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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!