Vintage style on a shoestring

Travelling back from collecting a china order from a wedding recently, I heard a wonderful programme on the Radio 4’s You & Yours relating to the escalating cost of a wedding today. Having had to work to a budget for our own wedding day and having to now, through my own wedding business, match couples Pinterest-inspired dreams to their more realistic bank-balance, I listened with interest to the incredible tales of the 1970s bride who fed and entertained 250 guests for £50 and the more recent divorcee who splurged a horrifying amount on the big day, only for the relationship to break down less than a week into the marriage and the inspirational trainee photographer who quickly married in her lunch hour as she wasn’t able to get the time off work!

One of the wonderful things about the rise in popularity of vintage weddings is the nostalgic look at how it used to be done in days gone by, and the examination of our old English wedding customs and traditions. It’s astonishing to think that only a generation ago many couples didn’t even have an evening do, but headed off on honeymoon after a quick bite to eat!

With financial contributions no longer coming from just the parents-of-the-bride but more often now from the groom’s family and indeed the couple themselves, the expectation of what a couple want, need and should spend for their big day can escalate out of control and it can be difficult to manage the joint expectations of the contributors. I believe that couples planning their big day can benefit from taking note of how previous generations tied-the-knot on a budget and kept their hard-earned savings for the important business of building a home and a future for the marriage and by keeping the focus on the things that really matter to them as a couple and avoiding an unnecessary splurge on the superficial. It’s refreshing to see that along with the adoption of the timeless and elegant look of vintage weddings, many couples are introducing more of the bygone traditions to their special day which lends a wonderful air of authenticity to a vintage-inspired wedding as well as helping to keep the spending under control.

Here are some budget-saving hints and tips I’ve picked up over the years, I hope they can be of some use to those planning a stylish day on a shoestring. The best advice from the radio programme was to spend within your means and ensure you have a day that truly reflects you as a couple and your life together. Just don’t throw out the disco just yet, we all love a good dance!

 

music sheet confetti coneMake and do and mend. From drying confetti petals to making jam and sewing bunting to handwriting name plates, there really is no greater labour of love than crafting your own wedding items. Call on the skill sets of your friends and families and when you are cursing over tissue paper pompoms and lace bows at midnight rest assured you will be saving money and these beautiful details will not go unnoticed by your guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

vintage cake tableCall in the cooks! If you have talented bakers on your guest list, ask them to bake their favourite cake for your big day, perhaps as part of a wedding gift. Showcase the collection on a dedicated cake table dressed with pretty china cake stands complete with nameplates acknowledging who made what. A unique, personal and visually stunning way to save on the catering bill, have your cake and eat it!

 

 

 

 

 

champagne saucers

For a summer wedding welcome drink swap expensive champagne for an elderflower cordial with sparkling wine and serve in chic vintage champagne saucers on silver trays, simply stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cake stand in the sunHost the perfect picnic, with picnic blankets, picnic baskets and garden games. Serve finger sandwiches and scones on vintage china. The finger food will prove much cheaper than a sit down meal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

milk jug flowersFor a fresh, rustic look gather seasonal flowers and greenery from the garden and present in china milk jugs and silver teapots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cream on sconesInstead of a three course meal, serve afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes adorning pretty tiered cake stands and sandwich plates complete with teapots cups and saucers.

 

 

 

 

 

Soup in cup an saucerGet the vintage look on a budget by mixing a splash of vintage in with cheaper contemporary pieces, for example dress a plain white dinner plate up with a vintage tea plate on top or a cheap white tablecloth with some vintage lace.

 

 

 

 

 

vintage wedding tableHire a hall! Village halls can be hired for next to nothing. Cover noticeboards with swags of gorgeous vintage fabric, hang handmade bunting from the rafters and show off the original vintage trestle tables with lace or hessian table runners.

 

 

 

 

 

kiddies tableHave a kiddie corner complete with a hamper of games, picnic blankets, cushions, sandwiches and cakes. The little ones will be happier and you’ll save on seating and catering.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it localcow parsley on silver and use your local independent suppliers, they come with a wealth of local knowledge and they can be flexible on prices and packages. Not only can you save on delivery costs but local suppliers are able to use their network of fellow suppliers to secure discounts and recommendations.

Forget-me-not Vintage needs YOUR vote!

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Exciting times at Forget-me-not Vintage HQ as we tread the campaign trail!

We are delighted to have been nominated for an award with the mighty Wedding Ideas Magazine. Every year Wedding Ideas Magazine hosts these fabulous wedding industry awards which have become well established and recognised nationally as ‘the’ consumer wedding awards. Boasting big names on the awards ceremony guest-list and attracting sponsorship from some of the biggest brands in the wedding industry, the Wedding Ideas Awards are just like the magazine – authoritative, acknowledged and yet (and most of all) fun.

We’re thrilled to have been nominated in the Best Special Touches category for the 2014 awards. Any company can be entered into the awards, but Wedding Ideas Magazine has selected us as a recommended company in category 11, and we therefore feature on the drop down voting list, which greatly increases our chances of getting through to the final. The competition is very strong in our category, and we are up against some big names. Only the top 5 companies with the most votes will go through to face a panel of wedding experts to be judged in the final.

So, if you have a spare few minutes I would be hugely grateful for your help in getting us through to the final round, with a quick click-vote for us in category 11. Whether you’re a customer, friend or lover-of-vintage, I would so appreciate your support in getting my business name out there into the big wide wedding world.

My business is my passion and allows me to do a job I adore whilst also caring for my two other little passions. However, competition within the vintage wedding industry is becoming increasingly fierce and to get to the final round of these wonderful and prestigious awards will really help Forget-me-not Vintage stand out from the crowd.
You can vote once from any email address and you needn’t vote in every category, just scroll through to Category 11 Best Special Touches to vote for Forget-me-not Vintage. Your vote will be confirmed by email. Voting closes on 26th November 2013.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a huge compliment to have been selected by Wedding Ideas Magazine and wonderful publicity for Forget-me-not Vintage. Watch this space for further news!

Please follow this link to vote: http://www.weddingideasmag.com/wedding-ideas-awards-2014-voting-form/

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DIY Vintage Teacup Candle

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Running a vintage china hire company, I often end up with odd bits of china. A saucer whose cup never made it back from the wedding or a teacup sat alone on a charity shop shelf, looking so beautiful I just couldn’t resist! These items cannot be put out for hire, so I’ve sought other ways to reuse, recycle and reinvent these pretty pieces. The odd saucers make excellent top tiers for my handmade cake stands and the teacups are perfect for candle making.

These gorgeous teacup candles make really lovely unique gifts and superb wedding favours. They look very effective grouped together on tables and can even double-up as a place setting with a name tag attached. You can be really creative with colours and scents and tie them into any colour scheme or theme accordingly. I’m currently trying lavender-scented with lavender buds suspended throughout. I really hope you enjoy having a go at this yourself using my master-class or if you are short of time then just drop me a line, I have plenty in stock!

Happy crafting! Lucy xxx

 

Vintage Teacup Candle

By Forget-me-not Vintage © 2013

www.forget-me-not-vintage.co.uk

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You will need:

  • A teacup
  • Wax ~ either paraffin wax beads or an old candle
  • Wick ~ these are sold in different thicknesses according to the diameter of your candle
  • Wick sustainer ~ a small metal disc that sit at the base of the candle
  • A pair of pliers
  • A pair of scissors
  • A skewer
  • A pencil
  • A double-boiler (or a saucepan in a saucepan)
  • Essential oils and candle dye disc (optional)

1~ To work out how much wax you will need you need to fill your teacup with water. Weigh the wax so the grams equal the fluid ounces of water.

2~ If using an old candle, remove any discoloured wax before melting.

3~ Bring some water to boil in the bottom saucepan and then place the top saucepan on top of the bottom pan. Turn the heat level to simmer, and add the wax to the top pan. This slow method of heating will stop the wax catching alight. Should the wax ignite at any stage, smother with a damp tea-towel.

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4~ While the wax is melting, prepare your wick. Cut the wick to one inch higher than the depth of your teacup, insert one end into the centre of the wick sustainer and using the pliers, crimp the sustainer around the wick. Using the pliers to hold the sustainer, dip the wick into the molten wax. This will strengthen the wick, prevent it from slumping and allow a cleaner burn of the candle. Place the wick to one side.

5~ If you wish to add a coloured dye or essential oil, do so at this stage. It is a good idea to test your materials first using a small amount of wax in an egg cup. A suitable oil will stay suspended within the wax and not gather at the base of the egg cup. Experiment with the quantities of oil and dye to achieve the scent and colour you desire.

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6~ Pour the molten wax into the teacup, stopping a few centimetres below where you would like the top of the candle to be. Wait around 5 minutes for a skin to begin to form on the top of the candle then gently pierce the skin with the skewer and slowly push the wick sustainer in so that it sits at the bottom of the teacup.

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7~ Hold the wick upright in the centre of the candle until the skin formed is strong enough to hold the wick in place. You can use a pencil at this stage to support the wick.

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8~ After around 30 minutes the wax will cool and contract and you may find a well forming in the centre of the candle. Gently break the well with the skewer so it refills with wax. Keep checking the candle as it sets to ensure the surface dries as flatly as possible. Don’t worry if the candle looks a bit messy, you can neaten it with the final wax layer.

9~ Once the top of the candle is firm and fairly flat, heat the remaining wax and pour in the top layer to achieve a neat, flawless finish. If you are unhappy with the finish, don’t panic – you can always melt it down and start again!

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10~ Leave overnight to cool completely, trim the wick to the desired length then add a pretty ribbon or some vintage lace on which to attach your gift tag.

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A vintage wedding… a very vintage venue ~ part two

After a shaky start to the wedding planning, with the dream venue finally secured we set about planning our wedding around our beautiful new venue. Our marquee company, who were already booked for the previous venue, were wonderful and accommodated the date and venue change with ease. Standing on the hill above the house, watching the marquee arrive and gradually go up was a magical moment. In that one moment I realised all our hard work and planning was coming together, no longer just pages in a scrap-book, this wedding was really going to happen!

The traditional marquee standing proud on the lawn

The traditional marquee standing proud on the lawn

We chose to have our traditional marquee bare i.e. without lining. Not only is this more in keeping with the ‘vintage look’, it avoids that claustrophobic feel some marquees have and keeps the cost down too. Instead of linings we wrapped the poles with ivy gathered from the garden and hung floaty voile wedding bunting across the marquee ceiling (available for hire from http://www.forget-me-not-vintage.co.uk!) If you’re planning to dress your marquee yourselves do not underestimate the time it will take to decorate your marquee, just remember that many hands make light work! We had a team of helpers working throughout the day before the wedding, yet the finishing touches were not complete until the morning of the wedding. We also laid-up all the vintage china the day before the wedding, yet still time ran away with us!

Having both the house and the marquee at our disposal worked very well. As well as the B&B facilities for guests, we had kitchen and toilet facilities, and with the marquee as well we could accommodate the numbers we wanted for the buffet wedding breakfast. The wedding reception was planned to move gradually through the day from a drinks reception at the front of the house and in the rose gardens, through to a gathering for the Father of the Bride’s speech outside the marquee and then into the marquee for eating, drinking and dancing.

The rose gardens edged with lavender

The rose gardens edged with lavender

On the day itself, the welcome drinks were all set up in the rose gardens ready for the arrival of the guests. Elderflower and cava sparkling in the sunshine! However, despite it being a warm and sunny August day, as we stepped out of the church the heavens opened (it’s lucky to get rained on on your wedding day, right?) and the caterers had to put the wet-weather plan into operation and whisk the drinks into the gallery of the house. Luckily the rain was short-lived and as our wedding car climbed the hill above the venue we could see the sun making its merry way over to us. Soon the sun was back and the rose gardens came into their own, allowing our guests to enjoy their welcome drinks in amongst the freshly watered lavender and roses.

The guests gathered in the rose gardens for welcome drinks

The guests gathered in the rose gardens for welcome drinks

As the wet weather had foiled our plans for confetti and photos outside of the church, our guests formed a tunnel and showered us with confetti on the lead up from the rose gardens to the marquee. This was a lovely way for us to approach the marquee and is well worth bearing in mind as an alternative confetti event should wet weather or other circumstance prevent it happening outside the church or registry office. We gathered outside of the marquee for the Father of the Bride speech before entering the marquee for the wedding breakfast.

We opted for a buffet wedding breakfast and therefore had to ensure the marquee could accommodate the extra serving tables. Our guests were seated on two long tables running the length of the marquee with the top table joining the two long tables. This layout lent itself wonderfully to the uniform look of the vintage china, favours, glasses and chairs,which can be really striking en masse. Seating on long tables as opposed to the more common round tables is the traditional way to seat your guests and is more in keeping with the ‘wedding banquet’ look we wanted. The buffet food was situated in the centre of the marquee with banqueting tables flanking one circular pudding table, all arranged around the central marquee poles.

The lay out of the marquee with buffet tables in the centre

The lay out of the marquee with buffet tables in the centre

The tables laid up with vintage china provide an effective uniform look

The tables laid up with vintage china creates an effective uniform look

In addition to the long dining tables, we had a strawberry themed children’s table and corner. The children had their own buffet food and picnic hampers filled with activity books and toys. We also put picnic blankets and cushion in the children’s corner so that they could comfortably play whilst munching their sausages on sticks!

A cosy corner for the children to play

A cosy corner for the children to play

The children loved exploring the grounds and when the evening set in we lit some torches and band played in the marquee entrance, allowing us to dance the night away on the lawn, while the more elderly guests were able to warm themselves in the house with a cup of tea.

Having a marquee wedding is a great way to house large parties whilst maintaining flexibility to do your wedding your way, however hosting a huge tea-in-a-tent does require a few extra considerations:

  • A traditional marquee is perfect for a vintage themed wedding and really looks the part, but bear in mind that the central poles need accommodating and plan your table and seating layout accordingly.
  • Will your venue let you choose your marquee style? Bear in mind some venues work with select marquee hire companies who may not stock the traditional style marquees.
  • What is included in your venue and marquee hire? Little extras add up so if your venue doesn’t already supply them ensure you have budgeted for tables, chairs, lighting, heating, PA system, table linen, highchairs.
  • How long will it take you to decorate the marquee? If you need a few days, check the marquee and venue hire period and availability, and whether this will cost extra for your venue hire.
  • Where will the caterers prepare the food? They’ll need access to water and electricity and don’t want to be walking miles with plates of food. Some caterers provide their own catering tent positioned behind the marquee.
  • Where will the band go? Ensure they have adequate space to perform and a power supply. Don’t forget to factor in a dance space!
  • Check your access points. Can the marquee be accessed by wheelchairs, pushchairs and stiletto heels!?
  • Where would you like the speeches to happen? It’s nice to mix it up a bit and have the speeches before and after the wedding breakfast and in different areas of the venue. You may need a roaming mic to make this work.
  • If you are having children at your reception it’s a good idea to provide them with some bits and pieces to keep them entertained. Creating a little corner for them will encourage them to play together and allow the parents to enjoy the celebrations!
The happy couple outside our traditional marquee

The happy couple outside our traditional marquee

A vintage wedding… a very vintage venue ~ part one

So much of your special day is determined by the venue. The look, the budget, the food, the guest list. The first big decision to make is do these things dictate the venue or does the venue make these decisions for you? It took us a while to arrive at a decision on where to wed. We wanted it to be a special place that meant a lot to us as a couple, it had to be within budget, it had to be family-friendly and we wanted to avoid the dreaded ‘wedding by numbers’.

At the time we were living by the Thames and we briefly considered a pleasure cruiser up the Thames, stopping at Hampton Court Palace among other places. However, it didn’t tick the box for family-friendly (oh where to put the sleeping babies!?) and would have really limited the guest list. As keen campers, we also considered hiring the events field at our favourite campsite and hosting a weekend-long festival style affair. However, Wedding HQ would have been a tent and wonderful as that would have been in somewhere like the South of France, could we really trust the English summer?

The Royal Forest of Dean

The Royal Forest of Dean

We eventually opted for the more traditional option of the bride’s home village. I grew up in the beautiful Forest of Dean, a royal forest with miles and miles of ancient woodland interspersed with clusters of little villages, nestled between the picturesque rivers Wye and Severn. With most of my extended family based in the Forest we not only had the most beautiful backdrop for our special day, but plenty of support and helping hands! There are several big and beautiful wedding venues in the Forest, but they tend to come with a big and not so beautiful price tag and a list of compulsory suppliers. We knew that we wanted to do as much of the wedding as possible ourselves, and therefore needed total flexibility. This approach also fitted our budget much more comfortably!

To achieve the look and feel we wanted, ensure flexibility and house our guest list, an obvious option was to hire a marquee, and so my in-depth marquee research began! I could picture the perfect marquee (I now know this is a traditional marquee) but it was a struggle to find one! I wanted a canvas style tent, with a high roof and wooden poles and the sides opened up so the sunlight could come flooding in – basically the kind you see on a scout camp! The ‘vintage’ look wasn’t a popular one back in 2009, and all I could find was the more modern, metal-framed clearspan version. It transpired that the rustic pitch-up and set-up style marquees had fallen from favour due to their sheer bulk and non-compliance with fire safety standards. Clearspan marquees were lighter and without centre poles or guy ropes, offered a lot more space. I was about to raid every scout hut in the Forest when I found one from a local marquee hire company, complete with my lovely wooden poles. We also found the perfect pitch – a field study centre in the village where I grew-up with a lawn just right for pitching and breathtaking views of the Forest and River Severn. The study centre itself provided a great, versatile space and with a bit of vintage fabric to cover the notice boards, we’d be sorted. Marquee booked, venue booked, date booked.

Alas, it was not to be. Just a couple of months after booking we received a letter saying the field study centre had received a grant for refurbishment which would begin immediately and we were strongly advised to find an alternative venue. I was on a business trip in Germany when the news arrived by letter to my parents. My Super-Mum came to the rescue and kept Bridezilla at bay. Knowing there was nothing I could do from Germany but worry, she quickly set about finding some other options and she certainly came up trumps! On my return to the UK she gave us the good news, followed by the bad. A new venue had been found, the old one has fallen through.

We viewed the new venue on a windy autumn day, but even with a cold wind blowing on a rather dull day, we knew we’d found ‘the one’. It was a beautiful old mill house, formerly a B&B, the new owners were just starting to open the doors and grounds for weddings. The beautiful red-brick Georgian house overlooked a stunning David Austin rose garden. Within the house and outbuildings, there was on site accommodation for plenty of guests and five acres of lush green gardens for the guests to explore. All the proceeds from the venue hire were donated to the charity run by the owners. It was quite simply perfect. Our chosen date was already taken but we were happy to move the date to secure such a stunning venue.

I believe everything happens for a reason and what at first seemed a wedding planning nightmare turned into a rose-scented dream!

A wonderful find ...the pretty mill house and grounds

A wonderful find …the pretty mill house and grounds

When trying to decide your wedding venue, as well as location, budget, catering facilities and overall look, there are some other key things to bear in mind:

  • Always have a wet-weather plan. We’re in England. There is enough to think about on your wedding day without worrying how keep your guests dry. Remove this added stress by having a back-up plan in the event of torrential rain.
  • What time of year is your wedding? How will the grounds and gardens look in that season?
  • If your ceremony is not on-site, how will guests reach your venue? Is there sufficient parking?
  • If they’re not staying on-site, how will guests get back to hotels? If taxis are scarce in the area, advise your guests to pre-book.
  • Are there children coming to your wedding? Do you want your friends and family with children to stay on in the evening? If so, they’ll need a base for sleeping babies and all the stuff that comes with them.
  • Is there somewhere warm and comfortable for your older guests? The young ones may be happy outside, dancing the night away on a wine-fuelled high but no-one wants a granny shivering in the corner.
  • How much control do you want over the detail? If you want candles, your own florist, to bring your own wine or entertainment, check that your venue allows these things first.
  • Are there any restrictions regarding live music and / or sale of alcohol?
  • Will your wedding be the only event hosted that day? If not, do you mind sharing your venue with other guests or events?

A vintage wedding… the concept

We never set out to plan a ‘vintage-themed’ wedding. Themed weddings weren’t such a big concept back in 2009, when we began wedding planning. What we wanted was a very personal day that reflected us as a couple. Right from the outset Stu said he wanted a really unique day rather than what he termed a “wedding by numbers”. In fact we knew more what we didn’t want than what we did! We wanted to keep things informal and we wanted to throw a really good party! So how did our vintage wedding evolve?

As a couple we’d always appreciated the more classic style versus modern, which was reflected in how we’d furnished our home and in the pieces we’d collected over the years. It was a mutual love of Pride and Prejudice that brought us together (our second date was a trip to Lyme Park, AKA Pemberley in the BBC version of P&P and the scene of that dive in the lake). We fell in love with a vintage travel poster on a trip to Lake Annecy many years ago, which sparked a collection of such posters depicting any other holiday destinations we visited and as the travel poster collection grew, we began furnishing our little London flat in the vintage style. I found this an absolute pleasure, having always preferred finding a bargain in a secondhand shop to buying new.

I was brought up to appreciate the ‘make-do-and-mend’ philosophy and due to my mother’s inability to part with anything beautiful, sentimental or of good quality, I grew up surrounded by pretty pieces of china, vintage toys, beautiful William Morris prints, Laura Ashley and Liberty textiles and with a dressing-up box brimful of the most stunning vintage dresses (even an original Ossie Clark number, I wince to think what it may have been put through during years of our make-believe tea parties). Of course, I never appreciated their worth as a child. Mum would be trying to put me in a pretty handmade cloth-kits creation and all I wanted to wear was a pink hand-me-down tracksuit complete with nylon hearts and puff sleeves! Luckily Mum persevered and also kept all these pretty things, so hopefully I’ll have more luck with my girls! As I’ve grown up I’ve discovered a growing passion for the vintage look, and often marveled at the unknown history of items from the past. In my mind, to reuse, recycle and reinvigorate pieces from the past is far preferable to ordering yet more flat-pack, mass-made products. There’s no doubt this love of timeless pieces from the past was born from the beautiful things I grew up with.

Budget also played a big part in helping us choose the various elements of our wedding. The DIY style wedding wasn’t so popular back then, but it was certainly low-cost, as was the ‘cobbled together country fayre’ look we hoped to achieve. For example, a traditional marquee without the linings achieved both the look we were after and came in at a much lower price. Considering the average wedding was costing in the region if £20,000, we had nowhere near this in the wedding-pot, so were working to a tight budget. We decided if we could do as much of the work as possible ourselves, source as much for the decor as possible secondhand and employ the wonderful skills of our friends and family we could achieve a wedding that truly reflected us as a couple without breaking the bank.

It saddens me to read posts on wedding forums along the lines of “HELP! We’re getting married next year and can’t decide our theme!” It seems 2013 has become year-of-the-themed-wedding and some couples feel like having a day that reflects their tastes simply isn’t enough anymore. My advice to any couples setting out to plan their perfect day would be to stay true to yourselves. Don’t feel you have to shoehorn your wedding into a theme. Just pick a colour you love, or something special from your time together as a couple and let your day evolve around that. It’s your wedding day, everyone is there to celebrate your relationship past, present and future so make it all about you and what you love and don’t be afraid to mix it up! Pick and mix all the bits of wedding inspiration you come across both old and new, to make a truly unique day.

So many of our wedding guests later commented on how the whole day was just very “us”, and we came in only very slightly over budget, and we had a darn good party, so I guess we got it right in the end!

I'm the bride, my biggest doll is the groom and my dear sister the bridesmaid, I think this look has potential... no?

My first styled wedding. I’m the bride, my biggest doll is the groom and my darling sister the bridesmaid, I think this look has potential… no?

The blushing bride. Another classic, vintage styled shot!

The blushing bride. Another classic, vintage styled shot!

A vintage wedding… the proposal

Stu popped the question in my Valentines card while we were staying in a beautiful little thatched cottage in the New Forest, February 2009. It was rather out of the blue, since after 6 years together we’d had ‘the conversation’ and decided that having a family was top of our priority list, that wedding nonsense can wait. I’m rather glad it happened like that. The night before, we’d walked the mile down the dark, winding country lane to the local pub, dined out on a full and hearty supper and drank our way through far too much wine. We’d stumbled home by torch-light and after a few games of cards, Stu dozed off on the settee. I, of course, took pictures. I look at them now and laugh at how there lieth the man who will pop the question tomorrow! He didn’t seem too consumed with pre-question nerves, I guess he knew the answer!

We woke to birdsong in our quaint little cottage, and headaches. It was Valentines Day and I needed carbs. As I sent Stu downstairs to begin our cooked breakfast, he admitted he’d forgotten to pack my Valentines card. I told him I’d packed a box of Rice Crispies so he’d better get his butt down there A-SAP and get creative with the cardboard box and a biro from my handbag. He emerged sometime later with my favourite smoked salmon breaky and a suspiciously professionally made envelope. On opening the card I was greeted with quite a lot of words for a man of very few words, and right at the end a little lift-the-flap. Naturally I rushed to lift-the-flap (I worked in children’s publishing, it’s what we do) but he urged me to read the words. As I read them, heart racing, I had an inkling of what may lie beneath. However there was a very real possibility it could read “will you accompany me on a trip of a lifetime to New York!?” or “will you bear my children!?” or “let’s get back to that pub!” I’d had high hopes of ‘the question’ happening before and it hadn’t, I wanted to put myself out of my misery before my imagination ran away with itself. I wasn’t disappointed. There under that little, beautiful cardboard flap were the words “will you marry me?”

Through laughter and tears I eventually got the answer out, a resounding YES. We spent a wonderful morning in our pretty little cottage, planning our walk of the day and plying our hangovers with smoked salmon, scrambled egg, toast and litres of coffee. Everything was served on the cottage dinner service which was the fabulously 1980s Eternal Beau range, a real blast from my 1980s past! We spent a very special few hours together as the only people who knew we were betrothed, before unleashing the (long-awaited) news on family and friends. When we finally ventured out into the Forest for our woodland walk, we decided to let the nearest and dearest know. After shrieks of excitement and tears of joy, the word soon spread and our peaceful woodland walk was filled with calls and texts of congratulations.

A sunny walk in the New Forest

A sunny walk in the New Forest

Considering this happy day had happened in the New Forest, we decided to get the ring then and there. Having never actually given any thought to what sort of engagement ring I’d like, I was completely stumped when Stu asked me what I had in mind. We headed into Lymington and visited a few jewellers who were clearly delighted to welcome the diamond-ignoramuses into their stores and educate us about the ‘5 c’s to consider when buying a diamond’. Our heads were swimming with information but nothing we’d seen felt quite right. We’d just about given up when we had one last peek in a tiny independent jewellers who shared a small premises with a clock restorer. We glanced at the counter, and there it was. A stunning emerald-green sapphire in a platinum art-deco band, flanked by two french cut diamonds. It made my heart skip a beat. Apparently, on average, a woman will look at her engagement ring over a million times during her lifetime. I could look at this ring a trillion times and never be bored, it was so beautiful. The jeweller informed us that the stones had been taken from an antique ring and he had reset them in the art-deco band. The fact that the stones had history and heritage and their own special unknown-story was hugely appealing, as was the beautiful, uniqueness of the ring. And when I slipped it on, it fitted perfectly. A swift pint and discussion in the pub over the road decided it for us. Stu zipped back over the road, just before they closed and bought the beautiful ring which has sat upon my finger ever since.

Drinks while we think it over...

Drinks while we think it over…

The ring

The ring