Last Days as Miss Letley

If you ever wondered what your last few days of singledom look like, I am here to share the reality. 

Meanwhile each and every room of our house looks like a wedding has sneezed all over it; 

With my own wedding 6 days away - a fact, a certainty, but feeling nothing like a reality - I'm still up to my eyes (to be politically correct – and truthful - I should say: we are still up to our eyes) in wedmin. Whether its printing Order of Service, writing cards for the wedding party or making signs for the reception, the To Do list is ever expanding as the nitty gritty zooms more into focus.

  • The Dining Room is the engine room of the operation; a snapshot moodboard of our wedding theme decorating the walls, plastic boxes of decorations, props and sweets for the pick'n'mix stand, there is literally no room to swing on my chair as I write this. 
  • The Spare Room has my packing in progress. That's both packing for the Big Day as I'm staying with the bridal party in a hotel in Richmond and packing for moving out at the end of the month. I've recently retrieved my summer suitcase from the loft so doing my annual clear out too; boot sale, storage, wardrobe.  
  • The Bedroom is scattered with growing piles of 'things' I need for the day – safety pin anyone? - plus my gorgeous Choos that require wearing in and sit as a permanent reminder of the sore feet to come unless I do! Plus there's a beauty trunk beside my bed for the night time ritual of body brushing, body oil, moisturiser, hand cream, etc. I hear you, talk about high maintenance. 
  • The Man Cave which the Groom has currently surrendered to being storage facility for drink dispensers, the alcohol and our homemade Photo Booth. 

However as the past week goes, my last 5 day week as a Miss, the excitement and buzz around my friends, family and colleagues as the wedding looms closer has taken the edge of the mundane day to day. It's all everyone wants to talk about (in a good way), whether the practical questions of 'facilities at the church', speculation about the weather or texts with the sentiment of 'not long to go now'. I'm dialling up the last minute PT sessions, taking extra care over my cleansing routine in the evenings and hopping on the scales in an addictive fashion as I promised my seamstress I wouldn't lose any more weight! As the week wears on, I'm starting to feel a levitating effect as if I'm floating up to cloud 9 . I could not be happier. No nerves. No cold feet. Just sheer excitement. 

The talk of cold feet reminds me I must share a hilarious exchange I had with my Gran this week over text – it went something like this: 

Me: Sorry I've not called in a while Gran, all a bit made here with only 10 days to go! Eeek! 

Gran: Don't worry about making contact at this stage – I'm panicking and it's not me getting married! 

Me: Are you having second thoughts about the marriage? Getting cold feet? I hear you have a new outfit for the big day and reports say it looks lovely. 

Gran: Oh you do make me chuckle. Well the outfit... I've changed my mind from the poncho to a dress! So hope it will be ok whatever I decide :-) xxx 

Me: A dress sounds lovely. Gran, you could turn up naked and you'd look fabulous (but it's not that kind of wedding so maybe stick with the dress!) 

And in other news... 

Like most women, I've spent a fair amount of time day-dreaming about my wedding. In the large part, before I was engaged or even hit puberty. But when these dreams were processed into a budget spreadsheet and I became inundated by excited guests for an insight into the finer detail, not to mention idea/image overload thanks to Brides magazine and Pinterest, it all started to become a bit surreal. Will our wedding be the wedding of my mind's eye? For some kind of out-of-body reason, I've lost the ability to work that out. 

The plan for perfection is playing on my mind a little but I'm finding that verbalising this given any opportunity, i.e. to my mother, every morning (poor thing), is helping. Ryan and I have put so much into making this day special for our guests, personal touches EVERYWHERE, that now we need to get the last of it done and then focus on us. We've agreed that come the day, it's our day and ours to be enjoyed. We've spent the last 15 months planning it with our guests in mind that we hope all our ideas will come to life as we envisaged. Just as I have written in Ryan's 'on the morning of...' letter, even if half the guests don't turn up, it pours with rain and the cake goes stale, it doesn't matter because we have each other and to quote the Beatles 'all you need is love'. 

And whilst that's the romantic side of my brain talking, the more practical half has had me cleaning the house from top to bottom, emailing suppliers finalising the finer detail, checking the alcohol inventory for our thirsty guests and printing out my grandparents wedding pictures for a locket I intend to tie onto my bouquet. Whilst today is the first day Ryan has actually given himself off from epic Wedmin design tasks, I'm happy to report he's sat watching the football and boxing simultaneously, whilst I have my feet up and a glass of wine to my right. I even stopped for an hour this afternoon to go to an Aerial Hoop exercise class with my gorgeous friend Grace which then required an hour on the sofa channel flicking between 'Along Came Polly' and a Phil & Kirsty special whilst my body recovered.

In other news, my last week of a single lady also included: 

  • The news of leaving work to travel the Americas with my new husband is now out in the ether. My team know and have been lovely & supportive. Some jealousy, to be expected. 
  • The British majority voted out of the EU. And PM David Cameron resigned. As my history teacher would said, "a pivotal turning point" for whatever is about to happen next
  • An epic thunderstorm on Wednesday night kept half of London awake, the whole of Essex flooded (apparently) and London Transport obviously went into meltdown. Pathetic fallacy anyone? 
  • I watched Thelma & Louise for the second time and massively appreciated it for all its crowned glory. <3 Susan Sarandon 
  • Made a rough cut of my first ever iMovie exploration to showcase the Barcelona Hen fun. COMING SOON!

All in all, life seems much the same on a day to day basis, the evenings are still heavily dominated with wedmin task and the shredding-for-the-wedding diet and exercise regime, but there are frequent surges of adrenaline through my veins as I can actually see the finish line in sight. I'm about to have the best day of my life and marrying the man of my dreams, how lucky am I?! 

My Hen Do: Part(y) Two

Celebrating the single life of Miss Letley

Hen parties are becoming far more extravagant than our parent's generation could imagine. Whilst my Mum's involved a drink down the local pub with her closest girlfriends, I had once also scoffed at the extravagance of flying off for a weekend of Hen or Stag antics. However... (you knew there would be a 'but') given that my social circle are more difficult to diarise a meal with than having a slice of birthday cake with the Queen, I saw this as my opportunity to get everyone together. Slightly selfish I know but when you have as good a bunch of friends as I do and yet for work, geographical or other reasons you don't get to see them as often as you like, this 'hen party' status carries some cache and I wasn't about to miss my opportunity. What entailed were 4 bridesmaids, 9 months of planning, 11 hens, 3 days and 1 incredible Air BnB penthouse apartment overlooking beautiful Barcelona.

The pictures say it all … 

Travelling in style
This was how Friday went.
Bride & Maid-of-Honour
The Bride & The Bridesmaid
The Hot Tub
The Bride & The Bridesmaid at the Food Market (Obvs)
The Bride & The Lovely Lou (my Champagne friend)
Bridal Fixtures
All Dressed Up
The Nottingham Gang
At the W Hotel Barcelona
Outside the W Hotel

  • Having my 4 bridesmaids scream "BARCELONA" to me outside the security gate at Gatwick airport to reveal the secret destination. 
  • Arriving at an exquisite penthouse in the centre of Barcelona and discovering a ridiculously incredible room terrace with lounge, 2 dining areas, hot tub and swimming pool. Not to mention 360 degree views of the city. Thank you Air BnB.
  • Drinking Champagne in the hot tub. 
  • Being stripped of my bikini and forced to skinny dip in the pool (although I'm not sure 'highlight' is an apt description for anyone!)
  • Order 8 litres of Sangria at 1am in a dodgy kebab shop restaurant and singing along to One Direction's  
  • Eating watermelon bleary eyed with a cup of tea and my hungover friends – the real life! 
One happy bride
One happy bride!

My Hen Do: Part(y) One

Confetti. Check. Friends. Check. Bride-to-be. Check.

Excitement on the Rictor scale ranked pretty much 'Christmas morning aged 7' on the 21st May – aka my Hen Do. A good exhilaration test for the big day itself. The level of excitement, anticipation and slight out-of-body sensation had been building since receiving an invitation to 'celebrate the single life of Rose Letley' some months beforehand.

Whilst I was aware that an extravagant weekend away was being planned for the hardcore friends (read: drinkers) in my social circle, I didn't want some very special ladies in my life to miss feeling part of it – hence, the two part Hen Party antics that I was treated to. My mother, godmother, cousins and not to mention new mother-in-law found a trip to London far more practical than wherever I will be heading off to in a few short weeks! (Not that I know where that'll actually be, I'm sure Bognor isn't that far!)

Dress code: Vintage Glamour
Location: Betty Blythe Tearooms, West London
Time: 1.30pm

Being in bride-on-a-mission mode, I had planned my morning to within a minute's detail. Again, good practice for the Big Day! First stop, contact lens assessment and trial as there is still a pretty large chance I won't be able to rely on my eyes to find the groom at the end of the aisle! Damn vanity and not opting for a geek chic wedding theme!

Next onto Space NK for my second make-up trial – the first being in January when my skin was at its palest so I was back with a bit more Spring blush in my cheeks. Working with a fabulous make-up artist (one of the region's award-winners no less) and sharing my extended Pinterest board of inspiration, my look for 'natural bridal glow' - READ: "natural" (err let's say medium coverage), "bridal" (but with a vampier eye), "glow" (big yes to contouring) - was achieved. Armed with an amazing Chantecaille Future Skin foundation matched to my Spring/Summer skin tone, an incredible NARSissist matte/shimmer eyeshadow palette, Kevin Aucoin's 'The Flesh Tone Lip Pencil' and matching peachy Chantecaille lipstick, my credit card took a hit but the face looked the part!

Space NK Bridal Beauty Purchases

Final part of the look, you've guessed it, was the hair! Having spent a year dedicated to ensuring my hair is at its healthiest; goodbye hair dye and heat tooling, hello salon treatments and regular cuts, I was struggling with the notion that healthy hair, in my case, doesn't hold a great curl. A total bummer as that's exactly what I’m after! Anyway, an awesome blow-dry later but I was running 30 minutes late! Yes there's a tradition for the bride to turn up late on her wedding day but I don't think that applies to the Hen Do. So a certain flustered version of myself (but with good hair and make-up thankfully) dashed home to hop into the new ASOS outfit I'd ordered – when better an occasion to wear a white tulle tutu skirt that this?!

Stepping out of a black taxi, I got shivers up my spine thinking this is exactly how I will be arriving to the church in a few weeks time. Walking into the beautiful and quaint tearooms in Brook Green seeing a room full of my favourite faces completely overwhelmed me. Normally quite a loud person in a room full of people, suddenly I was the quietest and had to suppress the overwhelming happiness coming out of my eyeballs in liquid form – yes, the mascara I was wearing may have been prepared for all conditions (even 40 degrees heat) but this was not the time to test it!

Here come the girls...
Project 365: 41 days to go
"Get that woman a glass of champagne" was shouted from somewhere over the other side of the table – a total remedy - meanwhile a pink 'Bride-to-be' sash and veil was thrust upon me. Sandwiches, canapes, cakes, sweet things and copious bubbles kept emerging from the kitchen like a conveyor belt keeping sugar levels peaking. I hopped around the table to get to speak to everyone but like all good things I'm finding, they fly by in the blink of an eye. No sooner was my mother hushing everyone to make a speech, that I was crying, they were paying the bill and we were heading home to crack open more Prosecco.

Feeling particularly merry as the afternoon wore on, I was ushered out to the garden surrounded by lots of whispering in the crowd. Whilst my mother took on 11 rounds with her iPhone and a tree to video the sequence of events, she managed to completely miss capturing the flurry of white confetto that showered over me! Never mind, time for take 2 – here's the pictures.

Letley Ladies (for now)
Take Two!
My Hens

The night concluded with the remaining hardcore drinkers working through the alcohol, a Facetime with my sister who was "just hanging" in a hammock in Columbia, and a delicious order from Chosen Bun. Life was complete and I was one happy gal.


From Miss to Mrs

Miss L to Mrs A
The role of a wife has many stereotypes in social culture - little woman, ball & chain, Stepford wife, desperate housewife - I hadn't really contemplated amid all the tulle and lace of wedding planning. Life B.W. (Before Wedding) forgotten and Life A.W. (After Wedding) given no more detailed thought than our "happily ever after" (starting with an extravagant honeymoon).

Around my birthday I had a common theme of messages - "your last birthday as a Miss / a Letley / a single lady" (didn't really understand the last, it's been such a long time since I could have honestly put my hand up to BeyoncĂ©) – but this prompted the reality that come my next birthday I will be Mrs Armstrong. It shouldn’t really be a shock to someone engaged for a year by this point, but it just generally terrified me for one main reason - how old and utterly utterly grown up does Mrs anything sound(?!). I feel neither of those things!

Having spoken to some of our married friends recently, they remark that everyone asks how married life is. A rather intrusive question if you think about it - how many times have you asked your unmarried friends: " is the state of your relationship?" When in all honestly, life (and your relationship) is much the same as the days before the mightily expensive self-funded day of public speaking, posing for photos and swaying on the dance floor; aka a wedding. Why would it change? This reminds me of the early days of Ryan and I dating when he seemed reluctant to commit to "official" status despite our already exclusive dating situation (men...really, where is their sense?!) and I literally had to spell it out, "Nothing will change!!" It still took him a cheese & wine evening, Westminster Bridge, a saxophonist and dinner with a vicar to come to the same conclusion but hey, he got there in the end.

Of course the other question that will be flowing out of everyone's mouths "You'll be having babies next!" Well, err, no, actually we won't. Don't jump to that stereotype – it's 2016! We've decided to dedicate the last of our twenties to utter self-indulgence and seeing some of the Wonders of the World, journeying to some amazing destinations to make all our wedding guests and the rest utterly jealous via Instagram.

Other than the hassle of changing my name – which I don't intend to do until the winter months of 2017 from underneath a duvet catching up on half a year of TV – it is just a load of admin at the end of the day – not that I'm one to shy away, I genuinely love a bit of Life Admin. I guess the main difference will be that sense of security. I'm stuck with him – for better, for worse! To that point, one of my recently married colleagues remarked how lovely the feeling of being married was that you could argue and know it won't end badly! We're yet to properly argue – I'm sure there will be a blog post when the day finally comes – but we are a team and it will be nice to officially on a team with the same name!


5 things to do after the Proposal (and saying 'Yes')

Arriving into the office on Monday morning to news of one my colleague's engagement in Lisbon over the weekend caused for lots of excitement amongst the new-wives and brides-to-be. Following a spat of engagements last year when 5 of us became engaged in as many months, a little ensemble of us have regular 'Wedding Chat Lunches' to share tips and status reports for each of our upcoming nuptials. Honestly, a sure fire way to get me out of the office – I could talk for days about it! So here is what I have taken as my most notable post-proposal pieces of advice:

1. Take the 'moment after' pictures 
Having been caught completely by surprise with the proposal, I have my future husband to thank for being decently dressed and made-up owing to the story he had spun me about going out for cocktails. This boded well for the mass of photos that were to follow of us atop Bath Abbey at sunset by our lovely tour guide Philly. We even used one of these to form the basis of our design for the Save the Date. But most precious are the pictures showing the true emotion of the moment – in my case, red-eyed and teary! I even got Ryan to go back down on one knee and hold the ring – one for prosperity. I've heard other proposal stories when the bride was just home from the gym, trainers'n'all and another over breakfast in pyjamas – private photos of these are the best. But don't forget that all important social media pic for all the world to see (cue wardrobe & styling for hours).

2. Call your parents 
If yours are anything like mine, they were pacing the floor and staring at the phone like a watched kettle that wasn’t boiling. Ryan had told them the plan and rough timings that we would be in the bell tower for the 7o'clock chimes and then up to the roof shortly after for the big down-on-one-knee moment. We certainly took our time to enjoy the bottle of Champagne, the sunset and me querying "Is this a joke? Is this for real?". By the time we got to the bottom of the Abbey and sat on a bench to make the phone-calls it was about 8.45pm by which time everyone had got rather concerned that Ryan had taken an alternative route down!! I would also recommend holding your phone approx 4-6 inches away from your ear when you announce "We're engaged!!" as the screams were somewhat deafening. Hearing how happy they are for you brought on more tears and it really is like a massive huggable pink haze falls upon everything around you! We decided after over an hour on the phone to all the parents and siblings to hang up the phone and actually enjoy our first evening as an engaged couple – it was so special being just the two of us and being our secret (excluding the nearest and dearest) for the night.

3. If the ring fits...

Some very organised grooms out there do the investigative work to get the ring sized pre-proposal – very efficient indeed – though the chances are some slight alterations will be needed. In our case, my vintage engagement ring was hula-hooping my finger so after the initial evening with half a business card wedged underneath to keep it from spinning (or worse), we headed straight to a jewellers in Bath (thanks Google) to get it resized down for me. Three hours later and I had my gorgeous ring back on my finger to ooh and ahh at (I still do it a year on!).

4. your ring!

Something so precious in both worth and sentiment needs to be protected so make sure you have your ring insured pronto. Some Home Insurance companies allow you to note this on your policy as a listed item in your personal possession, and an additional premium may be required if the value is over £2,000. You will also be required to give a description. Naturally, I've taken a whole host of pictures from all angles in case I ever have to get it recreated. If like me you have a vintage ring, book an appointment at Goldsmiths to get your ring independently valued.

5. Cheers
Never a better excuse that this happy one to pop open the corks! I have been collecting these since Ryan and I started dating, noting the date and who it was shared with – a lovely memento (and lamp feature). In fact we almost had bubble over-load in the imminent 24 hours after the proposal with the following series of events: Champagne on top of the Abbey, Champagne cocktails in the bar Ryan had booked after, Champagne on ice waiting for our return to the hotel room (always wanted to drink bubbles in a bubble bath!), Champagne breakfast the next day, pub-time Prosecco whilst we waited for the ring and then... we arrived at our dinner reservation on the Saturday night and found my parents had a bottle waiting on ice for us!!

6. Establish timelines 

Don't freak out. And you should say that to your fiancé too, but ultimately if you haven't already spoken about how long you envision the engagement to be and, more specifically, what time of year you'd like to get married, it's good to do so. I found that post-massage, in a swimming pool of a spa was the perfect time to raise the subject. Just as well I did as it seems the short(ish) engagement I had voiced before had fallen on deaf ears and Mr Armstrong thought he had a breezy 2 years to plan the wedding (the closer we get the more I'm wishing we had taken longer than 15 months!). But as of less than 48 hours later, we had decided it was to be a summer wedding (his request) in London (mutually agreed) preferably on a good sounding date (my request).

© Rose Tinted Spectacles

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