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 wedding 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!!!

Win some, you lose some…

So far every moment of our planning has been ultimately positive. We’ve enjoyed meeting suppliers without knowing whether they’d fit the plan our venue inspires. We’ve viewed a venue with potential but been inspired to view some other options and look for different things.

It’s inevitable, then, that something at some point would not go how we wanted it, and I write this blog with a kind of happiness-hangover coming to terms with the fact the venue we wanted and were about to book has been block-booked for the season and is no longer available.

As you can imagine we’re gutted. We knew it was right, we knew the mothers in law would agree, and we knew their menu options sounded perfect. In fact, the only reason we weren’t booked already was because we were waiting on bar costings for welcome/toast/table drinks and to sit with the caterers to confirm what the costings would be for the menu we’d like to choose.

It’s not been a lengthy process. Camp and Furnace was only the second venue we looked at. It’ll be 2 weeks ago we went to see it. But when you can visualise it to the finest detail you know it’s right. Or, it would have been.

We viewed both rooms but it was the Furnace we were hoping to confirm. A huge warehouse space able to be sectioned off for separate parts of the day as required, with loads of character in the original features of the warehouse, on site caterers, lots of bar space and a gorgeous feature furnace where the stage is set up.

My main reservation before viewing was my memory of the toilets, as I have a real obsession with ensuring my nan feels comfortable hitching her skirt to use the loo. My lasting impression was they looked like apocalyptic aftermath until Liam reminded me that I last saw them drunk out of my mind and then fell asleep at the table at 11.00pm during the Star Wars Quiz. My memory was inaccurate and in fact the toilets were fine, Nanny Pat wouldn’t have to cross her legs and hold it in.

So it even passed the toilet test. The price was very reasonable. The menu was great. The calendar was free for the dates we were looking, emphasis on WAS. Even until Thursday of last week when we had it confirmed that 31st July 2021 (Harry Potter’s Birthday!!!) was available and we asked for it to be pencilled and informed of a potential clash so we could upgrade the pencil to a sharpie.

We now know there is a clash, but of course when you’re running a venue it would be stupid of them to pass up the chance for a long hire, and naturally our little wedding, though important to us, is just another potential date in a diary.

FYI, we’d expressed interest not fully booked yet, pending the final price confirmations, so we don’t have a right to be upset with them, and we’re not. If I was running a venue I’d have had to make the exact same choice.

It’s just a bit poo. That’s the best way to describe it. Liam suggested we wait a year, and we haven’t fully discussed our options yet as our first instinct was to neck two bottles of wine and watch a Disney film. My instinct is not to wait for them. There will be a venue that will be available when we planned and won’t need to cancel for a bigger shark; they’ll be happy with a goldfish. (Not fully sure that metaphor worked, but I’m running with it).

So we’re back to the drawing board. Requirements:

  • Warehouse/industrial vibes.
  • Space for up to 120 in the day and 200 in the night.
  • Space for both ceremony and reception, but the legal part with registrar won’t have to be on site.
  • Nice toilets.

If you know of anywhere give us a shout! In the meantime, I’m off to book Bongo’s Bingo tickets out of spite and heartache 😂🙈

A laughing photo from our shoot with @clickedbykate to cheer us up!

We got Clicked by Kate!

When I (Jay) first met Kate I told her she was beautiful long before I’d looked at her photos. This prompted the mothers in law with me at the Lovely Little Wedding Show in the Isla Gladstone Conservatory to fall about laughing and saying “I don’t believe him, what’s he like?”. But she was beautiful, and so were her photos.

Wedding photography is like hiring a fancy dress costume. It’s not every day you get to experience being in front of a camera and you need to feel relaxed with the person behind it. Just like it’s not every day you get invited to Cheryl’s 1970s-themed fancy dress 50th Birthday Party and know you need a catsuit with easy access because your bladder isn’t what it used to be. In both instances, it’s about feeling comfortable.

At the various wedding fairs we’ve attended so far, we’ve met a whole gorgeous tribe of wedding photographers each with their own style and signature and portfolio. It can be daunting to consider choosing one; imagining how you would look photoshopped into their style, sometimes made doubly difficult because there’s a huge white dress in the image and you know you won’t get to wear it.

But you chat to them, and they relax you, and you see how relaxed they could make you feel on your big day so your photos will appear relaxed. No one wants wedding photos looking so forced it’s as if you’re there under duress. Fortunately, it’s not biologically possible for either of us to have to rush into a wedding due to being with child, since neither of us are with womb.

It might be OK for the Heir to the Throne to look uncomfortable and forced, as though he just realised the clock is ticking to produce the next heir, resulting in expressions of responsibility and mild arousement – but no such pressure exists for us. Anyway, our French Bulldog, Blue, is already the heir to our throne.

So there’s no pressure – we’re doing this because we want to, it feels right, it’s natural. And for our photos to look right they need to look natural.

Enter Kate. @clickedbykate as she can be found on Instagram is a documentary style photographer and the clue is in the name: documentary. Her style is to capture normal life not a staged sequence and, since there’s enough about a wedding that is dramatically enhanced compared to day to day life, it’s important to remove that additional level of forced imagery. After all, the wedding photos are a gorgeous memory to have but for the best part of the year will be preserved on a pen drive or in a coffee table book, ready to be passed around to houseguests with varying degrees of interest. So they shouldn’t cause any discomfort on the day as it’s the day that is important.

At least it’s important to us! We want to enjoy our day, and we should… we’ll be paying enough for it! (Seriously though, how expensive are these things?!)

So for us, the documentary style is the key. I know what Liam is like with photos. He instinctively pulls a pout face like Johnny Bravo when I try to take a selfie. I tell him to smile and we go through a few a varieties before getting a good one. He’s so much more adorable when he doesn’t have to try. Yes, that was cheesy and I shall be crafting Misters Who Marry sickbags for the big day in case of an overload of such cheese.

It’s not something everyone wants/needs but we booked a date into our diaries for an engagement shoot with Kate: a warmup for being in front of the camera on the actual big day. Instantly Liam panicked he’d be like Chandler from Friends when it came to the shoot but I assured him Kate wouldn’t be staging shots and he wouldn’t need to force a smile, she’d be catching us being normal…. well, as normal as you can be cuddling on top of a sand dune in the middle of Storm Jorge.

Kate asked us for ideas of locations and we suggested the woods and beach up near Formby, a short drive from where we live in Crosby. Date set. Location chosen. Next we had to pray the storm warnings wouldn’t cancel our plans. Thankfully the weather was relatively mild, yes windy but a bright sky and no rain.

So we went for a walk. With Kate following behind with her camera and her keen eye for location. She’d suggest we stop and talk at specifically well placed spots. She looked for good angles in the fencing, nice framing of the trees, always scoping out the best way to capture a moment for us. Outdoor locations seem to benefit from the good natural light, scenic opportunities and the addition of the dynamic of wind, which captured my scarf on a number of occasions.

It’s funny. When you look at the finished photos you’ll think we just frolicked in a forest for an hour, as Kate encouraged us to show affection. It appears we showed more public displays of affection that the general Formby population have seen in years! But in actual fact we were having fun. We laughed from nerves, from awareness of the very public setting, but mostly because we had such a laugh, together and with Kate. The shots capture brilliantly those small moments of a discreet kiss or a touch of the foreheads, but she honestly was like a ninja to catch them because as soon as we knew Kate had stopped shooting Liam would let go of my hand… though I think this was to reach for a nervous vape!

We split the time between the trees and sand dunes for a nice mix of shots within a very short walking distance. The intimacy of the crowded wood was in stark contrast to the view from the top of the dunes with the sea in the background. Though in actual fact I never saw the view in real time as the wind was so strong it was pelting sand into our faces and we had to cling on to each other just to stay upright.

I have to say, the results are gorgeous. We couldn’t be happier. Just 3 days after the shoot we have a full edited album to cherish and show off – that’s a quick turnaround by any standards!

I don’t think either of us will be jumping in front of the camera for a career in modelling anytime soon, but it’s safe to say we’ll be giving Kate a ring as soon as we have a date and our venue!

Venue Viewing Virgins

The ball is rolling. We bit the bullet and viewed our first venue this week. We’ve had a particular venue in our heads for a few weeks and I was determined to see that one and know how we felt after a viewing before confirming any more.

The venue was Hinterlands, an event space in the Baltic area of Liverpool and the sister venue of Constellations. Its selling point is its industrial feel and blank canvas aesthetic. You can do to it what you like. The warehouse vibe is exactly what we’re going for.

How do you choose the way your wedding should look? This brings us to…

WEDDING GUY-LEMMA 3: WHAT DOES A SAME-SEX WEDDING LOOK LIKE?

Who knows? Shouldn’t everyone’s wedding look different anyway? No one wants their wedding photos to look like a carbon copy of their friends’ or relative’s big day… same staircase, different dress. So we go to any length to find that exciting venue for photo backdrops, to make interesting table decoration choices. Basically we do our best to out-do the last wedding we attended by correcting the mistakes others made… it’s like a preemptive “Don’t Tell the Bride”

We haven’t actually attended many gay weddings in the past but that doesn’t mean we can’t preempt and use what we’ve learnt from the straights. Our visual can be just as unique as any other but not because of the fact we’re two men. It’ll be different because we’ll make it uniquely us.

Gay doesn’t have a designated aesthetic; we don’t have to wear crop tops and hot pants and everyone doesn’t have to come wearing colours of the rainbow. Though if that is your choice feel free. Just like there’s no rule for what a straight wedding should look like. There are straight weddings with the bride in control that end up looking like a drag brunch thrown by Liberace, with feathers and jewels and more campery than a night out down Old Compton Street.

The difference we are finding is that by removing the lady in the long white dress, the picture is altered and a lot of venues are already styled to accommodate a white dress being photographed with their white chiffon wall hangings in the background. I think Liam still secretly fears I might turn up in one such white gown. No hun, not this day, I’d only wear a wedding gown if I could go backless and I’m not at my target weight.

We started talking about barns originally, which led Liam to suggest something a bit more unusual and more industrial. Jackpot. We realised we both love the idea of the industrial setting: exposed brickwork, vaulted ceilings and rustic decor. A rough and ready setting to make beautiful with the things in it, decorations and table settings. That’s right up our street!

Liam suggested Camp & Furnace, which is a contender, but I have a bit of a thing about club venue toilets so I shall have to do my best Kim Woodburn inspection of them. We looked at Constellations too but sadly they are closing in March cos Fat Joe (Anderson) loves clearing plots of land to build more housing. (I don’t actually know if that building project has anything to do with Fat Joe but he’s getting the blame anyway!)

But most people don’t know that hidden in the heart of the Baltic is Constellations’ sister venue: Hinterlands. As I’ve said its a blank canvas, a monochromatic warehouse space with splashes of greenery growing in strategic places to add natural colour without paint. I love the space.

There are 4 main areas:

  • The entrance space with bleachers of integrated seating that doubles as a large display staircase
  • The mezzanine level with domed ceiling, its own bar and a wall of greenery seating up to 80 comfortably as a potential ceremony space
  • The main event hall which is huge enough to house Dolly Parton’s wig collection or James Corden’s ego, but not both at the same time. This open space boasts another large bar, toilets (very clean, I checked!), vaulted ceilings, overlooking gallery, original concrete warehouse floor and crisp white walls – it is a great opportunity to decorate a room however you like.
  • The Eclipse Theatre, a blackout venue seating up to 150 for ceremonies and capable of hosting up to 300 for a concert style gig (I’m not sure I’ve remembered that right :/ sorry!). This room is lit with festoons, fairy lights and up lighters to give a really alternative feel to a ceremony or an intimate feel for a party. It has another bar and yet more toilets.

The venue has everything and the staff are really helpful and excited about weddings so it’s definitely on the shortlist. We have two main reservations right now though…

1. The price is pretty standard for a wedding venue, but as it’s an event space not a full package venue catering comes as a separate contract with another supplier so there will be the added cost of contracting another company. The isn’t the benefit of the reductions you usually get in the likes of the hotel packages where venue and food come in one deal. For clarity, Hinterlands have Relish Catering based on site who are the recommended caterers and any other companies can be brought in at the cost of a kitchen buyout as is pretty standard across all venues. The perk of Hinterlands being a blank canvas also means a lot of decor would be needed to bring our vision to life which needs to be factored into the overall budget. None of this is enough to scratch it off the list but it’s a matter for consideration in budget planning. We have to remember we’re likely to have up to 150 day guests and most likely in excess of 200 in the evening!!!

2. We haven’t seen anywhere else yet. It would be remiss to settle on the first venue we view. Yes, I wanted to view Hinterlands before anything else but that’d be like settling for the first pair of shoes you try on without considering the shop next door might do the same shoes for half the price and throw in a spare pair of laces. The prince tried Cinderella’s shoe on all the maidens in the land before meeting his bride. I always wondered why he didn’t just look at their faces to recognise the girl he’d danced for hours with. To be fair he might have had a few jägerbombs and couldn’t remember… And yes – this shoe analogy has spiralled out of control.

This is in no way a diss of the venue… we love the venue and our wedding would be amazing there! The hesitation is a greater consideration: one about budgeting and planning and it’s about finding a balance between the aesthetic and the practicality of entertaining in large quantities.

So to summarise, Hinterlands has made a strong pencil mark on the shortlist and we’re making plans to view a few more places to make an informed decision. Our venue cherry has been popped, now I need a fag and a lie down.