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

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.”

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.

Our wedding quilt

One wedding tradition is for a bride to be to make a quilt for her marriage.  I’ve been working on a wall quilt which will hang at the altar during our wedding ceremony and then at the head of our marriage bed.  I’ve been writing about the work in progress here on my blog Inspiraculum.

This is the pattern for Cleaved, our wedding quilt.