In 1998 I was a single 30 year old enjoying my life in London. My good friend Sharon was going out with a very nice man called Simon. I liked Simon, he was an actor, funny, easy-going, a good raconteur and easy to spend time with when we were all out together. Sharon returned from a family dinner with Simon and told me what a lovely time she'd had AND that Simon had a brother who she thought would be PERFECT for me. James was funny, she said, a great raconteur, easy-going and easy to spend time with. Would I like to be fixed up for a date with him? Of course, I said. I had nothing to lose. Great, said Sharon. Great idea, said Simon..... but Simon never mentioned me to his brother and no blind date was arranged.
If this was a film, we'd have a caption screen here that reads "10 Years Later..."
During the intervening 10 years Sharon parted company from Simon but they stayed good pals. James met, married and divorced someone else and I had several relationships including a long distance engagement with a man in Tunisia. It wasn't until a few weeks before my 40th birthday, at a time when I had started to accept that "Mr Right" only existed in Jane Austen novels that Simon's brother was mentioned again. Sharon had been to see Simon in a West End play. It just so happened that his brother was in the audience that night too. Sharon took one look at him (only the second time she'd ever seen him) and still believed we would make a good match but this time she didn't wait for Simon to introduce us. She found James on Facebook, introduced us and we soon realised how our lives had been lived in parallel, how much we had in common and how excited we were to meet.
One week after my 40th birthday we had our first proper date. He says that for him it was love at first sight. For me... well... by our third date I realised what a special man I'd met.
We were both 40, that meant we had 80 years of life experience between us so no game playing, no withholding feelings from one another, no sugar coating the bad experiences in our past; just honesty, openness, a lot of love and a promise not to take one another for granted. He moved in with me 5 months later and proposed to me in Salzburg.
All very exciting. All very happy stuff. I organise people and meetings and things for a living so organising a wedding was going to be a piece of butter iced carrot cake!!! So why was I a Challenged Bride To Be? Here is a list of the things that began to overwhelm me and the hurdles I thought I couldn't overcome:-
- How to have a tasteful wedding on a no taste budget?
- How to find the right dress when a) I'm a plus size woman and wedding dress samples seem to all be size 10 b) my dress taste does not conform to the offerings in wedding dress shops c) I want a beautiful red velvet wedding dress with sleeves d) miniscule budget e) is it too much to ask that I actually look fabulous on my wedding day?
- How to console a grieving groom whose mother (a wedding caterer) died the previous Christmas and whose loss is felt during every step of the wedding planning process?
- How to sensitively include both my mothers in the wedding day (adoptive mother and birth mother)?
- How to ensure that we find a venue and plan a day that includes my father as a) he is wheelchair bound b) has dementia and yells and cries when he gets emotional or confused c) won't be able to do the traditional father-of-the-bride things such as walking me down the aisle, giving me away, speech etc d) how will we cope if he shouts throughout the ceremony and especially at the "Speak now or forever hold your peace" part?
- How to only invite the people that we love the most and really want to celebrate our special day with and not some people who expect to be invited?
- How to engage a groom in the venue selection and planning of a wedding when a) it's his second wedding b) he had no say in the planning of the previous wedding c) he states he is only interested in the music and d) he thinks the detail and planning is my domain and he is just happy to turn up on the day at the allotted time?!
- How to cope with the fact that everyone has an opinion about what our wedding should be like!
I'm looking forward to sharing all the challenges I met and how I coped with them. Some of the challenges are universal but some I found unique and difficult to deal with. At times I couldn't find any help or comfort during my internet research or from talking to friends and colleagues. I'd never met anyone adopted who had had both their adoptive mother and birth mother at their wedding. I didn't know anyone whose father was suffering with dementia on their wedding day and who was fearful that walking up the aisle and hearing a chorus of "Shut up! Shut up! I said no, I said no" from the front of the ceremony room was likely to make them lose it and cry off all their fabulous wedding day make up! But there must be other Challenged Brides out there so hopefully my story, and others, will help Challenged-Brides-To-Be to get through it all and have the wonderful wedding day they deserve!