It was a year ago, to be precise – and if you’d asked me then I’d never have believed it would take me a whole 12 months to get around to writing about it.
Even now, I’m not sure why it did. Because I wanted to hold it all close to me and keep it my own for a while? Perhaps. Because I was arguing with a couple of big glossies about exclusivity rights? A bit.
And also just… it’s so huge. I love telling stories, but how do you tease out the details of a day where every tiny intricacy was planned to be perfect? How do you decide which of the 1000 glorious photographs in the photographer’s dropbox are the right ones to share?
A little bit of distance has helped me with this. Now I can tell you about the things that have stayed with me, over the last year of happily married life. With… a few too many photos. I’m only human, after all…
The morning of
I don’t know when I woke up, I’ve no idea what I ate for breakfast. At some point, though, I know my awesome bridesmaids arrived, and Nadia turned up bearing freshly-finished bridesmaids dresses in the most gorgeous seafoam-coloured Mills & Merchant linen. Emily came and worked wonders with my hair, while James snapped the first photographs of the day, and everyone commented on how relaxed I seemed.
I don’t really do ‘relaxed’ very often, so it’s funny that this day, of them all, was when it came out. I guess that was always our plan, though – to have a day filled with the best people and lots of fun, and to limit as much stress and perfectionism as possible. Who knew we’d pull it off?!
There’s a caveat here, though: my family. It would be false of me to pretend that the day ran smoothly without mentioning the unending drama they bring into my life. I know many of you reading this will relate – when home is where the hurt is, and you never know when the next bomb will go off.In fact, until I stepped down the aisle, hand in hand with Rory, I didn’t know if they were going to show up or not. The day before they had driven up to shout at me as I decorated tables, and told me they wouldn’t attend. It’s a longer story for another day, but suffice to say that they did show up, and either way, I’d reconciled myself not to let it define our day for us. Boundaries are hard to draw, and so I tell myself to try and welcome these opportunities to practice it, however grim.
So by the morning of the wedding, they were gone from my thoughts, and I was giddy to have three of my favourite women on Earth to myself for a few hours. I seem to recall champagne, a lot of bread, and some emergency cake-restoration by my Best Woman Helen – and Fiona turning up with my incredible flowers is indelibly saved to my heart. I wriggled into my dress and we climbed into my bridemaid’s lovely battered old car to drive over the hills to the venue.
I’d been there just the night before, so that I gasped on arrival is testament to the incredible work of our stylist, Hannah, and our assembled team of awesome friends & helpers. It was transformed, and wonderful, and yet as I carefully walked around mounds of sheep poo to say a surprise hello to an anxious Rory, I wasn’t even tempted to take out my phone and instagram the moment. That is as mindful and present as it gets, for me 😉.
Rory being the adorable cinnamon roll he is, he cried when he saw me.
Rory and I had always planned to walk down the aisle hand in hand – no ‘giving away’ formalities, just another adventure we’re taking together. We’d offered Orla the option of joining us too, but she’d found some nice sparkly stickers in her party bag and so was much too busy to be bothered with the petty details of our getting married.
Our pianist played ‘pretty good year’ by Tori Amos and we walked in down an aisle of glittering candles and scattered greenery.
Our officiant, despite being a practicing nonconformist minister, conducted a non-religious, human based ceremony for us as a good family friend and fellow Yorkshireman. We’d pulled together an informal blessing influenced by the magical land we’ve made a home in – and as we said our ‘I do’s’ the nesting swallows swept overhead, the sun streaked through the cracks in the barn wall and it all felt a bit magical and blessed, to be honest. Not to get too whimsical on you, of course.
We asked family members and friends to light a candle and read a blessing for us – seven in total – and some friends read some poems we’d chosen.
Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
– Jane Hirshfield, A Blessing For A Wedding
As the pianist played a bit of Regina Spektor, we had a shower of rose petals, and then strolled over to pop open Champagne which we drank from dreamy champagne bowls. We opened the huge metal doors at the back of the barn to uncover the landscape and hugged all our favourite people, and heard their treacherous stories of arriving over winding lanes, closed motorways and muddy fields.
At some point we dragged everyone outside for the surprise of daytime fireworks – and then we came back inside to sit at trestle tables exactly like my much-instagrammed kitchen one, to eat, drink and be merry together.
Time for cake
One of my favourite parts of the whole wedding was our cake table – woven together by Hannah’s sheer brilliance, and the generosity of so many of our guests bringing along their home baked gorgeousness.
Then there were speeches (7-year-old Frieda stole the show with hers), drinking, chatting, laughing. We had a bouncy castle (in white, natch) and hay bale sofas and board games, and outside we lit a bonfire as the sun slowly set.
As the night drew in, the barn glowed warm with candlelight, and could be seen for miles around. We had a live ceigligh band, more drinks, and a visit from a very necessary fish & chip van.
See the ruins in the background? I wanted to talk to them but everybody said no. Something about a swamp and needing waders… mumble grumble. I’m going back there some day, I’m telling you 😉.
After a few last photos, I took off my cape, and Orla promptly claimed it for her own. The cèilidh band started up and we successfully avoided all the usual awkwardness of a British dance floor by dancing fun and dizzying folk dances with our favourite friends in endless spinning circles.
As the fire died down and the candles grew short, people headed home, to hotels or to their tents and camper vans in the field outside. We set up our silent disco with rival playlists, and snuggled up on hay bales to watch the brilliant sight of our favourite people, drunken and merry, dancing and singing in absolute silence.
When I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, we headed home, and a deer skittered past us, glittering in the headlights as we drove the narrow lanes home.It was a little moment of magic – a tiny bit of fairytale, in a fairytale, happy-ever-after sort of day.
A very instagram wedding
I’ll be writing a second, more practical post on the how-to of it all, including all our suppliers for all those people out there googling and anxiously planning their own totally DIY, semi-impromptu barn wedding.
But until then, I must extend the following huge, heartfelt thank yous to the people & companies who made our day extra special:
Here's the problem with perfect; it's achievable, but not sustainable. You can do it for a night, a day, an event, maybe a while. You can starve yourself skinny or primp yourself pretty, or hoover [...]