My OH and I met on match.com in 2007. I'd met a couple of people who I'd chatted to online for dates but there was no chemistry. Match.com was great for me because, aged 28, I'd had a few relationships and knew roughly what I wanted in a man and the definite deal breakers I would not be prepared to tolerate. I'd resolved that I definitely would not meet anyone unless the passed all the criteria I had set down on paper. A couple of my relationships I'd had went on far too long and eventually ended for reasons I'd identified as 'misgivings' early on but had been initially prepared to overlook because of chemistry, likeability or attractiveness of the guy I was seeing. I figured by getting the compatibility right before I met someone, I'd be set as soon as I met someone I had a spark with. After two dates, with pleasant and aimiable conversation but no 'zing' I was starting to doubt myself. Luckily, along came Andy. The night we met I texted my Mum and said I'd met someone with potential to be very important to me. I'm probably more known for exaggeration and drama, so this was an understatement and a half!
We had our share of ups and downs in our professional and family lives over the years but we've always stayed strong as a unit and tackled them together, so when he proposed in Spring 2012, I was delighted.
Starting here because it felt like the day when planning started to turn into reality brought about by the arrival of our first out of town guest: Susan from Baltimore, Maryland.
My relationship with Susan is a strange one, seeing as we have only met in person a very few times. The first was in Paris in 2005, outside an Irish bar in the Latin quarter. My sister and I were over there on an impromptu city break after she won Eurostar tickets at work. My sister, Maria, and I had caught the Metro to that part of town to get something to eat. Along the way, we'd attracted the attention of Laurent, a Parisien who had studied in Oxford and who said he would like to show us his favourite place to eat in Paris. On the way, he pointed out an Irish bar where he said he would come back into town and meet us for a drink later, after Maria and I had eaten. It was outside this Irish bar that Susan, who was travelling alone, was waiting to hear a friendly English speaking voice to approach for restaurant recommendation. She got more than that from us, she received an invitation. Well we went for dinner and then went for drinks. We ditched Laurent, who turned out to be a bit of a sleaze, and carried on partying until 6am when Susan then came back and stayed in mine and Maria's hotel. I only found out at our wedding weekend that she'd vommed in our loo, so it's a miracle that she decided to hang out with us every day for the rest of our trip.
Susan came back to Europe to visit my sister and me after I'd been seeing Andy for about six weeks in April 2007. We took her to the Grand National, to Everton v Charlton match and to Chinese Karaoke Buffet, where she and Maria forced Andy to sing and he was still too polite to stop them. It was while Maria and Susan were visiting that I asked if Andy wanted to be my boyfriend, so it was nice that Susan could be there too when he became my husband.
In the intervening time between visits, Maria had been able to go over to the US a couple of times with friends and see Susan but my relationship with her had been limited to fairly frequent Skype calls. Therefore, despite having had only 4 hours sleep when we met Susan off the plane at 7am Wednesday morning, Andy and I were super excited to see her. She would be staying with our very good friends Jodie and Gordon in Chester until the Sunday, when she was going on a trip to Ireland with Maria, our friends Dirty Debbie from Doncaster (more on her later) and Granddad O'Donnell.
We arrived at Jodie's not long after 7.30am and were treated to a lovely breakfast by our hostess when we arrived. Andy stayed for a bit to eat but then had to rush off to get on with jobs, whereas I had worked as hard as possible to get everything I needed to do done (that could be done in advance) before Susan arrived. Andy went off and Susan and I passed a lazy morning chatting and catching up, before Jodie was free at lunch time to go driving and sightseeing in North Wales. The car ride gave Jodie and Susan a chance to become acquainted, as we headed of to sunny Llangollen. We grabbed a bite to eat before doing what most people when they are horribly sleep deprived and/or jetlagged: climbing a the biggest hill you can find for some panoramic views!
We walked back into Llangollen and then drove to have a look at the Telford aquaduct. For me that involved looking at the aquaduct from a distance as I am rather scared of heights, so Susan and Jodie yomped of to check out the views from the middle while I waited, shaking, at the side.
We drove back up to where I live on the Wirral for some Tapas for tea and started chatting a bit more about the wedding. Susan was very keen to establish the differences between American culture and wedding customs and English traditions. During dinner, my phone kept ringing and I kept ignoring it but after we'd eaten and I had nine missed calls, I decided to answer it. It was my cousin Jake, who was ringing to tell me he wouldn't be coming to the wedding because he'd taken a summer job and they wanted him to start immediately. I'm afraid I allowed this to irritate me immensely. I shouldn't have done.
Lesson Number 1 Wedding Planners: Don't sweat the little stuff - you'll be surprised how little you care about some of the details on the day.
I got home about 10.30pm and wouldn't you think I'd be ready for bed? Well I was once I’d coloured my roots, attempted to move my OH's shirt collar button for the big day so he could breathe, moved it back once he realised it simply wasn't going to be enough and he was going to have to swap it in the morning and finally wrapped the last of the presents I had to give out on the day. For the sixth night running, I wasn't getting to bed until after 1am.