One grey December evening, in a tiny little shoebox of a flat in London, something happened that neither myself or my boyfriend had anticipated – we got engaged. At the time I had the worst flu I have ever had; blocked sinuses, sore chest, pounding head, bodyaches, chills, high temperature – the works. I had taken time off work and was snuggled up in bed for the good part of a week, getting up only to fetch more tissue or make myself marmite toast (the only thing I could stomach).
My boyfriend had come over to check in on me and we curled up in bed, cosy and content. I began to tell him a story about my parents’ engagement: my dad had been to visit me the day before and we had touched on the topic of marriage. I had asked him how long it had taken him between the moment he realised he wanted to marry my mother and actually proposing. His reply? ‘About two minutes – as soon as I knew, I asked her’.
I related this story to my boyfriend, as we lay under covers in the darkness of my night-time flat. He was completely silent for a long moment, and then…..’A, will you marry me?’ Cue me totally freaking out, and asking him to repeat the question and so on. I finally put him out of his misery by saying yes, and we cracked open a bottle of Cava (not to be recommended for flu sufferers, by the way) I had in the fridge and sat in bed into the wee hours of the morning celebrating.
We couldn’t tell anyone for two (seemingly endless) weeks because we wanted to talk to both sets of families first. Once we had their blessings (and more celebratory Cava) we announced it to everyone and started planning the big day. We decided on a winter wedding – December 2009 – and got the ball rolling. We booked the venue – a small, gothic manor house with tonnes of character. We sent out the invites and decided the colour scheme. We organised the catering – rich, warm comfort food with lots of mulled wine and Cava (can you spot the theme here?). Everything was prepared and all systems were go.
Then, three weeks to D day, I tripped over a piece of fencing during my evening run. I landed funny and knew immediately that something was wrong. I tried to stand up but blacked out. My fiance, who was with me, kept asking me where it hurt, but I couldn’t answer him – all I knew was that the pain was somewhere deep inside my knee. He tried to piggy back me home but I again started to lose conciousness. In the end, I lay on the pavement whilst he ran back to our house to fetch our car. Once he got me home and got some sugar down my throat I was feeling better. I laughed off the possibility of it being anything serious (I am usually the least sporty person ever) and went to bed with some heavy duty painkillers in my system.
Waking up the next day I realised that something was very wrong. I called in sick to work as everytime I tried to even put my toe on the ground I blacked out with pain. My fiance went off to work, but after talking to me at lunch came back and took me to A&E. After an agonising examination which left me sobbing and an X-ray, which was even worse, they concluded that I had torn my AC ligament in my knee and also snapped off a piece of my shin bone in the process. I told the doctor that I was getting married in three weeks. She looked at me and asked, ‘Are you wearing a long dress?’ I said yes. ‘Good, you’ll need it to cover the leg brace you’re going to be wearing for the next six weeks’. I dissolved into floods of tears. The afore-mentioned brace was black and covered my leg from mid calf to mid thigh. It cut off the circulation to my foot (which was consequently purple and swollen) and constricted my thigh so badly that, together with muscle wastage, my thigh was as thin as my calf (the one time I have a skinny thigh, and I can’t even enjoy it!). Not the sexiest bridal look, to be fair.
The three weeks until my wedding were surreal, yet wonderful. I was booked off work, and spent each day on the sofa. I would wake up at around 5-6am, usually due to the pain, and my fiance would set my ‘space’ up for the day. He would make sure I had water, tissues, painkillers and snacks on the coffee table in front of me and then he would set off for work. I would – aside from trips to the loo – pretty much stay in that position until he came back. He would cook me supper, keep me company and even bath me. I had to take my brace off to bath and was often in tears without the support it gave me – so he would sit at one end, holding my leg straight and handing me shampoo etc whilst I washed. It was awful in some ways – the pain, the dependency, the lack of sleep. But it was beautiful in others – the intimacy, the dependency, the way I was taken care of and looked after by the man I was about to marry.
The hen do that I had planned fell by the way-side – but in its place was an even better alternative. Two of my sisters created deadly but delicious cocktails in our tiny kitchen and my friends all crammed into our little lounge for much drinking and merriment. Silly drinking games, racy presents, sex stories, drunken dancing and much much laughter abounded. My two bridesmaids passed out before I did, and I somehow managed to pour an entire cocktail over my fiance’s laptop (he forgave me). The best bit? The fact that I couldn’t lift a finger (or in this case, a leg) to help clean up…..
I went up to my folks’ house the week before the wedding to sort out last minute details. Again, I was looked after lovingly – my sisters and mum ran around like headless chickens whilst I lounged in the kitchen, sending them to do various errands and fetch me things. Two days before the big day, we were sitting in our lounge, drinking mulled wine by the Christmas tree. It started snowing outside – gorgeously massive flakes drifting down in the dark. Everyone ran outside and even I was bundled into my dad’s huge coat, and escorted carefully out into the driveway, crutches and all. We took pictures, stuck our tongues out to catch the falling flakes and hoped, prayed, held thumbs, that the snow would hold for the big day.
It did. We had a gloriously crisp, bright, white winter wedding. The snow was crystal clear, the venue was decked with candles and wreaths for Christmas, the log fire was burning and the mulled wine was flowing. My florist had pimped out my crutches with fairy lights and white flowers. My dress did indeed cover my brace – in fact no-one even knew I was wearing one. I managed to walk down the aisle without crutches (much to my husband and the guests’ surpise!), my dad strong-arming me heavily. I danced my first dance with my new husband, and my second one with my father. By 10pm, I was exhausted and in agony – despite lots of pill-popping to get me through.
But it was worth it. All the people that I loved, and that loved me, were there to share the beginning of our new life. We ate, drank and made merry. Above all, I was there with the man that I loved, and who loved me, to confirm our commitment to each other. We wanted to make a declaration of love and unity for the whole world to see, and have a party of a lifetime to celebrate it. Marriage isn’t for everyone, but it is the best thing I have ever done.
Almost a year on and we’re enjoying married life, the sense of togetherness, permanence (in a good way!) and the us-against-the-world feeling that we have now that we’re our own little family. Of course, you don’t have to be married to have any of that, but for us its the icing on the cake. (And, after three months of physio, my leg is fine and fully functioning once more. I’m supposed to be getting back into running, but I can’t say I’m in any mad rush!)