Today’s blog post is a very personal one but something that I wanted to share for a number of reasons. Firstly, because of love. My work is centred around love after all. I sit at my desk every day and create special things for people celebrating their love for each other. Items that mean something to the people they are created for. Secondly, because of family. Without mine, I would not have achieved what I have in my life – including Vintage Twee. And thirdly, because of strength and courage. Because there are times that we feel we have neither. And the past two years has certainly tested both of these qualities in myself and all of my family.
You’re never too old to need your mum
For those of you who know me, they will know that my mum is my everything. She is my best friend, my trusted adviser, my right hand woman at Vintage Twee HQ and, well, she is my heart. The past two years she has been fighting to survive the cruel and indiscriminate disease that is cancer. The past 3 months we have accepted we can’t do anymore and we have to enjoy every day, hour and minute we have together.
A man with a plan
My partner Dave and I aren’t married. We’ve been together 3 years and are hoping to get married in the near future. However, he made a suggestion last week that, at first, I thought wouldn’t be possible, appropriate or emotionally doable. Turns out that, in fact – it was all 3.
We decided to arrange a (very!) last minute blessing to be held by a local Reverend at the Chapel at the place where mum is. It wasn’t to be morbid or depressing. It was to be a true celebration of our love. A chance to do something normal and to have mum present to witness our commitment to each other. We were so lucky to have Reverend Alex Sanders on board. She was delighted to be a part of our special day and conduct the ceremony. She was amazing. She even printed out a little booklet for the ceremony for our guests which was a lovely touch! We made an invitation (of course..) and delivered it the day before to the hospital to surprise mum and dad.
Keep calm and call your sister
It was an intimate affair and the guest list was just 10. My mum and dad, sister Emma, brother in law Lee, my niece and nephew Bonnie and Albie, Dave’s mum Cath and partner John and my two very best friends Karen and Yvonne. And it was all we needed. Being so last minute and physically and mentally drained from the past two years, everyone pitched in to help. My sister Emma was absolutely amazing and I will be forever grateful to her for making it possible. She was in her dressing gown in the early hours creating the most fantastic flowers whilst two children under 4 used her as an obstacle course. She put together the most heartwarming, vintage style baskets I’d ever seen for Albie and Bonnie to hold. They were rustic vintage (very on trend!), complete with lace handles and some adorable stick on gems that the children had contributed. I couldn’t stop staring at them, they meant the world. She took care of the cake and managed to order it from our family’s favourite cake shop, Classic Celebration Cakes . We have been buying cake religiously from here for the past 35 years and it’s mum’s absolute favourite. She got the prosecco, did a last minute buffet run and STILL managed to look gorgeous!
A Little Help From Your Friends
Best friends Karen and Yvonne and Dave’s mum Cath were also amazing. Their support over the past two years is what has kept me sane. I never feel alone when I know they are at the end of an emergency Whatsapp message late at night! If there’s one thing Karen does best it’s shopping and she helped me pick a dress with next day delivery 3 days before the ceremony. She brought a matching 50’s style dress for my sister from her expanding collection of Vivien of Holloway dresses and petticoats. She helped me choose the food at 11.30pm when my eyes were closing and I wanted to cry at M&S for not being able to deliver in time. (thank you Sainsburys!). She helped set up on the day and ensured Dave didn’t drop the aforementioned buffet. Yvonne was there for my last minute dress fitting which amazingly didn’t need any adjustments and arranged my bouquet of fresh pink roses picked from her beautiful garden. She also brought spare flowers which we displayed in the Chapel and outside – the colours and smell made mum smile. She was Chief Photographer and captured some of the most beautiful images that I will treasure forever.
It’s better to be late than ugly…
I didn’t know if I could pull a dress off in time. However we searched online and found a perfect dress from Lindy Bop which cost me all of £40 delivered and I wore a Vivien of Holloway petticoat underneath. My very good friend and colleague Bethany from The Vintage Beauty Parlour was kind enough to book me into her salon at 7am on a Sunday morning with just two days notice. She created my vintage hairstyle and colleague Aimee did my wonderful make up. Obviously this required plenty of concealer and waterproof mascara!
Dave himself looked so handsome. After letting me convince him to buy a tie that he thought was pink (it really wasn’t), he convinced me that I could do this. He took care of me and my unpredictable emotions that day and the evening before and stood proud by my side. My wonderful dad walked me into the small chapel to the sound of Elvis and ‘The Wonder of You’ and then took a seat next to my mum who had been wheeled into the room in her comfy bed to watch the short ceremony.
Dave and I had written some special words for each other that we read out without faltering (much..) and then we lit a beautiful unity candle provided by Reverend Alex to represent our relationship that we will keep forever. After the ceremony the sun miraculously came out and we spent the next couple of hours in the gardens of the hospital. Mum managed a glass of prosecco and cake (nothing changes there!) and we listened to a playlist of music that consisted of a song chosen by everyone there. I wont name and shame everyone but let’s just say there was some Barry Manilow and Disney amongst them…
All in all it was the most perfect day despite the most imperfect circumstances. The nurses were fabulous and fully supported what we wanted to do for our family and for mum. And it felt wonderful to smile and celebrate – to escape the cloud of sadness momentarily and enjoy what we have. I read something once which stated ‘all we ever have is now’. And this horrendous disease has taught me just that. We could have chosen to sit around for the next however long and be miserable, constantly asking why has this happened. Or we could, as Karen put it, ‘laugh in the face’ of it’s cruelty and create happy memories that it can’t ever take away from us. 3 months ago I never thought my mum would see this day with me. But we made it happen and the legal part of the marriage didn’t seem to matter. As far as we are concerned,we did what we wanted to do, with the people we love most in the world. And no amount of ‘real’ wedding cake, ‘real’ wedding photography or a ‘real’ wedding dress could ever come close to what we achieved that day.
A heartfelt THANK YOU from Dave and I to everyone who helped make it happen. We love you all and we will all cherish the memories in our hearts and minds forever.
Love Joanne and Dave