Mrs Williams

Thrifty Thursday – A Wedding Special

So, as mentioned yesterday, this week is mine and Matt’s wedding anniversary. It is crazy to think that a year has passed, and we have had TONS of fun!! We actually have two wedding anniversaries, as we got married twice (as you do)…so Monday just gone we celebrated our LEGAL anniversary, but next Monday is a year since our actual wedding. I love having two excuses to celebrate.

Anyway, our wedding was one of my best ever efforts in terms of thrift and creativity, and as its getting into wedding season, I thought I would use this week as a chance to share some of what I tried and learned, what worked and a little of what didnt…and a chance to show off some of my beautiful pictures! My parents are Salvation Army officers and despite their incredibly low income, they worked hard to save money since I was born to pay for our wedding, so we really wanted to make sure that the way we spent that money in a way that honoured how hard they had worked both to earn and save the money. So here’s what we did…

1) The Dress

I went dress shopping two weeks after we got engaged in a wedding shop in Brisbane. I was over visiting my parents for Christmas, spending a week at their home in Papua New Guinea and then a week in Brisbane. The dress was beautiful, and the fact that I found it with my Mum (bearing in mind that she wasnt able to be involved in any of the rest of the planning) made it ‘the one.’ The dress was AU$2200 and by a brand called ‘Essense of Australia’ so I wasnt sure that I’d be able to have it or get it. However, after some online research, I found that it was available in the UK and that a place in Basingstoke had it for £1200. That still seemed like a lot.

My very lovely friend Sarah got her dress second hand online and really pleaded with me to look around before spending that kind of money…literally the same day, shopping on I found the dress in this shop, it was a shop sample so had been tried on a couple of times, and it was a size bigger than I needed, but it cost me £500!!! One of my bridesmaids found me a friend of a friend who did the alterations for £50, and I ended up selling the dress, again on preloved for £300 after the wedding, so my total spend was £250…a far cry from the original $2200.


The Centrepieces

We spent SO many hours trawling charity shops, but we managed to collect enough teapots to have one on every table filled with flowers.  We had different cream coloured flowers on every table. Another friend of a friend helped us with the flowers, so it really didnt cost us very much at all, and they looked wonderful. I have friends who have spent SO much on centrepieces, so this was a thrifty and cute option, and my Grandma reckons we can auction all the teapots now and make some money back!


The Favours

These were the best and worst bit of the wedding planning effort. Instead of a cake, Matt and I had three tiers of cheese, so I decided to hand make individual jars of chutney for every guest (100). A friend of my Grandma’s saved her baby food jars for me, and then my bridesmaid, Anna and I took over her Mum’s kitchen on three different weekends to sterilise the jars and make the chutney. We had 5 flavours. Apple and Ginger pickle was NOT GOOD…I mean, apparently it tasted ok by the wedding, but on the day we made it it just smelled awful and even after some time to mature, the smell was too similar and brought back memories that just made it impossible to like. We also made rhubarb chutney, caramelised red onion chutney and, the favourite, curried rhubarb chutney (its honestly one of the best things i’ve ever tasted). Then we covered them in Gingham, wrapped some parcel string around and added cardboard tags. The just looked awesome and totally added to our vintage country fayre type feel. And so quirky 🙂

The decorations

So Anna and I also made bunting using scraps of fabric we collected in the lead up to the wedding, we cut out the triangles, and her wonderful Mum stitched it all onto ‘bias binding’ to make it into bunting.

We then used Matt’s Mum’s old uni trunk for our table plan, and I made 60 cupcakes for our evening reception…that was actually the only bit I wished I hadnt done. Two days before the wedding, that was really just one thing too many for me!!


So there you have it. Our little handmade, thrifty wedding. A year on!

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What love looks like: Upside down crackers

I dont want to write too much about this, as its pretty tough, but right now I feel like I’m having a bit of a breakdown.

Something in me has gone a bit wrong, and I cant sleep. This doesnt generally happen to me, and is not good. I can probably count the nights of insomnia in my life on two hands. I love sleep, its the way I deal with stuff, so being awake at 3am isnt a good place for me to be. But just lately, the time at which I ought to be winding down and headed to sleep seems to be the time that my chest gets tight and my muscles start to contract a little so that I cant keep my legs still.

The last couple of weeks have been painful. I am exhausted and that makes every insecurity i’ve ever had multiply. So I sit and believe that noone likes me, and that everything I say is irritating or dull. And i dont tell anyone, because people who are needy are irritating….vicious circle methinks.

In the next 4 months, I have 22,000 words of assignments to write, I’m moving house and I really need to find a job because if I dont, we cant pay for the house we’re moving to. All of that is creating a ridiculous amount of worry. My brain whirs around each of these issues, until they are all tangled together in one big web of sleeplessness. The most frustrating thing being that aside from writing the assignments, I cant make any of the other stuff happen any faster than it already wants to, and that is driving me ever more crazy. I am a great believe in giving things to God, and I am trying so hard to do that, but somehow I keep taking it back off him. Yesterday in church we had teaching about not worrying, and I fell to pieces and took myself off to a corner to cry!! I always isolate myself in pain, like if I dont share it, I can control it. If only that were true.

Matthew doesnt do worry. If he has 5 emotions they are chilled, unphased, relaxed, content and happy (but only happy in a controlled and non-energy-requiring manner). He finds it indescribably difficult to understand me at these times, and this hurts him too. Last night he cried as he prayed over me as I writhed around in muscle twitching chest tightening agony at sleep time.

Tonight, Im sitting at the table with an assignment to plan, and he brought me cheese and crackers and chutney. he sat and sliced the cheese and put it on the cracker and put some chutney on top.

And I told him he’d done it wrong. That chutney should go UNDER cheese, not on top of it (I know right, what.a.bitch!!)

So he took another cracker, popped it on top of the chutney and reversed the whole thing for me!!

He’s a keeper

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What love looks like: Building a home

So until the end of 2011, the plan was pretty fluid. I’d graduate this year, and then I’d look for work. As Matt’s work involves a lot of traveling, and head office is London, I’d look for work somewhere within a couple of hours of London and he’d commute like he does now. We said we didn’t feel like we had a home so we’d make one somewhere, but we didn’t mind where.

We were wrong.

2012 began and I started looking for work in preparation for finishing study.  I started looking in various places including all of the London boroughs, and there were some amazing jobs coming up…problem is, I didnt want any of them. I’d open up a new city/borough council website, and feel that dread of ‘I really dont want to live there’ combined with something I hadnt totally seen coming which was ‘I dont want to leave here.’

‘HOME’ snuck up on us. We never saw Southampton as a place we’d settle, we didnt rule it out but we just didnt expect it. As Sally Army officers kids, neither of us put down roots easily, and so we planned that it would be easy to go somewhere new and start again. Only we were wrong.

Somehow, in the midst of a crazy, life altering, tumultuous 3 years, I found home here. And since being with me, so did Matt. We like being near the water, spending sunny days and rainy days on the beach. We like being a little way away from the big city, but being near enough to visit (and indeed drive there for work 3 times a week in Matt’s case), we love our church and believe in what it is doing, and want to be somewhere we are known, so we can be pushed to go deeper. In the past 3 months we have begun to develop some friendships that we believe are good for us and we dont want to go somewhere new and start all over again, AGAIN!

So we prayed, and we cried, well, I cried! We spoke to people we love and people we respect and we made some choices.

We made some pretty hefty choices.

This weekend we took a leap of faith and signed a new tenancy agreement on a house right opposite where our churches new building is going to be built. It is a house which, come July, we wont be able to afford unless I get a job, and yet it feels 100% right. It is a house which, even if I get a job, will delay us being able to buy a house, and yet we couldnt bear the thought of someone else signing for it, because as soon as we walked into it we could see ourselves building a life there. It is a house where we can imagine ourselves having children, and a dog, and a space where Anna can grow old (!). It is also smack bang in the middle of the community that our church is seeking to serve. So we will be actual neighbours to the people of the Dowds farm community, and, hopefully, will be able to be much more involved in serving that community and showing Gods love to its residents.

Neither of us have known much stability in our lives. In childhood this was because of our parents work, in adulthood, complicated work and relationship situations have meant that neither of us has found a place to be and to want to stay. But now, in faith, we’ve chosen. We have made a choice and now we can begin to build a home, to make our new house (unlike our pretty grim and seriously damp old house) into a place where we can stay, and build our future. Much of that future is still uncertain, we don’t know where jobs and things will take us, but we have, I believe, found our home.

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What love looks like: Traditions

So, something that someone said to us when preparing to get married is that its really important to have little traditions that are sacred for you as a newly married couple. Things that make two people living together for the first time become a family. In the bible it says that “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. ” (Genesis 2:24), and I feel that this verse is about more than the standard understanding about sex, its about the fact that Matt is my family now, and his family and my family are our extended family, but this family is just us!

Two of our very beautiful friends who seem to be very good at marriage told us that they make Saturday mornings a little bit sacred, and we decided to adopt that (as far as our somewhat-manic-at-times life allows). So Saturday morning is for us. We get up late (in summer this involved Mothercare black-out-blinds as I just cant sleep in long after the sun is out), we try to do something chilled together like reading the papers or catching up with a TV show and we make a list of what we’re going to eat that week ready for a big shop. Most importantly we have some kind of treat for breakfast. The rest of the week I eat porridge and Matt eats toast if he has time or inclination before leaving the house, but on Saturday we have something different and tasty. We both love good food, so we try to make it something interesting (there is currently a bacon, egg and goats cheese tart in the oven…) and then we have some time. Its a great opportunity to catch up on each others week, despite seeing each other every day, its amazing what you forget to mention after a busy day at work.

And then the business of the weekend begins, a trip to the farm shop for our food, cleaning the bathroom, visiting friends, disposing of Christmas trees (the decorations were gone before the end of the 12th night, that counts doesnt it?!), but for those few hours on a Saturday morning, it is just us, cocooned up in our little space, being a family.

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So I am already proving to be useless at blogging regularly, must try harder

This summer has been a weird one, I have been off uni and Matt has been in a new job with long hours away from home. I’ve been fairly lonely at times and have felt a little down at not achieving much. In the end I got myself a little temp job just to save myself from going insane.

But in the midst of all of that, Matt and I have started asking lots of questions about what the future holds for us. I have another year of uni to do, so its not an imminent decision to be made, but we have started to think about it. a lot. During that, we have also been to see Shane Claibourne, a really inspiring Christian speaker and political activist, which massively shaped our thoughts.

Shane Claibourne is a guy from East Tennessee, born in a conservative Christian family, brought up in the church and crowned Prom king at his school…nothing amazing about that. But then during college he met Jesus and, in his own words, it messed him up. He suddenly began to feel that the things that mattered to him weren’t actually that important and that there were things in the world that he suddenly became very passionate about. so…10 years on, he lives in Philadelphia, working with the poorest families and communities. But this guy isn’t a youth worker, or a community centre manager, he literally lives alongside these people. He heard that there were some homeless families in Philly who had moved into an unused Cathedral and were about to be evicted by the church…this didn’t sound right to him so he went down and stayed there with them, and got arrested with them, and went to court with them, wearing a T-Shirt that says “Jesus was homeless.”

He felt really strongly that America made a wrong decision when it bombed Iraq, so during the first bombings of Bagdad, he was there, hanging out with Iraqi people and trying to show them that there were Americans who cared about their plight. He learned a lot there from he Iraqi Christians who sat with bombs falling around their churches praying for Americans.

We passionately believe that faith in Jesus has to translate into living differently. We believe that we, in our current position of having no big ties or responsibilities, are called by God to do something about the poverty and injustice and sadness we see all around us. Sadly, we don’t yet know what. We don’t know how to start or who to help. But, we have started on a journey of learning and reading and trying to find out some answers. We are actively looking for opportunities and are more carefully considering our own decisions about how we spend money and time. It is an exciting but scary time

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Getting Married…The bits noone tells you

So, as they are the things freshest in my mind, I thought I’d start by telling you a little about our wedding and honeymoon. We really did have a wonderful time, and feel massively pleased with how everything went. However, i don’t mind telling you, just because we’re friends, that I found the whole experience somewhat surreal and not at all what I had expected.

Matt and I did our wedding on a pretty tight budget, and actually loved it that way. With the help of a few friends, we made a lot of the stuff happen ourselves, sourcing and making decorations, favours, and what seemed like a million cupcakes. This meant that we really felt that the wedding was “our” day, and as we decorated our reception venue, we felt that we had made it very personal and lovely.

Another somewhat unusual thing about our wedding was that we had two!! The venue we fell in love with wasn’t registered for marriages, so on 25th June with just our parents and two friends as witnesses we got legally married and signed the register. Then a week later, in our beautiful mansion house venue, we made the same promises to each other again, but this time with friends, family, bridesmaids, bouquets and, yes, cupcakes!!

So, here are some of the things I discovered and learned during that experience

1. I am a worrier, and for the 6 months we were engaged I worried about every little detail. I dont think I’d ever had such a focussed issue to worry about before, so this highlighted my tendency to fret.

2. I dont sleep well when I am worried

3. I’m not that nice when I dont sleep well

4. No matter how much you worry in the lead up to a wedding, there is no way to fully understand how little the things you are worried about will matter to you on the day. There are some big things (dress, hair, make up, groom turning up) that OF COURSE have the power to affect your day, but those weren’t the main things I was concerned about. I spent so much time worrying about tiny things like what colour to paint my toenails (which couldnt be seen), and whether the shades of green of the bridesmaid dresses matched closely enough with the boys ties, and whether we would have enough food for the guests in the evening, and honestly, when it came down to it a) they didnt matter and b) even if they mattered to anyone else, I certainly didnt notice them or worry about them on the day.

5. On your wedding day, you dont transform into an elegant, refined and softly spoken princess-type bride. If you’re a gangly, gobby, slightly-too-fat-around-the-hips kinda girl, you’ll be a gangly, gobby, slightly-too-fat-around-the-hips kinda bride too. That doesnt mean that it wont be a lovely day, or indeed that being yourself at your wedding is in any way a bad thing, but I think I expected to feel much more bridal. I’m not a girly enough girl for that, and i basically felt and, at times, looked a bit awkward.

6. No matter how tired you are, you wont feel it at the wedding. I hadn’t slept properly for 3 weeks prior to our wedding, but once I got into the dress and saw my gorgeous bridesmaids walking down the aisle ahead of me, and grabbed my Dad’s arm, I had a rush of adrenaline that kept me going until I got on the plane to honeymoon.

7. You wont remember the walk down the aisle…no matter how much you think you will, or you try to take it in, its just a blur in the memory within 5 minutes.

8. Everyone is happy for you!! Someone described it to me as being like Christmas multiplied by a thousand in terms of the good wishes you get from people, and that was spot on. People were so excited, happy and lovely, and that made everything that much better.

9. Getting married, legally, is remarkably easy!! Getting unmarried is a lot more difficult!! (Dont worry, I’m not considering it…) Our legal wedding, including register signing, and a few photos for prosperity, lasted 15 minutes. I signed 3 bits of paper and I was Mrs Williams. As I have married a divorcee, I know that getting “un-married” is a lot more time consuming, costly, and painful. Whilst I am not suggesting for a second that we make it easier to get divorced, it does seem preposterous how easy it is to enter into a lifelong commitment to somebody. Thankfully for us, because we were also having a religious service, we had a lot more guidance to make sure we knew what we were getting into.

10. and thats it. Not just for what I learned, but also for the day. Its over, as quickly as that. All those months of preparation, all the details you spend hours perfecting, all the excitement and nervousness is over so quickly. And then you’re married. Matt and I went on honeymoon very early the morning after the wedding, and we were both exhausted and pretty emotional. But then we woke up on Monday morning, and it was just us, looking at each other and realising that this is the way it will be forever. I know that people always warn about the dangers of being too obsessed with the wedding, and never was that more evident than on that morning. Thankfully, as previously mentioned, I wasnt born to be a bride. We were pretty relieved it was all over and so excited about being married.  We have loved looking at photos and re-reading messages from people, but we’re ready now to put the wedding in the past and the marriage in the future.

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Oh Hello…fancy seeing you here

As someone who has blogged a few times in the past, the feeling of a new blog is like a new notebook on the first day back at school, or a new bedroom in a new house which doesn’t have any of your stuff in it yet.

Undoubtedly in the weeks and months to come I will fill this space with some things I am pleased with, and some that I’m not. Like the new notebook, it wont always have useful or interesting stuff in it, and like the new bedroom it will, inevitable become untidy and disorganised.

But I do love a good fresh start, and just lately I’ve had a few. One month ago today I got married, which is super exciting and weird and scary and wonderful all at the same time. So I have a new husband, a new name, a new family, a new wedding ring, a new housemate, a number of new exciting kitchen utensils thanks to our wonderful guests, and a new, shared future with a wonderful man called Matthew. This is a picture of us at our wedding, just so you can visualise it, and not because we’re a bit obsessed with the photos at the moment…obv

So I’m on a bit of a learning curve really.

I’m trying to figure out a lot of things about being a wife and about sharing a life with someone. Some of those things are easy or fun and some are…less so. I am also in the middle…well in fact two thirds of the way through a degree in Social Work which is something that I have found remarkably challenging but also life-changing in lots of good ways.

So I might have some stuff to say that you’re interested in, and I might have some that you’re really not…happy reading…

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