I’ve had a busy old life so far: packing quiches in a refrigerated factory, painting theatres at the Edinburgh Festival, photocopying tenancy agreements for Charlie Brooks (Janine from Eastenders), selling books to customers who insist 1984 was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, for the last seven years, working in publishing.

Then I got a three-book deal because in the publishing world I KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED and it was the only way to keep me quiet.

I hope you enjoy them. (The books, not the bodies.)

It's Nice That

Rock My Wedding

The Bloggess

100 Layer Cake

Offbeat Bride

The Flick

Martha Stewart Weddings

The Vagenda

Weddings on Pinterest

Brides up North

Jesus, if I had pins like Cyd Charisse, I’d wear this just to go to the shops for eggs and batteries. As it is, still good (albeit with, say, a bottom half) for a bride. The whole of Singin’ in the Rain is filled with unbelievably pleasing costumes, but this one, one of three wedding outfits in the film, takes the Walter-Plunkett-flavour biscuit. And it’s probably, in its strange ‘ballet within a dream within an imagined musical number within a film’ way, one of my favourite weddings on film. What’s yours?

Wedding shoes of the day

Of course I’m biased, because I got my own wedding shoes from Topshop, but I am baffled when “buying the wedding shoes from Topshop” is somehow held up as the epitome of all penny-pinching wedding-ness. I think their footwear range are delicious, and if you might only wear them for a few hours, why wouldn’t you go Toshe? 

These are so much a favourite that I bought a pair in a dusty rose, which make me happy every time I look at them. And if you think that owning them for three months without wearing them makes me a pathetic sub-Carrie-Bradshaw parody, then YOU ARE WRONG.

Plus, they are called Jazzhands. What on earth could be stopping you?  

More rings, you magpies. I’ve asked my loved ones to tell us about their most precious rings, and SURPRISE! None of them come from *whisper* Tiffany.
Today, my oldest friend Rachel has chosen her grandmother’s. Even if she wasn’t an incredibly brilliant and intelligent woman, and excellent gran to my pal, Maps (as Rachel and I refer to her) will always have a special place in my heart for warning her granddaughter off me with the words, “Look out - that one’s a husband stealer.” I was twelve.

Rachel says:The rings are Gran’s platinum wedding ring and her mother’s diamond eternity ring. They’ve got ‘thinner and thinner’ and Gran has to wear them on her right hand as her left hand is swollen from arthritis and osteoporosis. “I look unmarried but there you go.” The wedding ring, Gran bought herself. Grandpa asked her to marry him with only eight days notice. It was wartime, 1942, and Grandpa was on duty, flying in Scotland, so Gran took half a day off from her work at the hospital and went with her mother, Rose, to buy the ring from a little jewellers off Regent Street. “He did pay for it.” Gran was 22. Later, Gran was given a ruby eternity ring by Grandpa. But she was playing with it in the cinema one day, and, when she got home, realised she no longer had it on. She asked at the cinema but they said nothing had been found. “I expect the cleaner got it.”
When Rose died, in 1978, Gran and her sister Gill were deciding which ring should go to who. As Gran had lost her own eternity ring, she asked for her mother’s. Gill got Rose’s wedding ring. Rose had been born in 1893, so was 85 when she died - a long life! But Gran says, “Come on. I’ve lasted longer.”

More rings, you magpies. I’ve asked my loved ones to tell us about their most precious rings, and SURPRISE! None of them come from *whisper* Tiffany.

Today, my oldest friend Rachel has chosen her grandmother’s. Even if she wasn’t an incredibly brilliant and intelligent woman, and excellent gran to my pal, Maps (as Rachel and I refer to her) will always have a special place in my heart for warning her granddaughter off me with the words, “Look out - that one’s a husband stealer.” I was twelve.

Rachel says:
The rings are Gran’s platinum wedding ring and her mother’s diamond eternity ring. They’ve got ‘thinner and thinner’ and Gran has to wear them on her right hand as her left hand is swollen from arthritis and osteoporosis. “I look unmarried but there you go.”
 
The wedding ring, Gran bought herself. Grandpa asked her to marry him with only eight days notice. It was wartime, 1942, and Grandpa was on duty, flying in Scotland, so Gran took half a day off from her work at the hospital and went with her mother, Rose, to buy the ring from a little jewellers off Regent Street. “He did pay for it.” Gran was 22.
 
Later, Gran was given a ruby eternity ring by Grandpa. But she was playing with it in the cinema one day, and, when she got home, realised she no longer had it on. She asked at the cinema but they said nothing had been found. “I expect the cleaner got it.”

When Rose died, in 1978, Gran and her sister Gill were deciding which ring should go to who. As Gran had lost her own eternity ring, she asked for her mother’s. Gill got Rose’s wedding ring. Rose had been born in 1893, so was 85 when she died - a long life! But Gran says, “Come on. I’ve lasted longer.”

Walking down the ginnel from the Tube the other day, I noticed tonnes of fat brambles through the fence. In the scrub at the edge of our estate (council, not family, obviously) there are huge bramble bushes that I forget entirely for the other 11 months of the year, all in that perfect state of berriness ranging from hard and green to fat and purple-black, guaranteeing weeks’ worth of good cropping.

If I was getting hitched any time soon, I would definitely want some bramble-flavoured things at my feast - not only are they completely delicious, they are also free£££££££££eeee. And if you’re worried about getting bramble juice on you, what are you going to serve? White wine and veal?  

So here are my three favourite bramble recipes:

BRAMBLE PAVLOVA

egg whites
caster sugar
300ml double cream
two big handfuls of brambles
three or four tablespoons of lemon curd

Delia’s recipe's great for meringue, just follow that; I used three medium egg whites for a pavlova that would easily have served between six and eight, to give you some idea of numbers, so you can just work out from how much of everything you need. Once the pavlova is cooked and cooled, layer on some lightly whipped cream (so it still slops off the spoon, not beaten so hard it's getting butter fat globules in and you have to slice it off), drizzle some lemon curd all over it all, pile on some brambles and scatter with chopped hazelnuts.

Give me a day or two, and I’ll give you my lemon curd recipe too. 

BRAMBLE COCKTAIL

gin
chambord
sugar syrup
squeeze of lemon
couple of brambles

Those are the official ingredients, which I’m sure you’re capable of tossing together yourself to taste, but if you’re catering for loads of folk, chambord and lemonade with some brambles and sprigs of fresh mint are just the ticket. 

BRAMBLE AND PEAR COBBLER

butter
self-raising flour
sugar
nutmeg
cornflour
plain yoghurt
pears
lemon rind
brambles

I was going to make this a crumble (180g plain flour, 75g cold, cold butter, 70g caster sugar and a handful of chopped hazelnuts - blitz in a food processor or sift and rub until a crumble forms. Also great to just keep in the freezer for EMERGENCY DESSERTS no I don’t know what that means either) but I make them so often that I thought I’d try something else. I was also curious about cobbler as the American fiction I read as a teen always used “peach cobbler” as a geographic placing device for a Southern beauty who felt way out of her depth in New York/her liberal college/somewhere they didn’t serve peach cobbler.  

Cobbler, it turns out, is even easier than crumble. Or just as easy. Whatever, it’s not hard work. To adapt this Delicious recipe, I put some chopped stem ginger in syrup plus a little bit of grated lemon zest with the pear and brambles, and some nutmeg instead of cinnamon in the dough. Serve that sucker with cold, cold cream, custard or vanilla ice cream. Which I shall also give you a recipe for when I get round to it. 

Last summer, a group of kids helped me pick tonnes of brambles so I gave them each a jar of the jam as a thank you. I pictured a musical montage of the coming years, as I mentored local youths through my forraging feasts. SPOILER: Didn’t happen. 

Wedding shoes of the day

From the sublime, to the sport-iculous. If you’re questioning why anyone would wear trainers to their wedding, then you clearly haven’t seen one of the greatest wedding films ever created. But, of course, these aren’t simply trainers. These are Nike wedge platform trainers, all Isabel Marant-y, but with a gorgeous Liberty pepper print. Perfect for a super-casual wedding, pub, bar, karaoke. And I’m all about wedding shoes being shoes for life. As they say in my household, IN MY MOUTH*. 

*”That is a good thing, I like it”

My lovely publishers have put together a playlist of the wedding songs I bang on about at the back of my book. I love them (songs and publisher). I might just point out though: neither a cover version of Twist and Shout nor a clean version of Azealia Banks’s 212 is my first choice, but if Spotify gives us lemons, WE WILL EAT THE LEMONS AND KEEP DANCING.

Any more suggestions for wedding playlists*? If you can add it to that playlist yourself, you’re a better man than I. If not, you can let me know here and I’ll get them on there. Either way, my dancing shoes are firmly on.

*for the record, this would be awesome for pretty much any party. It’s just that weddings normally have a fixed structure that these slip into (pre-dinner drinks, post-dinner drinks, calling-the-police leavels of dancing).

(Source: Spotify)

Lovely weddings I’ve attended

Next up in the Lovely Weddings collection, we have one of my sisters, Fiona. Her wedding was bloody great fun, and the best man gave one of the funniest speeches I’ve ever heard. Then one of the guests got SO DRUNK they started crying and fell asleep on the table. It was about 4pm. 

So tell us about it. 

A May wedding with an understated country feel, we organised the ceremony to be on the side of a hill underneath a windmill where my husband and I used to go when we first met aged 17. The plan was for us to lead all the guests back through the beautiful village of Brill on foot after the ceremony, for drinks, meal, ceilidh, then dj and dancing, all at the village hall and marquee. Unfortunately more rain fell in the days and morning before the wedding than we’d ever imagined, so we had to go for plan B and hold the whole ceremony in the marquee. [Side note: I single-handedly saved that wedding by being the ONLY member of my family with a bridal umbrella. You’re welcome, Binnies.]

What was your favourite bit? 

In chronological-ish order: driving back and forth to my parents house over the preceding weeks for dress fittings with my mum, resulting in the most beautiful Vera Wang-inspired frock. Arriving at the ceremony and realising all the people we liked spending time with were all there under one roof. Quite overwhelming. Also, waking up the next morning in a stunning bedroom, to bright sunshine streaming in through the skylight and remembering what an amazing day it had been. Oh yes, and I particularly liked the bit when the music from West Side Story in the ceremony was cued up to the wrong section, so instead of One Hand, One Heart [which our dad sings in the most amazing boyish treble, unprompted, at most family dinners] we had Tony getting shot. Thankfully everyone laughed. 

Was there anything you’d have done differently? 

Decorated the marquee more. We only hired it at the last minute, so had put no thought into decorating it at all. We picked the village because of the windmill location, so it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t be able to use it. I had such a clear vision of how the day would run, which featured only sunshine. [In her defence, they did have a fist-sized mirrorball right at the very top of the tent.]

Any advice for a bride? 

Relax. If you’re stressed your family and friends will feel tense. If you’re relaxed everyone will have a great time. 

For the ‘Ladies’

If I had to give one tip for any bride, it would be: go to Rigby & Peller and get yourself fitted properly for whatever bra you need on your wedding day. That would be my top tip, simply because it’s my top tip for anyone in possession of breasts whatever their marital status. FACT. 

And despite the fact that R&P is slightly pricier than, say, M&S, I’m not of a size these days where I can just throw on any old slip of fabric and be able to function for the day. (I found one of my old bras from my late teens the other day, that I’d previously been unable to throw away because it was so beautiful. We had a moment together, holding one another while I wept, then I chucked it, safe in the knowledge it will never again serve me as it once did). R&P bras are beautiful and extremely good quality (although the staff there wince when I tell them, I have been wearing my last batch for four years, just banging them through the washing machine like some kind of rule-breaking lingerie philistine). 

I’ve been measured plenty of places before, convinced of a good bra for me and sent away with a bag of things that ached and pained me and were never worn again. But R&P measure you WITH THEIR EYES (that sounds awful, but it is completely magic, if you can stomach standing in front of a stranger only in your pants at 10am as I did this morning) then actually try the bras on you themselves, shoving and shaping you so you’re wearing the damn thing properly (favourite moment today: when the woman helping me get into a bra said, ‘Oops! I think we’re sitting on a lady!’. I think I just stared at her with my mouth open. She didn’t look the type to enjoy a high-five). 

So whether you’re going with the strapless option for your wedding dress and looking for a basque, sporting an asymmetric dress and need matching support, or you just wear a bra ever, in summary: VISIT RIGBY AND PELLER IF YOU POSSIBLY CAN. Thanks. 

Lovely weddings I’ve attended

Catchy title, right? I’ve asked friends and family whose weddings I’ve been lucky enough to attend to tell us just how excellent they were and why. First up: Steph, one of my wonderful sisters-in-law. She and her not-then-yet-husband did the food at my wedding, so I LOVE THEM. (And they’re also the world’s nicest people.)

So tell us about it. 

August, Chateau De Halloy, Ciney, Belgium. Rented a Chateau for a week, for 50 of our friends. Spent most of the week relaxing, bbq-ing, playing tennis/table-tennis/croquet/badminton [I married into the world’s most competitive (but awesome) family, FYI] then held our ceremony in the lovely marble hall of the Chateau. Very lucky that my husband and his best friends are all chefs/waiters/bar men so food and drink taken care of ALL week. 

What was your favourite bit?

In general: how relaxed it was, that we were all there for a few days so different groups of friends all merged into one, and the fact the place was completely ours.

Specifically: running through everyone for the confetti, the duck confit [at midnight, a bit drunk, I found the leftover duck in the fridge and tried to eat it all], setting off the lanterns at midnight, vodka jellies.

Was there anything you’d have done differently? 

Bloody made sure we’d bought enough mixers for the actual day - we were in the middle of nowhere, and late on the wedding night were left with red wine, neat vodka and rum. A tour of petrol stations produced some Um-Bongo like fruit juice which then resulted in the strongest, warmest fruit punch ever. 

Any advice for a bride? 

Please, please, please let everyone do the speeches before the meal. I was really happy we did this. Your top table will be a lot more fun if your husband can actually eat his meal, and your best man isn’t visibly terrified, silently knocking back Jack Daniels. 

Unforgettable wedding moments - part 2

Don’t they look fabulous in the box? Don’t they? In reality, they made look like a wooden spoon doll someone had glued two slugs on to. And every time I blinked, I thought a crow was coming for me. Unforgettable indeed. 

So the nice people at Avon asked some of you for your most unforgettable moments, and I picked me top five. Sue said: 

"I went to a very posh wedding and I was there as a plus one with a male friend, so I didn’t know either the bride or the groom. We were all sitting there in a cathedral in our posh hats waiting and waiting. Half an hour after the service should have started the bride’s father came running up the aisle, whispered to the vicar and then they, the groom and the best man were ushered into the vestry. Five minutes later the vicar came out and announced that the bride had been in the car outside with her Dad, but decided she didn’t want to get married, but we should all go on to the reception. The meal was served, but nobody stayed very long and none of what would have been the top table was there." I’m totally thinking of this. Poor Tag. 

Kiki, meanwhile, attending a wedding where their dogs were the bridesmaids, all done up in ribbons”. I would have paid to attend that.

Charlotte reported that, at her ex-partner’s wedding, "just as the vicar said ‘does anybody know of any reason why these two should not marry speak now’, my eldest son (then three) chirped up, ‘Why is my dad over there?’" Surely one of the best reasons to have kids in the first place is to train them to do this kind of stuff? 

Laura told us about her own wedding, which, while of course not hilarious at the time, would have me doubled over if it was in a film. I’m a sucker for that stuff. "Right after signing the marriage license, my husband had an allergic reaction to one of the appetizers (which we had tasted prior to the wedding). His throat began to close, and he was rushed to the hospital by EMS! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enjoy our wedding, but our guests did which made us happy!" She reassures us that they did, at least, get to go on their honeymoon. 

And finally Colleen, who was working at one wedding as a waitress. "The bride asked for red wine which I spilt onto the lap of her dress. I burnt up and thought I was on the verge of crying as everyone stopped and glared, but she just smiled and said ‘Seriously, its not an issue,’ then looked at her husband and said ‘I’m not planning on wearing this again,’ and he welled up and said ‘This is why I love you’." I’M NOT CRYING I HAVE SOMETHING IN MY EYE. 

(Probably one of those fake eyelashes.)