Speaking to the truth

The speeches. There are books written about how to make a speech at a wedding. There are hours spent agonising over the choice of the best words, the most appropriate tone and the etiquette of exactly when the speeches should take place.

As with everything else we planned for our day, we first of all decided whether or not we wanted speeches at all. And, fairly quickly, we decided that we did: it was an opportunity to speak about the meaning of the day and the beauty that lay at the soul of the occasion. The next decision was about timing; when should the speeches take place? We toyed with the idea of spreading them throughout our wedding feast, perhaps between courses. Finally, we imagined the day, saw it take place in our mind’s eye and – as it unfolded before us – knew that the speeches would take place after the main course and before we got stuck into the vast array of desserts that would be available.

Melinda’s speech came from her sense of bringing a dowry to our marriage, which she has already written about beautifully in this blog. For my speech, I wanted to talk about what the day was all about.

The speech begins...

This is what I said, leading up to the toast:

Today is all about love.

It’s about love that Melinda and I have for each other and that we have shared with you today.

It’s also about love in so many other ways.

It’s about the love that Melinda has put into each and every stitch of the beautiful quilts that are hanging in this room and the runners on our tables.

It’s about the love that our celebrant Alison Orchard put into helping us to draft the service today.

It’s about the love that Sine Nomine – the choir – put into the singing of our chosen madrigals and sacred music.

It’s about the love that our chefs Christophe and Nigel have put into the wonderful, wonderful food we have eaten today for our wedding feast.

It’s about the love that Malene and the waiting staff have put into making sure that our day has run so smoothly.

And it’s about the love that Phillipa has put into helping us to build the labyrinth that we hope you will all walk with Melinda and I this afternoon – joining us on the first steps of our journey into a life of married love.

Today is also about the love that you have all shown by joining us today as we celebrate our marriage.

It’s about the love that Susan and Sheldon have shown by accepting our invitations to be our bridesmaid and best man.

And it’s about the love that all of us in this room have for those who are close to us. Those who are with us today. Those who we see all the time. Those we see rarely but think of always. And those who we miss and wish we could see again.

So, for just a moment, I’d like all of us to think with our hearts.

Close your eyes if you want to and reach out to all those who you love: husband, wife, partner, lover, brother, sister, mother, father, friend. The loved ones who are far away, the ones who have left this world, the ones you cherish most.

Bring all of them here – into this room – so that they, in turn, can reach out to the ones they love and bring them here too.

And so, for just one moment, let this room be the focus of all the love in the world.


Now, take some of that love with you today. Keep it in your soul. And whenever you need it, take it out and let its light shine on you.


The toast, then, is quite simple. Please, raise your glasses and your voices: to love.

...and a gratifying response

My best man, Sheldon Bayley, had the unenviable task of giving a speech that – traditionally – has to be funny, poke fun at the groom, thank the bridesmaids and juggle a lot of emotions. He was nervous before the event, as this photo by our friend Steve Chamberlain shows.

A nervous pre-speech best man. (Pic: Steve Chamberlain)

But, as I knew he would, this talented and sensitive man delivered a speech that – simply, eloquently and powerfully – spoke to the truth:

Firstly, on behalf of Melinda and Steve, I’d like to thank John and Susan for their wonderful readings earlier, and as is the tradition, to thank Susan for carrying out her duties as bridesmaid so well. I’d also like to thank everyone for coming on this happy day to celebrate the marriage of Melinda and Steve. However, I do have to point out that not everyone is ‘over the moon’ with the situation as my eight year old daughter, Lily (who has had a long-standing crush on Steve) is devastated – but was soon consoled by the fact that he’s marrying Melinda who she describes as “beautiful, like a real-life Princess”.

When Steve asked me to be his best man, my first feeling was obviously one of honour to be asked to take on such an important role. However, this soon gave way to feelings of trepidation. After all, it was always going to be a hard act to follow a man who writes for a living. 

A man who writes very well for a living. And writes very well for pleasure too. He’s written slogans for top advertising campaigns, he’s a published journalist, he’s written film scripts that have done the rounds at the Cannes Film Festival and he’s written touching poetry that breaks your heart to read. And he’s just written that speech. In fact, there have been moments where I’ve toyed with the idea of employing a freelance writer to do this speech for me – but the only one I know who’s any good is Steve!

I first met Steve some seven years ago at The Custard Factory, a kind of business center for creative types in a traditionally industrial area of central Birmingham. I had just moved in, but Steve had been there since day one and had become something of a stalwart in the community, organising events like The Creative Circle where residents could get together socially and create the kind of vital contacts that the careers of freelancers live or die by. It wasn’t long before Steve took me under his wing (as he had done with so many people beforehand) and we found out that as well as both being ardent Liverpool fans, we had something of a shared history in the Birmingham scene. We had both been music journalists and had both worked in the media industry for many, many years. We knew the same people, we’d even been at the same gigs (most of which Steve had actually organised during his time as co-promoter of the infamous Click Club music night) but we’d never actually met until that moment. Ships in the night if you like. We struck up an instant and enduring friendship and over the next few years, Steve became many things to me: my best friend, my confidant, my work colleague and an inspirational figure in my life.

Let me explain that a bit more. Around this time, I had been through a difficult period in my own personal life, and on more than one occasion when I had poured my heart out to Steve, I detected that all wasn’t well with him. The thing is, Steve doesn’t do unhappy, he doesn’t do feeling sorry for himself, he’s an incredibly positive person who meets life’s challenges head-on and unapologetically enjoys himself. He always makes the most out of the situation he finds himself in and that unswerving self-confidence was what inspired me so much. Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel that Steve had come to a crossroads with his personal circumstances and that there was something fundamentally lacking in his own life. Still, he went his own way, buying a canal boat to live on, remarking that he should change the name of the vessel to “The Mid-Life Crisis”.

Then one night everything changed. The first I knew about it, was the next morning when he came to work at The Custard Factory and knocked on my door. I opened it to a different Steve Coxon. I knew immediately that something seismic had happened. He was bursting at the seams to tell me about this amazing woman he had met at The Spotted Dog the night before. Her name was Melinda, and he had been introduced to her by our mutual friend Nicky Getgood. Melinda was an artist who worked predominantly with fibres to create some truly interesting work (some great examples of which you can see around you today). Steve described one of her pieces in great detail, which was being exhibited in the pub itself. As he continued to recount the previous evening, I could tell that this Melinda had made a deep and lasting impression on him.

Over the next few weeks, I watched as Melinda and Steve went through what I can only describe as a proper courtship. Because Melinda lived in Devon, they communicated by every means they could. This involved numerous telephone calls, emails, video messaging and unusually in this day and age, writing letters. Sending things to each other that helped to confirm that they had both met someone of true significance in their lives. And of course, the trips to Devon became more and more frequent until they actually became trips back to Birmingham.

I finally had the pleasure of meeting Melinda in person at our Freelancer’s Christmas dinner in 2008. She was everything Steve has described… and much more. Melinda was charming, elegant and genuinely interested in everyone she met that day, and in turn, everyone was intrigued and impressed by her. She made quite an impact on our little scene. This was, to use a cliché, the perfect couple. 

They turned up, arm-in-arm, dressed-up-to-the-nines and it was obvious to everyone who was there, that this relationship was something that was meant to be, and that it wouldn’t be long before it was cemented by marriage.

Which brings us neatly back to today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… an artist and a writer, images and words, rose petals and slate, the perfect union… please all raise your glasses to the bride and groom – Melinda and Steve. 


Sheldon making his speech

Our bridesmaid Susan Neuville also made a speech that touched hearts with its honesty. We hope to put it here soon.


A dowry (also known as trousseau or tocher or, in Latin, dos, or in Croatian and Slovenian, dota) is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage.   It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride’s parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage.

The material goods that I bring to my marriage are largely related to cooking.

The Merriam Webster dictionary adds another definition to dowry:   a natural talent.  I consider all of my artwork, so far and yet to be created as a part of my dowry.

Art quilts

In some cultures, eg, Thailand, Pakistan, the dowry is displayed at the engagement party or at the wedding itself.  My art quilts decorated the granary barn of the White Horse Inn  where our wedding feast was held and I made the table runners for each table.

Earth, air, fire and water

I also made our wedding quilt, which hung at the altar during our wedding ceremony and now hangs over our marriage bed.
I love the idea of my dowry encompassing my creativity and transcending mere ‘stuff’.  Not only because I don’t have a lot of ‘stuff’, but many of the greatest treasures that I bring to my marriage have no material body or form.  Such as my flexibility and steadfastness, my understanding and communication skills, my love of beauty and ability to create a beautiful, harmonious environment.
More of the treasure that I bring to my marriage comes in the form of my wonderful family and friends.


Here follows the speech I gave at our wedding reception:

“A dowry is what a bride brings to a marriage.  It might be cattle or land.  Or it might be gold or fine cloths.  It might be stocks and shares.

My dowry is in this room.

One of the most important things I bring to my marriage is the wealth of the friendships I forge and the family that I have.

When I first met Steve, I immediately told my closest friends and family about this wonderful man I’d met.  And I wanted him to meet my wonderful family and friends.

It’s beautiful to have some of the people who are most important to me here today to witness and bless our marriage – and to be a part of our future life together.”

Picturing love

My friends Jenny and Simon came down from Scotland to attend both of our wedding ceremonies.

Jenny Rose is a very talented artist with a background in clothing and textiles and has fabulous seamstress and millinery skills.  (Hmmmmm  .  .  .  .  .  what exactly is her background? (Note to self:  Interview Jenny and post her amazing artwork on my other blog Inspiraculum)). She sent us a card with this lovely drawing inside – click on it to see a larger view.

” It was wonderful to be among such loving
and interesting arty folk for your weddings.

The Humanist service and your vows were beautiful and moving –
such potent energy speaking from the heart and soul
and the labyrinth was an engaging fitting finale.”

Simon Robinson is an ace photographer and had at least one of his (non-digital) cameras with him. We’re looking forward to seeing some of his photographs from the two days when he has finished gearing up for his upcoming exhibitions.

Photograph by Emma Solley

Going with the flow

It’s just over a week to our nuptials!  I got a little bit stressed over an incident with my wedding shoes a couple of weeks ago.  I pretty quickly realised that I was having a case of pre-wedding jitters and just about anything could’ve kicked it off. Apparently PWJs are very normal and can affect both bride and groom to be.  They make sense – not only are we planning what we hope will be a beautiful gathering and party for about 60 people and would like for all of the myriad facets to slip effortlessly into place, but we are about to change our whole lives.

Steve and I both knew that we would like to marry each other quite soon after we met.  In many ways, we feel like we already are married – while each keeping our own sense of autonomy, we each consider the other in all of our decisions and have plans and hopes for our future life together.  We’ve been making a home together for over a year.  We have similar personality types which helps immensely in communicating and conflict resolution.  And we are both creative artists, Steve with words and me with visuals, so we can understand and support each other’s artistic natures.  Still a wedding is about new beginnings as well as separating and loss.  It is about letting go and changing and adapting to another person as well as a new sense of who we are.

I’m currently doing some work with the four elements.  Not only am I making table runners for our wedding feast based on Earth, Air, Fire and Water, but have been connecting with my creativity and spirituality through them.  When Steve discovered that, due to work commitments, he wouldn’t be able to be home on a day that we had a series of appointments and errands scheduled, I decided to go with the organic flow of the river.

Water can teach us to hold plans and expectations lightly and notice where our energy is taking us and to be fluid like the element of water.  I rescheduled the things that we both had to be at and made plans to go to the ones that I could on my own.  It actually turned out to be a great day!  I had my hair cut and while I was at the salon, I found that all of their spa treatments were 50% off, so I was able to indulge in some pre-wedding pampering and relaxation which I had hoped to anyhow, but wasn’t sure about when I’d find the time.

Here’s my Water table runner and you can read about the construction techniques here.

Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day

Here’s another song from our wedding reception playlist, performed here by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra on May 20, 1932.  Still great after 80 years!

Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day

Here’s some news that’ll get you,
It’s made to order for you.
I just bet it’ll fit you,
Follow up these red hot blues.

Grab a taxi and go down,
Chinatown’s on a spree;
Let me give you the lowdown,
This is really history.

Whenever folks in Chinatown start acting gay
There’s something in the air that makes them feel that way.
Yeah, man, I heard somebody say
It’s Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day!

Old Smoky Joe’s so happy he can hardly wait,
He’s spent a million dollars for his wedding date,
Yeah, man, they’re gonna celebrate,
It’s Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day.

You better come on down,
Way down in Chinatown,
Oh, let me take you down
To see them kick the gong around.

A million cokies shouting, “Hay-de-hay-de-hay!”
The king of Sweden’s gonna give the bride away,
Yeah, man, I heard somebody say,
It’s Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day!

The king and queen of every nation
Were glad to get an invitation;
The prince of Wales said he would get away
For Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day!

They said a hundred thousand hoppies
Went over to China picking poppies,
They’re gonna put them all in one bouquet
For Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day!

It’s Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day!

Yeah, man! Why, what’s that them boys say?
It’s Minnie the Moocher’s wedding day!

Songwriters: H. Arlen & T. Koehler

Now is the Month of Maying

Wow, it’s great that May has arrived.  Our wedding month!  When I look at the calendar, I can see the weeks and days leading right up to our wedding.

I’ve had a burst of energy in the past few days and have finished one of our four elements table runners today – Air.  I’ve also done quite a bit of quilting on Cleaved.

Now is the Month of Maying is is one of the most famous of the English madrigals, by Thomas Morley published in 1595.  It is one of a few that will be sung prior to our wedding ceremony.

Now is the Month of Maying

“Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing, fa la,
Each with his bonny lass
Upon the greeny grass. Fa la.

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness, fa la,
And to the bagpipe’s sound
The nymphs tread out their ground. Fa la.

Fie then! why sit we musing,
Youth’s sweet delight refusing? Fa la.
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,
Shall we play at barley-break? Fa la.

Barley-Break is an old English country game frequently mentioned by the poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was played by three pairs, each composed of a man and a woman, who were stationed in three bases or plots, contiguous to each other. The couple occupying the middle base, called hell or prison, endeavoured to catch the other two, who, when chased, might break to avoid being caught. If one was overtaken, he and his companion were condemned to hell. From this game was taken the expression “the last couple in hell,” often used in old plays.

Its use in literature usually has sexual connotations. The best known example is in Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s play The Changeling, in which an adulterer tells his cuckold “I coupled with your mate at barley-break; now we are left in hell”. The use of the phrase in Thomas Morley’s madrigal Now is the Month of Maying probably means something similar to the idiom “roll in the hay”.

Source – Wikipedia

My Baby Just Cares for Me

Designing our wedding invitation was pretty easy.  It followed that we had lots of decisions to make for all of the details that will make up our wedding day, so we’ve been really busy the past couple of weeks.  Besides who will be there, what we’ll eat and what gifts we might like to receive,  we’ve thought about what music (live and recorded) we’ll have as the soundtrack to our wedding.

Our wedding ceremony and reception venue, The White Horse Inn has a great sound system and we’ve started compiling a playlist for the reception.  One of the songs that we chose is this one, sung by the great Nina Simone and animated here by Nick Park of Aardman Animation.