Practicalities Venue

Go With The Flo

A quick update on the practical arrangements:

The Town Hall is all booked for the ceremony, and we have paid the sizable deposit for the restaurant for lunch (so whatever else happens on the day – people are going to eat!) This only leaves a couple of loose ends now – the main one being over what we’re going to do in the evening.

The plan has always been to have a more informal ‘after party’, where people can join us after work and have a few beers. But finding a venue in Islington that can accommodate us has been really hard work. For some mysterious reason, bars that would normally be crammed to the brim with thirsty booze-hounds on a Friday evening aren’t too enthusiastic about allowing a relaxed group of friends to spread out and take over the entire place. Can’t think why…

All our favourite (slightly swanky) places wanted a good £5-£10,000 guaranteed minimum spend for us to hire out the place, which just isn’t an option. We did find a couple of places that would let us reserve large areas, but the added complication is we’d like to have a bit of live acoustic music as part of the evening fun, and that just isn’t an option when the other half of the pub would be full of noisy Friday night revellers.

However, just when we were starting to give up on the idea of doing music, The Florence (a pub right between the Town Hall and our lunch venue) got back to us and offered us their function room. It might be a bit of a squeeze, but they will let us do music and bring in our own food, and people can always spill into the main pub downstairs if it gets too crowded. So it looks like a very pleasant evening is on the cards. Can’t wait.

[EDIT: Now we’ve got the entire pub for the whole evening. Amazing!]

The Florence

Legalities Reflections

What’s in a Name?

Quite a lot actually.

Yesterday, a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to the ‘Coalition for Marriage’, an organisation which is campaigning to keep the institution of marriage as purely a heterosexual affair. He was encouraging his Facebook contacts to sign a petition on the site, and when he was challenged about why he was doing this, he explained that it was because it was his religious view that the definition of marriage should be kept restricted to only being between a man and a woman.

This actually made my blood properly boil. Not only is this guy fully aware that many of his friends have gay friends and family members who are in committed relationships, but also (as he keeps mentioning on his status updates) he’s getting married later this year and so what he’s basically saying to me (and people like me) is ‘I get to call it a marriage, but you don’t’.

My response to this was to post a fairly angry response and then defriend him, but sadly Facebook doesn’t support the ability to flounce off in this manner, as when you defriend someone, your posts get hidden. If you ask me, that’s a terrible design flaw. Anyway, for the record, here is roughly what I posted:

“I don’t know whether you know this but I’m getting married later this year! To a man! Surprise! So although this is goodbye, I hope you’ll do some soul-searching and think about why you’d want to deny me the thing that you are clearly so looking forward to.”

Now, I know it’s true that Donny and I are not getting technically married – we are entering into a civil partnership and that’s marvellous – but I don’t see why we can’t call it a marriage, and use that word in all the invites and along the top of this very website. In my mind, what we are doing is absolutely a marriage and I’m not going to have a bunch of social conservatives telling me otherwise. It’s how Donny and I see it, and surely that’s the only thing that matters.

For me personally, whether we get legally married or civilly-partnered is neither here nor there, but it is incredibly important to lots of my friends who belive very strongly in the institution of marriage, but just aren’t wired in a way that allows them to currently participate in it. So I don’t see how extending the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples is going to somehow cause difficulties for society and lead to polygamy – there is a big difference between wanting to marry one person and wanting to marry three people, whatever their gender. And is telling children that same-sex couples exist and can get married really going to be such a terrible thing?

It’s just prejudice – pure and simple. Don’t dress it up as tradition, don’t dress it up as common sense and, above all, don’t dress it up as faith.

Key Events Practicalities

Yay! We’re not related!

Yesterday we did our first official wedding thing.

Early on Monday morning (well, it was 9.30, but that’s early for us) we journeyed through the melting snow to Islington Town Hall and met a registrar to ‘give notice’.

Giving Notice is the process by which you tell various official bodies that you are who you say you are, and there is no legal reason for you to not get hitched. The registrar we met was a lovely lady called Viktoria who talked us through everything, and answered all our random and ridiculous questions with good humour and grace.

Here is a picture of Donny signing a piece of paper that confirmed he hasn’t been married before and also confirming that we are not related:


Actually, the whole thing started off all a bit ‘Green Card’ as the registrar asked me a few questions about Donny. I managed date of birth alright, but when it came to occupation I came a bit unstuck:

“Something market researchy… Heading up diabetes…. stuff?”

I got there in the end.

Now that’s done the next job is to try and get some venues pinned down for the whole thing. The idea of an ‘Islington Wedding Crawl’ around three different venues sounded great in theory but that means of course it is three times the administrative headache compared to just going to a single venue for the day – and who knew that it would be so hard to find a home for 100 people for an evening do in Islington?

Time to get on the phone again…

Practicalities Venue

All The Money In The World

Remind me why we are getting married in London? Why don’t we just bus everyone out the middle of nowhere and then bus everyone back again. IT’LL PROBABLY BE CHEAPER!

Oh yeah – that’s why.

<fx: breathe>

So, we knew the meal would be a bit pricey but that’s OK as Donny and I are both big foodies and we wanted to treat everyone to a really nice meal because, frankly, how often to you get to do that for a huge bunch of your close friends? Well, hopefully not too often or else your bank manager will be having words.

Anyway, after the meal we were thinking what would be easier and nicer then all piling down to a local bar, taking the place over and having a lovely relaxed evening of drinks, snacks and live entertainment? Except when I started to arrange this today I discovered our top contender for bar of choice wanted a minimum spend of ten thousand pounds.


OK – let’s figure this out. If their staff costs all came to a grand that would leave £9,000 split between around 150 people. That’s £60 per person. That’s enough for a really good meal and a bottle of wine each. Not an evening spent drinking beer and eating sandwiches.

So it’s back to the drawing board. The plan is to look for places within a 15 minute walk from the restaurant which are a bit more off the beaten track and have a rather more manageable minimum spend. I’m sure there’s a place out there with our name on it.

Reflections Uncategorized

Moving Out of the Out-Group

I love that video that Donny posted here. It’s beautifully done, but a couple of lines from the song have been rattling round in my head constantly for the last two days, so I’m going to have a go at writing a blog post and see whether it helps me unscramble my thoughts a bit (because – you know – a public blog is the perfect place to figure out your innermost issues…)

Here are the lyrics:

And his thoughts began to vanish that his body was the prison of his own mind.
You don’t have to be the out-group – you can be the one that fits in this time

OK – they look kinda cheesy written down, but they work well within the song.

ANYWAY – here’s the thing:

Since we’ve started talking to restaurants and getting availability from the Town Hall, my stress levels have been going through the roof. There’s been more than one dark moment when I’ve decided the easiest thing would be just to forget the whole wedding idea, as it’s not worth this anxiety that I’m feeling. But in my better moments I know that’s just nonsense. I know that I’ve got a fine collection of mental buttons, and when something happens that pushes a particular mental button my stress levels shoot up and everything just feels totally difficult and overwhelming. The trick is to figure out which button is being pushed and try and deal with it. This is where the video comes in.

The lines in that song capture succinctly what I suspect I’m going through at the moment. It is about a guy who has seen himself as an outsider all his life who, after meeting someone, suddenly finds he is in with the in-crowd. And that’s exactly where I’m at. I’ve felt a member of the out-group my whole life – whether that’s because I was a Christian amongst the heathens at school, or a dreamy book-loving person among the jocks (or UK equivalent thereof), or a gay person at church, or as a creative person among programmers, or as a snarky cynical person amongst the sincere Christians, or a fairly conservative gay person among the party animals, or a Charismatic Christian among the Anglicans… the list goes on. It’s like whatever situation I’ve found myself in I’ve ended up on the edge of it.

Or, to put it another way, in the great party of life I’ve always found myself in the kitchen.

The trouble is I suspect that I’ve got so used to that particular role that I, consciously or otherwise, end up casting myself as the outsider wherever I am. It’s quite a nice safe place to be in some ways as it means you never really have to fully engage, and never really have to make yourself vulnerable. You just coast along. I think it’s just become easier for me to disqualify myself from fully participating with the world, than it is to try and fight my corner and force people to take me seriously for who I am.

But suddenly with getting married I’m suddenly in a position of full participation in the common currency of society – doing a big significant thing and demanding people take notice. And it’s all completely alien to me and it’s blowing my mind completely. This just isn’t the sort of thing I do.

The challenge for me now is to not hide away from this process. It’s difficult as it’s like I’m shedding a skin that I’ve gotten too comfortable in. It’ll be painful, but I know it’ll be worth it.


Family Reflections

Consider Yourself… One Of Us

Wedding Banquet
The Wedding Banquet (Ang Lee, 1993)

We’re just on our way back from a great visit with my parents in Snowdonia, where my folks celebrated our engagement with a nice bottle of bubbly, and really made a fuss of Donny – making sure he knows he’s part of the family. I’m really privileged to have parents who have been on their own journeys with figuring out this whole gay thing, and who are at the point now where they are excited about having a new son-in-law.

It’s a shame things aren’t working out  the same way with Donny’s family – but it is what it is. Donny’s parents have been nothing but friendly and hospitable to me on my visits over there, but I don’t think they could ever see me as somehow ‘joining their family’. I have always been a welcome guest, but I don’t think the wedding is going to change me into anything other than that.

But it could be so much worse. Donny could have lied to his parents about being gay in order to spare their feelings, and so in my visits over there I’d have to stay with friends or in a hotel – nothing more than another white face in the crowd. We are spared that at least.

Last night Donny and I watched The Wedding Banquet – a 1993 Ang Lee film about a gay couple (one white, one Asian) where the Asian guy undertakes a sham marriage in order to please his parents. Watching things in the movie spiral out of control, I was very glad that Donny and I don’t find ourselves in the position of having to pretend to be ‘housemates’ in our own home. (Having said that, I did have to pretend to be ‘the friend from London’ with Donny’s aunt and uncle in Singapore, and watch on in frustrated silence while Donny was set up with a girl – less than two weeks after we got engaged. But that’s a whole other blog article.)

Back to The Wedding Banquet. Although we are now benefitting from Donny’s early honesty with his parents, when I saw in the movie how much the marriage meant to the parents in the film, and how close the mother became with the daughter-in-law, it did make me realise how tough it must be on Donny’s folks. In Chinese culture, a wedding is not just about the bride and groom. It seems to me that it’s a social event for renewing bonds of family, friendship, business and community – where the parents have as much say in the planning, if not more so, than the couple. After all, historically a wedding ceremony would have been the symbolic culmination of a financial transaction, where the bride is transferred from one family to another. How does that work when there’s no bride?

With us they won’t be getting any of that. If they do come they will be honoured guests, but they’ll just be guests without any say in how the day happens. Donny’s parents and my parents will meet and shake hands, but they will have little in common, little to talk about and little common language to talk about it in. There will be no sense of two families becoming one family – our parents will go their separate ways and probably never see each other again.

And so I will carry on being a welcome guest in Donny’s parents’ home. And that will be fine. But although they won’t be getting another daughter-in-law added to their family,  I really hope they do eventually warm to the idea of having me as a son-in-law.


The Perfect Christmas vs. The Perfect Wedding

Arthur's Perfect Christmas

Been catching up on my podcasts this week, and was really struck by a very incisive comment about Christmas which showed up in a This American Life podcast and went a little something like this:

You know that saying “you can tell who a person is in a crisis”. I think you can really tell at Christmas too. This is because Christmas, more than any other day in the year, is the one day when we’re all handed the same stage props. The same tree, the meal, the relatives, and the same set of expectations.

Thinking about it, this is a very good analogy for a wedding. Every couple gets handed the same set of props – the ceremony, the reception, the vows – to create a day for which everyone has the same expectations. Happy ones, hopefully.

The piece continues:

And then we all try and create, more or less, the same kind of day. It’s like hundreds of millions of people all set to work doing exactly the same art project. And not just any art project – a very high stakes art project, and one that everyone cares a great deal about getting right. And in that setting, the choices people make never seem clearer.

Yikes – that’s exactly how I’ve been seeing this wedding: a high-stakes project that millions of people have completed before us and millions of people will complete after us. And somehow we have to get it ‘right’, the choices we make must guarantee a perfect outcome. But, unlike Christmas, we don’t get to try again next year. We just get our one chance to create ‘The Perfect Day’.

The podcast finishes on a slightly bittersweet note on the scene of a family  photograph:

This is what Christmas is all about. Everybody’s posed. Everybody’s ready. Everybody’s straining to be happy. Everybody has this picture in their head of the perfect Christmas. And of course it’s never going to live up to that picture, it’s never going to be perfect, and so disappointment is built into the very structure of the day. The best that you can do, the best you can hope for, is to ride out the imperfections.

When I first heard that I mentally substituted the word ‘Wedding’ for the word ‘Christmas’ and got an apparently insightful, but ultimately rather pessimistic view of planning a wedding. It’s always going to go wrong, there are always going to be things that don’t meet up to the ideal. We aim for perfection, but will always fall short.

But is perfection what we should really be aiming for anyway? I’ve been to several parties where the host is so caught up with making sure everything is ‘just so’ and that everyone is having fun they don’t enjoy the party themselves – and consequently none of their guests do either.

It’s then I started realising that I was reading far too much into it all, and getting far too bogged down. Unlike Christmas, a wedding is not a day based around a vague concept of happiness and togetherness that has become so disconnected from its origins to be rendered essentially meaningless. A marriage is something genuinely happy, something amazing, something people don’t have to try to hard to get excited about.

Although I’m certain the day will likely have a few wobbly moments practically, and a few bits that aren’t to everyone’s tastes, the occasion of the day itself will hopefully be so great that minor disappointments won’t have to be ‘ridden out’ –  they can be pretty much forgotten.


Zeroing In


Since Mum, Dad and my brother all moved up to Wales it’s really challenged me about the concept of ‘home’. People talk about ‘going home for Christmas’ but I don’t really have that sort of home any more. The house I grew up in has strangers in it, and I certainly no longer have an ‘old room’ to go back to and feel sentimental about. West Ewell, where I lived for 4 happy years before coming up here, has a huge pull for me with so many close and dear friends there but it was never ‘home’. But the good news is that I can honestly say that Islington has become my home.

Following on from Donny’s post I too have become a massive fan of Islington. I love going jogging round Clissold Park and visiting the goats and deer there, I love pottering down the overpriced interior nic-nac shops on Upper Street and even enjoy walking up to Lidl at Finsbury Park for the weekly shop. So it feels really right to me to think about us getting married in this area.

Yes it’s going to be expensive. Yes, it’s going to limit what we can do. I know all that, but we also know we want to get hitched somewhere that means a great deal to us. So Islington it is. For better or for worse.

Now we’ve decided an area to do everything in it gives us a few limitations to work within, but at least when you have limitations it allows you to make more constructive decisions. I had been getting thoroughly overwhelmed and bamboozled with the hundreds of different wedding options available in London, so to limit it to an area is brilliant. It means we can start zero-ing in on a workable plan.

I had set my heart on getting one of the old Routemaster buses to take everyone from the wedding venue to the reception venue but a) they start at £500 a pop and b) we would need 2 of them. Yikes. That would be £1,000 which would be better spent on better food options, or enabling us to invite a few more people. So the plan is to find a reception venue walking distance from the Town Hall. There are a number of possibilities there (Upper Street is a fantastic area for restaurants) so the hunt begins for somewhere pretty that can fit us all in, and not cost the earth.

We’re actually thinking a morning ceremony followed by a lovely long lunch could work quite well. It helps with costs, and means there isn’t that usual 2 hours of standing round awkwardly drinking champagne on an empty stomach waiting for dinner, having not had time for lunch before setting off for the service. We can then go on from there for somewhere more informal for chatting and drinking fun into the evening.

That’s Plan A anyway. We’ll see whether we can make it a reality.

Looks like the flock of doves is out though…


The Lion, The Witch and the Closet


NB: this post features neither lions nor witches.

This morning I put my relationship status live on Facebook, and was really touched by all the kind comments and likes – thanks for that.

It’s weird I’ve never really mentioned on Facebook before that I’m in a relationship with Donny – not in a big way anyway. Why would I tell people when I miss a train, or have a particularly good sandwich, but not announce to the world about my relationship with a lovely man?

I guess a lot of it comes from my Christian upbringing, which is all about loving other people and putting others before yourself. But it has the unfortunate side-effect of me keeping me quiet about things that are important to me when there is a possibility it could offend other people – particularly my Christian friends.

Most Christians are OK with people ‘being’ gay – but ‘doing’ gay is a whole other matter. When I first started figuring out what it meant to be gay most of my friends were really supportive and understanding, but when I started dating men I know a lot of people were really struggling with whether or not it was ‘OK’. So when things started getting serious with Donny I didn’t tend to bang on about in Facebook just in case of any of my Christian friends would have an issue.

But now I’m getting married. And this kind of caution has to stop. Getting married is not a secret thing, or a thing you only tell certain people. The whole point about doing it is that it is seen by other people. And I want everyone I know to fully understand that this is who I am, and Donny is the person I’m choosing to hitch my wagon to (Not literally.)


An Inspirational Walk Around Islington

London Weddings
Please consult your mortgage adviser before considering the above

London is awesome – I am a massive fan. However, there are certain disadvantages of living here: one of which is that it has an unusually high concentration of very rich people. This becomes a problem when it comes to looking for nice places to have a wedding.

You see, any particularly lovely venues in London where it’s possible to hold a wedding reception know that they can get away with charging an arm and a leg as there are plenty of people in London who would be willing to pay it.

So if we were planning a small wedding of, say, 30 people we might look at a cost of £80-£90 a guest and think we can maybe make that work. It would end up being around £2,500. That’s OK. But when you’re initial idea of guest numbers is around 4 times that, the costs start getting pretty eye-watering!

What are the options then? Well, Plan A was to find a cool and interesting venue that doesn’t cost a fortune and dress it up for wedding fabulousness. We thought we had maybe struck gold with Islington Central Library which has a lovely hall we could have gotten for about a grand:

Islington Central Library

Nice right?

Yesterday morning we set off in high spirits to check out the hall and see if we could make it work. However, as soon as we set foot in it, we got rather deflated. It’s actually a bit tatty around the edges, plus our guests would have to enter through a nasty 70s library entrance in order to get to the hall. I’m all for saving money, but this is supposed to be a wedding and not an after-school club.

So Plan A was out the window.

Undaunted we decided to go for a wander into Angel and see if we could find any inspiration. First stop was the Town Hall. We knew there was a strong likelihood we’d end up probably doing the actual Civil Partnership here, so we thought we’d see if there was a chance to look round their uninspiring range of small and functional rooms. What we weren’t prepared for was this:

Council Chamber


It’s an incredible room that can accommodate all our guests and even has a balcony in case…. well….


(Just a thought!)

What it also means is that we could do a really nice service there and get all those sort of ceremony bits done before getting as quickly as possible to the part where everyone eats (the best part of any wedding). Rather than needing a wedding venue that could accommodate a ceremony as well as food – we could actually just take over a restaurant or pub for the day and use that as our reception space. And there are loads more options for that than there are for larger hall-type venues.

So now the search is on for an interesting pub or restaurant that can seat about 120 comfortably and not cost all the money in the world.

Being forced to try out pubs and restaurants around London?

Now THAT’s my kind of wedding planning!