Friday, 14 July 2017

What I've Learned While Planning A Wedding (So Far)

Pete and I have now been engaged for a little over six months. Because I'm an incurable keeno, the vast majority of our wedding planning is now done - in fact, most of it was done within two months of getting engaged. The ceremony is booked, the venue is agreed, the food is decided on, the photographer is secured, and the dress - the beautiful dress, that I had no intention of buying so soon but found by sheer chance - is shrouded in an expensive-looking garment bag and tucked safely into the back of my wardrobe.

And I've learned a lot. Too much, in fact. I thought I was prepared for wedding planning. I was wrong. So, without further ado, just a few of the things I've learned while planning a wedding (so far)...

1. You know more people than you think you do.

"I only want a small wedding," I said, on numerous occasions, both before and after we got engaged. Of course, prior to actually sitting down and hammering out a rough guest list, I had never counted up the number of people we actually know. Turns out, it's a lot. Aunts, uncles, cousins, school friends, uni friends, work friends, family friends...before I knew it I had filled my mental '40 person guest list' (and then some) all by myself and poor Pete was going to be flying solo. Not ideal. 

So, we re-evaluated. The guest list grew. Then it grew again. We're currently hovering somewhere around the 90 mark. Yes, really.

2. All those people you know...they've all got an opinion. And they're probably not afraid to share it.

This is something I was actually prepared for, to a certain degree. I knew some of our decisions would be controversial. We've chosen not to invite children, for example, which went down like a sack of excrement with some family members - and boy did they make sure I knew it!

What I wasn't prepared for, was the passing of comment on every.single.detail. Don't get me wrong, quite often those comments have been 'OMG that sounds amazing', but there's also been plenty of 'you can't do that', 'you can't not have this', 'what do you mean, there won't be a (insert random wedding related object/tradition here)'. The worst offender for this, by far has been my mother. I didn't realise quite how traditional she is until I started planning a wedding and she was horrified by the idea of anything that wasn't a church ceremony followed by a Rolls Royce ride to a fancy hotel for a three course sit-down meal. Don't get me wrong, if that's your wedding dream then fantastic - you do you. But it wasn't what we had imagined for our day, so poor old Mumma Jones has had to settle for one of out three. (I'm pretty sure she'll survive.)

3. Money loses all meaning.

Before we started wedding planning, I would deliberate endlessly over spending pretty much any money at all. Unless it was on food, obviously. Or the dog. £16 for a t-shirt!? Bit steep. £120 for new tyres!???! Do I really need them?

Then I started planning a wedding, and gradually my sense of what 'a lot' of money is was eroded. Completely. It no longer exists. Once upon a time I couldn't even begin to imagine spending more than £500 on anything other than a house or a car. These days, I find myself looking at £600 cakes on Pinterest and thinking 'well, that's not too bad...'.

4. There's more than meets the eye. Much more.

I realise now how naive I was before we got engaged. I would always (secretly) roll my eyes at those brides losing their minds over table plans and canapes and complaining that there was I mean hard can it be to plan a party?

As it turns out, there really is quite a lot to think about. Who the hell knew!? Urm....any woman who has ever got married, probably. Wedding stationary, reception drinks, corkage, wedding insurance and banns are just a few of the things I had never heard of prior to planning my own wedding. I'm still not the type to burst into tears over the canapes, but it's early days yet.

5. People will assume that the groom doesn't care about the wedding.

Now this one really did surprise me. From random people on Facebook pages asserting that an uninterested groom is 'just a man thing' to friends and family (wrongly) assuming that all Pete wants to know about the wedding is what time he needs to get there.

Now, I know that some grooms really aren't all that interested. And I know that some brides have been planning their big day since they were old enough to say cathedral veil - and some just before. And if that works for you guys then that is absolutely fine. Sometimes I wish Pete was a bit less interested, and I could plan the Harry Potter themed wedding of my dreams. But he is very interested. I've definitely done more of the research, but he's been involved in every big decision bar the dress. And as much as I wish I could serve our guests pumpkin pasties and fizzy whizbees and send everyone home with magic wand wedding favours, I also couldn't imagine planning our day without his input and ideas.

So no, if your groom doesn't care about the wedding it isn't a 'man thing'. It's a personality thing. And that's ok.

6. If you thought body shaming was bad before, wait until people (and Facebook ads) know you're engaged.

As someone who has been on a diet for pretty much her entire adult life, I'm probably the wrong person to pass comment on this. But I have been astounded by the amount of bridal body shaming I've seen in the last six months.

Do I want to lose a bit of weight before I get married? Yes. Do I want to lose weight specifically for my wedding? No. No I don't. I want to lose it for confidence and for health for my entire lift, not just the 12 hours that I'm in a big white dress. So no, to those people who have asked, I'm not on a 'wedding dress diet' (right now I'm not on a diet at all, and am instead eating everything that isn't nailed down, but that's hardly the point). And no, I don't need some 'shredding for the wedding' gym leggings or a 'slimming down for the gown' food diary or any of the other shit that's on the market that is designed specifically to make women feel as though they are not good enough. If someone wants to lose weight for their health or confidence then fantastic, good for them, I know first hand the positive effect it can have on your life. But if someone - particularly someone who has never felt that they have an issue with their weight before they get engaged - suddenly feels as though they need to hit the gym and eat nothing but green smoothies just because Brides magazine tells them you can only get married if you're a size 8 then I'm sorry, but that's bullshit.

Sorry, had to get on my high horse there for a minute. I'm off now.

So, there you have it - just a few of the things I've learned in the six months we've been planning a wedding. Given that we don't get married for another 15 months, I'm sure there will be plenty more lessons to learn along the way...

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Our Engagement Story

When I started writing here again, I said I wasn't planning to update the blog with every detail from the last three years. That's still true, but there is one past event that I'd like to get written down - not because I expect anyone else to be particularly interested, but because I'd like to have a record of it to keep and look back on in the future.

Our engagement story.

It was perfect. Romantic, funny, unexpected, and perfect.

On Boxing Day 2016, we travelled down to Devon. My Mum was already in situ, in a gorgeous little cottage on Dartmoor, and had kindly invited us to share her holiday home for a few days over the festive period. After an incredibly busy couple of weeks that had included six days in New York and a nasty virus, as well as the usual Christmas festivities, a break in the countryside was exactly what we both needed. We rose early on the 26th, loaded the car with dogs, wellies, waterproofs and pressies, and battled the usual Bank Holiday traffic down to the West Country. We drank wine, ate cold meat, mash and pickles (the only acceptable Boxing Day fare, thank you very much) and watched Harry Potter in front of the wood burner. It was basically as good as Boxing Day gets.

The morning of the 27th was cold, grey and drizzly. The temptation to stay in by the fire was strong, but we pulled on our walking boots anyway and headed out onto the Moors with the dogs (and my Mum) in tow. I realised almost immediately that my boots weren't waterproof, and spent the next forty minutes complaining that I had wet feet. After clambering up a 'footpath' that would've bested the most sure-footed of mountain goats, we emerged onto one of the steepest hills I have ever seen.

Up we trekked, with me gasping for breath (so that I could carry on complaining about my feet, obvs). Eventually, just as I thought my lungs were going to give out, we reached the crest of the hill and Kes Tor, the ancient rocky outcrop that lies at the top of Chagford Common. We clambered, some of us more elegantly than others, to the top of the giant granite block, and were greeted with dramatic views of the beautiful moors.

It wasn't until we had climbed back down off the Tor that Pete handed me a beautifully wrapped photo album, which he told me was a Christmas gift he had forgotten to give me. Being my usual tactful and intuitive self I asked if I could look at it back at the cottage, to which he replied quite firmly, 'no, look at it now!'. I distinctly remember wondering what on earth had got into him while I unwrapped it - now I know!

Within it's pages were contained a series of photographs of the two of us, from the very first picture of us together up to and including the highlights of our New York trip. I flicked through the beautiful, funny photographs, laughing at the ones I hadn't looked at for a while but still vaguely wondering why I was looking at them at the top of a bloody great hill with freezing cold toes. The penny finally started to drop when I reached the final page, and found a shot from our New York trip with 'let's continue the adventure' written across it...

It was around that point (I think, I was a little bit shellshocked) that he dropped to one knee, presented me with a beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring, and asked me to marry him. Having my Mum there with us was lovely - she was, of course, in on it the whole time so was ready and waiting with the camera! It was wonderful to share such a special moment with her.

I have lost count of the amount of times, since then, that I have been asked if I cried when he asked me. I would love to say yes - that I was overcome by the raw emotion of the moment and that my eyes filled with tears of love and joy. 

Unfortunately, that would be a lie. In truth, I was so taken aback that what I actually did was say 'Oh my God!' two or three times before it even occurred to me to say yes! Poor Pete, I really think I pushed his nerves to the very edge that day!

I really couldn't have asked for a more perfect proposal. Dartmoor has always been one of my very favourite places, it holds so many treasured memories from my childhood and is somewhere I hope  to take our children some day as well. It's wonderful to know that we can re-visit the spot that we got engaged, and that our engagement story is tied up with the long history of such a beautiful part of the country.

And, as my best friend (and future Maid of Honour) put it, "It's just so you. In your walking boots and big coats, out in the mud, both holding a dog lead. It pretty much sums you guys up."

I think she's right.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Beginning. Again.

So here we are again, not quite back to square one, but a damn sight nearer than I'd like to be. 

After a couple years of half-hearted attempts to get back on the wagon, I finally managed to get my head back in the weight loss zone in October 2015. I joined a new Weight Watchers meeting and weighed in at 15st 10.5lbs - still 4st lighter than when I first joined in January 2010...

...but 3st heavier than when I celebrated my Dad's 50th in April 2012.

Something seemed to click this time around, and the weight started coming off slowly but steadily. I joined the gym, and persuaded Pete to come along to Weight Watchers meetings too. Having him following the plan with me helped enormously - there is nothing worse than watching someone else eat all the delicious things while you're trying to lose weight! SmartPoints launched a couple of month after we joined, and we seemed to go from strength to strength. I was really enjoying cooking new meals, the plan was slotting perfectly into my day-to-day routine, and I was even summoning up some gym-related enthusiasm (unheard of, for this exercise-phone).

In June 2016, a week before we went on holiday, I weighed in at 13st on the nose - just 3lb above my goal weight of 12st 11lb. I know that sounds like a lot to some people, but at just shy of 6ft tall, any less and I would quite possibly need to be hospitalised! I swore to myself I would keep it together on holiday, that I would stay the same or possibly have a teeny tiny gain, but I would be right back on it when we got home.

Clearly, that did not happen.

Anyone who has ever been to the West Country will know that a holiday there is a bit like living in a real-life food heaven for a week. Delicious, creamy fudge, in every flavour imaginable. Huge fluffy scones served with lashings of clotted cream and sweet, tangy local jam. Fish and chips, doused in salt and vinegar and eaten at the seaside. Freshly churned ice cream, that is then topped with a dollop of clotted cream for good measure. Cornish pasties, piping hot from the oven, eaten from the packet overlooking Padstow Harbour. All washed down with plenty of red wine. Because holiday.

Yeah, I gained a lot of weight that week. A lot.

Which would have been fine, had I been able to get back on it when we got home. But I didn't. I tried of course, my good intentions lasted for a day or two, sometimes a week, before I found myself shovelling chocolate or ice cream or chips or pizza into my greedy gob. The weight crept on, a pound at a time, and I kidded myself that it would be fine, I'd get back on track next week. Then next week would be upon us, and lo and behold, there I was. Still eating. 

Before I knew it it was December, and I had been off the wagon for six months. Everyone knows that trying to eat healthily in the month of December is a bit like trying to lick your elbow while riding a flying pig across Mordor in a snowstorm. Add into the equation a week in New York, and yeah...December was never going to be a good weight loss month. 

We celebrated our engagement at the end of December pretty hard, with lots of Prosecco and meals out with friends and family. Again, I promised myself that I would get back on track 'next week'. But it's now April and I still haven't managed a full week on track in Christ only knows how long. My weight has crept back up to over 14st 7lb. Knowing that I am now closer to 15st than 14st seems to have given me the kick I needed, and I'm feeling re-focussed for the first time in almost a year. Easter weekend is the perfect time to start eating healthily, right!?

So far I am all tracked for the last couple of days (including a delicious Thai meal last night for Pete's 30th birthday!) and I've even gone so far as to take my measurements for a bit of extra motivation. And...I took some photos!

There is no way to make that muffin top look attractive, but hey, there it is. Hopefully having these will give me a bit of a boost and will give me something to look back on in a few months time when I look like Jennifer Lawrence. Or something.

Friday, 24 March 2017

It's been a while...

So, urm, hi! It's been a while...three and a half years to be exact.

Those of you who are reading this, I can assume one of two things...either you're extremely loyal, or you forgot to remove me from your blog reader. Either way, I'm grateful you're still here!

I've been toying with the idea of resurrecting this blog for a long time now. When I stopped writing here, back in September 2013, it was with the intention of writing somewhere else instead. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts at starting a new blog, but it never felt quite the same as writing here. So I stopped writing for myself altogether, and I've missed it. Over the last few months especially, I've often felt the urge to record the things that are happening in my life, but with no blog to write those posts have gone unwritten. And while it's no great loss to the internet not to have my ramblings splashed all over it, it would have been nice to be able to look back at them myself.

And so, here I am! Resurrecting A Little Less of Lauren after quite the sabbatical. A lot has happened in my life since I last wrote here. Sadly (!), I do not have time to write three and a half years worth of backdated posts. Also my memory kind of sucks, so I don't think there'd be much point even if I did. I'll just give you the cliff notes...

I met a boy. Actually, I met him just before I stopped writing here, in July 2013. His name is Pete, and we were introduced by my best friend Katie in the run-up to her wedding. Things moved fairly quickly after that, and after not-quite-a year of long-distance I moved 100 miles from Essex to Lincolnshire to live with him. Two days before our first anniversary, we welcomed a new addition to our family...

Her name is Harper, and she's a Tibetan Terrier. These days she looks more like this:

I also changed my job, but after six months of struggling to drum up any sort of enthusiasm for it, I realised it wasn't for me. Instead of continuing in a job that made me miserable (and was ultimately REALLY bad for my mental health), I stepped away and instead set up my own business.

Throughout all of this my weight has fluctuated. I'm still well below where I started all those years ago, but I'm not where I want to be, either. In October 2015 I was closing in on 16st again. I rejoined a local Weight Watchers meeting (after all, if it ain't broke!) and was within 5lb of my goal weight by the following June. I lost focus again after that, and it begin creeping back on yet again

Fortunately, I have a new reason to get motivated...

Pete got down on one knee and asked me to marry him during a cold and blustery walk on Dartmoor on 26th December 2016. Our date is set for 6th October 2018, a little over 18 months from now - giving us plenty of time to plan our perfect day, and enough time for me to kick my own backside into shape. Dress shopping appointments have been made for May and June, which means I have a couple of months to make a dent in my gain of recent months. I'm feeling motivated and I'm even enjoying my visits to the gym, which is a first for me!

I've come to the conclusion that trying to summarise an entire three and a half years of your life in one blog post is not the easiest thing in the world, so I will leave it there for now. I can't wait to share the next part of my journey with you all! 

Lauren xx