One tree and not two......


Andy and I met almost five years ago.  Having had somewhat limited success in our respective love lives over the years (I could write a novel on the subject but I won't!) some close friends of ours took it upon themselves to set us up.  Andy had been mates with Ian for around twenty five years and I'd been close friends with Ian's now wife, Jo, for 15-ish years but despite this our paths never crossed.  I do recall Ian and Jo talking about Andy over the years but there was never really a reason or an occasion for the two of us to meet. 

In the Summer of 2008 Ian and Jo seemingly had a eureka moment (more likely two bottles of wine and too much time on their hands during the school holidays!) and called me in the middle of the night to declare that they knew of the perfect man for me.  I was a little sceptical as you can imagine but reluctantly agreed to go a double-date, only to spend the next month making excuses and putting it off!  As the school holidays were drawing to a close I finally agreed to go up to Manchester for the weekend..........

The double-date was awful.  Ian and Jo were like two meddlesome chaperones and it was the most awkward meal I've ever eaten!  Andy was really nervous and as a result of one too many beers for dutch courage he was pretty hammered by the end of the night.  I must have liked him though, as I gave him my number.  The morning after, just as I was tentatively thinking about going downstairs, (Andy had slept on the sofa and I was in the spare room) I received a text asking whether I would like tea or coffee.  It broke the ice and we spent a couple of hours chatting (whilst Ian and Jo kept out of our way!) and laughing lots.  As I left we made loose plans to go on a proper date.  Alone!

We went on that date a week (maybe two weeks) later and to my relief it went a lot better than our first encounter.  Andy was living in Lichfield at the time and I was working in Shropshire so we agreed to meet in Birmingham.  The date lasted almost twelve hours and by the time we parted company we both knew this was the start of something good.  Well it was actually the start of something amazing and within six months we'd moved in together. 




Soon after we welcomed a beautiful little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Dexter into our lives and things couldn't have been more perfect image







  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    The Proposal

    I don't remember the first time we spoke about getting married but it was fairly early on in the relationship.  So when Andy proposed on 25th December (just!) 2011 I wasn't exactly surprised, but I was still caught off-guard. 

    We'd had a wonderful, gluttonous Christmas Day and at 11pm-ish called it a night; we planned on spending Boxing Day with Andy's sister in Portsmouth so had a very early start.  I was just about to get in to bed (wearing my Christmas pyjamas no less but thankfully NOT a onesie! image) when I pulled back the duvet only to see a blue ring box sitting on my pillow.  Next to it was an envelope containing a beautiful, handwritten letter by Andy detailing everything he loved about me and why he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.  I cried a lot!  The rest is a bit of a blur if I'm honest, but at some point Andy asked that question, I said yes and a beautiful ring ended up on my finger:



    We were engaged! image

    I should explain that I had actually seen this ring before......I had been ring-gazing (with Andy's encouragement I might add!) for quite some time, and I spied this little beauty some months earlier when we were looking for my Mum's birthday present.  It was, and still is, the engagement ring of my dreams; I was beyond excited when I realised it was actually mine!  I also love the fact that it came from a little independent jewellers near where we live (Allums) which has a sort-of family connection: it has been the go-to jewellers for my Dad, Grandad and Great-Grandad for many years image

  • Raych54Raych54 Posts: 879

    whoo, welcome back, cant wait to hear all the details...

  • Welcome back and congratulations MrsJodieLou!!!!! image image image. I really do love your ring, it's so beautiful. Keep writing please image xxx

  • LittleRed_10LittleRed_10 Posts: 1,453

    How exciting, keep writing I think I'm going to love this thread!

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you Raych image Glad you like my engagement ring Fox- I know you're a bit of a magpie (having seen your gorgeous rings) so that's praise indeed image I really do hope you (and others) enjoy my report LittleRed; I'm going to crack on with it tomorrow and Thursday xx

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you Lady image I do love my ring- I still gaze at it often now!

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Choosing a Venue + Date

    We didn't want a particularly long engagement and immediately began making plans. Much to my father-in-law's amusement we actually had a venue booked within three weeks!

    We did discuss getting married in our beautiful local church, but this would not have been straightforward. My family are Protestant whereas Andy's are Catholic, and neither Andy nor myself actively worship which complicated matters further. Very quickly we decided that a civil ceremony would be more appropriate. However a few times I did wonder whether we had made the right decision; I had only ever witnessed one civil ceremony before, and although I do not attend church regularly I would still describe myself as a Christian. Finding a suitable venue to simply hold the reception would also have been much easier, but tempting as it may have been I did not want to get married in a pretty church just because it looked the part.

    Choosing a location was a very easy decision, though we did think about widening the search out of desperation at one point! I'm a Shropshire lass; following university and a brief spell in Canada it was work (and my then boyfriend) that brought me back home. Andy grew up in Cheshire but was living in Lichfield when I met him. We had made our home together in Ironbridge however, and as most of my family still live in Shropshire it made sense for us to hold the wedding here. So in the first two weeks of the new year we embarked upon a whirlwind tour of local venues.

    As often in life picking somewhere to get married would have been much easier had we a bigger budget to work with: Shropshire venues such as Weston Park, Combermere Abbey and Iscoyd Park are all stunning, but although I allowed myself to drool over them on the internet we decided against viewing them in person to save ourselves the heartbreak! We had set our budget and we needed to work with it, not blow it!

    We did have a good feeling about a small, independent hotel called Hadley Park House so we viewed it last. After visiting a few other places- Park House Hotel, Haughton Hall, Wroxeter Hotel, The Valley Hotel, Albrighton Hall Hotel and Hawkstone Park to name but a few- we were feeling pretty despondent. All of the hotels were in lovely settings but they were either tired-looking, lacked the personal touch/ any sort of flexibility, didn't 'feel right' or a combination of all three in some cases! The biggest problem was the ceremony room. I did not want to get married in a conference room with horrible tiles on the ceiling, garish carpet and a naff bar in the corner- I wanted something with character! Weddings are big business for most hotels, so why don't they invest money in building or re-decorating a room solely used for wedding ceremonies?

    So after several days of disappointment we drove over to Hadley Park this hotel had the least appealing setting of all the hotels we viewed (it was centrally located in Telford, on the edge of a business park) but you should never judge a book by its cover! The hotel is landscaped very cleverly, and once you drive through the gates you feel as though you're in the middle of the countryside. The main building is a beautiful, Georgian property and there is a conservatory/ orangery at one end and a very sympathetic barn-style conversion at the other end. The two things we noticed immediately were how professional, welcoming and friendly the staff were and the tasteful, modern decor- a great first impression. We were shown the conservatory which was light, airy and the perfect size for our numbers- 45-50 for the day and an extra 15-20 in the evening. But most importantly this was the first (and last!) ceremony room we viewed that we could actually see ourselves getting married in.


    Hadley Park House:







  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Andy and I are both foodies, and the wedding breakfast was always going to be a big part of our big day. The Hotel restaurant- Dorrell's- has a great repuation, and this was also a big draw for us. Hadley Park House offer several packages, but being independently-run meant that they were incredibly flexible and allowed us to not only devise our own menu but also offer guests a choice for each course.

    The icing on the cake was that due to being such a small hotel (with only 22 rooms) we would in effect have exclusive use without having to pay an obscene amount of money for the privilege. We had found our venue!

    Now we had to finalise a date, and several factors influenced this. We both love spring, and felt like just over a year was a good amount of time to plan a wedding in. We also knew that by choosing a weekday our money would stretch much further when it came to both the venue and suppliers; however as a former teacher and with a number of friends still in teaching this had to be in the school holidays, which is how we arrived at Easter.  School holidays vary from one local authority to another however and academy schools complicate matters further, so in a nutshell we actually had 5 days to pick from!

    Our first choice was Friday 5th April but this date was already being provisonally held by another couple. In the end we opted for Monday 1st April. I know weekday weddings are much more the norm nowadays but a Monday still seems like an odd day to get married- it certainly took my dad a while to get his head round it, but once he realised we could save so much money he soon got on board! The reason we chose Monday was that those guests who had to travel the day before wouldn't have to take it as holiday. Likewise, the wedding day itself was on Easter Monday and thus a bank holiday. I think we were very lucky to be offered the weekday rate on a bank holiday, and I'm fairly sure the hotel's policy has since changed. Incidentally, our wedding was also on April Fool's Day!

    Hadley Park House really helped to make our day special and I cannot praise the staff enough. You can tell the hotel is independently-run and it made a real difference; we only ever dealt with the owner (Mark) or in most cases Rachelle, the wedding co-ordinator, who is absolutely brilliant and clearly loves her job. Communication was fantastic throughout the planning process- my emails were always replied to promptly and we were invited to several meetings over the course of the year. On the day itself, the staff were amazing. Table decorations etc. were laid out exactly as I wanted them and transitions were seamless. We really appreciated the little things too, like a member of staff standing behind my chair and helping me to sit down (wedding dresses aren't easy to manoeuvre are they?!) for the wedding breakfast. The food was wonderful too, but more on that later!

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    A Planning Overview/ Picking a 'Theme'

    I must admit that I LOVED being engaged and I loved being a bride even more. It wasn't all plain sailing, and planning a wedding is bloomin' hard work in several respects! But I really was in my element: I love all things girly, pretty, floral and lacy! Andy took a back seat with most of the planning and that was fine by me; we still made every decision jointly, though admittedly that usually consisted of me suggesting something and Andy either agreeing or vetoing it immediately!

    I joined YAYW forum and became a prolific poster (as many of you know) and I also spent a small fortune on wedding magazines over several months: I love reading about other brides' plans still, and I'm just in awe of how creative and talented some people are. I've learned that if I could attend a wedding once a week I'd be a very happy lady!

    On a serious note, I think planning the wedding was also a form of escapism for me during a very difficult time; after several tests Andy and I discovered that we are probably not going to be able to have children, and my mum also had a big stroke but has since recovered very well. Both of these events really gave new meaning to our wedding and we just looked forward to this happy day even more.

    I didn't really set out to have a 'theme' and like a lot of brides just picked what I like. The first thing I did pick was the colour- green. I love it and it's great for spring, especially the more fresh, vibrant shades which would also look fab on my bridesmaids. I also knew it would work in our venue which was important to me; I really think it helps to work with the setting and not against it- I don't like things to be too matchy-matchy, but I do think that if the carpet at your venue is royal blue and gold it would be ill-advised to opt for a fuschia pink colour-scheme! So the idea of a spring, green wedding was born. We tried to keep things fairly seasonal, whether it be the food or the flowers- what we didn't know was that the March-weather would throw a small spanner in the works!

    I know it's been done to death, but I do have a penchant for all things vintage/ shabby chic and wanted to incorporate this somehow too. We did contemplate going all-out and having afternoon tea served on beautiful mismatched china, flower-filled teapots and birdcages etc. but in the end decided to rein things in a bit. Before I got too carried away purchasing tonnes of wedding paraphernalia I realised that what we actually wanted was a fairly traditional wedding with just a few little extra touches.

    I found to be a huge inspiration, especially their weddings at The Great Hall at Mains. I stumbled upon the blog quite accidentally (whilst scouring google images I think) but it gave me so many ideas for ceremony and table decorations in particular; it really is worth a look, especially if you have an English country garden or shabby chic/ vintage theme. Here's a taster from their blog to whet your appetite:






    As soon as we had secured our venue we started booking other things fairly quickly; having wedding insurance put our minds at rest after paying out some rather hefty deposits, and booking so early together with getting married on a Monday meant that we were able to negotiate the price with many suppliers. Being a bank holiday/ Easter did have some not-so-good implications though, which (together with individual suppliers) I'll come back to later.

  • cherrydropcherrydrop Posts: 904

    Yay! Jodielou, I've been looking forward to your report! Your pup is adorable and your ring is stunning! Can't wait to read more... I can already tell it's guna be good!

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you so much cherrydrop image I didn't realise my report would end up being quite so epic, but because I didn't do a planning thread it seems like I've got a lot to cover!  I suppose I am being quite self-indulgent too, re-living the whole thing image x  

  • MrsM2014MrsM2014 Posts: 223

    Congratulations Jadielou.  Looking forward to reading more xx

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you MrsM2014 image x

  • TickleyJessTickleyJess Posts: 1,649

    This is wonderful, Jodielou.  I hope this doesn't sound patronising, but it's so well-written and the attention to detail is brilliant.  I look forward to reading more (and am very glad you're back) image x

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you so much Jess image I really appreciate your comments and don't find them patronising at all x

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Inviting Guests

    I love beautiful stationery.  I coveted many expensive designs for quite some time, but always knew that we'd have to compromise in this area if we wanted to spend more elsewhere.  We actually managed to save quite a lot of money by purchasing the save the dates and invitations (and also our table plan) in the sales!

    A really good tip is to pick a theme or style of invitation that is quite popular- it means that you can mix and match different pieces of stationery from several suppliers.  As a result of the popularity of the vintage/ shabby chic theme, I noticed that lovebirds and/ or birdcages featured in many designs of wedding stationery.  So I bought our printed save the dates from Bride & Groom Direct and our DIY invitations from Confetti.  They didn't match exactly but complimented each other really well.

    We sent the save the dates to our guests approximately 12  months before the wedding.  Bank holiday or not, we were still getting married on a Monday and we knew it was necessary to give people plenty of notice, especially those who needed or wished to take time off work.  Selfishly, we also wanted to make sure that our close friends and family didn't book holidays!  We also decided to include a few details re. accommodation; I know such information is normally reserved for the actual invitations, but hotels can get booked up very quickly during Easter. We changed the wording slightly on those save the dates sent to our evening guests so as to avoid confusion.




    I printed the inserts for the invitations myself and they took HOURS!  I had a small issue with the printer when it came to getting the alignment right but uncharacteristically managed to stay fairly calm!  Once the inserts were finally printed I added stick-on jewels and tied some organza ribbon around them. 







    I bought some quality paper (which was DL size when folded) and made my own information booklets to go inside the invitations.  Again, this took ages!  They included a list of local hotels and travel information etc.  I think our guests found them useful image





    The RSVP cards were semi-DIY too: these were another bargain from Confetti, which I trimmed slightly and again printed myself.  The most difficult part was sourcing the envelopes which were an unusual size.   





    Finally, I ordered some address labels (for the RSVPS) and some envelope seals for the invitations from Vistaprint:



    I was really happy with the finished result- I know it probably sounds a bit pathetic to all of you DIY gurus on the forum but I did get a C grade in GCSE Textiles and that's only because my nan made a cushion for me that I passed off as my own! image


  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Hen Do

    I am going to start by apologising for being so boring as I don't have any photos from my actual hen do, though it was pretty tame compared to most so they wouldn't be terribly interesting to look at anyway! 

    My hen do took place in Birmingham on Saturday 2nd March.  There were 14 of us, which included my close friends and family- I even invited my Nan, though she's not your typical grandmother!  A few weeks beforehand I sent cards to all of my hens: I wanted to tell them that I was really looking forward to spending the weekend with them and make sure they had all of the details/ contacts they needed.





    After checking in to The Hilton Garden Inn at Brindley Place we went to see a matinee performance of The Full Monty at The Hippodrome- I enjoy all kinds of theatre from cheesy musicals to my favourite play A Streetcar Named Desire, but this was lighthearted and good fun- everyone really enjoyed it.  The Girls bought a programme for me as a memento which all of the hens signed- it will go in my wedding box once I get round to sorting everything out!  It's lovely to be able to reflect on that weekend and read all of the comments; my mum's has stayed with me though: she simply wrote 'Just be happy'.

    The Full Monty!



    After the play we went back to the Hilton; I enjoyed a Cosmopolitan in the hotel bar with two of my closest friends before going up to our rooms to get changed.  We'd arranged to meet in reception at 7pm, and when I came downstairs everyone was waiting for me in the bar.  It was at this point that I started to feel quite overwhelmed and very emotional, which is not like me at all.  I'm not sure why that was- I'm incredibly lucky to have an amazing family and friends and I think it was just being surrounded by all of these women who've supported me through the years that got to me.  They presented me with a personalised shot glass and a bottle of champagne (Laurent Perrier Rose) which I was very grateful for!




    We had dinner at Piccolino's, which is perfect for a hen do- there's a really lively atmosphere and the menu is huge, so there's something for everyone.  I'd actually arranged a surprise for my hens: I made each of them personalised champagne flutes (which I'd taken over to the restaurant beforehand) and we were greeted with a glass of pink champagne on arrival.  My hens loved their glasses and couldn't believe I'd made them- I'm not sure whether that was a compliment or not! 





    The meal was lovely, and afterwards Andy's aunt, Anne,  pulled out the dreaded Mr & Mrs quiz!  It was quite funny actually, and Andy had given some really sweet answers which made him even more endearing to my friends and family!  He also gave some really random answers too, like his favourite band which he said was Coldplay- now I know for a fact that isn't true and I teased him about it mercilessly when I got home- I think he just had a mental block when he was completing the questionnaire!  The girls also paid for my meal- which again was a lovely surprise- and then we headed to Bank cocktail bar.  I'd reserved a section in the bar and it worked out great; once again we were greeted with a glass of champagne and we spent the night chatting, drinking gorgeous cocktails and generally having a fab time. 

    There were a few sore heads the next day but we all met for breakfast in Cafe Rouge before heading home.

  • loulou222222loulou222222 Posts: 292

    Everythings fantastic so far, cant wait to read more Jodielou xx

  • PoppinsPoppins Posts: 3,146

    I love it!!! xx

  • MrsStephens2bMrsStephens2b Posts: 428

    So glad you decided to do a report, I've loved reading it so far and looking forward to the rest.

    Now get this for weird...we've already had a lot of similarities. I live in Lichfield and strangely Andy's face looks so familiar!! I might just be imagining it....How long did he live in Lichfield for?x

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you Loulou, Poppins & MrsStephens image xxx I'll PM you Mrs S- that is weird!

  • Hedgehog12Hedgehog12 Posts: 3

    Loving it so far, keep writing. 

    Flowerdesign were my florists and Jane is very proud of her blog. If a bride needs flower ideas you will find inspiration on there image

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you so much Hedgehog12 image I bet your flowers were beautiful- I spent a good few hours admiring all of the beautiful blooms on Flowerdesign's blog! x

  • LouBLouB Posts: 1,129 New bride

    Loving your report Jodielou! Venue looks gorgeous and I too don't have a theme - I don't think anyone should force it if there isn't an obvious one you want to go for! I also grew up in the Midlands so always nice to see the area featured image

    Can't wait to

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you so much LouB! I'm going to write a bit more this afternoon  image  how are your plans coming along? I had a nose to see whether you had a planning thread and stumbled across your dress- it's beautiful and you look gorgeous! x

  • LouBLouB Posts: 1,129 New bride

    No planning thread - not sure I'm going to do one as imagine it may take over y life and i should be doing my actual job! Maybe a report though, like you image

    Ahh thank you! How lovely of you to say. It needs some serious taking in around the boobs and hips so I'm not happy with how it looks from the front at the moment, but the back isn't bad! Plenty of time anyway.

    Woo, look forward to more posts soon then! All going well thanks. All the 'big' things are sorted it seems, but there are so many DIY things I want to get started on and can't quite do yet. I flit between wanting it to be a few days before the wedding now and wanting more time! x

  • MrsJCMrsJC Posts: 2,204

    Hi, JodieLou - I know I've said it on another thread, but CONGRATULATIONS!

    I'm enjoying reading your report so much, everything sounds wonderful so far, and I love your venueimage. It really is great to have you back on the forumimage

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Thank you FutureMrsJC; that's so kind of you and I'm happy to be back! x

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    By the way FutureMrsJC, I love the Zara dress- you should definitely wear it the night before the wedding!  I meant to comment on your planning thread yesterday but got sidetracked! x

  • JodielouJodielou Posts: 4,058

    Stag Do

    In many ways Andy is 39 going on 79, and I don't think he's ever really enjoyed clubbing or anything like that- he says it's his mission in life to be a grumpy old man!  He's actually very funny, and a big kid at heart, but he just likes the simple things in life like curry and a good beer-  he thinks the bars I enjoy are pretentious and can't believe I will spend so much on a cocktail! 

    There are 8 pubs within 1/2 a mile of where we live, and the area attracts a lot of tourists due to being a world heritage site; Andy wouldn't have enjoyed a night out in a city like Leeds or Manchester, and after months of procrastination I suggested he just invite his friends over to Ironbridge for the weekend after my hen do.  He was really happy with that idea and we promptly ordered some invitations from Vistaprint......





    Andy is hugely competitive and a lover of all sports, so his stag do was always going to comprise of some form of activity.  The stags travelled to Cannon Raceway in Walsall; Andy is a keen F1 fan but this was his first karting experience- he loved it and I don't think it will be his last!  The 'track race experience' was only £30 per driver: Andy and his stags were the only people on the track and after a 10-lap qualifier they had a 40-lap race.  Andy was a little bit gutted though, as he was convinced he would get on the podium and that his brother-in-law would come last- he actually came 5th and Mike came 3rd! 

    In the afternoon they went on a pre-arranged tour of our local brewery: all of the stags (apart from my younger brother!) are fans of real ale, and they found the tour to be really informative and generally great fun.  Of course they had to sample some of the ales too...............

    After an ale or two they walked up to The Pondicherry which is an authentic, Indian restaurant and rather ironically for a stag do located inside the old police station!  It's not your typical curry house and both the setting and the food are fantastic; Andy and his mates often get together for a curry, but this was that bit more special. 



    Then they went on what can only be described as a pub crawl!  Ironbridge is quite busy at weekends, and one of the bars- The Malthouse- has live music: they knew there was a really good Indie band playing so they ended the night there.


    I think what was really great about both our hen and stag dos was that it gave many of our friends and family the chance to meet for the first time.  So my Dad got to know the Best Man (and loved him!) and I was finally able to introduce my Mum and Nan to Andy's sister.  I think this made a real difference on the wedding day itself- there were no cliques, and everyone mixed really well.

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