Ribbons and silk

Steve and I went to London recently to look for a cravat for him to wear at our May Celebration.  I’m wearing a deep pink dress and he was looking for something green to wear with his grey suit. We have chosen green and pink because those were the colours of our handfasting ribbons at our Soul Wedding in 2010.

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Surprisingly, quite a few young sales assistants do not even know what a cravat is!  We were directed to neckties or pocket squares.  A couple of shops near Jermyn Street had cravats and waistcoats, but we didn’t find anything suitable that was ready made.   One possibility was Andy & Tuly.  They had a selection of silk dupioni and made cravats to order.  We took some tiny samples of green to put next to my dress.

Finally, we went to The Silk Society in Berwick Street.  There, we found some beautiful embroidered green silk.

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We were given some samples and they wrote a reference in a notebook, so that they will know exactly what we require should we decide to order some fabric.  The darkest thread matches my dress perfectly.

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I thought I might make Steve’s cravat, but I chickened out in the end.  The fabric we chose is quite expensive (£95/metre) and I’d rather experiment for a less important occasion.  I got in touch with a very helpful woman at The Cravat Company in Leicester.  She measured their pattern and we figured out that they will only need about 30 cm of fabric.  One side will be embroidered and the other side will be plain.  I made the purchase from the Silk Society, sent it up to Leicester and we should receive a beautiful, bespoke cravat any day now.

A couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves in the haberdashery department at House of Fraser in Birmingham and picked out some ribbons for the handfasting that we are having as part of our May Renewal of Vows.  They are slightly wider than our previous ones and the colours are deeper.  Wider and deeper, just as our marriage has deepened and widened.

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It is going to be a very beautiful day!

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Something old, something new

Weddings, our wedding and weddings in general, are very much on my mind these past few weeks.  It’s the time of year that Steve and I were at our busiest, getting all of the final details in order for our wedding last May.  We chose to get married in late May, when the world is coming to life.

We haven’t yet reached the fullness of summer, but all around us the trees and hedgerows are bursting into full glorious leafiness.  Energy is on the increase and we are in the season of Beltane, a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.  We chose to have our wedding at this fecund time of the year and really feel that our first year of marriage has been imbued with positive, blossoming energy.  In fact, we haven’t been writing much on this blog because we’ve been pretty busy with some wonderful shifts and openings with my artwork and with some opportunities for Steve to hone his craft of writing.

On Friday, Great Britain had a Royal Wedding.  Steve and I  got dressed up in our civil ceremony wedding clothes and went down to the White Horse Inn (where we had our Soul Wedding last year) to watch it on telly.  I’ve heard that William and Catherine would have preferred to have a small, intimate wedding with close family and friends.  But, I suppose that they had to perform on such a massive worldwide stage, since it is a Royal Wedding, after all.

On the day of the Royal Wedding, 29th April 2011

I found myself wondering who was with Kate Middleton when she got dressed on the morning of her wedding (besides Sarah Burton!)  I truly hope that there were no photographs taken to be released for publication.  Quite a few brides do invite their photographer to take photos while she is dressing and the photos are really lovely.  I chose not to because for me this was a private time, a sacred time as I paused on the threshold of being a single woman, about to join my journey with Steve’s.

My beloved cousin Susan and my dear friend Jayne were my attendants.  We had coffee and pastries with Steve, and after he went off to get dressed, the three of us got ready, put on our makeup together, talked about other weddings.  It was lovely to be with two women whom I feel so close to.  They have each known me from the very beginning of my relationship with Steve and watched us blossom.

Me and Susan

I nipped out to pin Steve’s boutonnière onto his lapel, before putting my dress on.  Even though we live together, Steve hadn’t seen my Soul Wedding dress and we both wanted him to wait until I arrived at the venue in full regalia.

Boutonnière for my groom

Jayne brought me some wonderful gifts – something old (beads from her Gran’s necklace), something new, something borrowed, something blue  .  .  .  .  .  .  and a sixpence for my shoe.  Traditionally a sixpence was given to the Bride on her wedding day by her father to give her luck and happiness. (Jayne is a bit naughty, so I won’t tell what the other gifts were!)  I was also given some marital advice including a philosophical view on marriage as ‘a work of art in progress’ and a reminder to shag a lot.

Jayne and I

When we walked out into the public eye and down the street to the inn, Susan and Jayne were right with me.

Susan, Melinda and Jayne

Let’s Get Lost

On Sunday September 5th, Steve and I had a little party at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth.  It was actually a double celebration.  First, we wanted to celebrate our wedding with some Midlands-based friends.   We each wore the wedding clothes that we wore for our civil wedding ceremony at the Exeter Register Office.

21st May, 2010

Landlord John Tighe set aside an area in the garden for us which has a big screen TV.  Steve put together a DVD of our fabulous wedding photos which we projected.  The music was what we listened to at our wedding reception.  We both love popular and jazz music from the 1930’s and 1940’s and put together a great playlist on Steve’s iPod.   We also took Devon-based food.  Venison pasties from the butcher over the road from us, Clive’s vegetarian pies and two vegan chocolate cakes from the Plant Cafe in Exeter.  Oh, and of course clotted cream.  We took some Prosecco for a toast in honour of our honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast.  We gave everyone organza bags with sugared almonds and gummi bears.  It was a fun evening.  As we were on our way to Amsterdam for our anniversary trip, we sent everyone home with delicious leftover food.

Nicky Getgood, a wonderful Digbeth-based blogger and cyber-networker was in attendance, which was great.  I met her online after my first trip to Digbeth in August 2008.  I had written about my trip here, her blog found my blog and the rest, as they say, is history.  The night that I went to The Spotted Dog on my return trip (September 5th, 2008) I met my husband Steve.  So this was our other reason to celebrate – the night we met.  Here are some photos that Nicky took with her iPhone at our Spotted Dog party.

I’m also writing about our trip to Amsterdam on my blog Inspiraculum.  Here’s a photo of us taken at the Prins Hendrik Hotel in Amsterdam.  One of the musicians we love, Chet Baker, died there in 1988 and we went to pay homage and drink a toast to him.  Here’s one of “our” songs:  ‘Let’s Get Lost’, perhaps the definitive Chet Baker tune.   Recorded in 1956, it’s a perfect example of the cool and breezy West Coast sound.  A romantic tune that highlights both Chet’s horn and his singing.

Steve & Melinda - lost and found

Wings of Love

I’d been banking on warm weather for the month of May.  Last year, we turned the heating off at the end of April and didn’t turn it back on until November!  Still, this is England and I should know to expect anything.  My wedding dress is ivory satin and silk chiffon.  I have a pearl-trimmed silk pashmina to go around my shoulders, but I think that I may need something a bit more.

I found a fur capelet in a vintage clothing store in Exeter, but it was too big and too long.  Also, while I don’t have a problem with eating meat and wearing leather, I’m not quite sure about wearing fur.  I visited some of the bridal shops and department stores, but didn’t strike lucky.  So I went online and ordered an ivory maribou stole from John Lewis.  It arrived today and it is quite fabulous.  I won’t be able to see it with my wedding dress until Saturday (it’s away being hemmed), but I am quite smitten with it.  I had it on over my dressing gown today and to wear it is like being held by an angel.

He needs a trousseau, too

Trousseau (from Fr. trousseau, originally “a bundle”, n. pl. trousseaux).  Traditionally, a trousseau is the outfit of the bride, including the wedding dress.  From Victorian times till today, the trousseau also has consisted of brand-new outfits to see a woman through her wedding, honeymoon, and newlywed days.  But let’s not forget the groom  .  .  .

The Montreal Gazette - Feb 9, 1971

We went to London last weekend to complete Steve’s trousseau.  Steve had already bought a beautiful grey wool morning suit from Lugets, Exeter’s oldest independent retailer established prior to the Battle of Waterloo.  He had thought of merely renting one for the occasion, but this fine suit will do double or even triple duty at Ascot or the Queen’s Garden Party (apparently the only other places that a man can wear a grey morning suit – according to their sales person extraordinaire Justin).

The outfit was accompanied by a jacket that transformed it from morning suit to lounge or business suit at the drop of a hat. And so, wearing the jacket in order to gauge the suitability of other clothes, we boarded a train and headed for the smart end of London town.

Our destination was Piccadilly Arcade, just off of Jermyn Street in London’s West End. Our quarry: a waistcoat, tie, shirt and shoes.

Piccadilly Arcade

Of course, there are other places where you can find these things. But, probably, not quite so many. Not quite of such good quality. And not all within a stone’s throw of each other.

The first order of the day was to find a waistcoat. Something wonderful in ivory to go with Melinda’s dress. We’d already looked online and found a shop that we had visited once before and been impressed by their array of fine waistcoats. But, memory can deceive and the computer screen can lie and our first choice of shop was a disappointment. Racks of waistcoats and a selection of styles, but none of them quite matching the dream that we carried with us to compare against the real thing.

And so we found ourselves a few doors up the arcade at Neal and Palmer.

Neal & Palmer, Piccadilly Arcade

Wow!  This shop was a veritable cornucopia of waistcoats in every hue and pattern imaginable.


The waistcoat we had imagined was there. Just hanging on a rack alongside it’s fellow ivory waistcoats, waiting nonchalantly – as only a good waistcoat can – for us to wander through the door.

Ivory, with roses embroidered upon it. A good fit too, although not perfect. And so, having fallen for the cloth, we took up the offer of having a waistcoat tailor made.

"The" ivory waistcoat

While Steve was being measured around his waist, across his shoulders and down the length of his back, Melinda carefully arranged the suit jacket, show waistcoat and an ivory tie for a photograph. Around this point, another customer walked in to make some obscure but lengthy point about a wedding being delayed because of volcanic ash and asking for wedding suits to be similarly delayed.

A lot of distraction, in other words. So, when the sales assistant asked Steve if he’d like to buy the tie along with the waistcoat, Steve simply proffered his card and paid for both. It was only a week or so later that Steve realised he’d bought a £48 tie.

But, said Steve, what the heck. It’s a beautiful tie and it will look great on all of our next 48 (and more) anniversaries. £1 a time, or less depending on future usage, makes it a bargain.

Next came the shirt. We found it less than 100 yards away, at Harvie & Hudson,  in Jermyn Street.  Actually, we found three shirts.  Two white ones, one for the civil wedding ceremony and one for the soul wedding ceremony, and a blue one to go on honeymoon and be worn with Steve’s ivory linen suit, possibly to a concert of chamber music under the stars in the garden of an Italian villa.

Making it real

A marriage begins with a dream. At first it is a dream that is a secret between just two people, two souls who have found each other.

Gradually, other people get to know about the dream and to hear about the wedding. But, for a long time, it’s a concept: something real and yet still unreal. A vague intention made up of a range of possible dates, a mish-mash of what-ifs and maybes as plans take place, swirl around, disappear and finally take shape.

To let the dream take breath requires a lot of this conjecturising, conceptualising, thinking and planning. For us, we’ve already spent more than a year thinking about what we want our wedding to look, taste and feel like.

Finally, after walking a long path that sometimes took us into cul-de-sacs and alleyways, we knew the date and venue we wanted. From that choice, we knew how many people we could invite to the ceremony and who they would be. And we knew what we would wear and eat.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been making these dreams and plans become real.

Suits and dresses have been bought for both our soul wedding and the legal registry office ceremony that takes place the day before. Our venue – The White Horse Inn in our home town of Moretonhampstead – has been booked and the menu agreed. We’ve talked to our celebrant, the humanist Alison Orchard, about the shape and words that should be used in our ceremony and are now making the final few amends. We have booked a choir – Sine Nomine (part of Counterpoint) – to perform madrigals and sacred music. And we have chosen the music that the choir will sing during the ceremony and that will be on our iPod for the reception and party that  follows. We’ve asked Katy Marchant of the Daughters of Elvin to provide some early music for our party and to accompany our labyrinth walk.

Did we mention our labyrinth walk? A labyrinth is not a maze. It is a spiral pattern that has just one pathway leading through it. So, as you follow the path, your mind is freed to imagine, to meditate and to soar. Our labyrinth will be formed from white stones donated by The Birmingham Bead Shop and built in the garden of Ann Casson, Deacon of St. Andrews, the 15th Century church that sits at the top of our street. As part of our wedding celebrations, we’ll be leading our guests through the labyrinth before our afternoon party begins.

Now, with less than six weeks to go, all the thoughts, plans and dreams of the past year and more are being made increasingly real with each passing day – especially as the responses to our invitation arrive through the post each morning.

The hours of thought, fine-tuning, changing this tone or that picture that went into the invitation have all been worthwhile. After all, for each person who received one , their invitation represented the first part of our wedding ceremony. They are already part of the day that is coming – but our invitation was the first step on the journey that they will travel with us on our way to our wedding.

Our invitation - wrapped in ribbon.

We talked to our printer – Formatrix – very carefully about the type of material on which the invitation would be printed. We wanted people to take it from the envelope and feel love beneath their fingers.

Making it easy for our guests to make choices

We created a whole range of inserts – from a simple announcement of the details of the ceremony to a card that enabled our guests to indicate their choice of menu.

An invitation to the labyrinth...

This week, we booked our honeymoon villa – set into a cliff on the Amalfi Coast in Italy – and booked our flights.

There’ll be more to do over the coming weeks, of course, but now the dream – at last –  is tangible and taking solid form. And it is beautiful to behold.

A Wedding Dress

Steve and I are having two weddings.  Our main, soul wedding will be conducted by a Humanist celebrant.  However, at present, a Humanist wedding has no legal status in England.  So we will also have a civil marriage ceremony in the Register Office in Exeter.

I already have a beautiful ivory silk gown to wear at our soul wedding and have been looking around for a dress for our civil ceremony.  Do you know sometimes when you set off searching for something – a new house or a piece of furniture or curtain fabric – and the very first thing you look at seems perfect?  And you think, ‘No, I should look a bit more, maybe there’s something even better out there.  I shouldn’t be impulsive’.  But you know deep in your heart that you really don’t need to look any further.

Well, this happened with my civil wedding dress.  We went to a lovely clothing boutique in Chagford where I tried on a dress and matching jacket designed by British mother & daughter team Paddy Campbell. Their ethos is to design and make chic, elegant, beautifully detailed, impeccably finished ‘clothes to love forever’.  Most of the clothes are made in United Kingdom, so that every stage of the design and production process can be controlled, and ensuring that everything is made to the highest standard.

The shop Susan at Number Ten is owned by Susan Powell.  More than just sell beautiful clothes by great designers, Susan endeavours to bring elegance to the heart of what she does.  This quote is from her website:

“Elegance is about the way you treat people and about a certain generosity, the right kind of generosity with a dash of humility” – Dita von Teese

Well this dress and jacket are exquisite and seem to have been made for me.  I did go out to Exeter and tried on a few other dresses, but this ensemble was The One.  Plus I’ll be able to wear it on many other occasions.

The cut away jacket is made from a fine soft fluid wool crepe with matching satin silk trim on the jacket lapels, turn back cuffs and a rose over the button.

The bracelet length sleeves can be worn down or turned back to reveal an elegant notch at the back.

The lace shift dress is lined with cream satin and has cap sleeves and a pretty silk bow at the vee of the neck.

Italian lace - detail

All I need are a pair of bone pumps to complete my outfit!