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Pineapple Wedding Rings by Aaron Paul Designs

Pineapple Wedding Rings by Aaron Paul Designs

Before you get too excited, this is not a how-to-find-a-spouse manual. The only advice I can give in that department is that you should ask someone – preferably someone you know and like – to marry you, and hope for the best.

This is simply a quick-and-dirty guide for those who have already found that special someone and who – for whatever reason – want to tie the knot as soon as humanly possible without all the usual muss and fuss of elaborate wedding madness, infused with bridesmaid dresses and bachelorette parties and drunk relatives. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I should note that this guide is London, England specific, as the process may be (and probably is) different elsewhere.

STEP 1: GIVE NOTICE TO GET MARRIED

First things first, you need to give notice at your local register office. Just look it up online and browse for the ‘marriage or civil partnership’ section (follow the link to view the one on the Waltham Forest website). Read through the directions thoroughly and make sure you are eligible to get married in the UK, and then call the phone number on the page to book your in-person appointment to give notice. Over the phone, they will ask you for the following:

  • Payment of £35 per participant (i.e. £70 total) to be paid prior to booking the appointment
  • Proof of identity, such as your passport (to be brought to the appointment)
  • TWO proofs of address each (to be brought to the appointment)

    Depending on the register office, they may ask you to provide very specific proofs of address, such as electricity bills. At the Waltham Forest Branch, they accepted our lease agreements and bank statements with our respective addresses.

    If either you or your partner are NOT a UK citizen, then you must get married in the local borough of the person who IS a UK citizen. For example, I am a UK citizen and my partner is an American citizen, and we weren’t sharing an address ; so we gave notice and got married in my borough, rather than his. 

STEP 2: ATTEND THE APPOINTMENT TO GIVE NOTICE OF MARRIAGE

The appointment to give notice of marriage will take place at the local register office: check the website for the exact address, and make sure you arrive at least ten minutes before the scheduled appointment. You and your partner will be invited into a private office where you will be asked to provide the aforementioned documents (original copies, please!) and answer questions about yourselves and each other.

Don’t freak out: everyone gets at least one of these questions wrong! That being said, if you haven’t already done so, you should familiarise yourself with the following:

  • The exact name (including middle name) of your partner
  • The exact names of your partner’s parents
  • Your partner’s job or profession
  • Your partner’s address, including post code
  • Your partner’s age and birthdate

These may sound like very basic details to know about your spouse-to-be, but you’d be surprised how many things people forget when they feel under pressure. So go ahead and review all these items before your appointment, but again, don’t worry if you get a couple things wrong. I forgot my partner’s address, and they still allowed us to get married!

If all goes well at the appointment, you will be given the option to book your wedding date. Your notice for marriage is valid for 12 months, so you must get married within the year, otherwise you have to re-register. The earliest you can get married is 15 days after the appointment, so make sure you book your appointment at least two-three weeks before your desired wedding date.

In our case, we booked our appointment for Monday 19 May and booked our wedding date for three weeks later on Monday 9 June. We wanted to get married earlier (i.e. before the 15 day minimum) because my mum was in town from Canada then, but they are pretty strict about the timing, and only make an exception if someone is dying or something.

MONEY SAVING TIP: If you’re keen to save a few quid on the whole thing (hey, romance can be cheap!) then here are a couple things you should consider.

  • Marriage location: if you choose to get married at the local register office (the same place as your appointment) then the cost is significantly less (up to 1/3 of the price) than if you choose to get married at any of the other approved marriage locations (see the website). So unless you’re particularly choosy about where you get married, just get ‘er done at the register office.
  • Marriage day of the week: if you choose to get married (at the register office) on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, the cost is £100. Friday £150. Saturday £230. Sunday and Bank Holidays £385. So we got married on a Monday. Please note, though, that unless you get married on a Sunday, you don’t have the option of reciting your own vows: you have to follow the reduced ceremony format. Which, for us, was great: more time for photos and wedding cake!
  • Marriage certificates: the only other thing you’ll want to spend money on is the marriage certificate, which costs £4 per copy. We purchased three copies, since we wanted to give one to each set of our parents.

Now just a bit of quick math, so you know how much you’ve spent on the wedding so far…

Registration fee £70

Marriage ceremony fee £100

Marriage certificate £4

TOTAL £174 (Not too bad!)

STEP 3: GET MARRIED!!!

Oh my goodness, the big day is finally here! I’ll bet you’re beyond excited. In addition to your wedding garb and possibly your rings (if you’re choosing to exchange them at the ceremony), make sure you bring the following items:

  • Receipt for your marriage ceremony fee: no need to bring your proofs of identity and address again, as they will already be on record
  • TWO witnesses: they don’t have to be related to you, or even super close friends — just two reliable people who will show up and sign papers for you
  • Photographer: you’ll probably want at least a few snaps to capture the event, so do invite along a third person, as your witnesses are not allowed to take photos during the ceremony, since they are part of it
  • Wedding cake: of course this is totally optional, but if you choose to have a wedding cake, you are welcome to bring it to the register office, and share it with your guests after the ceremony

Our witnesses and wedding cake creator/photographer

Our witnesses and wedding cake creator/photographer

On this day, make sure you arrive at least twenty minutes before the time booked for your ceremony (we got in a bit of trouble for being ‘on time’ rather than ‘early’), with your witnesses, photographer, and any other guests in tow.

The wedding officiate will take you and your partner into the ‘wedding suite’ where you will answer questions about yourselves and your respective families. After this portion is complete, the witnesses will be invited in to provide information about themselves for the records. Then everyone else will be invited in for the ceremony itself.

For the ceremony, you’re told what it means to be married (basically, a life-long commitment to being faithful to each other – so keep that in mind!), you’re asked to speak up if you can think of any reason why you shouldn’t be married, and you’re asked to call upon your witnesses to witness your marriage. Then, once the union has been announced and made official with the most passionate kiss ever, you and your spouse (!) and your witnesses all take turns signing the marriage certificate.

Signing the Marriage Certificate!

And that’s pretty much it!

STEP 4: CELEBRATE BEING MARRIED

You’re hitched and it feels totally awesome! Go ahead and celebrate with your spouse and all the people you love. My husband and I enjoyed a stroll through the Walthamstow marshes before heading over to our evening party at a fabulous cocktail bar on Southbank. But you can do whatever the heck you want.

We are so cool.

We are so cool.

Just remember: this day is for you and your partner, and you can do as much or as little as you want. If you want to wear a big fancy white wedding gown, go for it. If you’d rather wear a multi-coloured vintage dress that you’ve owned and loved for years, that’s okay, too. Stag-and-Doe party, or no, the important thing is that you’re marrying the person you love and can stand to be around for the foreseeable future. All the rest are just details: to be enjoyed, and not to get stressed out over.

From me to you, have a wonderful, marvelous, memorable wedding, and an extraordinary lifetime together x

My Mum visiting me at work. I had to tell her off for drinking on the job.

My Mum visiting me at work. I had to tell her off for drinking on the job.

Man, I’m going to miss the Borough Market.

Seriously, folks, if you’re seeking a community that exemplifies affability and togetherness, ultimately void of pretension and egos, and full of vibrant characters that would and should be featured in the world’s quirkiest sitcom, you needn’t look any further.

Sure, it’s difficult getting out of bed early in the morning, but as soon as I arrive on site, I’m greeted by a chorus of hellos and smiling albeit sleepy faces, and soon enough I’m dancing to the tunes from Paul the fisherman’s speakers, and chatting with the cereal girls, and saluting my Mexi-Moroccan market soulmate, and opening boxes radiating deliciousness ready to be shared with the many wonderful people from around the world that I have the pleasure of meeting each day.

My lower back hurts, but my heart is full. A million times, thank you x

Reader, I married him.

Our Wedding!

Our Wedding!

Far more than the concluding chapter of Jane Eyre, I realise that this – my whirlwind marriage to Royce – may come as a surprise to most people. I have been very quiet about it these last few weeks: partly, admittedly, for the delightful shock value of suddenly changing my Facebook status to ‘Married’ and enjoying the various responses to the news; partly, also, because I didn’t want to go through the rigmarole of being temporarily ‘Engaged’, a gushy state of being which has never appealed to me; and, finally, trying to decide who to tell and how and when was just too daunting an activity in these fast-moving days before the wedding, when there was already so much to sort through with my beloved partner.

 

A little about our relationship thus far: we met at a production of Macbeth back in October where, at intermission, I interrupted his conversation with a fellow theatre go-er to give my two cents on the performance. Upon leaving the theatre together, I also burdened him with my life story, because I figured I could do that with a total stranger and not have to suffer any consequences. But instead of being scared off by my dramatic existence, he calculatingly held onto the business card I had thrust at him and sent me a ‘touching base’ email that evening.

 

Fast-forward a couple of months, I signed up for a six-week course he was offering on using the Meisner technique in classical and contemporary two-person scenes. I was given selections from Betrayal by Harold Pinter and Footfalls by Samuel Beckett. Thanks to his expert instruction and the generally positive attitude of the class, I have since been inspired to get back into acting, a venture I had not been brave enough to revisit for several years now.

 

Over the course of these weeks, I realised I was falling in love with him. I acknowledged this after having already booked a flight to Tokyo to spend 9 whole days with him while he was there studying Noh Theatre for a month in March. I wondered, should I communicate my feelings for him before the trip, or wait until I’m there with him in Japan? And how would my potentially awkward confession change the beautifully subtle and unspoken chemistry between us? I was determined not to make the same mistakes I had made with previous relationships, and so I held off telling him as long as I could.

 

First dinner

First night in Tokyo

Our first kiss took place at the tail end of a two-hour plane ride from Tokyo to Okinawa, a collection of tropical islands where whale watching is the native sport. It was perfect. The kiss, that is. And the kisses that followed were perfect, too. For the whole trip, I don’t believe we spent more than ten minutes apart from each other. And neither of us would have wanted it any other way.

 

Choosing to get married – as opposed to getting married because you feel you ‘should’ or because it feels like the ‘right thing to do’ – we discussed, is a true act of optimism. Of course, divorce is tremendously common – inevitable, some would say, with the prevalence of the prenup – and people do change and sometimes grow apart over the years. Neither of us can predict how we’ll feel about each other or about our marriage ten or twenty years from now, but both of us have agreed that we’re willing to give this lifetime partnership thing a darn good try.

 

A few reasons why I am optimistic:

 

-       Even though I’m now in a committed, legally-bound, long-term relationship, I feel, perhaps paradoxically, that I have more freedom and opportunities than I have ever had before

-       Expressing love, verbally or otherwise, comes naturally to both of us, and neither of us are hesitant about showing affection, even if it makes us vulnerable; an expression of true bravery, if you ask me

-       When I cry, he doesn’t take it personally, and it doesn’t make him nervous or upset. He has even said to me explicitly, ‘I’m not afraid of your feelings,’ which is an absolute novelty, in my experience

-       My mother has met him in person and loves him

-       I speak about him to other people the same way my friend Nadine speaks about her husband: proudly, glowingly, and without reservation

-       We laugh. Oh, how we laugh

 

From the time we started discussing the idea of getting married, he always put it to me that we could change our minds at any point: even after we told our respective families, even after we designed our pineapple wedding rings (!), even after we booked the date and paid the registration fees. In fact, yesterday – the day after our wedding – he asked if I was still okay with us being married. And I replied that I’ve already ceased questioning our union, that it would be like questioning the fact that my parents are my parents: they just are; just like he is my husband, my partner, unquestionably, and I cannot now imagine being married to anyone else, let alone not having him in my life.

 

So what now? We’re planning to stay in London for another couple of years, form our own international theatre company with the aim of producing great shows and offering workshops (stay tuned!), and then perhaps returning to North America once we’ve amassed a sufficient amount of street cred from the big city.

 

Now, to my Ottawa friends: please mark your calendars, because he and I will be visiting for a few short weeks this September. And take it from me, this guy, whom I’ve been lucky enough to marry, is one of the most charming, most brilliant, and most extraordinary people you will ever meet. I simply can’t wait to introduce you to him.

I will wait for no other sushi but this.

I will wait for no other sushi but this.

Two travellers wander down a street in Japan. They are searching for an ‘anago’ (salt-water eel) restaurant.

Jestragon: (despairingly): You’re sure it was here?

Roydimir: What?

Jestragon: That we were to wait.

Roydimir: The book said it was down this street. (pause) What are you insinuating? That we’ve come to the wrong place?

Jestragon: It should be here.

Roydimir: It didn’t even say for sure that we could get in.

Jestragon: And if we can’t get in?

Roydimir: We’ll come back tomorrow.

Jestragon: And then the day after tomorrow.

Roydimir: Possibly.

Jestragon: And so on.

Roydimir: The point is -

Jestragon: Until we can get in.

Roydimir and Jestragon eventually find the anago restaurant with a small gathering of strangers sitting outside. No one speaks. They are all waiting to get in. There is a glass case that displays anago model dishes, but no actual food. There is tea, but no one touches the tea. There is a list where everyone writes down their names. Soon the hostess comes out of the restaurant and checks the list, takes orders from the door, and then disappears again inside the restaurant. When one stranger attempts to enter the restaurant, he is pushed out and told to continue waiting. Everyone continues waiting for over an hour (i.e. one act).

Jestragon: Let’s go.

Roydimir: We can’t.

Jestragon: Why not?

Roydimir: We’re waiting for Anago.

Train ride on our way somewhere: we sit opposite a Japanese mother with a young girl and a baby boy.

The young girl – maybe 5 or 6 – watches us as we chatter away, as usual. She smiles.

‘She likes you,’ I say to him. ‘She’s looking at you.’

He smiles back and waves at her. She beams.

‘Shall we make her day?’ I ask, as I reveal to him a clown nose in my little blue purse.

‘Go for it,’ he says.

So I put on the clown nose, and he and I engage in a strange little exchange, throwing around noises and words, gestures and movements, facing toward, facing away to the window and back again. We are exhilarated. We are exasperated. We are arguing. We are agreeing. We are joining hands. We are making plans. We are rolling eyes and spitting sounds and holding our breath and taking breaks and taking chances and trying things out. And she is watching.

It’s our stop. We get up from our seats, and I remove my clown nose as we head toward the door.

‘Look,’ he says. And the young girl and her mother and her baby brother have turned around in their seats and they are so joyful. We exit the train and watch them from the window. They wave goodbye.

‘That was your professional Japanese clowning debut,’ he says.

‘Wonderful,’ I say. And the day continues.

We never did get to go whale watching.

That’s the big thing in Okinawa. Someone takes you out in their boat for 2, or 4, or 6 hours (the full 6 hours recommended, of course) and you find yourself surrounded by whales. One time, one of our hosts said, she went out and followed a mother and her baby whale through the ocean waves, and that even the anticipation of the experience is addictive. There are posters of whales in the B&B-style hotel, and souvenir whale t-shirts and magnets and stuffed animals; at the wharf where the boats dock, there are flowers arranged in a whale design.

20140319_100319

Yes, that is a heart on the wing.

From the airport we took a sky train, and from the sky train we took a 2-hour ferry to arrive at the island Zamami where our two hosts – one Japanese lady who owned the house where we were staying, and one Polish woman who was there helping her – waited for us with a welcome sign. Royce had stayed here before, and so was greeted warmly when the Japanese owner remembered who he was. ‘Your mother gave me a bear’ she recollected happily. A little jeweled bear in a small velvet bag, she showed us later, having kept it safe since the last visit.

Our room, like the one in Tokyo, is lined with Tatami mats and contains only a small table and a mini fridge. In one of the closets is all our bedding: mattresses and sheets and blankets and pillows. Because of the mats on the floor, you don’t need anything more than that. And when you’re not using the beds, you are welcome to put them away and have the entire floor space to yourself. Such a clever idea that really should be implemented for London flats where there is never enough space.

Our hosts offer us breakfast for the three mornings that we will be staying here:  ‘Come down for 8:30!’ they add cheerily, following our hasty acceptance. We look at each other: we had not intended to be morning people on this particular trip, but we’re also the type of people afraid of causing offence, so we keep our humourous panic to ourselves and rationalise that, hey, we can always return to our room right afterward.

This is a small, intimate neigbourhood. No one locks their doors, and no one worries. There is one school, one proper restaurant, and one grocery shop. There is also a karaoke bar, but we don’t venture there. Throughout the day, muffled happy (though also strangely sinister) songs play from a loudspeaker; one sounds like a school bell, but it plays at all hours of the day, and even on Saturdays. There are two climbing trees in the school yard and I climb both of them with enthusiasm, thinking to myself ‘I promise I will never be too old to climb trees or sit on the floor at train stations.’

20140321_114717

I love my tree.

Our first real adventure takes place the following evening when we attempt to journey to one of the two beaches on the island. Up the road, I notice an opening through the trees and said aloud ‘I wonder where this path goes.’ One of the many wonderful things about my companion (and a quality that I would very much like to adopt) is that he doesn’t mind straying from the planned route when a potentially exciting new opportunity arises. ‘Let’s go find out,’ he says, and we wander through the bushes, up an earthy set of stairs made a more feasible climb with the help of a railing, up to a clearing in the woods – the perfect camping site – and farther along, a beautiful view of the entire neighbourhood, with the ocean stretching out before us, as far as we can see, showcasing islands bordered with starlight. Behind the clearing a shadowed shrine with a marbled wall listing numerous names; perhaps the names of soldiers and families lost in the war.

We continue uphill for some time, until we reach a turning that we think might lead to the beach. Instead we find ourselves walking down a winding steep road into another residential area with which we are not familiar. Even though it is still early evening, no one is wandering outside of their houses. This appears a well-lit ghost town, the only movement from cats protecting their temples and birds protecting their nests. It is soothing to feel completely alone in the quiet, like the island belongs to us.

On the way back, we witness the most extraordinary sight: a collective of women behind floor-length glass windows rehearsing a Noh Theatre performance. They perform several dances in costume with multiple props, including these spectacular gold fans. Royce tells me that the last time he visited this island he actively searched for this type of performance to attend, and here we were, serendipitously viewing from mere yards away one of Japan’s oldest theatrical traditions. Breathtaking.

The next day, we do actually go to the beach. ‘Don’t try swimming in the water, though,’ he told me. ‘Last time I was here, the owner took me on a two hour boat ride and forced me to look underwater with goggles at all the poisonous snakes and eels and sharks and other things that could potentially kill me.’ ‘But they wouldn’t be in the shallow part of the water, would they?’ I pressed, keen to make use of my new bathing suit. He returned with this look that said, don’t make me say I told you so! But with the mid-afternoon sun beating down on my slowly reddening skin and the feeling of warm sand under my feet and between my toes, I couldn’t resist dashing calf-deep into the water, lifting my skirt when a wave came crashing by. And much to my relief, I survive this audacious act with all my limbs in tact.

There’s a slowness here. One that permits me to spend an uninterrupted amount of time watching to see if a community of hermit crabs will emerge from their shells for my own amusement. That encourages me to climb over steep, dark rocks beautifully misshapen by the tide rolling in, collect and admire and treasure brightly-coloured coral and shells from the sand, and twist a not-yet-ripe yellow-and-green pineapple from its own squealing maternal branch. Hours pass unnoticed and one fishing boat passes by; a handful of locals can be seen browsing the beach.

20140321_142609

A pineapple…. for me!

When I was younger and camping with my family, I used to wander off and find myself a large rock by the water on which to seat myself and write in my journal. Goodness knows what I wrote about, and whether or not my surroundings served as an environmental muse, but simply being there inspired this sense of calm and remove that I rarely find now living in the city and worrying about how much or how little I’ve accomplished day-to-day. There, my only purpose was to find my rock and sit on it and write. Here, it was to stare out into ocean and think about nothing  beyond my surroundings. For once, that wasn’t difficult.

We never did get to go whale watching. The weather simply wasn’t clear enough, and our guide hadn’t been able to return by boat in time to take us out. But no matter; there’s always next time.

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