on me and I continue to this day applying the same lessons I learned from him. Although I try to lose my temper and swear a bit less! 😉

I remember when he first met Caroline. They were set up at a wedding they both attended and he came back beaming about what a lovely girl she was. And he pretty much carried on talking about her from that point until the day he moved in with her! When I first met her I was taken aback at firstly how damned attractive she was and secondly what a lovely girl she was – funny, intelligent, genuine, a real catch. Steve had clearly been doing something right!

However the best was yet to come. Having moved down south to be with her, every time I met up with them again it was plain to see the positive effect she was having on him. It’s rare to see two people who become so much more than the sum of their parts. And great guy though Steve was I realise now there was a part of him missing until he met Caroline. To see the story have a happy ending and be there as they were married was a real honour.

Oh yes, and it was a good excuse to finally buy myself a dinner suit and learn how to tie a bow tie properly. Trouble is, I can’t think of anybody else I know who’s likely to get married so it may be a while before I get to wear it again. Although you can wear dinner suits to christenings can’t you? 😉 (And before you ask, I don’t mean for me).


Marriage Advice From The 60s: The Engagement

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Wedding Eqituette by Margot LawrenceWhile looking around a car boot sale the other weekend I looked at a box full of books and saw the title “Wedding Etiquette” on the spine of one of them. I took it out to have a look (and see where I went wrong) and was most amused to see the cover pictured right.

As you can probably tell by the photo, it was written in the 1960’s by Margot Lawrence so I wondered how out of date the advice contain within would be…

It’s actually been a very entertaining read and quite eye-opening in terms of the different attitudes to relationships and marriage from then to now. The youngsters today can learn a lot from literature like this – divorce rates are a hell of a lot higher now than then, as are the numbers of people living alone.

I’ll write a few posts on different pieces of advice that the irrepressible Ms Lawrence offers in her 1963 masterpiece so that you too may learn the lessons I now have. Firstly I’ll talk about the engagement itself.

On the subject of courtship she has this to say:

“Nowadays most young people require little guidance as to the formalities of courtship – indeed, such formalities hardly exist. An acquaintance develops into friendship, affection to love, and eventually the moment comes when they decide that they will get married… Most young people take the view, and even their elders would probably agree, that courtship is entirely their own affair.”

The trouble is, in these days of iPod’s, broadband, speed-dating, binge drinking and one-night stands, courtship is something that just doesn’t seem to happen and isn’t taken seriously any more. For shame. Getting to know your potential life partner is something you should take time and care over – not get shacked up with them within a month of meeting them in a sleazy nightclub when you went back to their place!

As for engagement:

“The first requirement of etiquette comes even before the engagement is formally announced, and that is, the customary interview between the father or guardian of the girl, and the young man she hopes to marry… At the interview, he should be prepared to state frankly his position and prospects; say enough to show that he has given some thought to how he can look after a wife and, later, a family; perhaps satisfy his prospective in-laws as to his own family background, education and general standing; and altogether show that he is a fit person to be entrusted with the girl as his wife.”

All too often marriage is impulsively rushed into without due consideration and fore-though which down the line can lead to problems. Hey, I’m as guilty as the next guy! I proposed on a whim in New Zealand without thinking it through – who’d have thought I’d eventually have to actually get married! 😉 But to have to justify what makes you fit to marry your partner, even to yourself, can be quite enlightening. The thought that it’s not some right you automatically have assigned to you by default might make you try a bit harder.

Apparently, when announcing an engagement (italics are hers not mine):

“The name of the bride’s mother must appear in the announcement, even if she is divorced and re-married. To omit it is only possible if there has been some kind of open scandal about her.”

Makes me wonder where Ms Lawrence learned that particular lesson from!

Another particularly poignant section discusses the Broken Engagement which is “an embarrassing ordeal for both parties”. Interestingly the book goes into details suggesting that the girl should return the engagement ring, but the most useful advice is about letters:

“The disposal of letters sometimes presents a problem. To return them may seem an unnecessarily dramatic gesture, but to retain them is usually unwise unless actual legal questions are likely to arise. Probably the most commonsense course is simply to burn them.”

I can see there’s no going back when you get on the wrong side of Ms Lawrence!

I’ll finish by quoting the section on the behaviour of the engaged couple – youngsters these days lack any of the respect, manners and self-control described here:

“Engaged people should be wary of adopting a too-proprietary air towards one another in public or of showing demonstrations of affection that may embarrass others. At the same time they must each make the happiness and welfare of the other their first consideration.

“It is a real breach of good manners for either to go out alone with, or partnered by, a member of the opposite sex. There is no harm in, say, an engaged girl whose fiancee is unavoidably absent, going to a club party or dance with a group of young people, but she should not go if it is the kind of group where the men and girls are formally paired off in partners.”

I’m guessing Ms Lawrence doesn’t believe that men and women can be “just friends”. Or maybe she was just bitter she never got invited to those sorts of parties!

So there, that’s your engagement sorted – next you can just get married right? Wrong! Ms Lawrence has a lot more advice to give. To be continued…


My Wedding Photos

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Here are a select few of the best photos from my wedding to my lovely wife Rachael. We were married at Comlongon Castle in Scotland and it was a beautiful day with great friends and family and was once-in-a-lifetime!


The Happy Couple


By popular request (I think mainly to laugh at pictures of me in a white suit) I thought it was about time I put up our “official” wedding photo, so here it is:

The Happy Couple

It was taken by my good friend Ade (who excelled himself as always in both his photography and his ability to drink a lot and handle it far better than me). He took around 400 shots which we’re going to look through, pick our favourites (which will probably be most of them as they’re fantastic) and print them out – when we get the chance!


A Celebrity For A Day


white-suit-and-cigarThe funny thing about attending your own wedding is that it’s like being a celebrity for the day. My friend Scott told me at his that it was like going to a nightclub where you know everybody and he was quite correct. From the moment I arrived and donned my white suit (right) I was talking to people and mingling. Before I’d wondered how I’d cope having to get around everyone but it turned out to be really easy as they were my friends who I wanted to spend time with. The frustration is that I’d have happily spent the entire day with each of them but I had to keep moving on.

It was exhausting and we were knackered for a few days afterwards. We barely had a chance to sit down and were constantly on the move. I don’t know how these celebrities do it (well okay I do, but let’s not go there!).

After such an amazing day at the centre of attention that went without a hitch (for all those future brides out there, if you stay relaxed and laid-back about the day, then you won’t get so stressed and everything will go a lot more smoothly) it came as a bit of a shock to the system to go to a service station and just be a regular nobody again. Ah well, it’s the quiet life for me!

The venue – Comlongon Castle – really was amazing. From the hall in the castle where we got married (much better than some boring church) to the gardens and fishpond (to keep the kids entertained) to the hotel itself we couldn’t have asked for more. You got to choose your food from a menu (not just chicken and beef) and the quality of the meals was right up there with the best restaurants I’ve eaten in. Since everybody was there for the day, there was no sense of a bunch of people turning up for the evening only having missed out on the ceremony. And the staff made it look easy. I used to work in a hotel as a student and know that managing a wedding is a tricky business – these guys made it look a lot simpler than it actually is. And the weather was perfect – sunny but not too hot. Everybody said they really enjoyed it and a few said it was the best wedding they’d been to – including their own!

Even my speech went well. I didn’t actually write one but knew pretty much what I wanted to say so made it up off the top of my head. I also finally got the chance to make up for having missed two of my best friend’s weddings. But you’d have to have been there to see how! 🙂

I haven’t seen the official photos my friend Ade took (I get them on Thursday) but I’m sure I’ll be uploading one or two of them when I do. In the meantime, here’s the happy couple enjoying beautiful weather in Glencoe!


Aren’t they sweet?!


It’s Raining, But I’m Smiling


Well, here I sit in a café in Portree on the Isle Of Skye. It's been raining pretty much non-stop since my wedding on Friday but how do I feel? I'm the happiest man alive.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the whole wedding idea, it turned out to be the most amazing day of my life and about a million times better than I ever could have dreamed of. Some friends even told us that they never thought they'd go to a wedding to rival their own (your own is always the best apparently and mine is no exception!) but with ours it did.

A colleague warned me that the wedding vows are "more than just words" and he was absolutely right – as I was repeating the vows to my wife (woo hoo!) the gravity of the situation hit me along with the emotion of it all and I broke down. She looked absolutely beautiful and as I was looking her in the eyes I meant every word and they came from the bottom of my heart. The rest of the day was a blur that flew by in a flash – and when we get home and look at the photos I'm sure it'll all come flooding back. To spend the day as the centre of attention with all my friends and family there to witness us tying the knot was truly wonderful and I only wish it could have lasted longer.

It may sound corny but already I feel like a different person. I left Yorkshire a boyfriend but I'm returning as a husband. Anyway, I'll write more when I get home and put up some photos, but in the meantime my wife is putting on her jacket – it's raining outside and we've got scenery to go and look at! Later.


A Trip Back Home And Google Spreadsheets


Well, I’m away up north to get married followed by a week of travelling around Scotland. We decided that since we do a lot of long-haul travelling (we’re off to Australia in December for example) it would be a great opportunity to drag my good lady around some of the more interesting and mountainous parts of Scotland that I spent my younger days hiking. It’ll be a trip down memory lane and a chance to thrash my car around twisty roads.

Since I’ve left everything until the last minute I haven’t packed yet – I’ll do it when I get home after work. Then I’ll head north. Fortunately this has finally given me the opportunity to do something useful with Google Spreadsheets. Powerful though spreadsheets are, I never have a need for them, but when you’re writing a list of everything you need to pack, they’re ideal:


What was even cooler was when my good lady logged onto it from home and could check it over, make changes that I immediately saw, and we could send messages to each other. Very slick indeed.

Anyway, I’ll be radio silent for the next week or so as I’ll be far away from the internet. I just hope this weather holds!


Last Minute Nightmares


With a couple of days to go before I get married you'd expect I'd be waking up in a cold sweat as a result of any of the following nightmares:

  • It's the wedding day and I'm walking down the aisle in my pyjamas / pants / birthday suit – I've forgotten my suit and everybody is laughing at me.
  • My car's broken down on the way to the venue, it's torrentially raining and my mobile phone is dead – she's going to think I stood her up!
  • I fall down the stairs and sprain my ankle walking to the venue. I spend the rest of the day with my foot up and ice on my ankle – not exactly ideal.
  • The minister doesn't turn up / is blind drunk (might be funny) / gets into a fight with my brother / me / my girlfriend / Auntie Jane.
  • Some crazy ex-girlfriend / stalker turns up at the "does anybody know any reason why this couple shouldn't wed?" bit and has my baby in her arms / screams that she loves me and I love her / gets into a fight with my brother / me / my girlfriend / Auntie Jane / the minister / all of the above.
  • I walk to the venue, see a flash of lightning and suddenly I've been thrown ten years into the future. Everybody thinks I'd stood her up, she met some tanned hunk and married him instead and I'm stuck in a world where I'm completely lost and out of place.
  • A gang of long-haired European, terrorists take over the castle and hold us hostage while stealing some bearer bonds from the vault.
  • Someone spills red wine over my suit (that'll make sense when I upload some wedding photos after the event).

But no, none of those have forced me to wake up and think "thank God, it was only a dream!". Instead I found myself in a barbers in Dundee. It was a large, empty room with a chair in the middle which I was sitting in. It looked like a sunny day outside but my main concern was with the guy that was cutting my hair.

"Right, I just want a tidy up – whatever you do don't cut much off it" I instructed. But I could see a look in his eye so I felt I had to clarify: "I know you think it'll look great if you cut more off, but trust me I'll hate it – don't even think about it".

At this point he started laying into my fringe and that was my cue to go ballistic. I was on my feet yelling at him using every four letter word and insult I could think of. I touched my forehead and realised that my fringe was far far too high up – this just got me angrier. I was enraged!

Of course then I woke up and realised it was all a dream. I felt relieved. Then I thought "what the hell am I worrying about my hair for? I've still got to write my damned speech!". Which reminds me, I've still got to write my damned speech… 


4 Weeks To Go


Exactly 4 weeks from today I'm getting married.

The process of planning a wedding hasn't been exactly what I expected it to be. I knew there would be pressure and I was fully expecting to battle it all out with family members as to who was cut from the list. I knew that lots of people would be saying "well they invited you to their wedding 10 years ago so you should invite them" even though we'd not even spoken to them since.

But I was wrong. That part turned out to be pretty straightforward. What I wasn't prepared for was spending time thinking about the wedding and not about each other. I guess it's easy to forget that you have to work at relationships and you can't keep burying your head in the sand. If I'm honest I was starting to look at the wedding as a chore, a formality to get out of the way and everything would be fine once it was over and done with. But that's no way to approach a wedding.

After much soul searching and low points, we both realised that we'd stopped communicating, stopped spending the time together we should have, stopped doing the fun things we used to do and had slowly slipped into a rut. We were wondering if we should even carry on with the wedding at all. But once we realised what the problem was we picked ourselves up and starting doing things together rather than her watching TV, me going on the computer. We started being a couple again and we're much happier. Suddenly we both remembered why we wanted to get married in the first place!

When I was younger I always assumed that relationships between people who were meant to be together just worked. Everything clicked, things never went wrong and there were never any lows. But that's ridiculous (well certainly after the first couple of years – prior to that it's all a honeymoon period). All relationships have their ebbs and flows – when things are good they're great, but when things slip you start to notice all the flaws, all the negatives and can easily get consumed but it.

I remember watching a program about relationships a year or so ago. They had a young couple who'd just met, a couple about to get married, one that had been married a short while right up to a couple in their 70s who'd been married forever. What I found most interesting and endearing was the elderly couple. They said that the secret to their staying together so long and being happy together was that they knew that they had to work at their relationship and would have their ups and downs, but to always keep in mind what brought them together in the first place. They said that all too often these "young folk" hit hard times and gave up to easily – hence the high divorce rates these days. They may have been in their 70s but they were still young at heart with their outlook on life and sense of humour. And after all these years they were still very much in love – seeing photos of them when they met you could still see the sparkle in their eyes now. They were really lovely.

We know that once we're married we've still got to work at it, and if we stop doing that we'll end up right back in a rut again. So often couples come back from the high of a year of wedding planning, the perfect wedding day, an awesome honeymoon to the reality of their former lives. They're under the illusion that the rest of their lives will be like their wedding day, but of course that's not the case. As that elderly couple said, you've got to keep working at it!

But in the meantime, I've got a party in 4 weeks to look forward to! If you want to buy us a present from our wedding list, my good lady has put one up on Debenham's website – just search for my name! 😉