Wedding Wednesday: Making it Legal

This week I thought I’d talk about how we made it legal.

We were originally going to have the legal bit during the week so we could focus entirely on the part that was important to us. We didn’t find the legal bit particularly enthralling to think about because we had both wanted to get married outdoors, and in the UK you can’t get a legally recognised outdoor wedding without a licensed officiant, and they can only perform on-location weddings at licensed venues that have a wedding license. That means there’s very few outdoor locations, and they’re all “licensed venues,” so you can’t do it on the beach or in the woods wherever else you feel like it. We looked into this, and found there was only one place in York licensed for outdoor weddings, and the cost was exorbitant, certainly far greater than our £500 total wedding budget, so we decided it would be easier to have the bog standard cheapest wedding ceremony and make it personal later.

Since we were both teachers when we were planning it, and there wasn’t a holiday any time near our chosen celebration date (21st June), we had to have it on a weekend. Since we were doing that (you have to pay registry offices more to get married at the weekend, presumably to make up for the fact that you’re not losing a day’s pay like you would on a weekday, assuming you work Monday to Friday), we decided we might as well just have the whole damn thing on the same day.

We originally booked an appointment to look around our local Register Office and decided that we felt it was a bit expensive and lacking in the wow factor.  The leaking ceiling and water damage didn’t help their case. Since we were free to use any Register Office in the UK, we decided to look elsewhere in Yorkshire, and viewed Harrogate Register Office. We thought it was a more beautiful building, it could hold more people, and the grounds and interior were elegant and Georgian. Additionally, it had on-street parking as well as a car park. For £200 less than our local office. So we were sold. We paid our £180 and made a date.

Before we were able to get married, we both had to attend an interview at our local register office. They weren’t particularly generous to us, presumably because we weren’t using their facilities (the Harrogate date was booked at this point), and we were both interviewed separately and asked the full set of “is this a sham marriage for immigration purposes” questions. Despite the fact that all of our parents were born in the UK, and we are both British Citizens.  Other people who DID use the local office to get married in the same year as us did not have to go through this to the same degree.

We managed to get through mostly unscathed, although they get REALLY annoyed if you don’t know each other’s parents’ dates of birth or whether the other person has ever been known by any other names (because that comes up so many times during the dating process).  Since my future husband had never met my mother, there was no way he was going to know what her date of birth was.  The woman conducting the interview got very caught up on this and even spent half an hour phoning Harrogate register office and redialing and redialing (they must have been busy) to check whether they would accept our wedding if my future husband didn’t know my mother’s date of birth.

Eventually she decided there was nothing she could stop us marrying over, and we were allowed to have our wedding.  It did seem very silly to ask the person you’re marrying about all this stuff, and I think they could improve it by asking me about me and him about him, THEN quizzing us about each other.  That would have made a lot more sense.  But that wasn’t how they did it.  Logic tells me this stuff is all things they should be able to ask if they suspect something is wrong with your proposed wedding, but that it got taken too far on this occasion.

I would say this is the opposite of a deterrent to sham weddings, because they’re more likely to learn all this stuff about each other to get through the interview.  If you’re getting a registrar to do your marriage, learn all the details about each other first.

After this, we got a big booklet through the post which looked like an exam paper.  It had loads of questions and dotted lines and delete as applicables.  Most of the wording was optional and it was supposed to be “personalised” so for example you could choose four different Hallmark declarations to state when giving the rings.  We hated all of it it was far too saccharine and Eastenders for our tastes, so we crossed out everything that was optional and pared it down to the simplest way of saying “you two are getting married.  Do you want to get married? M’kay you’re married now.  Swap some rings and kiss.”

With our wedding coming AFTER the legalisation of gay marriage, but the brochures being obviously out of date, I also took the liberty of changing the legal and non-optional preamble that said “marriage is between one man and one woman” to “marriage is between two people of any gender” Now the regsitrar didn’t read the “of any gender” bit, but she was happy to say “marriage is between two people” instead of one man and one woman, and that was enough of a result for me.

We also had to choose some music for the ceremony.  We chose “Science Fiction Double Feature” (from Rocky Horror) for walking down the aisle, “Bat Out of Hell” (by Meatloaf) for leaving, “Poison” (by Alice Cooper) for signing the register and I’m sure I got them to play “Bohemian Rhapshody” (by Queen) as well but I can’t remember what aspect of the ceremony that was for, and we didn’t get to keep our exam booklet so I don’t have the list.  Then we burned them all onto one CD in the correct order to send back with our booklet so that it was foolproof, but we didn’t need to worry, the Harrogate Register Office team were INCREDIBLY competent and helpful individuals.  In this booklet, we also needed to state the names of the two witnesses who would counter sign the register.

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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.