A Little Clarification About My Blog:

1. I don’t get free lipstick and I am not PR friendly (I don’t work with any  brands).

2. I have never published a paid post on my blog.

3. I write about whatever the damn hell I please.  My remit is joy and understanding, these are the purpose of my blog; sometimes other stuff for variety.

4. When that meshes with talking about a product I bought that actually worked to solve a problem I had, I drop an Amazon link so I can get a commission for matching people’s problems with solutions.  It doesn’t affect the price you pay and comes from their profit.  I am a member of Amazon Associates USA, as I have stated in both my “about me” and “contact me” pages, and referred to in a number of posts.  I have been using Amazon Associates for 21 days so far, since about 11pm (my time) on New Year’s Eve, and so far it’s netted me about $10 which is about £6.  At the end of February I will re-evaluate whether I feel this has been a successful venture or whether I’m keeping my association with Amazon.

5. I currently ONLY have links to Amazon Associates USA on my four most popular blog posts.  All other links to Amazon (e.g. pictures of rabbit hutches) are just normal links and I don’t earn money from them.  I felt this was ethical.  I never link to a product I haven’t paid for and found useful.  If it doesn’t meet both of these criteria, I don’t link to it.

6. Amazon and Amazon Associates have literally no control over my creative content (I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it) and I do not now, nor have I ever, written posts with the sole purpose of making money from affiliate links.  All the articles that currently have links in them are articles that I wrote many months ago, I wrote them to help people, and they have been here on my site for all that time with NO AFFILIATE LINKS.  Then one day I decided to run an experiment to see how well Amazon Associates USA worked with my current traffic compared to how well it had worked over a sample time period about six months ago (when there were zero clickthroughs i.e. I made absolutely no money) when I had significantly less traffic.

7. I will write an article with my recommendations/otherwise about Amazon Associates USA when I have had enough time to fully evaluate it.  I have no British affiliate links or links for any other country because 97% of my traffic comes from America, from search engine queries (I did some math today).

8. I am planning on charging people to post their links or infographics on my site as of next month, because quite frankly I don’t want to post 99% of the links and infographics people email me about, and I thought this would make people think about whether their link was really appropriate to my blog before contacting me.  I have made this clear on my contact me page.  All links currently on my blog are ones I found myself and I will make it clear if/when I accept payment for any link or infographic.  I will also still be just as selective.

9. I also make money whenever anyone buys a copy of any of my books, although I do not use Amazon Associates affiliate links to promote these as I feel that would be a conflict of interest.  I make money from book sales via royalties paid by my publishers.  As far as I am aware, none of my blog readers have bought copies of any of my books and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

The whole point of yesterday’s article was to try to tell new bloggers, particularly those wanting to start a beauty blog, that there’s another way to blog.  That they don’t have to copy what everyone else does, they don’t have to accept free products in exchange for their integrity.

I want the internet to shift it’s balance in favour of talented and thoughtful content creators instead of people writing any old crap to make a quick buck or get a free lipstick, and I was trying to say that, if you’re creative, you can find other ways to monetize your site, and you can find other definitions of success beyond how much money/how many followers/how much free stuff you get.  The success of helping people or explaining something they didn’t know, or bringing joy to someone else’s life, were specific examples I can think of.

I have since yesterday been contacted by several individuals asking me how I work with PR people, do they tell me what to say etc etc.  I will reiterate:

I have never worked with a PR company or written a post about a product in exchange for either a free product or any sort of payment or discounted product.  I do not let PR companies draw my attention to products either.  I wrote before about why I don’t do this and how I feel it biases the sample (of products being reviewed online) unfairly in favour of companies with the biggest promotional budget.

I hope that clears things up so we can get back to normal because I got a new bunny last night and he is awesome and I wanted to post bunny pictures today but felt I needed to clear this up first.

I would like to also assert that I do not get paid by my rabbits to talk about them.

New bunny timmy1

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A Day In The Life Of A Blogger

I saw this bizarre title on someone else’s blog, and I was a little bemused about how the day of a blogger would be any different to the day of a non-blogger.  So I thought I’d be a bit imaginative.

6:00am:  I leap out of bed, like a LEAPING LION and stretch and yawn and hop into the shower to clean all my sleep away.

6:20am: Wrapped in a soft fluffy dressing gown, I skip down the stairs like SKIPPY THE FREAKIN KANGAROO and investigate how to turn on the mysterious drinks making gadget that the drinks company sent me in exchange for a good review.  This week, it’s coffee, but last week it was smoothies, and the week before it was a juicer.  Imma dedicated follower of fashion.

6:30am:  Once I’ve figured out how to make the drinks making gadget work, and set it going, I go out into the garden – well, my fifty acre smallholding – and fetch some eggs from the henhouse, then I bring them indoors and make up a BRAND NEW RECIPE that I just KNOW the whole world needs to hear, I make a mental note to write about it on my blog after I’ve finished breakfast.

6:40am: I start making my BRAND NEW RECIPE and am pleased to see that the drinks making gadget is pouring coffee into a cup for me.  How exciting.  I take a couple of photos of it with my camera.  I am Martha Stewart.

6:50am:  My food is on a plate and I sit at my dining table with my breakfast, trying to think of a name for this recipe.  Something that comes up high in the Search Engine results but is still super-unique and catchy.  No, brain, Eggs Bunnydict is a terrible name for anything ever.  Something more like “fluffy cloud eggs.”  That’ll be good because it sounds light, like healthy, and fun, like it’s going to be delicious.  Like me. Haha.

7:10am:  Armed with my second cup of coffee I relocate to my study, which is really a corner of my bedroom or living room, and I turn on my laptop.  My laptop is top of the range and never needs restarting because I got it free in exchange for a good review.  I check all my social media accounts, I reply to everyone’s messages (or at least a representative sample), and I check out what is trending, so I can be relevant.

7:30am:  I write up my eggs recipe and add the photos.  They looked a bit crap so before I hit “publish” I head on over to Photoshop and do some photowizardry on them.  In a few minutes, they look like Rainbow Eggs that were laid by freaking UNICORNS who live in the crescent moon.  Of course.  Because they were made by ME.

8:30am:  Now I need to go to the store and get some groceries before it’s delivery time.  I get into my Porsche 911 and ZOOM to the store like a TURBO WILDCAT and maybe annoy a few people with my slightly reckless and inconsiderate driving (unless I’m vlogging, in which case I will drive to the letter of the law).  I park in the special “reserved for bloggers” bay at the car park and I get a trolley.  My personal grocery shopper is there to greet me, and she shows me around the store, picking out foods I will like, and when we get to the checkout, the store manager has a word with the cashier before I reach her.  The cashier tells me this food is all free because I’m such a special and amazing and wonderful famous blogger and they are only too thrilled that I could visit their store today.  Then they serenade me out with a choir of disadvantaged children who I throw some dollar bills at as I leave.

9:00am: DELIVERY TIME!!! WHAT FREE PRESENTS WILL I GET TODAY???  For the next three hours, I mess around on the internet and watching cats on Youtube while my doorbell rings constantly from the crowd of delivery guys bringing me presents.  Companies just send me stuff for free because they love me so much.  I write reviews for them, on my blog and on sites like Amazon and Makeup Alley so that customers think well of the brand.  I turn down many things, such as reviewing horse meat jerky or laxatives, because I want to protect my image.  That way, I can legitimately say on my about me page, “believe me, I turn down more things than I review, because I am committed to my readers.”  I open the boxes in an excited frenzy.  Every day is like Christmas when you are a blogger.

12:00pm: I get in my Porsche 911 and drive to an expensive restaurant.  I hand the keys to the valet and go inside.  I didn’t book, but I’m so famous, I don’t need to.  The Maitre d’ sees me coming, and runs to bring out the secret extra table that all quality restaurants have stashed in case Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift, or ME turn up unannounced.  He sets the table in seconds with mad skills, and I sit down and browse a menu.  I get a text from this boy who is a fairly well known Vlogger; we chat occasionally.  He’s just got out of bed.  Boys are so uncomplicated.  I order a cruelty-free salmon salad with magic fountain of youth lemon vinaigrette dressing and extra-healthy weird fruit from South America.  Everything from South America is extra-healthy.

1:00pm: I collect my Porsche 911 and drive back to my house.  Did I tell you about my house?  It’s an amazing four bedroom condo with glass walls overlooking my garden and smallholding.  I park the car in the double garage then ascend the spiral staircase to the kitchen.  It’s time to feed the animals and water the plants.  I press a button near the back door and this automatic watering system kicks in, watering every plant exactly the right amount of the right temperature of water.  When it’s done, I pop out and scatter some grain for the chickens, then I go and pick some fruit from my orchard and bring it inside.  I am going to write an article about all the different uses for fruit, I just need to think of a catchy title that will come up top in all the search results.  I’m thinking “17 things to do with Autumn’s fruit harvest” or possibly 11.  I can never decide which prime number is best for these articles.  I’m glad people are starting to see numbered lists as clickbaity titles, it means the new trend for article naming will be something with less math.

2:30pm:  I phone my accountant and find out how much money I made today, then I phone my agent and find out how many brand placements are begging me to mention them on my videos, then I phone that Vlogger boy and it’s super awkward because I don’t know what to say, so I get off the phone fairly quickly.  He’s going to guest blog on my blog.  Oh God I hope he isn’t illiterate.

3:00pm:  I have an afternoon tea party with all my friends and we put make-up on each other in silly ways (like seriously silly, like, matt foundation and finishing powder together kinda silly, we are so cray cray) and then we have dance around the lounge to MTV, in our underwear.  We have a pillowfight as well.  Throughout the whole thing, a photographer, who just so happened to be passing through the neighbourhood, is shooting pics in the corner so I will have plenty of pictures to write about this on my blog.  It’s not staged in the slightest, honest.

6:00pm:  I get rid of my girlfriends and they drive off in their expensive sports cars.  I go outside and have a swim in my pool.  The pool was mailed to me for free from this company which makes pools.  It even has a waterslide.  I spend the next hour or so splashing around in the pool, working off the calories from lunch because I see my personal trainer tomorrow.

7:00pm:  I change out of my bikini, shower off the chlorine, then get ready to go out for dinner to the most expensive restaurant in town.  It does get a bit boring only eating at the one restaurant all the time, but my agent says I have to create a buzz and make people think I’m a superstar until I get the Chanel contract.  I get a text that says I’ve been nominated for beauty blogger of the year award, which comes with a $50,000,000 prize.  That might buy me, like, THREE new Tom Ford lipsticks.  Squee.

9:00pm:  I go home, text my mum and dad to tell them I’m fine and ask them if they’re fine, they say they’re fine.  Everything is good.  I snap a quick selfie of myself and upload to Instagram, caption: “getting my beauty sleep like a GODDAMN PRINCESS.”  What am I like???  I make myself laugh sometimes.  I take off my make-up, being sure to use the latest cleanser that I got sent today.  I go to bed alone and fall asleep dreaming of hair and make-up and cookie recipes, because this is the perfect life that everyone gets automatically as soon as they sign up for a WordPress blog or Youtube channel.  Life is perfect, and I am certainly not out clubbing until 2am and getting very, very drunk in the company of some people I barely know, because that would damage my image as a squeaky clean upstanding member of the blogging community.

I take a quick selfie for instagram.
I take a quick selfie for Instagram with a humorous caption.

After Word:
Just in case anyone is even REMOTELY wondering, this was totally made up.  I just thought it was an interesting flight of fancy to explore some of the stereotypes and assumptions surrounding bloggers and vloggers.  And I don’t accept products, payment or other sponsorship in exchange for writing reviews.  And there’s no such thing as “cruelty free salmon.”  Or Fluffy Cloud Eggs laid by unicorns.  Or “the secret table” at restaurants.  OR IS THERE??? DUN DUN DUNNNN….

Sponsored Posts: The Best of The Worst

So as I mentioned in this post, I often get asked to write sponsored posts for companies wanting to improve brand presence.  After a deep moral dilemma, I made it a policy to always turn them down due to my standpoint as a minimalist (although recently I’ve not had a lot of time to respond), but they keep coming.  I do take a look at what they are proposing, particularly when it sounds dreadful, and mostly out of morbid curiosity. For your viewing entertainment (and to fight back against the consumeriarchy), I have included the best of the worst, the factual inaccuracies and old wives tales type information that is all over the internet already, and which people have offered to pay me to perpetuate (which all seem to lead back to consumerism):

1. Quinoa is a good source of protein.  This has to be the most blatant lie; it was followed up with an amount per cup that was a) several times the actual amount of protein in a cup of quinoa and b) still not a great amount of protein.

2. You need to lose weight to get married:  Yep, those “how to lose weight before your wedding posts” you see all over the internet, that are firmly designed to make women hate themselves and feel insecure (so they can sell women more clothes, diet pills, cosmetics, and when all else fails, food) are sponsored.  Do yourself a favour:  Learn to love the size you are before your wedding.  That’s who your future husband/wife fell in love with.

3. People get too much protein in their usual diet, so vegans shouldn’t worry about protein.  This is not only untrue but it’s very dangerous advice.  See my list of sources of nutrients for vegans post (with the amazing spreadsheet of sources for EVERY nutrient) to find out the truth.  It’s especially interesting that this sponsored post wanted to “inform” vegans that they can pay for recipes that don’t contain enough protein, because it makes money from the recipes in the first place, then they’ll get a protein deficiency, and be back supporting the dairy/meat industry in no time.  That’s win-win for paid meat/dairy people.  That’s the result of the “protein myth”-myth.  You need protein to live, and you CAN get it from a vegan diet.  It’s like “big pharma” became “big farmer.”

4. SEO is apparently all about keyword density.  If that was true, a page of “buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online…” etc would be at the top of each search result.  Instead of being excluded for being dumb and pointless.

5. If I only BUY a bunch of items from some hitherto unheard of fashion house, they will apparently pay me to write reviews (but only if those reviews are positive – that’s the rules of reviewing things for paid posts in blogging).  Listen up, potential bloggers and those of you who are considering paid reviews, because this is a basic rule of making money:  If you have to spend money to do something that someone asked you to do, the chances of it netting you any cash is minimal, unless you have it in writing that they are going to pay you back (at which point, you’re giving them a loan, so charge them interest).  They like to make you think that they are going to give you a return on any “investment” you make e.g. by buying a product, but at the end of the day, as far as companies like this are concerned, YOU are the customer, and they are making money from bloggers, not any readers (the readers are just icing on the cake for these scams).  This is the consumerist myth, and you do NOT have to spend money to make money unless you have a shop.

6. Am I interested in a free sample of these AMAZING new diet pills which have heretofore been tested on mice, rats, rabbits, giraffes and monkeys, and have helped them all achieve the figure YOU deserve??? This one particularly makes me laugh because I have mentioned time and time again on my blog that I am clinically underweight.  The only time someone my size would say yes to diet pills would be if they had anorexia.  At which point they need a free sample of a cure for anorexia, not diet pills.  The whole concept of diet pills really makes me fume, like we can’t just be the size we are (and yes, I fall into that trap too – sometimes wishing I could put weight on to be the “perfect” weight, because all this crap about weight isn’t just “fat shaming” it’s “non-normal shaming” for a made-up value of “normal” – hey, we’ve felt the results of “non-normal shaming” before in other aspects of life such as mental health).  The lunatic fringe of the pharmaceutical industry had to rear its ugly head, and my big question to all these “supplement” pill companies is, if what you’re selling is so good, why don’t doctors ever recommend it to patients?  They can never answer that.

That was six of the best examples of bad paid-posting proposals; obviously I have left company names out because of legal mumbo-jumbo, but I thought these would be entertaining examples.  A lot of the crap I receive in my inbox is to do with either perpetuating myths (e.g. the “protein myth” myth) or perpetuating the LIE that my readers are inadequate unless they spend money on a specific thing (e.g. a weight loss course, diet pills, beauty products).  I respect my readers so could never flog this crap to you all.  If you are a very furious company reading this, and your company has approached me with one of these pitches, perhaps you should look at what you’re offering and try making/selling a better product.  Content is king.

Content is king.
Content is king.

Cluttered

I chose “cluttered” rather than “clutter” because it feels as if the objects are physically doing the cluttering, not just being inert clutter.  Clutter as a noun is inert, still, motionless, passive, benign (until stagnant).  Cluttered is an action word.  My objects have cluttered me.  The room feels cluttered.  The person’s life is cluttered with clutter that’s cluttering it up.

Have you ever noticed how the words “clutter” and “clatter” sound almost the same?  In some accents, they’re almost indistinguishable from one another.  I’m not an etymologist (someone who studies the origins of words; I’m also not an entymologist – they study bugs), so I don’t know whether the words ever began the same way.  I tried to find out, and discovered that the verb, “clutter” came from the word “clot” (like blood clot) in the 1400s.  And the noun “clutter” came from “litter” (like, trash) in the 1570s.  I enclose a screen shot because the definitions sound so perfectly descriptive.  We’ve become too desensitized to the word clutter, and accept it as part of our lives, but apparently we’ve been fighting it since the 1400s.  It’s particularly interesting that the verb developed before the noun, because I feel like the clutter is active, it is not passive, it is loud and noisy and it clatters along cluttering up the tiny amount of quiet space in my brain.  I feel verbally assaulted by clutter which is why I’m still on the journey towards a minimalist life.

The etymology of the word clutter.
The etymology of the word clutter.

My shower caught fire on Friday, it was the perfect end to a crap week, really.  I was just lathering up my violet toner to keep my hair shiny white, and I started smelling burning hair; I checked the box with all the wires, and it had started smoking.  It wasn’t a huge surprise since the shower unit melted in February, then when we gaffer taped it, it seemed to stabilize.  Apparently not.  To make matters worse, the DIY disaster idiots who put the thing in (before we bought the house) stupidly put the isolator switch directly behind the shower, on a wall in the bathroom, and since it wasn’t a pull switch, I was trying to get it to turn off with soapy wet hands for what seemed like ages before it finally went.  I can now say in all seriousness, with no sense of hyperbole, that having white hair has saved my life.  If I hadn’t had white hair, I would have just used normal shampoo, and I would have just splortched it onto my hair, back to the shower, and lathered it in, then stood under the water for several minutes while it came back out again.

An electrician friend of a friend came and made the unit safe.  When he opened it up, I was horrified by how close I’d come to serious harm.  The exposed electrical wires which had been on fire were less than a millimetre away from burning away the insulation that was touching the water outlet pipe that takes water out through the shower head.  If you know your basic electronics, you’ll know that water always takes the shortest path back to the Earth, so it would have come straight out of the shower head and down through me.  What’s more, the fuse was so high (45A, standard shower fuse) that it hadn’t shorted out throughout this ordeal.  The whole thing (as I’d been saying since February) was an accident waiting to happen, but it was only last week that we actually got together a few hundred quid to get the bathroom sorted out, because we can’t be without a shower, because my OH doesn’t fit in the tub.

We were already in the process of trying to get someone to come and plumb our bathroom, since the shower had started melting in February, but the first quote we had was £1800 (for labour only, and it wasn’t itemized so I couldn’t see how they’d arrived at that figure, I think they didn’t want to do the job so thought if they put it high enough they’d either make a lot of money from something they didn’t want to do, or get out of doing it.  That plumber seemed to lose interest when I said I was keeping our current bathroom suite) so, after I had finished laughing at the absurdity that anyone would pay £1800 to NOT get a new bathroom put in, I had phoned someone else to come and quote me, literally minutes before I went into the shower.  He will be round on Thursday.  So I had to clear the bathroom of all the functional bottles, sponges etc that we use.

That was how I found out how quiet our bathroom is when there’s no clattering clutter cluttering it up.  When there is not one single bottle of shampoo on the side of the bath or in the floor of the shower cubicle, it is so serene that I was disappointed at the idea of changing the room.  You see, we don’t want to waste money (to buy or to run) on a new electric shower when we have literally no water pressure issues in our bathroom and no hot water issues with our boiler, so the whole cubicle may as well come out, and have an over the bath shower.  When we were first thinking about this back in February, we wanted a new bath, and to move the bath, toilet and sink around to make better use of the space.

We actually bought the house because I loved the bathroom so much.  The idea of having to change it is heartbreaking.  But my husband doesn’t actually fit in the bath because it’s designed for men who are my height and women who are shorter, and children.  It’s not intended for six footers.  I wrestled with the wastefulness of discarding the bath compared to keeping it.  I watched him struggle in the bath last night and I finally understood that we weren’t being wasteful in getting rid of the bath, it sadly wasn’t fit for purpose.

We will have to get a new bath.  But it won’t be the same serenity when the bathroom has been changed, because the suite we have now is one of those coloured ones from the 1970s (not avocado, ours is sunshine yellow), and the happy warm friendly yellow will have to be replaced by a stark, clinical white bathtub, in full size rather than extra small, which will be all the more obvious since we’re keeping the yellow sink (basin) and toilet.  But at least my husband will finally fit into the tub.

For now, it is the one room that is completely without clutter.  Just having that one room in the house that has been silenced feels like a big minimalist victory over the advancing agents of clutter.  It has spurred me on to get rid of more things today, things that have been waiting for a week or two to be removed from the house, and I felt so much better when I came back from the tip and the charity shop (thrift store) with a lighter car.  It’s the one room where I can hear my own thoughts.

Wedding Wednesday: The Dress

This post contains affiliate links.  This does not affect your browsing experience, cost, etc of things at the other end of said links in any way.  I’ve been getting really annoyed lately at the amount of people who don’t disclose this, so now if I see a link in someone’s blog to a shopping site, I have to assume it’s an affiliate link unless they’re upfront about it in their linked posts and about page.

The dress was one of the first and last things I found. It was the first, I bought it for £12.99 and it arrived 18 months before our wedding – before we even had a date. It was beautiful, and everything about it seemed perfect except… it was too short in the body. It was a jumpsuit comprising of 2 parts, an opaque figure hugging inside in white sequin and a see-through outer part in floaty white. It was beautiful. But the opaque inner was too short on the body meaning either my booty could fit in or my boobs could, but not both at the same time. This was super unfortunate and I thought I could fix it with some straps and some extra trim around the bottom but I made about 10 modifications to it and it still didn’t fit my height, so I gave up with three months to go before the wedding.  I will do something with it at some point I’m just still deciding.

I then had a series of dresses that didn’t turn up, didn’t look remotely like the picture, weren’t designed to fit actual people; one even got cancelled on Ebay after bidding had ended because it hadn’t sold for enough (they hadn’t put a reserve on, they just cancelled the bid and refunded my payment that I sent straight after the listing ended.  They even emailed and told me they’d sold it elsewhere. Disgraceful)… In the end, the dress was the last thing I bought; with two weeks to go, I bought a £10 white satin dress on Ebay that was completely perfect, and it arrived a week before the big day.  It was an ex-Debenhams either overstock or factory second, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and it fitted perfectly.  It was satiny fabric but it was actually 100% polyester, and the satiny layer was overlaid with that fine meshed plain lace that the veil is also made of, all made of polyester which is made from three chemicals which are petroleum byproducts (as is plastic, because as I’ve discussed somewhere before, chemicals aren’t made from nothing they’re all made from the natural resources on our planet):

My £10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day.  That's about $16.
The Dress
A full length candid shot of the dress during movement.
A full length candid shot of the dress during movement.  Not the best photo of me but a good pic of the dress.

My veil cost £2.50 and came from China.  I advise you to read listings carefully to check exactly what you’re getting – some veils don’t come with a comb, for example, so are just a big square of filmy fabric.  Mine came with a comb and it said freshwater pearls but I knew they would be at the very best made of glass, and were actually made of plastic, which was perfect because pearls are an animal slaughter byproduct.

My shoes were a story in and of themselves that I’ll come to on the actual day.  These were the ones I bought for the wedding:

Silver jelly shoes currently going for about £7 ($10) here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D14-Summer-Ladys-Mary-Jane-Jelly-Hollow-Shoes-Breathable-Crystal-Sandals-UK-/141563283137?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item20f5d446c1  But there are plenty of other sellers for these if you use similar search terms such as
Silver jelly shoes currently going for about £7 ($10) here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D14-Summer-Ladys-Mary-Jane-Jelly-Hollow-Shoes-Breathable-Crystal-Sandals-UK-/141563283137?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item20f5d446c1 But there are plenty of other sellers for these if you use similar search terms such as “ladies jelly sandals wedges” it just takes some looking to get the right one in a good size.

I made my own jewellery using crackle Glass Beads and plastic glow in the darkpony beads and semi-precious beads and elastic and nylon wire from Amazon.  I started making the jewellery about 4 months before the wedding and found that it was a good de-stress project during the planning stages.

I accessorized with a unicorn bag that I’ve had for ever and a broccoli bouquet because I don’t like the idea of wasteful flower bouquets and broccoli could be eaten by the rabbits later in the day.  Broccoli was 49p at Morrissons, we took our time to choose a really nice symmetrical one the day before the wedding. It made for some damn good photos, and we spent absolutely nothing on flowers which was amazeballs because I felt like the cost of floristry was going to be mandatory wedding robbery when I don’t like large quantities of flowers that aren’t growing somewhere.

One thing I hated about dress shopping was that there’s this expectation that you are an inadequate human being if you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on a dress.  In all the wedding planning sites I looked at, I was shocked that there was an assumption that the dress would be up to 1/3 of the budget (excluding honeymoon).  Unless your wedding only contains three items – your dress, his suit and a priest (no rings, no indoor space to get married in, no food, no invites etc) – it’s a little disproportionate.
You don’t even need to spend £50 to get a decent dress that will look really nice on the day and in the pictures afterwards.  It doesn’t need special stitching or whatever because probably you won’t wear it again (even if you think you will), it doesn’t need preserving because it’s only special to you, and it doesn’t need saving for children because they want to choose their own dress.  Just like you did.   Think about those articles that say things like “you can use your mother’s wedding dress by cutting it into pieces and wrapping the bouquet with it” then think whether that’s worth £250 or £2500 to you, for your child to take a pair of scissors to it at some point in the future and use it as a tablecloth or bouquet wrap for their own wedding.  Bear in mind they’re probably only doing it so you don’t feel bad that they don’t want to wear your dress.  Was that worth the effort?  I decided in my case that it was all insane levels of excessive money and object gluttony, and I wanted to start the marriage as I meant to go on.

In the words of Francine Smith’s Chinese Parents:  Wastefulllll.

You wasteful!
Wasteful!

As I kept reading this crap I felt myself straining against it as it tried to suck me in.

Keep yourself safe from being brainwashed by the Wedding Industry, friends.  A minimalist wedding is possible and the bride’s (or brides’ – YAY GAY MARRIAGE) outfit is one of the hardest stages to keep your resolve, particularly if you get hypomanic spending like I do.

Total cost of bride’s outfit including “bouquet”: About £30.  £43 if we’re counting the first one.

Wedding Wednesday: The Entertainment

This week I want to tell you about the entertainment.  This post contains affiliate links for those people who don’t know about certain games I’m referring to.

Minimalists are often portrayed as serious, quiet, dull (dare I say brooding), innovative if a little bland, so it’s no wonder that keeping guests entertained is often cited as the biggest worry for brides who want a minimalist wedding.  The Swedish Design Collective Sven from How I Met Your Mother are minimalists. If you don’t know who they are, here’s a clip (sorry it’s the only one I could find on YouTube): Sven.

Of course, anyone who really understands what minimalism is all about would laugh at the idea that a minimalist wedding has to be boring.  Our wedding was a far cry from the dull, short, grown-up affair that everyone was expecting when they heard our budget was £500.  Here’s what we did:

1. We had bubbles for people to blow instead of confetti.  A multipack of small tubs of bubbles costs surprisingly little, and keeps adults entertained through all those boring photo times after the actual legal bit.  Anyone who’s ever got married in the UK in a registry office (I guess US courthouse weddings are the same), you know what I’m talking about.  I was unbelievably bored with all the photography and it was my wedding!

2. We had our picnic at a public park.  While we weren’t near the apparatus, it was only a short walk away should anyone have wished to play on the swings.  Nobody did, which was a little disappointing but hey, apparently grown ups can be entertained without impersonating a pendulum.

3. We had an outdoor game called Kubb, which is a Viking game where you throw bits of wood at other bits of wood (as far as I could make out).  This kept guests entertained.  In addition, there was a re-enactment of the wedding ceremony for those people who could not come to our actual legal bit due to distance.  This was originally going to be for us to get all slushy and say our real vows etc but when we tried to write some we ended up with something resembling the wedding at the end of Spaceballs.  So we did that instead.

4. After the outdoor bit was done, we invited everyone back to our house, and loaded up Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U.  After a couple of hours of this, after my husband’s family had left, we moved onto Wii Spin The Bottle (ambiguously titled “Bumpy’s Party” for some reason, and doesn’t resemble the teenage house party game and no kissing or other ickyness is involved; I don’t know if this is available in the US), which is also highly entertaining for participants and observers.

And that is how we sorted out entertainment using things that we already had.  Total expenditure: £0.00.

You obviously won’t have the same games and console as us, but if you’re looking for ideas, here’s some other games and things that could provide entertainment, you may even have these already:

Indoors:

Twister Who doesn’t love Twister? This game is fun for children and adults, your gran might just amaze you (she also might refuse to participate, I don’t know, I’ve never met her).

Ticket To Ride Okay, so Ticket To Ride is a board game, but it’s really easy to understand.

Playing cards There are loads of possibilities with playing cards. There are loads of card games you can play with guests, the best idea is to get a few packs of cards because one pack won’t go very far even with the smallest wedding (unless it’s just you two and the witnesses).  Games you can play include any that you know the rules for, or are able to explain to someone else.  Beware: Don’t try to play a game that needs more explaining than it takes to play, because as soon as someone is bored of hearing the rules, they’re going to tune out and be bored of the actual game.

 

Outdoors:

Lawn bowls, Aka Bocce in the US. An outdoor game that you can often find at a reduced price at Aldi or Lidl type supermarkets, you roll a ball at some other balls a bit like a giant sized game of marbles.

Volleyball, all you really need for this is a big Inflatable Beach Ball (or an actual volleyball) and possibly a net such as a volleyball net or a badminton net, if you have one, but plenty of people play without a net if you’re not playing super-competitively.

Hide and seek (especially if you’ve got a big outdoor space to play with),

Sardines (variation on hide and seek – where the seeker who finds the one person who hides shares their hiding place),

Guitar/musical singing times (we considered an open mic but decided against it as we couldn’t find a park with a pavilion).

Treasure hunt (if you have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could hide some items around the grounds, give people a list of them and even a map of the area, and get them to find the items.  A prize for the winner??)

Scavenger hunt (if you don’t have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could make a random list of things for people to find, then they need to go around the area and find items to satisfy the list, a list for this would include things such as “a leaf” “an empty coke can” “take a photo of a person with blue hair” and if everyone gets the items, you could give out points based on how closely the items resemble the things on the list, so for example, for the empty coke can, if someone got a red and white empty Coca Cola can, they would get more points than someone who got a Diet Coke can, and the person with the Diet Coke can would get more points than someone who brought a Fanta can.

 

One thing worth remembering is that your guests don’t need to be entertained at all times.  They’re not at a holiday camp, they’re (for the most part) independent adults who like to have time to talk and wander off and check their phones.  There is a danger in over-entertaining your wedding guests because entertainment can get in the way of social interaction.  That said, nobody likes to be bored.  And there is often a limit on the number of players of indoor games, meaning people could feel left out or people could take the opportunity to talk to each other.  It’s entirely up to you where you strike the balance between the two, as you know your guests better than someone who has never met them, who writes wedding articles (I hope).  You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on entertainment or hire an expensive local band or get someone to release 1000 doves to have a great time on your wedding day.

Wedding Wednesday: The Venue

The venue (aka: WHAT IF IT RAINS?????? WRING YOUR HANDS AND GRAB A SAUSAGE!!!)

Note: I am going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert this evening and have a trial shift at a new job tomorrow all day, so I have pre-scheduled this post and tomorrow’s.  Comments might take a while to get an approval/reply.

I looked at a lot of venues. One thing no-one mentioned about planning a wedding is the sheer amount of time you’ll spend looking at crap you’ll never have. I felt like I’d had several weddings by the time mine rolled around. Reading other people’s weddings, particularly on Offbeat Bride, was a big thing I spent my time on. They have some of the most beautiful and unique weddings on there, and I don’t regret the time I spent looking; it didn’t mean I was going to change my plan, but I felt it was definitely important to look into alternatives and second guess myself just to be sure that I was getting the wedding I wanted rather than the wedding that was easy, cheap, least stressful, or any other independent factors.

The nicest venues I looked at were Gray’s Court Hotel and The Hospitium, in St Mary’s Abbey. We actually wanted to hire the gardens, but you can’t do that, apparently, and because the whole place is classed as a public park, the gates would get locked at 5pm which would have been a serious party killer.

I didn’t want the package on offer, however, because I didn’t really want a “bespoke wedding service” where someone else selected caterers, entertainment, etc and let me choose who sat where. There were no vegan friendly caterers in my city, and my future-husband-to-be had vetoed El Piano because he hates their food.  A package wedding wasn’t remotely appealing, so the need to have control of my own wedding (and to not feel pressured into expensive extras) took me elsewhere, although the pictures of the inside were beautiful. Also I wanted it to all happen outdoors, and I got the feeling they were geared more towards indoor weddings.

The stress on finding a venue was compounded by a LOT of relatives at Christmas (like, two weeks after we set a date, six months before the wedding) who kept asking question after question after question. We ended up divulging the vaguely held plans we didn’t really want to discuss and the structure of the conversation went something like this:

“Laura’s wedding was in a really nice place. Where are you having yours?”

“Well, we’re going to have the legal bit in a registry office because we’ve already booked it. Then we’re having a big party somewhere, but we haven’t quite decided yet.”

“What about hiring a hotel? There’s some really nice ones in your area!”

“We didn’t really want a hotel, they’re so corporate and impersonal.”

“They’re not all expensive! You can get packages starting from £3000.”

“Our budget is £500. But that’s not the point…”

Dead silence.

Crickets chirp.

Forced laughter.

“We always said we would help pay for your wedding. We have £3000 saved for your wedding so you don’t have to settle for something you might regret.”

“Thanks, but we want to do it ourselves. But that’s not the point, we really don’t want a hotel.”

“But you won’t be able to have a wedding for that amount. Sometimes it looks like things are cheap but in reality when you add the costs up it’s quite expensive.”

“We were thinking of taking a LOT of the cost out of it by having it outside.”

“OUTSIDE???????”

Dead silence.

More crickets chirping.

“But… but what if it rains?”

“Um… We haven’t really looked into it yet.”

These conversations went on and on, round and round in circles. I will dish about how I dealt with this constant erosion of my confidence in my vision of our wedding day in a later article, because it deserves an article of its own.

Anyway, I really didn’t care if it rained. But I recognised that some guests might care. Namely the ones raising the most objections during the planning phase. So I started to research solutions.

First was the suggestion by a well meaning relative to hire a bus and have the party on the bus.  I was so desperate to stop the constant questioning on and on and on with the underlying implied judgement, that I ignored the fact that I get profoundly bus sick on the best of days and emailed two bus companies for quotes.  I’m really glad that one was trippin’ on their pricing structure (who in their right mind pays £5,000 for a day’s bus hire????  Oh that’s right, I mentioned the word wedding) and the other never got back to me.  I didn’t follow it up.  Instead I stopped answering my phone and I moved on with my research.

I saw a lot of suggestions online for gazebos, so I looked into them. The ones you buy from places all cost over £100 and it’s not like we would ever use a gazebo again. We’re not really gazebo people. So I looked into hiring one. They also cost over £100 to hire. And during the research, I realised that if we’re not gazebo people in our everyday life, then why would we want to change to being pro-gazebo for our wedding?? This might sound trivial, but when you’re spending one fifth of your budget on something, it’s got to be right.

So I was back to “what if it rains?” It echoed round and round in my head and haunted me for weeks.  I’d been thinking a beach wedding but the rain conundrum really threw me.

My next thought was that we could maybe get a tent of some description. We might not be gazebo people, but we have occasionally been known to stay in a tent. Since we’d dismissed the beach as being too far away at this point, we settled on Rowntree Park as it had good opening hours and was near a lot of non-park public open space, so even if it closed there was a plan B.

We went to Go Outdoors and looked for tents. There were some nice ones that were a good size, and we nearly spent a couple of hundred on a big party sized tent that we could do some serious camping in at a later date. The problems were that you’re not allowed to pitch tents in public parks, and the tents were ridiculously heavy (like, 40lb). In the end, we changed our mind and didn’t bother.

I have to say a big thank you to Vince and Ali for sharing their amazing story on the internet, about how they got married in the rain and had an awesome time, which gave me the confidence to go ahead with our wedding outdoors regardless of whether it rained or shone.  I wish I’d found this amazing article before all the months of drama (although there’s a bit of the “it’s in the last place you look” going on here), because once I’d found it, I knew exactly what to do if it rained – and it was what had been in my heart all along and had the confidence to press on.

So I went to the Pound Shop and bought all their zebra print umbrellas. They only had seven, I figured the people who gave a damn could share or bring their own. Total cost: £7. I also added a note on the wedding invites telling people this was an outdoor wedding, and that if they were the type of people to get upset by rain, to bring a coat or something just in case.

And THAT’s what to do if it rains on your outdoor wedding.

I think the real problem here was that people were throwing their selfish problems at me and I was taking them on board and trying to ensure everybody was looked after and catered for and not feeling left out, because I knew that, even though my wedding was going to be under £500 and minimalist and vegan, it was also going to be well-mannered and polite.  That would have been fine except the same people then found something else and something else and something else to criticize.  When I realised this was MY wedding day not theirs, it took a lot of the stress out of wedding planning and I started to find my own opinions and listen to them regardless of what other people were saying.

Also: It didn’t rain. I was slightly disappointed after I got totally psyched about rain wedding pics.