Tattoos, traditions, and tiaras: confessions of a feminist bride-to-be
12 Apr 2017
In part one of this bride-to-be blog, Sophie Elliott describes the proposal and talks about the wedding plans that have been set in place so far
Picture the scene: it’s New Year’s Eve 2016, I’m in a posh house in Islington, and I’m surrounded by a group of friends I only ever get to see once or twice a year. We’ve all had a little bit to drink, dressed up in our fanciest outfits, and are sat at the dinner table with bowls of Moroccan food steaming in front of us. One of my friends raises her camera to take a photo of the couscous, and then, suddenly, my boyfriend stands up and clears his throat. Her camera shifts focus to him, and the atmosphere becomes electrified.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for coming,” he says with a shaking voice. “And, well… um…” He bends down on one knee. “Sophie, will you marry me?”
I say yes without hesitating. Everyone in the room bursts into woops and applause. It turns out that my boyfriend – sorry, fiancé – had already told a couple of people, and they’ve videoed the whole thing for us. Once the initial excitement wears off, I forward the video to my family and friends, and call everyone I can think of. “We’re engaged!” I squeal over and over. And for the rest of the night, I’m floating on air.
That was four months ago now. It feels like it was so long ago, but I can remember it really vividly. The subsequent hangover the next day was nothing compared to the excitement I felt – and still feel.
My engagement ring in its box with the speech my fiancé wrote and the topper from our celebratory bottle of champagne.
My fiancé and I met at university, where we both studied photography. I spotted him on the other side of the classroom on the first day of the first year, and immediately whispered to my best friend that I fancied him. The first time we talked, we were alone in the darkroom as we both developed black-and-white film for one of our projects. Our conversation was about two sentences long, and we didn’t speak again until four months later. But in April 2011 we started seeing each other, and from then on we were inseparable. And now, six years later, we’re engaged.
We’ve talked about getting married for a while. Since before he even proposed, we’d always said that if we were to get married we’d want it to be a low-key affair. I’m not personally keen on big, formal weddings with dresses that cost more than a car and too many guests to count: I can think of nothing better than celebrating our big day with our closest friends and family at a nice, intimate venue. We started making wedding plans towards the end of January, and our wedding has been booked for May 2018. We’ve also got a few things organised: the venue, the photographer, the registrar, the DJ - basically, all the essentials.
The venue is a lovely little barn in the Norfolk countryside that’s part of a working farm. It’s located in a small village just 15 minutes away from the beach – perfect for those post-ceremony photographs. It also provides us with nine bedrooms and two cottages for us and our families, and has in-house caterers and a bar, so that’s three things that we instantly crossed off the to-do list.
Sea Palling beach is 15 minutes away from our wedding venue, so we went to visit after our first viewing.
Our guest list for the ceremony currently sits at around 45 people, and we’ve only managed to add on around 10 people for the reception, so, for the moment, it looks as though it’s going to be quite a small wedding. We’ve also enlisted the help of some of our close friends for the important things: the photographer is one of our best friends, and the DJ is a friend of my older sister (he was also at the DJ at my 18th birthday party). The DJ equipment is being provided by one of our other best friends – on the one condition that he can do a one hour set during the night.
I even designed the Save the Date cards myself and got them printed through an online print service. They were delivered to us about a month ago, and I’m really happy with the designs (even if I do keep forgetting to actually post them out).
But everything else, at the moment, is purely theoretical. I’m going dress shopping on the 22nd April with my mum, her partner, and my maid of honour. We don’t yet have a colour scheme, but I’ve been looking at dried wildflowers for the bouquets and buttonholes, so may go for a colour palette to match that: purples, pinks, greens, and whites. I haven't even started thinking about decorations or ceremony music yet.
What we do know, though, is that we it won’t be a conventional wedding. Our budget is pretty small, so we’ll be doing and making a lot of things ourselves. We want it to be personal – not only for us, but for our guests as well – and we want it to be fun. We’re not bothered about a three-course sit-down meal if it means that everyone will be more relaxed. As well as that, I, along with my two sisters and brother, was raised in a feminist household, so you can expect to see quite a few patriarchy-based traditions thrown out of the window.
My fiancé and I immediately after he proposed.
I work part-time as a freelance wedding photographer, so I’ve seen a lot of weddings. And I can say, without hesitation, that my favourite ones to photograph have been the ones where convention is thrown out of the window; where everybody is focusing on having a good time instead of worrying about impressing everyone else; where the personal touches and handmade elements make everyone feel welcome and loved. So that’s what we’re aiming for.
There’s over a year to go, though, and a lot of things to organise and prepare. So I’ll be logging my journey on this blog over the next 13 months, and I hope you join me for the adventure. Next time I’ll be writing about how our wedding dress shopping trip goes. I’m not super-model skinny, I refuse to wear princess-y dresses, and I have at least one tattoo on every body part, so I’m definitely looking forward to it. See you then!