I’ve never been too keen on the idea of overseas weddings but when you are from the UK, your partner is from New Zealand, and the country that you live in won’t let you get married, you don’t have a great deal of choice. The choice that we did have was whose country to go for. When it became clear that I had quite a few ideas about how I’d like my wedding to go, while kiwi gf had LITERALLY NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT, the decision became a simple one.
From there, we found that planning a wedding is incredibly easy.
Here’s a rundown of how the planning process went after we told my parents that we wanted to have the wedding in their part of the beautiful English countryside.
- Parents emailed us a list of venues they thought would be good. We looked through the list and picked one. They visited and booked it. Tick.
- Decided to have the reception in the village hall. Mum spoke to her next door neighbour who does the bookings. Tick.
- Made cute photo of our beagles into a ‘save the date’ email that most people didn’t actually get. Tick.
- My sister said “Please, please, please can I decorate the village hall?” Tick.
- Went through pointless process for kiwi gf to get a marriage visitor visa for UK. Tick. Twice. Tick.
- ‘Gave notice’ of our marriage, with extra scrutiny because of kiwi gf being a dirty foreigner. (Luckily, as the lady later told us, she could tell our relationship was genuine as soon as she saw us in the waiting room – rather than holding hands and looking all lovey dovey, we were playing on our phones.) Tick.
- Asked my bestie if her defunct function band would get back together to play for us. Tick.
- Ordered ten dresses from the internet. Liked one but it didn’t fit. Ordered different size. Tick.
- Went with kiwi gf to a dress shop where she spent 20 minutes trying on dresses (10 minutes of which was spent trying to work out how to put on one of the dresses) before choosing one. Tick.
- Bought an $11 Word template on Etsy for the invitations. Sent invites. Tick.
- Ordered two pairs of shoes from the internet before returning them and deciding to wear a pair I already had. Tick.
- Went shoe shopping with kiwi gf who bought the second pair of shoes that she tried on. Tick.
- Tried to arrange hair and make-up. Failed. Mum booked for us to go to a hairdresser in the nearest town. Tick.
- Mum sent an email with food options for the buffet. Chose our favourites. Tick.
- Asked my awesome friend if she would bake the cake, also to be the desert. Tick.
- Put together our one real contribution to the proceedings – party bags (which we forgot about until half our guests had already left). Tick.
- Copied and pasted vows from the internet. Tick.
Based on our experience, I would offer the following tips for planning a wedding on the other side of the world:
- I suspect this has already become clear but, outsource. If you are very lucky, you’ll have a mum who loves to plan things, as well as friends and family who have talents that they are happy to share.
- Give those people the freedom to make decisions, and trust them to get it right. When my sister asked what the colour theme was, we said: “You choose.”
- Prepare yourself for the reality that some people will simply not be able to come. Find the silver lining: these people will get you the best gifts.
- Decide the things that matter to you and scrap everything else. Wedding favours? No. Chair covers? Hell no.
- If your parents aren’t big drinkers, make sure they are clued up on how much alcohol you and your friends can get through of an evening. On a related note, big thanks to my bro for doing a beer run.
- Film it. We set up a video camera to film the wedding, speeches and some of the dancing. The end product is of dubious quality – not unlike the dancing – but it was great to be able to do a screening for our whanau (family) who couldn’t be there on the day.
- Relax. Most of the arrangements are out of your control so just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Having had a degree of success from online dating over the last year, I’ve decided that I’m an expert and keep trying to impart my knowledge on anyone who’ll listen. Here are some quick tips for any potential daters out there.
- First off, internet dating is great. You should give it a try, what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that.
- Don’t pay for a dating website if you’re too chicken to start messaging people. I handed over £30 to the first site I signed up to and then didn’t use it. That’s money I could have spent buying alcohol to drink alone in my flat. What a waste.
- You don’t have to pay for online dating at all – there are free sites that are worth trying out first. OKCupid is a well-designed site with a reasonable number of nice, normal, attractive people. PlentyOfFish is hideous in terms of the site’s appearance and usability but is, I think, the biggest free one out there. Unfortunately the sheer quantity of fish means that the quality is lower and you have to sift through quite a few ‘interesting’ profiles to find the good ones.
- Everyone I know who has used Guardian Soulmates says it’s good, the obvious benefit being that the danger of finding yourself on a date with a Tory is really, really low. However, bear in mind that there’s no point being on the paid sites if you don’t pay as you can’t send messages.
- Try to avoid using ‘wink’, ‘like’, ‘meet me’, ‘favourite’ or whatever feature the site you’re using has to achieve the same as a ‘poke’ on Facebook (ie, nothing). Make the effort and send a message.
- If you see a profile you like, send the person a message then move on. Do not spend a whole evening crafting the perfect message while planning out your lives together because there’s a good chance they won’t reply and you’ll be gutted.
- Struggling to find the courage to contact people? Have a drink and then try again. Repeat as needed.
Right, that’s enough for now, I have a date to get ready for.
Players: 2 (though you’re likely to get quite a few messages from people who think the game is better played with 3)
Ages: You decide
Vaguely interesting fact: There is a dating site called Love Horse. Amazing.
Verdict: With a little bit of effort you can find yourself on some fun dates with nice people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. And there’s also the potential that you’ll meet someone awesome. Good luck.
A few weeks ago I went speed dating for the first time. Prior to this, the only person I know who had been speed dating was a colleague who described it to us the next day as “a train wreck”. However, this seemed to be more a reflection on the men in attendance than on the concept itself and so, as men aren’t part of the equation for me, I bit the bullet and signed up for a Pink Date event at Retro Bar.
The format of the evening is pretty simple – you rock up, are given a name tag and a score sheet and told where to sit. You then have slightly awkward conversation with the person sitting opposite you and then after three minutes a whistle blows, they move on, you scribble down some notes and then start having the exact same conversation with someone new. When you get home you log onto the website and say which of the people you want to go out with. If they want to go out with you too, your email addresses are magically exchanged.
I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the evening was and how normal most of the people there were. While I didn’t meet my soul mate on this occasion, I might go again sometime and would definitely recommend it to others. If you are thinking about trying it, I offer the following tips based on my experience:
- If you are going on your own, arrange to meet a friend beforehand for a pep talk and some dutch courage (the lion’s share of a bottle of wine worked for me).
- Make detailed notes about the people you meet. The next day it was really hard to remember who was who when all I had to go on were comments like “red trousers”, “borderline chavy” or “Iceland”.
- Some of the three minute dates will seem to go on for hours (not in a good way). Might be worth preparing some hairdresser-style small talk to make these less painful.
- Before you go, try to figure out the correct response to statements like “I’m training to be an embalmer.”
- Don’t get too drunk. If you end up going on a date with someone you met at speed dating it is hugely embarrassing when they remember what you do, where you work and where you live and you can’t recall a single thing about them. This is even more embarrassing when it turns out they have quite a memorable job, for example (entirely hypothetical of course) , playwright.
Speed dating with Pink Date at Retro Bar
Players: 32 in all, I met 17.
Ages: Mostly late 20s and early 30s
Vaguely interesting fact: It’s only £1 extra to make a single into a double at Retro Bar. A very difficult offer to refuse.
Verdict: Turns out speed dating isn’t just for socially inadequate losers anymore (that, or I’m just not very self-aware) and is quite an enjoyable way to spend an evening. At £20 a go Pink Date isn’t cheap but the night was well run and attended by lots of lovely people.