As I pondered over where to go with my next post, my thoughts kept trailing back to our wedding in July 2013. For me one of the highest ranking tasks was the detail. I was passionate (to say the least) that every detail reflected who we are, made the day special for our guests and had a way of expressing to our guests how truly grateful and humbled we were that they were there to support us. That said, in hindsight, I might have got a tad picky/particular/obstinate/verging on insane about the ‘detail’.
My friend (incidentally the lady who encouraged me to start this blog) and Agape Bridal Boutique owner Alex, who designed and made my wedding dress, recently shared the createdbyclemps blog along with a Rock My Wedding Blog on our day. It’s always so wonderful to reflect back, but what that blog doesn’t share is the heartache we went through during our engagement and planning period. Which, for the first time publically, I’d like to share a little of today… In the vein that I want this blog only ever to be honest and humble about human fallibility.
I don’t for a second regret the time, blood, sweat and tears (literally, on all fronts!) I spent on all our details. But I did, on more than one occasion, lose sight of what was really important. I tried to please everyone, almost entirely forgetting James and myself at times. I was over-anxious about letting anyone down, putting people to trouble or asking them to do something they didn’t really want to do. I have a confession about my Bridesmaids… I was too scared to tell them what I wanted them to wear. They chose their own dresses, based on a colour scheme. I was delighted with the outcome (they looked seriously stunning), but if I am gut wrenchingly honest, I didn’t have the confidence to say what I really wanted and I couldn’t bear the thought of them feeling uncomfortable and unhappy.
In trying to please so many I ended up doing the opposite. I offended, irritated, excluded, went hell for leather with my control of the whole affair, rarely let anyone help and jeopardised my health and relationships because of it. The week of our wedding I came down with a chronic virus, which took my voice the day before the wedding (I managed to croak out my vows on the day!). I had a horrendous sore throat, worsened by a tickly cough and couldn’t keep any food down. The day before our wedding I snapped at everyone, including my lovely Mum, who was desperately trying to help me. The day after, my face erupted into itchy acne, which was exacerbated by altitude on our long flight to our honeymoon destination. Poor James woke up next to Shrek the morning after marrying who he thought was his best friend!
I don’t mean to sound like a victim. I’ve been accused of being self-pitying once and the thought guts me. The fact is our wedding was EXTRAORDINARY and my formerly set out objectives (I think) were achieved. Our guests felt appreciated, all of them said how unique the day was and I am confident we depicted ourselves in every part. The reason I tell the truth about how it was at times is to encourage Brides-to-be that it’s ok to find the planning process really hard. I’d also encourage them to have confidence in who you are and your own ideas, whilst allowing others to help and support you.
People continually said to me, “It’s all about you and James”. I’m sorry, but that’s rubbish. Of course it’s not just about two people. Parents (god willing if you have them) and siblings might have dreamed of this as much as you throughout your life. Friends might have anticipated it. Once you get through the horrendous nightmare that is The Guest List (*cue Ride of The Valkyries*), those on that list more often than not go to an enormous amount of trouble and expense, with hen/stag parties, travel, accommodation, outfits and gifts. If you make it ALL about you you’re potentially left with a number of very unhappy guests who don’t feel any part of your marriage. And your day becomes “just another wedding”. It’s as good as saying “we don’t really care about you either way and are going to do what we want, no matter how it affects you”. Again being honest, I’ve attended a good number of weddings where I’ve felt exactly that and I’ve not especially enjoyed the experience. I felt obligated rather than honoured to attend. I can understand why some might feel this is the right outlook. Look at what trying to please everyone did to me! But these are the people you will turn to and need when the road gets rough…which it does. Marriage is the most incredible joy and privilege. But yes, sometimes, it is really hard.
After that rather frank account of our wedding planning, I hope you’ll still enjoy reading about one of my crazy little details! There are too many others to list and certainly too many How To’s! So I’ve chosen one that I was rather proud of. Our Personalised Salt Dough Heart Place Settings / Favours (!)
These were in essence the EASIEST thing in the world…until I decided to personalise, sand, smooth and varnish every single one…90 in total. 2 days before the wedding (with my virus at its most aggressive and during a 30* heat wave) myself, James, and our friends and neighbours Ema and Sarah, all sat in our local beer garden until dark, furiously sanding and varnishing our wedding favours. I’m pretty certain a good majority were left behind or ended up in the bin, but it was worth it to see those that have been kept still hanging proudly in some of our friends homes.
How To Make Personalized Salt Dough Hearts
You will need:
(for one batch of salt dough, approximately 20 hearts)
2 level cups of plain flour
1 level cup of plain table salt
1 cup of room temperature water
A medium sized heart shaped cutter
A biscuit letter stamp (I got mine from amazon, identical to this)
A chopstick! (All will become clear)
A ball of string.
- Mix your flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
- Create a small ‘well’ in the middle of the dry mix and add half the cup of water.
- Mix slowly with a wooden spoon.
- Keep adding small splashes of water as required and begin to draw the the mixture into one with your hands. This part is messy but fun!
- Keep kneading the mixture, adding small amounts of water if too dry, or small amount of flour if turning sticky.
- When gathered in a nice dough ball, knead generously for a good 5-10 minutes.
- I suggest wrapping the dough in cling film and placing in the fridge for half an hour to congeal nicely. This helps the dough congeal nicely when you start cutting out shapes, whereas straight after mixing it can be liable to break.
- After chilling, roll out the dough onto a floured surface. Don’t roll too thinly in order to make your decorations fairly substantial. Start cutting!
- I made my hearts so that they lay flat as place settings, but also could be hung as decorations afterwards. I used a chopstick to scour a small whole at the top of the heart. Make sure you’re not too close to the top so that the area above the hole is in danger of breaking. It should be large enough to pass a piece of string through.
- Now comes the fiddly bit! The letter stamp is relatively self-explanatory once you have it in possession, but the patience testing part is passing each tiny letter onto the stamp, in reverse order, back to front! For example, make sure your letters are the correct way around, else you end up with back to front ‘C’s’ and upside down ‘T’s’ etc. yes, this is pretty time consuming, but just like hand-stamping the names for place settings at the baby shower, it’s sentimentally rewarding. I did smaller hearts for my nephews George and Albert and for my friends unborn babies (see pictured). Try not to burst (or vomit) with the cuteness.
- Carefully place your creations on a baking sheet or tray. Now you can either leave to dry out in the open air, but this takes 24 hours or more and personally I don’t always feel confident they have set right the way through. Baking also takes time, so this is another snag, but again, worth it. Set the oven on its lowest setting. I used 80*. Leave to bake for 3 hours and check at intervals. Carefully test the hardened salt dough with a gentle prod of the surface. It will spring back if not set all the way through. TIP: Turn the decorations over at 1.5hrs to ensure they are evenly set.
- The lower the oven setting the better, so to ensure the salt dough doesn’t start to brown but that they do harden all the way through.
Once hardened and completely cooled it is up to you really! Salt dough can be sanded, painted and/or varnished, provided it is completely set. I personally love the natural colour of it, so chose not to paint, but I did meticulously smooth down every decoration and then added a coat of matt varnish to finish.
- Finally (!) once cooled, decorated and dried, cut a short length of string, feed through the hole and tie in a knot twice to secure a loop. Trim the ends. Admire.
Here are a series of pictures from our amazing wedding photographers, James and Jo Melia. I will be forever grateful to them for noticing, capturing and admiring all the detail I obsessed over for a year.
Weddings are an odd affair for everyone concerned. I actually understand now why people choose to elope or not marry at all! I made a lot of mistakes and although I wish I could have managed certain things better, I definitely don’t have any regrets. And most of all I am utterly humbled to have been able to have a beautiful wedding and marry my James.