Friday, July 27


In the previous post, I might have given the impression that all the wedding plans went smoothly without any problems. Now that won’t be honest! Anyone who has planned an event like this would know how stressful it is. Tempers can easily fly when everyone disagrees with suggestions for something. I think I was quite calm in the beginning, but as time went on, stress levels rose and I noticed I was getting more impatient with everyone. I just hope I didn’t turn into a full-fledged Bridezilla though!
Planning wasn’t always easy or smooth sailing. We had a long list of things we had to do. Mr and I divided the tasks as best as we could, and we delegated some things to our close family and friends. Whenever we met up, we would discuss and compare notes on who has done what. And then we would decide what task was next on the list. We spent long hours on the phone discussing and arguing. At some point, all our conversations were about planning and we often started with “have you sorted out….?” Or “did you confirm….?” I’m sure my housemate got tired of me after a while because I was always arguing with someone on the phone.
When I look back now, it’s a wonder Mr and I didn’t call off the wedding. We had arguments over almost everything. We argued over the budget, we argued over the number of guests, we argued over the wedding invitations, we disagreed with each other’s choice of music, we argued over our families’ suggestions, we disagreed over the choice of wedding rings, we disagreed over the wedding favours and so many other things! Fortunately, after arguing, we often compromised or came to an agreement. And thank goodness, there were a few things we could agree on.
I was in charge of sorting out my wedding dress and accessories, my hair and make-up bridesmaids’ outfits, hostess outfits, the caterers, the wedding cake, flowers, venue decorations, favours, choosing music, the gift list/registry, the wedding website, and wedding colours. Mr was in charge of: the official paperwork, booking the reception venue, booking the bridal cars, ordering wine and drinks, invitations and postage, the wedding programme, his groomsmen outfits (once I had chosen the colours), choosing the photographer and videographer, choosing wedding rings, booking the DJ and so on. We both had to choose our friends for the wedding party, get measured for traditional outfits, and draw up a guest-list of everyone we wanted to invite.
I remember making dozens of phone calls everyday and spending countless hours online researching stuff. I joined The Knot wedding planning website and found a lot of their suggestions useful.
I think the first thing I started doing was looking for a wedding dress. We know how important that is! I spent hours browsing through several websites, looking at several wedding magazines, and several catalogues and brochures. Eventually, I chose a few styles and armed with the print-outs in my bag, I marched off to the bridal shops.
The first time I stood outside a bridal shop, I didn’t know what to expect. I got there just as the shop was opening. As I stood outside one of the attendants came to say hello and invited me to come in. Then I told her I was looking for a wedding dress. She looked at me and asked, “Are you the bride?” and I said yes. And she had this funny look on her face, like I didn’t look old enough to be wandering around in bridal shops. Anyway I told her what I was looking for and she went off to bring four gowns for me to try on. I must admit it was a funny experience the first time I tried on a wedding dress and looked at myself in the mirror. It was odd but exciting at the same time. I tried on all four gowns but I didn’t want any of them. I told the attendant I would be back later as I had a lecture soon and I had to head back to campus. She gave me their catalogue to take with me. So it was back to the drawing board to look at different styles on the internet.
Some days later, I booked appointments at three bridal shops and I took a friend along. I think I tried on 12 different dresses and I still didn’t choose any of them! Then one weekend my sister came to Nottingham and we went looking again. We tried five bridal stores. Each time I tried on a dress she didn’t like, she gave me a funny look. Eventually we went to a store and I tried on a dress that caught my eye and it was perfect! Phew! So I asked the fitting assistant a few questions and they said it would be ready in time for July if I ordered it straight away. So that was sorted!
My bridesmaids and I couldn’t agree on outfits for a long time. One of my sisters in the US was a bridesmaid and the others were in the UK so we had to choose on her behalf. When we went shopping, we argued on styles so much that I gave up on them. I told them the colour and I told them that they must turn up on the wedding day in that colour otherwise I won't let them join my train. Eventually they sorted themselves out and went shopping by themselves and chose their gowns. They described it to me but I actually didn’t see their outfits until the night before the wedding!
Another cause of arguments was the catering. We had to estimate the number of invited guests we were going to have. But knowing our Nigerian settings, we had to plan for extras! That was so hard – trying to balance a sensible catering budget with an unknown number of guests. I had several arguments with my aunt over how much extra food we should have. She was saying we should plan for up to 300 extra plates of food. I was saying I didn’t want to waste my money on too much food, since I had other things I could do with that money! She was adamant that we needed more than enough; we should hire more crockery etc. I was telling my aunt that if anything went wrong with the food, I wouldn’t forgive her. Finally we dragged my mum and the caterers into the argument and they reassured me that everything would be fine.
Then there was the one with my sister-in-law over the flowergirls' outfits. I liked one thing and the mum's wanted something else. After countless telephone calls, trips to department stores and discussions over bridal catalogues, I was at my wits end. Fortunately I was rescued by my mum's sister who designed something that we were all happy with. Phew.
I think I had one more quarrel with my aunty saying that I shouldn't wear a strapless gown. We really had a big row over that one. What? After I had spent so much time, effort and money into picking the dress, then I can't wear it? No way. The argument raged for ages. My aunty reported me to my parents, saying the dress was too revealing. My dad offered to buy me a new dress a week to the wedding if it would put an end to the arguments. I absolutely refused. In the end, she backed down and I was able to wear my lovely dress.
There were several other hair-raising moments and screaming matches, but I can't describe all of them. It was a lot of fun though. In the end, when everything finally came together, all the hard feelings melted away and everyone involved was smiling.

Thursday, July 12

Trusting God

Update! I decided to continue the post and make it one long post instead of two short ones. I continued from where I stopped......

I mentioned in the previous post that I really learnt to trust God during this stage in my life. When I look back now, I see that there is indeed a God, without whom I cannot do anything. If I ever feel discouraged, or it seems like God is not hearing me anymore, I remember how He helped us when we were planning our wedding. Well in February, Mr and I sent off our applications for the Certificate of Approval from the Home Office. We had been told that it could take up to 13 weeks to process. I was already a bit worried because we had so little time. But we had no choice, we could only pray that it came back on time. Meanwhile we decided to continue with wedding preparations. The best way to explain how things were going is to break it into some sort of monthly time-line. Here goes:

January 2005:
We decided to get married and announced the wedding date to our family. Our families start making their plans. I informed the church and the Registry. Registrar tells us of the new rule. We need to apply for a COA from the Home Office. We tell our families of this new development, but we assure them that all is well and the wedding plans will still go ahead. I have my first semester exams. We started the application process for the COA.

February 2005:
We send our applications to the Home Office. Everyone is praying that it will be returned on time, so that we can finalise the rest of the legal requirements before the proposed wedding date. In the meantime, wedding plans are in full swing. We agree on budget and size, choose our wedding colours, draw up a guest list, set up a wedding website and send out "Save-the-Date" emails. Mr chooses his groomsmen, I choose my wedding dress and paid the initial deposit, choose my bridesmaids and hostesses. We continue attending marriage classes, while I also carry on with my lectures at uni.

March 2005:
No word from the Home Office, not even an acknowledgement letter. Anyway we carry on planning. We book the reception venue, contact a caterer, contact a florist, print the invitation cards, decide on the wedding cake, book music for reception, choose wedding rings and draw up a registry/gift list. We ordered our wedding bands from the US so we had to get them delivered to my sister. It's my mum's 50th birthday and my parents come to the UK for a brief visit. Everyone in my family is informed of the coming wedding. Later on, we send our measurements to my mum in Nigeria, who is busy making plans of her own. Our families meet up and get on well (yay!) and they start planning the traditional ceremonies. Meanwhile, I chose my dissertation topic and I have to start researching before everyone else so that I can have a head start.

April 2005:
April is a very busy month. Still no word from the Home Office. I make two telephone calls to them. The first time, they told me that they will deal with our application but there is a huge backlog, and that's why it's taking long. The second time, I spoke to a different person who told me that their computer systems are playing up but our application was in the queue. I start getting worried. Meanwhile, it's Easter break from uni. Mr and I go to London because we have so many people to meet and things to do in a short space of time. First we have a meeting with our officiating minister and he asks us how far with the COA. We tell him that we have made the application and we are waiting for the Home Office to send it back to us. Afterwards, Mr meets up with his guys to sort out their groomsmen outfits. Then I meet up with my bridesmaids and we go shopping for their dresses. We couldn't agree so we leave it till later. The next day, I meet up with one of my hostesses to choose their head ties. Eventually we settle for something we both liked. Afterwards, we went to the Department Store to update my gift list. The next day Mr and I go and check out the reception venue. We meet with the caretaker and go through a list of questions we have. Everything seems fine so we are happy with that. Mr's sister-in-law offers to bake our wedding cake and decorate the reception venue for free, since that is what she does for a living. My aunt offers to pay for the photographer and videographer . That was very nice indeed! After the Easter break, I go back to Nottingham and back into the thick of coursework and lectures. I also start making progress on my dissertation.

May 2005:
Still no word from the Home Office! Mr and I are getting really worried now. We get a lawyer to advice us on what we can do. He said we should write to them and request that they speed up our application. I sent off a letter, hoping and praying they will respond. I followed up the letter with several phone calls to no avail, nothing seemed to change.
While all this is going on, Mr said we had to send out the wedding invitations! I was feeling so nervous and doubtful. How can we be sending invitations for a wedding that is hanging in the balance? I could just imagine having to call each of our guests to tell them that the wedding had been postponed due to "unforeseen circumstances". I was getting so frustrated and stressed out with the whole thing. In a moment of despair, I went on my knees and prayed. I poured out my frustration. I prayed without knowing the exact words to say, but I know that God knew what I was feeling so it didn't matter. After I had been kneeling down for over an hour, God answered me. I was reminded of when I had prayed for a husband and He had answered me (post link). I was reminded of the fact that God was there when we started our relationship (post link). I remembered that we had prayed even when we had set the wedding date as a joke 2 years before and He had been listening! Now as I was worried, God was trying to tell me that He had already answered our prayers long ago. Indeed He had planned our paths all along, nothing of this was my own doing. So there was no need for me to be worried. All I had to do was to hold on to my faith and trust Him to do the rest. I felt much better after I finished praying and I had enough faith to remove the seeds of doubt that the enemy was trying to plant in my mind. So, I called Mr and told him it was okay and the wedding invitations went out to all the guests.
It's also my birthday this month. I have a get-together and Mr comes to Nottingham. Most of my friends hadn't met him so it's a good chance to introduce the groom. My friends are invited to the wedding and they are excited. School work continues: I have second semester exams so I stop wedding planning for 2 weeks to concentrate on revision. After exams wedding plans continue to go ahead: I finalise the menu with the caterers, order favour boxes and other gifts, my bridesmaids finally decide on their dresses and accessories, I organise the outfits and hairstyles for the flowergirls and pageboys, meet up with the florist to discuss options and try some new make-up.

June 2005:
It was less than 8 weeks to the wedding and we still hadn't heard back from the Home Office. I was getting tired of getting phone calls from concerned family asking us if we had "any news?" from the IND. Nice though it was, they were only adding to my worry. Sometimes I had so much faith that God was going to make a way. But sometimes I was very doubtful. Eventually we got another lawyer. He advised us to get our local Member of parliament involved. He also wrote another urgent letter to the Home Office. Mr and I continued making phone calls to them. They were still telling us the same old story: our applications were in the queue, and no, they couldn't be speeded up. Our parents too were getting worried. They were making plans for our traditional engagement ceremonies back home. So every time I called them, they would express concern over the delay of our COA. I would tell them not to worry, that everything would still work out. At some point, Mr and I were thinking that if the COA didn't come, we might carry out the ceremonies anyway and then get the official documents later! But that would be a sham and we didn't want that. So we just had to continue praying everyday.
Plans and preparations continued though. After my exams, I went for my first wedding dress fitting. It felt surreal to be standing in front of a mirror in my wedding dress! I asked for a few adjustments to be made, and then I booked in for a second fitting. I had to go to London for a while to sort some things out. I had a meeting with three of my hostesses and we planned the wedding itinerary. Then came back to Nottingham. I went shopping for my wedding accessories: shoes, veil, tiara, gloves and jewellery. Then I had a final consultation with the florist and we agreed on the flowers for me, my train and the church decorations. We made finishing touches to our wedding website. Our gift list went live around the middle of June. It was exciting to check it and see stuff that people had bought for us. I booked an appointment to get my hair and nails done a week before the wedding, and went for three beauty appointments. I also continued working on my dissertation. I had a meeting with my supervisor and confessed to him that I was going to take time off during the summer to get married. Fortunatley he was a very nice guy and he suggested that the more I could do before the wedding, then the better for me when I came back. So I got busy and did a fair bit of research and writing in June.

July 2005:
Gosh so many things happened this month! Time seemed to fly like a blur because I was so busy. I'll write about the final weeks of preparation in detail in my next post. For now, I'll summarise. After all the months of anticipation, worries, anxiety and prayers, we finally got our documentation! It was such a huge relief. As soon as we could arrange it, Mr came to Nottingham and we went to the office together to get everything sorted. When we finished there, I went to my room so happy and jumping up and down for joy. I probably danced more that day than I did on the wedding day itself, lol. As soon as we told our parents and family that everything was sorted, the nervous anticipation disappreared and every one started getting excited. I had my second dress fitting and I was satisfied with the dress. Yay!! So I paid for the balance and booked a pick up date. My friends in Nottingham organised a surprise bridal shower for me, that was really cool. We had a great time, it was food, fun and games, and some very interesting discussions! Our parents arrived a week before the wedding day (and I met my father-in-law for the first time!), then I packed my bags, picked up my wedding dress and Mr and I headed to London. More family arrive from everywhere and the countdown to the big day begins!

Thursday, July 5


As I mentioned in the previous post, I got back to Nottingham in January 2005, and Mr. and I had decided to start making plans for the wedding. We felt that it was God’s will for us and He was going to make things happen the way we had prayed. We had set the date for 23rd of July so we had only about 6 months to plan everything from start to finish. I had exams in January so I put planning out of my mind for the first two weeks so that I could concentrate. It was after exams that I really started working on my very long wedding to-do list. You would think that since we had God’s 100% backing, that everything would go smoothly right? Wrong! Trust the enemy to put obstacles in your path and doubts in your mind.
Around mid-January, I called my pastor in my home church in London to inform him of our proposed wedding date. I also wanted to know what procedure we would have to take to get married. At the time, Mr. and I didn’t have any friends who had recently got married, so we had to find out most things ourselves. Well the pastor told me that I had to tell him who I wanted to officiate the wedding and where it would take place. Apparently, not every pastor or minister is authorized to officiate a wedding, and not every church building is licensed to hold weddings in the UK. So I told him that I wanted him to officiate and I wanted my base church to be the venue for the church service. Fortunately, he is authorized to carry out weddings and my church is a licensed venue. Second thing he asked me to do was to ring the church secretary to inform her about the date so that she could put it in the church calendar and she will tell me more about the legal requirements and the process of getting married in the UK. No problem so far. I called the church office and spoke to the church secretary. I informed her of the date and she looked it up in the church calendar and said it was available so she wrote it down. Then I asked her what we needed to do. She told me a long list of procedures: we needed to go and give notice of marriage to our local registry office, the registry need at least 14 days notice although the norm for this was 8 weeks, we needed to fill out some forms and pay a fee, the Registrar would then issue us a marriage schedule, we would bring this schedule back to the church, the officiating minister must sign this, before a marriage certificate can be issued etc. Basically it was going to be some looooong process. Now to complicate it further, we were intending to get married in our church in London, but neither of us was based in London during that period. Well I thanked the secretary for the useful information and hung up with a promise to call back as soon as I had sorted everything out. Feeling overwhelmed already, I called Mr. and left a message for him, and then I called the registry office.

The nice lady I was speaking to asked me lots of questions. I gave them all the information that they needed. Everything was going fine until she asked me if Mr and I were British citizens and I said we were not. She asked what status we were in the UK. I told her that we were both Nigerians, I was a student and Mr had a work permit. She said I should hold on for a second. She came back on the line and said that there was one more thing we would need to do. Apparently in 2005, the UK government decided to start clamping down on fake marriages involving immigrants, who get married solely for the purposes of obtaining British citizenship. So as from that time, any non-UK person planning to get married in the UK must obtain permission from the Immigration Department. If everything is fine, the Immigration Department will then issue the intending couple a Certificate of Approval before they can get married. I was thinking, “Oh great. We have another bridge to cross.” I thanked the lady and rang Mr back and left another message on his phone about what the lady at the registry had said. Then I went to research into the new rule on the IND website. I found out that we would have to apply (and pay for the privilege) for the Certificate of Approval separately and it would take up to 13 weeks to process. 13 weeks! Remember our proposed wedding date is in July and we were already approaching February.
That evening Mr and I discussed it and we decided to send the applications right away without further delay, in the hope that we would get the certificate back, and be able to proceed with all the other steps we had to take. So two days later, we filled the forms and everything and sent our application off.

Now, in the meantime we were faced with this conundrum: should we put a hold on the wedding plans until we got the certificate or should we continue planning while we were waiting?

We prayed about it and we decided that we would go ahead with planning. Knowing that we had six months, and time was not exactly on our side, we thought it was better to keep plans going steady. That way we would be on schedule if and when the Certificate arrived. So we continued making our wedding plans.
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