At the moment I feel that any positivity is something to grab onto and keep close. With more time on my hands I’ve really enjoyed looking through old photographs old-school style. Actual pictures you can hold in your hands, touch and feel them without being able to delete them, filter or swipe past! I came across mine and James’ wedding photos and it made me smile so much that I thought why not share them with others and maybe make them smile too. So here is my wedding love story told through old-school photos, taken not by professional photographers or digital cameras but by my friends and family on cameras that had actual film!
Vic’s Wedding Love Story
My road to meeting James was a long and varied one. Let’s just say I’ve lived life and rarely said “No” to trying different things!
Getting married certainly wasn’t on my agenda. I viewed it as old fashioned, something that was going to tie me down. Why do I need a piece of paper to show how much I love someone? And if anyone asked me about having kids, I’d scoff and return with some quip about rug rats not spoiling my life!
How I Met James and Ended Up Getting Married and Having Kids!
I was 25 and my life had taken me from my home country and plonked me in Hertfordshire. I’d been to Uni and was starting a career in science. I’d made my way up the ladder and was now happily managing a team of technicians in a water company. I’d just bought my first house on my own after a pretty bad relationship break-up, so another relationship really wasn’t on my immediate life agenda.
It started off as a normal day at work. I was recruiting for a new technician role. It was Valentine’s Day 2000 (I kid you not!). I’d read a CV for James Russell and decided to call him in for interview. He was from the Midlands so wasn’t sure if he would relocate down South for the role and he was over qualified but I included him on the list.
When James sat in front of me across the interview table, something happened. A slight change in the air? A difference in the energy surrounding me? More colour in the beige interview room?
I didn’t see it coming. I just didn’t believe it could really happen and certainly not to someone as cynical as me! I’ve read about it, seen it done by Hollywood over and over again with varying success, but for it to actually happen in real life? I’m still cynical so please believe me when I say that I’m struggling to write this – I had just met my soul mate!
‘Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you, Did my heart fly at your service’
(The Tempest – Act 3, Scene 1)
I know it sounds ridiculous, like a ‘straight to TV’ film script but that is how it happened.
I met the man who changed my opinion on marriage and children, who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with across a plastic desk, in a badly lit interview room wearing my work safety shoes!
I mentioned above that I rarely say “No” to new experiences. I’m a risk taker and enjoy the thrill of the unknown. So, before we ‘settled down’ (Aargh! I feel suffocated just writing that!) I persuaded James to leave our careers and travel around the world for a year.
When we arrived home, we decided to make our home in the Midlands. I was welcomed by James’ family with open arms – I mean literally open arms as they are BIG huggers! And this is when I first really got to know Lisa. If anyone had said at that point (it was 2003) that we would own a bridal shop together we would have looked at each other and spat our chardonnay out with laughter!
Anyway, back to my wedding journey.
On my 30th birthday James took me to Rome, my favourite city! It was a lovely weekend in December and I was thoroughly enjoying myself until James started acting really strangely! So much so, that at one point I thought he had brought me to Rome to dump me! At the Trevi Fountain his behaviour got decidedly more unnerving. He looked pale and clammy; he couldn’t look me in the eyes! I was about to use some very choice words about what I thought of him when he popped THE question and produced this beautiful marquis-cut sapphire and diamond ring from the inside of his jacket!
I couldn’t believe it! The ring was the same as the one we had seen in a Thai jeweller’s window when we were travelling! I had said at the time (2 years before) that if we ever got engaged, I’d love a ring like that. He had committed it to memory and then had it made for me in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham! He’s a keeper, right?
Where to get married?
When we started looking at venues, we thought the best idea would be to look at somewhere on the border of Wales and England meaning easy journeys for our families.
Now, I haven’t mentioned how James and I are very aware of aesthetics and our surroundings. We love interior design. My collection of Living Etc magazines threatened to overtake the lounge at one point! So, looking at venues posed a challenge not just because of location but also the ‘look’.
Back in 2005, when we started looking, there wasn’t the choice we have today. There were hardly any barns and certainly no yurts or tipis. We were limited to hotel conference rooms or castles! Have you seen the carpets in a conference room or the heavy brocade drapes in a castle?! Absolutely not what we had in mind!
We both love Bath so we considered The Royal Crescent Hotel but this was out of our budget as for exclusive use it was going to be £18,000 back then!
My sister had just got married in Italy so I didn’t want to copy her but I really liked the idea of leaving the UK for our wedding. I started to look at France and found a beautiful chateau called Chateau du Parc near Bordeaux. We visited the chateau a couple of times out of season and fell head over heels with it. It was romantic, beautiful and full of character. We could have our ceremony in the garden and there were enough bedrooms for the majority of our friends and family to stay.
The only hitch with a wedding in France is that you have to be resident for 40 days to be able to have an official ceremony there. Obviously, as much as we would have loved to jaunt over to France for 40 days, we had jobs to hold down.
So, my mind went back to The Royal Crescent. Why not have our official ceremony here in the UK with only our immediate family and then have our ‘wedding’ in France?
And that’s what we did – 10 of us in The Royal Crescent for our ‘real’ wedding and 40 of us in France for the knees-up! Absolutely perfect!
The Sten Do
Since moving to the Midlands with James, his friends have become my friends so it was difficult to try and separate us all for our Hen and Stag Do’s. So, we decided to have a ‘Sten Do’ instead.
All of our friends and family love a party and are always up for a knees-up and a hangover. We didn’t really want to ask people to fly anywhere because we had decided to get married in France so we looked closer to home.
We happened upon some cabins in Lyme Regis and we thought how fab to hire them for a bank holiday weekend for us all to party. A long weekend of getting drunk just wasn’t going to be good enough for our Sten Do. How could we make it a little bit different? Why not make everyone dress in 70’s fashion from the moment they left their house until they got home 3 days later? What a laugh!
We even went clay pigeon shooting in our get-up. You should have seen the looks on the regulars faces, especially when my friend fell out of the car when we arrived, still drunk from the night before! Our trip to Morrisons to top up with supplies has gone down in history.
I’m really not a girly, girl. I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I say that I never dreamt about what wedding dress I would wear. I hardly ever wear dresses so the thought of choosing my wedding dress was daunting, even nauseating! Also, I had decided to have 2 ‘weddings’ so needed 2 dresses! Doubly painful.
The ‘Bath Wedding’ dress was bought in a concession in House of Fraser and Lisa and James were both there. We had decided on a black theme for the day and the dress I chose fitted the ‘theme’ perfectly. Glamorous enough but not too girly! The main thing I remember was it was a size 10 – yay! Looking at the pictures, it could have done with being a bit longer though!
Now with my ‘France Wedding’ dress I felt more pressure! More people so more need to make an effort! I took James with me because he’s my best friend and I couldn’t even consider choosing it without him.
It wasn’t a fab experience to be honest. I was given some plastic rings to pop on dresses that I wanted to try on. But how do I know what ones I’ll like?!
Back in those days we read wedding magazines and cut out ideas we liked. Yes, we made mood boards before Pinterest! As you can see the dresses/ suits I liked were simple and minimalist so I really struggled when I was left alone with some plastic rings and a rail full of what I considered to be fluffy, frilly dresses.
I’m pear shaped so an A-line skirt is what I should wear to minimise my shoulder-waist-hip ratio. However, when I was looking at the dresses, the majority of them were strapless (that was all the rage then). I have a long neck, broad shoulders and my bust sits naturally low on my body (they weren’t even saggy-post-kids boobs then either!) so a strapless just made me look like there was too much skin on show at the top and out of balance.
Hiding on the rails was a spaghetti strapped dress that was delicately overlaid with beading and I couldn’t believe it, it was the Jenny Packham dress Harmony that I’d cut out of one of my wedding magazines! To cut a long story shorter – when I came out of the changing room in Harmony James’ first words were “I never want you to take that dress off”. See, a keeper!
Our honeymoon was pretty typical of James and I, nothing too structured just driving around France for 2 weeks, staying in 5 star and budget hotels along the way.
As we drove away from the chateau, waving goodbye to our friends and family, I can still remember how I felt. The joy that both weddings had gone brilliantly, the relief that we didn’t have to think about weddings anymore (seriously, how much brain capacity do they consume?) and the excitement of our future together as Mr & Ms (I chose not to take his name. Well, I was never going to get married so changing my name was just going too far!).
What was 1 became 2 and is now 4. We now have two beautiful sons (Finlay, 12 and Elijah, 9). I’m older, definitely not wiser and saggier in places that I’d rather not think about (!). We’ve had some tough times and we’ve had some bloody fabulous times and whatever life throws at us we know we’ve got each other’s backs. That’s love and that’s family.
“My heart is, and always will be, yours”.
Jane Austen, Sense And Sensibility