Thursday, 11 September 2008

An Unconventional Wedding

The average cost of a wedding nowadays is £20,000. But it’s possible to get married for a fraction of that and be spared all that pre-wedding hysteria.

Pip was 56 and I was 38 when we met, and by some quirk of fate, neither of us had previously been married nor had children. It didn’t take me long to realise that I had finally met the man I wanted spend the rest of my life with – and he seemed to feel the same – so I felt the situation should be honoured. Made official. Unfortunately Pip saw no reason to get married and ignored my increasingly less than subtle hints. Or so I thought.

We’d been living together for three years when we decided to go to Gibraltar for an early holiday in the sun. We had been restoring his boat White Heather for several years and felt we both deserved a rest. Several weeks before our holiday, Pip took me down to the empty shell of our boat and we climbed inside to view progress. In amongst the oily bilges, he went down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I burst into tears, said yes, and any progress on the boat was halted that day. We went to the pub instead.

When we sobered up, we discovered the problem was not who to invite, but who not to. Did we invite all the family, and all our friends? Where do you draw the line between guests and non-guests? We didn’t want a church wedding, but a quiet, simple affair. But where? Our friends and family are scattered around Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand and Cornwall is a long way from everyone.

As the list reached 150, Pip grabbed the holiday brochure. “Look,” he said. “You can get married in Gibraltar. Let’s do that!”

Delighted, I agreed. After all, I had left the brochure open at that page for some weeks now. Tying the knot in Gibraltar would only cost an extra £150 and would mean that someone else could deal with all the planning, administration and general migraine that accompanies most weddings.

The first thing was to find a dress. I couldn’t see anything I liked in the shops, so found a dressmaker in Falmouth and drew what I wanted on the back of an envelope. She sent me to a discount store for some material and a zip and my entire dress cost me £15.

Next came the problem of keeping it quiet. We had intended to marry in secret and tell everyone when we came back. But one of my brothers rang up. “My wife thinks you’re getting married in Gibraltar,” he said, which rather spoilt things. Lying convincingly is not a talent of mine.

Then my mother phoned. “You wouldn’t get married without telling me, would you?” came a quavery voice.

I clutched the phone wondering desperately what to say - I was damned either way. Shaking with guilt, I put down the phone and said to Pip, “It’s no good. We have to tell the family.”

When the news came out, there was outrage from young nephews and nieces who all wanted to participate in the wedding. Thankfully, my mother’s 70th birthday party coincided with our departure date, so we were able to have a non-wedding/birthday party with the family before we went.

We arrived in Gibraltar late in the day. The evening was warm and comfortingly dark, and the next morning we woke to clear blue skies and a temperature of 24 degrees C. For early May this was bliss.

Our travel representative met us in reception. Dennis was a courteous and efficient Gibraltarian who couldn’t have been more helpful. When he asked about flowers for the wedding, I smiled, remembering my childhood dream. “I’ve always wanted a bouquet of honeysuckle,” I said whimsically.

Unfortunately even Dennis couldn’t find honeysuckle, but he organised a photographer instead. My beloved blanched a little when Dennis asked us to meet him outside Mothercare the following day, but it turned out to be in a good cause. We were to meet a Commissioner of Oaths and swear an affidavit.

The day itself was wonderful. Dennis had booked us a taxi that took us to the registry office, an elegant old building with a big garden where our wedding photographs were taken. As we walked into the garden, I saw, to my delight, honeysuckle entwined round the iron railings. The photographer and registry clerk looked horrified as I ransacked their honeysuckle bushes and added handfuls of the strongly scented flowers to my bouquet. But a bride’s a bride, and this one had her wish.

The service was solemn and simple. Beside me, my intended paled in his new woollen jacket, and sweat poured off his brow, but he insisted later that this was nothing to do with forthcoming responsibilities. It was the heat. Dennis and the photographer acted as witnesses, I wasn’t arrested for attacking the honeysuckle, and we walked back to our hotel as man and wife.

The total cost of our wedding? £298. And I couldn’t have had a better day.

A shorter version of this is published in Brides in Cornwall Autumn 2008

20 comments:

Lane said...

That's beautiful. I'm glad you got your honeysuckle.
A wedding shouldn't be about how much money you can throw at it, as your article proves.

Akelamalu said...

Oh how romantic! I smiled all the while I read that, thank you so much for sharing it FP x

You got photos? I wanna see!

Ellee Seymour said...

What a wonderful story. I am so pleased you have met your Mr Right. I would love to see your wedding photo too. Please!!!!

Ellee Seymour said...

What a wonderful story. I am so pleased you have met your Mr Right. I would love to see your wedding photo too. Please!!!!

L-Plate Author said...

Hello flowerpot, I really enjoyed that, it was a lovely memory to share with us.

BTW, I did the whole caboodle twice but the second time cost no more than £300. Second time around it was worth every penny. x

Pat Posner said...

That's lovely, Flowerpot.
Husband often says the more a couple spend on a wedding - the quicker the divorce.
If you get paid for the article in
Brides in Cornwall - you probably will have got married for even less *smile*.

Rebecca Taunton said...

I love this story FP. It sounds very romantic. And well done for getting the story in Brides in Cornwall!

liz fenwick said...

Sounds blissfull.....love honeysuckle too :-)

JJ said...

What a lovely story. Thank you.

Around My Kitchen Table said...

What a lovely story - very heart-warming. Sadly, some couples are saving up for a divorce before they have finished paying for the wedding.

Flowerpot said...

lane - I was dead chuffed about the honeysuckle too!

ak - well I have got photos but no way am I sharing them with the internet!!!

ellee - thanks but I'm afraid no wedding pics!

Flowerpot said...

l-plate - lovely to meet you and I'm glad that second time around worked out for you!

Pat - very true. And I have been paid by Brides in Cornwall thanks!

RT - thanks for that!

Liz - it's lovely isnt it? So many different smells....

Flowerpot said...

jj - glad you enjoyed it.

table - how lovely to hear from you again!

Elaine said...

Aww, come on....we all know what you look like now! I'd LOVE to see the photos...or at least the honeysuckle bouquet. How romantic! x

MarmiteToasty said...

Perfect, it just sounds so perfect, from the beginning of this post to the end :)

x

Flowerpot said...

elaine - believe me, even the magazine didnt want the pictures!!! They got an illustrator instead!!

Marmie - ah, thanks. Mind you, this was written for a magazine....!

rosiero said...

Our engagement was in your part of the world - in Polperro, Cornwall, and we stayed in a caravan. Our wedding was a year later and our honeymoon was in, yes, Cornwall.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

What a delightful story. Thank you.

Flowerpot said...

rosiero - I hope you have happy memories. Of the honeymoon anyway.

Zinnia - glad you enjoyed it. Remember, this was for publication......!!!

kirstykookoo said...

Wow... that is so beautiful. WE are a young family and wish to marry but can't afford a conventional wedding. Would love to have the details of the persons whom helped you? please e mail med kirstymonroe@yahoo.co.uk

thank you for a wonderful read :O)