Each Day Is Valentine’s Day

So ends the chorus of ‘My Funny Valentine’ from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms. In 2012, I (Jay) appeared in the 2012 revival at the Union Theatre, London, playing the leading role of Valentine White. One London reviewer said “James Lacey is pleasantly plump as a young Mickey Rooney”. Great. This could be one of a myriad of reasons why we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The point of ‘My Funny Valentine’ is unrequited love for something who maybe isn’t all that remarkable. She sings “your looks are laughable, unphotographable”. Hun, I relate after lockdown 3.0. I’ve not invested in my physical health anywhere near as much as I’ve invested in Amazon. In fact this third lockdown is, it seems for everyone, the hardest. It’s in January when no one has any money or motivation to be jolly after Christmas, there isn’t any sun, and there are new COVID variants popping up like ITV dating shows.

A cold January COVID walk

But January actually had a few points to celebrate, despite the fact we didn’t really feel in the mood to celebrate them. I turned 32… a couple more years and I’ll have made it further than Jesus. We began the 18 month countdown to the wedding date. And it was one whole year since this blog started.

Yup, you read correct. We’ve been blogging for a whole year. I use the term “we” generously as the Wedding Planning is a joint endeavour which allows one of us to have stories to tell when we put pen to paper… or thumbs to touch screen. We totally missed the actual anniversary (12th Jan) but we are both working – teaching! – from home and on site with key-worker children so it’s been a busy old half term of manoeuvring zoom schedules, wifi signals and the whims and wants of a needy French Bulldog. Either way, what a year eh?! Time flies when you’re in the throes of a global pandemic.

So why, in this seemingly unending pandemic are we still choosing not to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Surely any reason to celebrate breaks up the monotony of lockdown?!

We just don’t really get the fuss. Every time I buy him an unexpected bottle of Vape Oil from Co-Op or he gives me triple his amount of grated cheese at dinner we are showing each other what love means. I don’t eat chocolate and he doesn’t like unnecessary displays of affection so we don’t need to do it just because Clinton’s have had Valentine’s Day cards and balloons in the window since New Years Day.

We’re getting married. I’m certainly not pregnant and don’t have a dowry so we can assume a love match is implied (have we watched too much Bridgerton?!). We have survived a year of a pandemic spending more time together at home than we ever thought we would and have come this far smiling and bruise-less. Pretty sure that’s a good sign on the love scale. And we’re house-hunting. I’m certain we wouldn’t be tying ourselves up in a mortgage if we weren’t willing to lovingly argue over kitchen tiles and pedestal mats.

House hunting with a Frenchie who thinks he’s the Queen of Sheba

You never see those on a Clinton’s Valentine’s Card… “If we can survive lockdown we can survive marriage”… or “You’re the pedestal mat to my shower curtain”. Of course, I’m inspired by Victoria Wood in the latter. I’m the Mauve Pedestal Mat and Liam is the Tangerine Poplin Showerproof. Fans of Kitty should approve.

So yes, to return to ‘My Funny Valentine’: “Each day is Valentine’s Day”. We can show each other the acts of love and kindness every day, not just on February 14th because we’re expected too. The 23rd of February is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting Liam some Pedigree Chum – although maybe for Blue.

This morning, Liam asked me “Will you get me some vape oil from Co-Op because it’s Valentine’s Day?”. I said “No, but I’ll get you some because I love you”. And that more cheese than he puts on my dinner.

Christmas 2020 – Our 1-Year Engagement Anniversary

Liam refuses to accept that an engagement anniversary is a real thing, but it’s written in a blog so now it’s real.

Yes, a year ago yesterday, Christmas Day 2019, Liam bent the knee and I took the iron throne… no, of course I mean he placed the white gold ring on my finger… well, on the chain around my neck until we got it resized on January 3rd. We’ve been engaged for one year, and what a year eh?!

It’s Boxing Day 2020. Liam is ironing and I’m putting the freshly-pressed clothes on hangers while watching my favourite festive film: ‘The Holiday’. What a film! It’s funny watching it now engaged, and remembering all the years when I felt like Iris with some Jasper or other leading me along and inevitably to the bottom of a bottle of wine, or gin. I can’t count the amount of times I tweeted “I need to be more like Kate Winslet with the axe in ‘Titanic’ and less like Kate Winslet in ‘The Holiday’ over the gas hob!”. Well no more.

So what has happened in our first year of engagement? Well a fair bit: a new virus swept the globe, a useless track and trace system was introduced, a vaccine was found, I (Jay) completed my Masters Degree, our Frenchie lost both his balls then one eye-ball, Debenhams is closing, we got a hot tub and we have a post-Brexit trade agreement. Some things have stayed consistent: BoJo hasn’t got a clue, Pigs in Blankets remain the best Christmas food and Shirley Ballas is still the Krampus of Wallasey, stealing dreams and ruining Christmas for all by appearing on every Christmas show in the TV guide… although she’s got a new set of gnashers from Argos making her witchy smile look like the rim of ceramic lampshade.

But what about on the wedding front? Well I wrote about us finding our venue in my last blog: The Wedding Plandemic… and for the record, I was informed after publishing the last blog that Plandemic is the phrase the tin-foil brigade use to suggest that COVID-19 is all a planned hoax to control the public. I am not of that mind and I’m not gonna use that phrase anymore, thanks tin foilers!

So yes, we found the venue and we were talking to the caterers. Well, we went one step further. 2 weeks ago when Lockdown the Sequel we went to Scale (the venue) for a supper club with Fig and the Wild (the caterers). If we weren’t sold already, well this stunning meal in the gorgeous room has sealed the deal.

[Cameron Diaz just met Sophie and Olivia… the 3 Musketeers line always makes me cry, no matter how many times I hear it]

Let’s talk food… welcome drinks, delicious canapés plus 3 delicious courses… heaven. The menu:

  • Canapés – smoked salmon and whipped creme fraiche toasts, crispy veg peelings with curry salt, pork chilli and fennel sausage rolls
  • Starter – Smoked clove and venison samosa with beetroot chutney
  • Main – 6 hour red wine braised lamb shank with rosemary garlic potatoes and gremolata
  • Dessert – Clementine and cardamom tart with vanilla creme fraiche

Plus the welcome drink was a cranberry and thyme Winter gin fizz. We ordered a bottle of white then a bottle of red and finished up with a glass of bubbles at the end.

So yup, we have our venue and our caterers, and in the new year after the madness of Christmas (and the self-assessment tax deadline!) we’ll pay the deposits, make the pencil a pen and get those save the dates sent out. Not forgetting that we have our photographer (@clickedbykate) so we’ll be able to confirm the date with her too!

[Jude just told Cameron Diaz he loves her… what a pleb she was for not saying it back!]

It’s 19 months away until July 2022, ironic in the year of COVID-19. So what’s next? Planning the colour scheme I think, which will add a splash of colour to January’s palette.

But before that, let’s enjoy Christmas. Christmas is reduced this year; less extravagant, less people, but no less Merry. You find creative ways to spend it with those you love adhering to the restrictions and rules as best you can, and you realise those who are important to spend the season with. Some Christmas traditions endure and some are altered.

[Jasper just turned up at Iris’s/Cameron Diaz’s door in LA… hate him!]

Christmas PJs are definitely a Scouse thing I think… my mum always gets us the Matalan Christmas PJs which we wear on the night we decorate our tree and then again on Christmas morning.

Liam’s mum always creates Christmas hampers for all of her kids in mid-December then on Christmas Eve she cooks a ham, which couldn’t happen this year as she now lives and works in Wales, so Liam boiled, glazed (with honey and mustard) and roasted his own. Served with chippy chips on thick bread with lashings of butter… dribble mouth emoji…

Our mildly tipsy visit to midnight mass (sorry, Eucharist, Liam!) still happened but in masks, sitting on the left side of the church to leave the right side clean for the Christmas morning service, with no communion wine (the best part!) and with NO SINGING… I cannot tell you how much it hurt me to sit silent whilst Mike the organist played ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and the congregation missed out on me singing the descant!

[Iris just got rid of Jasper… gumption!]

Christmas morning wasn’t as jam-packed as it usually is. We couldn’t do the rounds like we usually do, so gifts were dropped at doorstops in advance and we got to take our time opening presents with my parents and sister, with our usual cup of mulled wine and bacon buttie.

[Arthur just climbed the stairs at his ceremony… scroodly doo…]

No Christmas morning would be complete without a visit to the cemetary to see my Nanny Teresa and Nanny Gladys. We always pay our respects to their neighbours too, Emmanuel buried opposite and Cilla Black (yes the actual Cilla) buried diagonally across from Nanny Tre… thankfully this tradition was still able to take place (in matching novelty Tiger King tracksuits courtesy of Grooms Maid Kellie) which was a nice Surprise, Surprise.

[Jude Law is crying, Cameron Diaz is crying, I’m crying]

Another Christmas tradition now in its twelfth year (I love the spelling of twelfth, gives me joy every time I type it! Twelfth.) is my annual glamour shot with Liz… Queenie and I pose together every year at 3pm as she begins her annual Christmas address… she possibly doesn’t know we pose but I like to think that she checks out my insta feed just to see this year’s edition!

And this year, after a year that has taken so much I have begun a new tradition of giving my own Christmas Day hampers for my nearest and dearest: packages of festive treats, nibbles, drinks, games and luxuries for the home. It was so much fun and I’m already looking forward to collecting the baskets to restock next year!

On the subject of presents… Blue’s traditional Christmas Day stuffed toy massacre went ahead without a hitch. This year’s brand new duck lasted a record-breaking seven minutes (18:55 to 19.02. RIP Malcolm) which is his personal best! To think that this dog was paralysed from the waist down two Christmases ago due to a slipped disc caused by IVDD and now is back and stronger than ever despite losing three balls in two months is nothing short of a Christmas miracle!!!

[You Send Me is playing, everyone is wearing black and dancing in Jude Law’s living room and Cameron Diaz has served a plate of canapés that would only last me about 2.5 minutes before they were gone. What a film, Christmas is complete].

Christmas for me used to be a stressful time of year; producing pantos and putting the joy of others ahead of my own leaving myself over-worked, underpaid, over-exhausted and under the table drunk by 5pm! I was Kate Winslet, Iris… self-destructive and needing a break from all the Jaspers… it seems all too fitting that Liam the musician came in as my Jack Black, the musician from the Holiday, and now thanks to the engagement and its yearly anniversary (it’s happening!) Christmas is a romantic time of togetherness, all too fitting in the year of coming together to maintain social distance.

So from me and mine to you and yours, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day. The coming weeks are likely to bring more restrictions and most likely another national lockdown. If 2020 taught us anything it’s to help each other, reach out to those who might be on their own and savour the time spent with those we love when we get to. I’m off to whack on a black outfit, eat canapés and dance around the living room… Darling you… send me…

The Wedding Plandemic

When last I typed we were in a quandary… and before I continue, I recognise (and love) that this opening sentence made me sound like I was writing a letter in a Jane Austin novel. But yes, the quandary: do we prioritise the big wedding or the dream house, or amend expectations and do both! Now, a quandary sounds so negative, but in actual fact it can be quite a positive position to be in:

A) At least you have options.

B) You get the joy of using the word quandary in a sentence.

Admittedly, if your quandary is a toss up between postponing your wedding for a year or cracking on with a 15-person Tier 3 wedding then neither option is ideal. What an awful year, eh?! My heart goes out to all of the couples whose plans have been interrupted by Miss Rona shouting “I object”. In the grand scheme of things, our little quandary is just a case of forward planning. (I will now stop over-using the word quandary).

So, we’ve arrived at a kind of middle ground. We’ve agreed upon the sensible choice of the house first in 2021, and then a wedding in 2022 that prioritises what we need and want in a more affordable and less unnecessarily elaborate way. God, that sentence sounded more negative than quandary. This is in no way a compromise. Deciding not to £75 per head for a 3 course meal is no compromise, more like going ahead and spending it could suggest concussion or severe head trauma. I wouldn’t spend £75 on myself for a 3 course meal at a restaurant, so why would I spend it on a every member of a large crowd of invites… I don’t care if they are our nearest and dearest.

So we’re back to planning a wedding for 2022… wedding planning in a pandemic… hereafter referred to as the Wedding Plandemic. (Do you still only have to post a letter to yourself to copyright things like that or was that just a playground lie?)

Planning so far has been slow without a confirmed venue, and I don’t know how many more blogs I can write whinging that we don’t have a venue and aren’t able to carry on with planning yet. So you will be thrilled, or possibly relieved, to know that we think we’ve got the one. The venue of dreams. We’ve pencilled a date and everything.

Let’s go back to January. (If they ever turn this blog into a film the screen will do an old-school flashback ripple here).

When we first started considering venues and decided on the warehouse theme we immediately sought out every warehouse, factory and mill space in the city that was available for hire. Liverpool’s docklands seem to be in no short supply of quirky spaces but few can house a large enough crowd for a low enough fee. We’ve visited (and documented) Hinterlands and Camp & Furnace, both huge spaces to fill presenting their own problems… Hinterlands would need a lot of “stuff” (or people!) to fill the room and make it feel less empty. Camp & Furnace would need lessons in etiquette to make them less rude and show them how to respond to emails.

Of course, we had a moment (where I left you last) when we were almost ready to book The Palm House in Sefton Park which had absolutely nothing to do with warehouses. It was literally the polar opposite to the industrial vibe. Instead of bricks and rust it had bushes and rhododendrons. Let me say here it was also beautiful and would have been a lovely day and a lovely wedding. The lovely people involved were so helpful. The price was high but was pretty standard for high end wedding venues like the Palm House. The price has also been a point of realisation for us and that is not an insult to them. Cost is relative and I’m sure if someone is in a position to splurge then they would certainly get their money’s worth. For us, and our wider future plans, we’d rather not splurge to that extent. I’m glad we went, I’m glad we tried it out, I’m glad we got the quotes. It made us realise that it’s not what we want, that it’s an unnecessary splurge, and that we definitely want the warehouse vibe.

The problem at the beginning was our guest list of 120 daytime guests which made bigger venues too big and more intimate venues too small. Intimate venues, though, came back onto the table when we put the daytime guest list on a juice cleanse and cut from 120 to 92 (two blogs ago) and now have slimmed it down even further to 80. One such intimate venue, suggested by my mum back in January, was deemed too small back then, but we thought could be the perfect fit now the guest list is closer to its target weight. And we thought right.

The venue is a hidden gem in Liverpool’s fabric district, relatively unknown and in actual fact a photography space. It can actually hold up to 200 seated guests but works beautifully with a smaller amount. It has beautifully tiled toilets with Edison lightbulbs… And it’s a warehouse, well, a former leather tannery.

To put you out of your misery… (drum roll)… the venue is called Scale. We are obsessed.

I saw it first with my mum and sister (Maid of Honour) and had a really good witch belly feeling… I could tell this would be the one. The lovely Gemma from the venue literally ticked the every box for us about a bespoke, relaxed and perfect wedding of our own devising. Once we left, she gave us an email intro to their regular caterer, Alison from Fig and the Wild, which was quickly followed up with a phone chat. Alison’s catering style is broad, eclectic, tailored to the couple and, even better, she doesn’t offer packages with fixed prices to choose from: she takes your budget and your ideal price-per-head and comes up with a bespoke menu that isn’t going to surprise or out-price you.

On Saturday, one week ago, I returned with Liam and could see the corners of his eyes wrinkle behind the mask, the 2020 symbol of the smile. He was sold. It was Liam, the careful, cautious one, and not me, the instinctive, impulsive one, who jumped in and asked Gemma to pull up the calendar.

A Saturday in Late July 2022. Pencilled.

We’re just awaiting some further conversations with catering and then we’ll turn that pencil into a pen. Food is important to me, but even more important to Liam. He’s a great cook and wants the food on our special day to be just as great. There are limited areas of the planning he has claimed as his department but the food is certainly one of them so I’m leaving him to make the decisions there. We agree that Alison’s style and setup, plus her knowledge of and affiliation with the venue should only be a major positive!

And so we’re off. We (99.9%) have a venue! Planning can commence. Pinterest isn’t gonna know what’s hit it!!!

The Big Commitment

I’m not talking about actually getting married. Yes, that’s a big commitment but we’ve already established that that’s happening. I’ve known it would be happening from the minute he met my mum on board the Holland America Rotterdam cruise ship docked in Liverpool and I thought “he’s passed the test”. We moved in together after 11 months and are already engaged so the commitment of pledging our lives together before gathered friends and family and an unrelated registrar is a commitment we’ve accepted is on the cards. No, the big commitment stuck on both of our minds is financial.

On board the Holland America Rotterdam in 2017

To put you into the bigger picture: we want to get married AND we want to buy a house.

Cut back to November 2019; pre-engagement, approaching my first Christmas after closing my pantomime production company having spent the previous Christmas being terrorised by a (predominantly) rude and unruly cast, and relishing in the reduced pressures of time spent with family. The world was our oyster. Actually we had an Indian Takeaway that night so the world was our chicken pakora. This one night in November, Liam and I were having dinner (we’ve established that already) with my parents and confessed our future plans: Liam wanted to get a house then get married, and I wanted to get married before getting the house, so we didn’t feel guilty that an extra guest at the table would be cutting into the deposit savings. It wasn’t a stand off til dawn, but it at least showed us multiple possibilities and suggested some kind of compromise was on the cards.

And then we found Halifax’s Family Boost mortgage, which meant we might be able to get the mortgage first, reducing our monthly outgoings (yes, mortgages are cheaper than rent!) and take out a loan to pay for the wedding within a short period. Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt… and you can afford to invite both Bob and Fanny to your big day. We got engaged a month later so Bob and Fanny could go and buy a hat.

Then came Rona.

We’ve been relatively lucky where the Ro-Ro is concerned: no serious drama in the present but plans for our future have certainly been disturbed like Joe Lycett’s collection of antique biscuits. SAMANTHA PETERSON! (If you haven’t see Joe Lycett’s standup that while reference will be lost on you so please progress straight to the next paragraph pretending I said nothing).

Where I left you last, we’d viewed our third venue (the Palm House) and were awaiting a conversation with their in-house caterers, Dine. The phone call was brilliant, lots of great catering options and really exciting possibilities. The quote, by wedding standards, wasn’t even that extortionate. These things just cost a lot. So although it’s fine by wedding standards, the whole nuptial experience can cost the equivalent of a house deposit.

And herein lies our quandary. Weddings are expenny henny.

Add to this, the devastating news that the Halifax Family Boost mortgage is not currently available due to CoRona Cameron’s effect on the economy. It all comes back to BoJo and his useless gaggle of gonads.

So we have some decisions to make before committing to shell out a small fortune on either a new house, a new surname or both. Options:

  • Save for a house and do the wedding once it’s a done deal (if you think this is the sensible option you’re not on my side!)
  • Save for the perfect wedding then sell one of our lungs to fund the house
  • Take a hack saw to the day time guest list and make the wedding more affordable and flirt with a mortgage advisor to get the best deal so we can still try both
  • Both try to get a sugar daddy

As I’m sure you can imagine, we’ve got some decisions to make. But for now, before we’re financially committed either way, our only financial decision to make is which restaurant to order from on Just Eat. Happy Sunday Huns!

Venue Viewing Number 3…

It’s our first viewing post-lockdown. And probably our last viewing pre-second-lockdown when Boris sends us home again after spending weeks ignoring the facts and prioritising Tory alcohol tax profits over national health.

It’s such a weird experience; wearing a mask to meet someone in a mask to imagine your special day where hopefully no one will be wearing a mask and you’ll be able to kiss the groom without some jobs-worth COVID-warrior telling you off for getting within 2 metres of each other. Thankfully, at the time of the kiss we’ll at least be considered one household by law. Disclaimer: at work, I am that COVID-warrior, so it is a matter of the pot calling the kettle boring and obsessed with Risk Assessments.

So let’s talk venues. Anyone who has read any of my previous blog posts will know that we had a very specific visual in mind: industrial warehouse as a blank canvas for lots of quirk. So far we’ve viewed Hinterlands and Camp and Furnace, and had great experiences and impressions of both. We almost settled on Camp and Furnace until they cancelled on us for 2021. We did enquire about availability for 2022 but the lovely lady we dealt with originally no longer works there post-COVID and the new point of contact EITHER lost his eyes or fingers and thereby the ability to reply to emails, OR just completed blanked us. Either way, their loss. Certainly not our loss.

So yes, we don’t have a venue or many more warehouse options available. We also haven’t spent much time thinking about the wedding throughout the last 5 months. It feels like some sense of normality is returning (though undoubtedly about to be taken away again on Tuesday as Merseyside’s restrictions tighten), and so we have allowed ourselves to pick up where we left off after our Camp and Furnace plans went up in smoke.

Last week, over an excessive quantity of pub garden drinks (San Miguel shandies for me and Guinness for Liam), we went back to the drawing board. We began with the guest list. Not the original guest list. A new guest list, based on a post-COVID world. The mission: cut it from 120 day guests to under 100. 100 is still hopeful; if there isn’t a vaccine and if BoJo keeps letting everyone get pissed then grounding us for it we may end up slashing those numbers down further, but let’s imagine a world where COVID and the Tories don’t rule supreme.

We got the list to 92. So there are 28 people who will most likely be furious if they ever find out they were de-prioritised (there must be a better word for that!). In fairness, the majority were kids… averaging £35+VAT for a kid’s meal of chicken and chips at most venues then if you are not an immediate family member (biological or logical as Armistead Maupin would say) then you can stay home with Captain Birdseye and Nickelodeon, soz huns.

We arrived at an approximate number of day guests and an obviously much larger evening guest list. Google searches come in handy here, as do apps like Bridebook (the name still raises eyebrows for this particular blogger) and when you narrow down your search criteria to exclude hotels, golf clubs and anything on the Wirral then you’ve got a limited catchment area, and virtually no warehouse options left.

Then Liam made a suggestion. Something I would have said no to (and probably did) in January when we first started planning, having been to a wedding there before. It turns out so had Liam, but it had been a while ago for both of us. Suddenly, with fresh post-rona eyes, it seemed an un-obvious option that was obviously a great option for us.

To put you out of your misery, it is Sefton Park Palm House; the beautiful Victorian conservatory in Sefton Park, Liverpool. Liam last went to a wedding there a few years ago and I haven’t been to one for over 15 years! It completely avoids the original warehouse vibe but does tick the box of a style Liam and I have talked about but I possibly haven’t included in the blog yet: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Add to that the fact that I’ve become obsessed with all of the house plants I acquired in quarantine and I simply cannot get married if not within 27feet of a Yucca Tree.

I enquired through Bridebook (there’s that name again!) and received a gorgeously positive email from the lovely Sandra the very next day (that’s how you do customer service Camp and Furnace!). I much prefer phone calls to emails for important personal things like this so I rang Sandra who was more than helpful and booked us in for a viewing today, just 5 days after the phone call. Sandra informed us she wouldn’t be around on Saturday (today) and we’d be greeted by the lovely Rosemary, but added “I’ll be the one to coordinate for you on the day, God spares me”. I filled up with tears. My Nanny Gladys (not my real nan, my Scouse nan) used to say “God spares me” whenever she talked of anything in the future, and always used to say “I hope I live to see you get married, God spares me”. I haven’t heard that saying since she passed away in 2012. It was a sign.

So today was the day of our viewing. Masks on, glasses fogging, yet ready for business. Rosemary was indeed lovely, more than helpful and gave instant confidence as she certainly had every detail of how weddings work in the venue nailed to a fine art. Her years of experience in the venue were apparent and it really does make a huge difference to be told exactly how a venue usually works for most weddings, but to be allowed to imagine your own experience individually within the space too. As a same-sex wedding, it was amazing to hear from Rosemary about how they, at the Palm House, are working to neutralise the experience of planning to focus on the groom as much as the bride. Another huge tick there!

The venue itself is obviously stunning. You don’t need me to tell you that. A 125-year-old, 25-metre high glass panelled conservatory within its own private garden in the heart of the biggest park in Liverpool, filled with stunning plants and beautiful natural light is already a winner for visuals. But on top of that, the layout lends itself to a really beautiful day, with options for spaces around the site to isolate different areas for specific segments of the day. The outdoor grounds are beautiful if the weather is nice (and let’s hope in July it is!) but the indoors are just as beautiful if the weather turns biblical, and at least either way I won’t have to worry about a long white train getting ruined…

For those who remember my earlier worries, I have a particular obsession with lavatorial aesthetics, ie. I can’t bear minty toilets. Safe to say, there are no concerns here as the lower level toilets passed the test, and are fully accessible by stair and by lift.

So it’s got everything… space, visuals, plants… they even allow the dogs of the happy couple if we wanted (though that’ll probably mean we’ll have a domestic over whether or not Blue is coming!). What more could a gay want? We walked out feeling like we’d found our venue and rushed for lunch to have another look at the guest list. Guests need feeding and the next conversation to have is with the caterers, which could be the make or break moment of whether we can go ahead and book… like we so want to!!!

The Palm House work in partnership with Dine so we need to speak to them, and as an example of the efficiency I love, Rosemary has already put us in contact and I have a phone call scheduled for tomorrow morning. I know from their Instagram that Dine’s food looks incredible so let’s hope that their pricing is incredibly affordable… otherwise I shall have to sell my body or my kidney, whichever will fetch a higher price!

The Wedding Diet Starts… meh

Since Liam and I got together it’s safe to say I’ve let myself go a bit (a lot). In the words of one of my groomsmaids, I got fat and happy.

Of course it happens. Once in a relationship, once you get comfortable in that relationship, once you leave the world of dating apps, once you stop scanning bars and clubs looking for attractive men as if you’re Liam Neeson looking for his daughter, once you’re removed from the world of rejection – you become less concerned about being considered attractive and assume that you’ve passed the attracting phase. At least I did.

Add onto that the fact I’d also quit performing as my main source of income and stopped auditioning, and suddenly I now have no one looking at me and judging. Which sounds great, but I need judging… because my edges have become fluffy.

I’m not trying to pretend that I’m in any way obese, but I’m not at my target weight either. First, I had to accept that medium T-shirt’s fitted better. Then I couldn’t do up the buttons on the bespoke shirt I’d had made not even 12 months before. Next, I had to get over the horrible transition from 30Reg jeans to 32Reg. Finally, I bought a multipack of fitted T-shirts (in size medium!) and could see my belly button dimple through the fabric when I looked in the mirror.

Now I have a wedding coming up and I don’t want to feel like Jabba the Slut slithering down the aisle. I want to feel great in my suit, ideally wearing 30Reg trousers. In fact, I want to be so skinny people come up and say “Gorgeous service… but have you been eating?”

OK maybe not that far, but I do need to get my (fat) ass in gear and take control of my fitness. They say good bodies aren’t made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen. Well this body has been made in the kitchens of McDonalds and Greggs. So I need to keep myself socially distant from both Ronald and Gregg.

The regime has started. The same groomsmaid who coined the phrase “fat and happy”, Lindsay, gave me an intervention and booked me a 3 day juice cleanse with Presscription… no solid food, 7 juices a day. Day one was invigorating. Day two was disgusting. Day three was hysterical, thanks to my groomsman Darren who kept me entertained with his Dazza Diaries. He’s a PT and a nutrition expert so he was not best pleased with me starving myself except for a couple of smoothies. But he looks like action man so it’s easy for him to say! Where he has abs I’ve had 5 months of lockdown snacking storing up in case there’s a second lockdown over Christmas.

Anyway I lost 7.5lbs in 3 days so it was the detox I needed! I cleaned up a couple of bad habits; like switching a glass of Prosecco for a white wine spritzer, and planning meals more effectively.

Then lockdown started to lift and I went back to work. HERE ENDETH THE REGIME.

Despite the best will and intentions throughout lockdown, and all of the promises that “life will be different after all these lessons we’ve learnt whilst reflecting during lockdown”, when you go back to work you grab at every chunk of normality you can and so I’ve eaten out to help out and binged on Greggs, Maccies, Wok and Go and all of Bold Street’s finest establishments. Old habits die hard.

So now I’ve got to get this wedding date booked (yes, we still don’t have a date or venue!) so I can plan my just-under-two-year weight loss plan. Yes, it’s not just brides preparing for their fishtail dress hoping they look like a mackerel not a beluga whale: it’s us too! I’m not against wild and unorthodox methods… I’ll try them all. Hot yoga, running through forests, licking the face of someone with Gastroenteritis…

So whilst Misters Who Marry restart with the rest of the world, praying lockdown is over for good and the sequel isn’t on the way, the diet has to start and get serious. So far I’ve done a week back at work with term started (Liam has done 2), we’ve been eating better, planning lunches and alcohol intake has reduced – though it increases as we get towards the end of the week and my patience!

It’s a marathon, not a sprint… and ironically I’m in shape for neither. But here we go, I’ve put it in a blog now so it has to happen… otherwise the 6 regular readers will be so disappointed by my lack of progress. By my next blog post, I’ll be an American size 2 and you’ll be able to grate cheese on my cheekbones. Either that and I’ll give up and get married wearing an empire line dress to disguise my growing never-going gut! Tra!

Cheers to 3 years, dears!

On July 11th 2017, we met for the first time. We had been speaking for a month already having swiped right on Tinder exactly a month before. I will always remember Liam’s profile said “Teacher, Oboist, Geek” and I was sold. In fact, his name was listed as Billy and he introduced himself as Liam and at another point said his name was William, so for that month of being flirtatious pen pals I would refer to him as Billiam because I couldn’t remember which was his actual name. He’s still saved in my phone as Billiam, so if you’re ever near me and I have an accident or faint due to starving myself on a wedding diet then you know who to search and call.

Throughout that first month of messaging I was on a cruise ship as a guest entertainer (hence the delay in our first date) and for a time of it Liam (it definitely is Liam) was in Glastonbury. So while I was sending photos from the Church of the Spilled Blood in St Petersburg, Liam sent me a photograph of the grass mound in a field. I thought he’d sent it by mistake but he told me under that grass mound. He had fallen asleep and been covered by his friends.

Of course, we’d gotten to know each other pretty well during the month. So for our first date it was like meeting someone you’d already been on a few dates with. I waited at the front door of Neon Jamon on Berry Street looking towards China Town and Liam arriving from the Bombed Out Church. He said hello, I turned, and he kissed me. Well… that got that out of the way.

We celebrate our anniversary on the date of our first date. About 2 weeks before our first anniversary we moved into our first house together. Now on our third anniversary we’re engaged and planning our wedding, which will probably be around the time of our fifth anniversary.

So much has happened in 3 years. Liam was (and still is) a school teacher, though now he’s completed 2 years of training towards becoming a Head Teacher. I was a freelance lecturer at various colleges and now I’m full time at one. We have a coffee machine and keep house plants and spend more money on medication for our dog than we do on wine. Well, maybe not more than wine. But still, we’re getting good at adulting.

I have a little anniversary tradition: I like to mark the occasion with something we can put on the wall. Like a big gay hall of fame. The first year I had our photo by Paul Curtis’ wings put onto a canvas.

The second year we got a beautiful original piece from Isabella Daisy Designs featuring the first bars from the melody line of Rhapsody In Blue, by George Gershwin.

This year of course there was only one option. I had to get some photos from our engagement shoot with Clicked By Kate (@clickedbykate on Instagram) put onto canvas to get up on the wall. But there were so many good shots I was almost impossible to select one. So had to be 4. One for the main picture wall and 3 little ones for the downstairs loo!

I like this little tradition because, like Valentine’s Day, it’s not really a big deal and certainly doesn’t need to be a huge song and dance. We don’t do the whole shebang – no flowers and gifts and restaurants. Our wall of fame tradition is enough and we’ll always do a nice meal at home. Last night, Liam cooked the first meal he ever made for me: Chicken stuffed with black pudding and shallots wrapped in parma ham with hasselback potatoes and greens. It’s delish… I’ll give you the recipe!

The best anniversary treat though… our first Drive-Through Maccies breakfast since March! Cheers to another year babe!

6 months on…

Well hey there all you cool cats and kittens.

Today we have been engaged for 6 months exactly. That’s means it is 6 months since Christmas morning 2019 when Liam got down on one knee and it is 6 months until Christmas 2020 when hopefully we’ll all be able to gather around a fir tree to exchange gifts without worrying about how far we are from each other.

It also means that of the 6 months we have been engaged we spent 3 months enjoying gorgeous wedding fayres (fairs, we’ve had this debate before) and meeting the people of the most beautiful industry who have the happiest job of all… and then we’ve spent 3 months in lockdown. And we are both still alive.

Isolation is quite a word isn’t it. It literally means to separate oneself from everything else in the world. Except each other. And don’t get me wrong, we love each other.

BUT… we have never spent so much time together… EVER! We both work full time both in education and in creative and performance platforms on the side. We are used to being out of the house. And now we are stuck in the house. Together. All the time. With the neediest dog in the land.

Oh yes, if lockdown wasn’t stressful enough, our dog had to have his eye removed. Imagine the stress of a pet going under general anaesthetic on a normal wet British Tuesday in April. Now add COVID-19, social distancing measures and a ruptured ulcer to the mix and you end up with Liam and I in the car park of our not-for-profit veterinary surgery in a Mini Cooper at 2am watching Finding Dory on Disney+ desperate for a wee.

In the wider context of isolation, weddings are about coming together. Isolation is about staying apart. And never the twain shall meet.

So yeah, the wedding has been pushed back to 2022. All those gorgeous people who were hoping to marry this year in 2020 are rescheduling to 2021 so we’re happy to move ours to 2022 in the hope of a wider variety of the gorgeous wedding folk we’ve been fortunate to meet since since January being available.

For those wondering where we’ve gone, we’re still engaged and still looking forward to our wedding. We’re thankful for the support of the fabulous folk at the @gweddingdirectory (check out their Instagram) for our blog and for the stunning photos @clickedbykate took for our engagement shoot (check out her instagram but don’t fight us for wedding dates in Summer 2022 cos she has to be ours ❤️)!

We’re getting our gears back grinding (bad word to use in the gay world) and we’ll be bringing more excited and sarcastic blogs your way.

Stay alert. Wash your hands. Control the Virus. Vote out the Tories.

Peace out huns ✌🏼

PS. We bought a hot tub as a 6-month engagement gift. Cheers queers 🥂

2020 on Pause…

This is a really strange blog to write. Usually I’m updating about an exciting step of our journey, whether it be a venue viewed or a fair attended. But there’s no news at the moment, because the world is on pause; at a standstill. Travelling to visit a wedding venue would certainly constitute unnecessary travel, and the venues themselves aren’t usually considered key-workers so are unlikely to be open if we did travel over. If we booked a venue we’d have to start stockpiling now to have enough loo roll to cater for the guests!

And here comes the bigger problem… once the movement restrictions and curfews and lockdowns are lifted every Tom, Dick and Susan will be clamouring to book every venue they can ASAP, especially those whose happy day has been cancelled during the lockdowns. They’ve waited long enough and had everything planned out and now their original wedding date will just be another day in quarantine. So let them rebook, we can hold off… once we leave quarantine we’ll wait another year and plan for a 2022 Wedding. It’ll give us an extra year to prep and a larger variety of venues will be available after those people panic-booking venues have got it done ASAP.

So it makes you realise what is important when planning a wedding. The most important thing is the act of marriage, not the rigmarole of the celebration. That’s not to say the celebration isn’t important too! Of course it is. It’s a day to gather those near to share to celebrate the commitment you make. And to get that right there’s no use rushing or compromising the enjoyment of the day because you’ve fought over a venue, caterer and florist with Cheryl from Hoylake who has to postpone her big day during a global pandemic. Have it Cheryl, 2021 is yours babe. Have the hall, eat your chicken supreme and throw your bouquet of carnations.

The Misters Who Marry, will still marry… just a little later than planned.We’ll take 2022. In 2022, we’ll both be 33. That’s older than I planned to marry in my 12-year-old life-plan diary. But I don’t have a pet dolphin or own a mansion with a fountain in the front garden and a theatre in the back garden yet either. So at least I’m close to one of the plans I made when money seemed as easy to come by as the wet look gel in my fringe.

So in the meantime you all get an extra year of sarcastic wedding planning blogs! Whilst on pause in the world I think it’s important to maintain some kind of routine so I will continue to post… whether it be a review of a wedding/love related film… or maybe it’ll be some back story posts as I don’t think we’ve actually properly introduced much about ourselves in this blog… or whether it’ll be simply ways to stay sane during isolation!

It’s actually a funny thing about isolation… I seem more connected to people now than I have been in years. When a group of my friends died (metaphorically) at the end of 2018 my social life went onto its own lockdown and a whole element of socialising and going out anywhere naturally ran its course. Gradually you rediscover who and what is important and in times like this you discover even more who it is you want to make contact with…

You know the way at weddings you tend to have different friends groups sat at different tables? Well, when we get through this we’re likely to have a whole table of friends we made during isolation!

In sickness and in health…

Let me preface this post: I don’t believe we should be feeding the hysteria surrounding coronavirus and this is not in any way intended to sensationalise.

The facts are thus:

  • There is a virus spreading across the globe that is potentially fatal to more vulnerable or susceptible people.
  • Social distancing has the potential to reduce the spread by reducing the contact we have with other people, especially those whose immune systems would not be strong enough to fight it.
  • There is logic in fit and healthy people catching the virus and allowing their body to build natural immunity.
  • The government are doing what they can to suppress the spread, but what they can do is not enough because they serve themselves and the rich and don’t really have the best interests of the ageing or poorer population at heart.
  • Boris is a tit.
  • Shit got real.

It can be terrifying, or it can be approached in a logical and calm way. We know the facts, we know the precautions we need to take. Don’t forget to wash your hands, don’t believe everything you read on Facebook, don’t put yourself in a situation where you can be exposed to something you might then pass on to others more susceptible, don’t pass go, don’t collect £200. Especially if you’re self employed.

In fact, second to those whose actual physical health is likely to be affected by the infection, my heart goes out those whose livelihood will be affected due to loss of income, myself included. Self employment and varying job frequency is a hard road to navigate in any normal circumstance, but when all of your avenues of work are forced to close then that road becomes a dead end. In fact it’s not a dead end, it’s just a one way street you can’t get down, because the government haven’t forced business closures, they’ve advised public avoidance. Which means those small businesses cannot make insurance claims they would be able to make if the government manned up and forced them to close. In that case they will likely risk bankruptcy… meaning once the road is back to business as usual there might not be a job or a business left at the end of it.

Myself (Jay), and all of my friends in theatre, hospitality and freelance education will be massively hit; and I’ll wager that so will the majority of wedding suppliers we’ve met over the last few months. I certainly won’t be making any commitments yet or be able to book a wedding venue with all of this in the air. And I wouldn’t want to. I’d much rather do all I can to avoid potentially passing on something that might not manifest in me but might be fatal to someone’s nan.

This whole blog is all about planning a wedding, and there will no doubt be a lot of happy couples who aren’t so happy right now as they are mostly likely going to have cancel weddings over the next few weeks. And yes that’s sad. I would be heartbroken. And they must be allowed to be upset too without everyone saying “but look at the big picture, people are dying”. Both are very sad, and the sadness is relative to the person experiencing it.

Nobody wins in any of these instances… well except for the private hospitals cashing in on the country’s misfortune by renting out beds. I hope their owners enjoy counting their money in their holiday homes and toasting marshmallows on the flames of the nation’s economy and health service.

So yeah, wedding plans are on hold as there are far more important things going on in the world. We’ll continue to write and will keep posting about flowers we like and dresses we’ll never wear on Instagram.

At least if we have to self-isolate and stay at home we know we both like each other… either than or after a quarantine quarrel we’ll be calling the whole thing off!!!