You know, I can only write a post like this because I loved – and I mean LOVED – my wedding day. It was eight years ago this year. We organised it ourselves, in five months and on a strict budget.
The day itself was a daze from the moment I stepped into the church, and the moments that stand out in my memory are all the classic ones: walking up and down the aisle, concentrating hard and trying not to stumble over vows, signing the register, the first dance, cutting the cake, tossing the bouquet and so on. I don’t think I’ve given a thought over the years to what we could or should have done differently – until this week.
The nice people at John Lewis asked if they could partner with Miss Thrifty for a post about insurance, and I wasn’t going to, because right now I don’t have anything to say about insurance that I haven’t said already. Then I began clicking through the John Lewis site, came across a heap of stuff on wedding insurance – and had an extreme attack of there but by the grace of God…
Wedding insurance covers you if the bride, groom, close relatives or wedding party members fall ill and you have to postpone your wedding day. It ensures that you get your deposits back if any of your suppliers, from the reception venue to the florist and photographer, go bust. Even damage to the wedding cake is covered. Wedding insurance starts at £58 so relative to other wedding costs, it isn’t hugely expensive.
I didn’t know about wedding insurance when we organised our wedding. I don’t know if this was because wedding insurance wasn’t in vogue then, or because we were in such a rush, it passed us by. Probably a bit of both. But reading through the lengthy list of potential wedding day disasters, I recalled our own wedding day roll of suppliers and verbal agreements and handshakes and smiles, and realised for the first time how fragile our set-up had been. When it came to our wedding reception, we had nothing in writing. We “borrowed” a pub in Shoreditch for the day (pubs in that part of town are often closed at weekends) and arranged for the chefs there to conjure a giant barbecue, after an informal meeting with the landlord, who was our best man’s boss. We roped in friends to DJ, and another talented friend kindly took on the role of photographer. I could go on…
I am as risk-adverse as they come; looking back makes me shudder, when I think how fragile our arrangements were, how easily they could have fallen through and what a fix we could have been in had something gone wrong. I think we were lucky but, in retrospect, a safety net would have been a good idea.
Thinking about insurance got me thinking about what else I would do differently, if I could turn back time…
Making my own wedding cake. After I decided to make the cake myself, to save money, I went overboard. There were four tiers: fruit cake, chocolate cake, banana cake and a diabetic fruit cake on top, for my dad. I decided to decorate the cake with ornate sprays of sugar roses, despite having zilch sugarcraft experience.
I ended up buying a sugarcraft flower book off Amazon, and spending a fortune in the local cake shop on everything from little plastic rose leaf cutters to tiny pots of sugarcraft paints and powders. I practiced and practiced, for months. The roses were difficult to make, and terribly time-consuming, but by the week of the wedding I had killed it. My sprays of roses were awesome! I had the roses and the four cakes all ready to go; all I needed to do was ice and assemble.
From here it went downhill, mostly I think because with just a couple of days to go before the Big Day, I was sleep-deprived and borderline bonkers. I decided to follow the recipe in my book and make my own fondant icing, instead of just buying some of the roll-out stuff. A terrible move: when it went on the cake tiers, it turned lumpy! I cried, because it was a cakewreck and I thought it was too late to do anything about it. Then the day before the wedding my mum turned up, wielding a icing nozzle, pipe bag and decorative tape like an amazing cakey superheroine. She set to work and covered the worst of my awful handiwork.
The night before the wedding, tired and stressed, I went to fix on the sprays of roses… and dropped the biggest one. It fell through the air in slo-mo, and then the sugar flowers, buds and leaves smashed into tiny pieces on the kitchen floor.
I couldn’t even look at a sugar flower for a long time afterwards. Suffice to say: if, like me, you are prone to perfectionism and grand designs and you do not have experience in this field, DO NOT MAKE YOUR OWN WEDDING CAKE. All this was eight years ago, but typing it out here is making me relive the horror all over again. I’m gritting my teeth in the photo above.
Booking a minicab to take me to the church. Don’t get me wrong: it was a posh minicab, rather than a battered Ford Escort smelling of dog and fag ash. We were on a tight budget, and I couldn’t see the point of splashing out on a super-duper vintage car to take me from my flat to the church. I paid in advance for a car for me and my dad, and a car for my mum and the bridesmaids.
So far, so good – until both cars turned up at my flat at the same time. Off went the bridesmaids. We asked the driver of the other car to hang on outside for 15 minutes, but his English was poor and something went badly wrong with the communication. When my dad and I emerged, ready to go to the church, the car was nowhere to be seen. We waited. And waited. And eventually we realised that wherever the driver had gone, he wasn’t coming back.
With five minutes to go until we were due at the church, I was standing on the pavement in all my wedding finery, mobile phone clamped to my ear, trying to arrange a replacement car. In the end it was fine: a hastily-dispatched car came whizzing round the corner and got us to church bang on time. Those were a hairy few minutes though.
Three changes to the Big Thrifty Day: that’s not bad, I suppose. The biggest investment of the day certainly seems to have paid off nicely…
…And no, I am not talking about my eBay wedding dress!
If you got married on a budget, how did you do it – and looking back, is there anything you would do differently?