Doing things your way – kids before confetti

Top of the Tuesday to you (or something)! It’s a common assumption that first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes babies (I believe there’s a very catchy nursery rhyme to that effect). However, the reality is, for a significant proportion of couples it definitely doesn’t happen that way! Christabel Saunders of One Life Weddings gives us the low down on how her happy ever after didn’t happen quite the way she expected – and why she wouldn’t change a thing!

Why your happy ever after doesn’t need an order!

When I was a little girl I used to dream of being 26. For some reason I wholeheartedly believed that by the age of 26 I would have it all! ‘All’ included a chic pad, kick ass job, a beautifully angelic child and a seriously hot man (naturally).

In 2006 I turned 26 years of age. I had a nice place to live, a hot, sorry seriously hot (he might be reading this) boyfriend but thankfully no kids. Contrary to the belief of my 10 year old self, at the age of 26 I certainly wasn’t ready for a baby. Living the perpetual high life, partying most nights and being fairly irresponsible and selfish were top of my agenda.

In the November the boyf and I had the holiday of a lifetime in Brazil. A holiday so darn good in fact, that I accidently fell pregnant. We had been together for less than 9 months.

Mild panic ensued. We weren’t even living together! But there was never any question of us not having the baby or not trying to make it work. I guess we just went through the motions as all expectant parents do. There was however also no mention of marriage, much to my father’s disappointment.

So life goes on and in August 2007 our son was born followed by a little baby sister in September 2010 – again the result of a wonderful holiday! Two babies on and I remained ring-less. At every wedding we attended, in fact nearly every social gathering, we would find ourselves central to the ‘you’ll be next’ conversation. The expectation that we should ‘do the right thing’ made my stomach turn. What reason is that to get married? I mean, where’s the romance?

I (naively perhaps) always imagined walking up the aisle and reciting my heartfelt wedding vows as I prepared myself to embark on an exciting new chapter in my life; the prospect of buying a home and eventually having children. I never imagined that I would be dolled up to the nines, kids in tow, eye bags bulging, having had cross words with my betrothed the night before over which of us had the most sleep (a common discussion in our house). The wedding magazines seemed full of young, toned, fresh faced brides and I just didn’t feel like one. I was a fraud. Perhaps the honest truth is that I just didn’t feel like I deserved a dream wedding, having ‘missed the boat’ and jumped straight to the next stage.

Most people who have children before marriage struggle with the financial commitment of organising a wedding. I often ask myself how can I justify spending £10k plus (ha ha and the rest!) on one day when I have a mortgage, nursery fees and two children to clothe and feed? We could have an amazing holiday and redecorate our house…or, we could have a wedding. The response to this, usually from older relatives was: “It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can just go away quietly the two of you and do it.” OK, I get the point, but to satisfy the party-loving girl in me I knew I would always regret sneaking off and not organising a bit of a shindig for our family and friends.

Besides the financial concern, I couldn’t shake the sense that I had somehow forfeited my right to the big white wedding. How could I let my dear old Dad ‘give-me away’ with two kids in tow? I’d already been well and truly given! And as for wearing a white dress, would there be snorts from the pews? Whispers of ‘hypocrite’ and ‘virgin ha ha’? I knew there were other options – you don’t have to wear white! But again, perhaps in my own little romantic way, I was hoping that if I was actually going to do this then why shouldn’t I have the fairytale?

For the last year or so I’ve been working in the wonderful wedding industry, writing and conducting personal weddings, commitments, blessings and renewal of vows ceremonies for One Life Weddings. My experience with the couples I’ve met has completely changed my view on weddings and marriage in general. I’ve conducted weddings for couples with and without children, and everything from second marriages to couples who’ve been together five minutes to 15 years. I’ve also witnessed people renewing their vows after many years together.

From listening to these couples and being part of their special day I’ve come to realise that what lies at the very heart of a wedding is the chance for your nearest and dearest to celebrate the wonderful life you have created together. Of course picking and choosing all the details is great fun, but the most important thing is that your day reflects you, whatever your story. That it’s completely unique and personal to you, a celebration of you as a couple.

I’m doubtful that being married will change our relationship as to us we feel as if we’ve been married for six years already. But planning the wedding, the lead up and that inevitable buzz for weeks after will certainly bring us closer together. Making the decision to finally ‘seal the deal’ already has.

So for now, instead of worrying what people might think about throwing a massive wedding, blowing the budget, and whether I’m too old or too ‘already married’ to wear a meringue, I’m looking forward to celebrating the happy life my partner and I have created and sharing this moment with our two children, our family and friends.

Because after all you may only do it once, and who doesn’t deserve a magical, wonderful day of super indulgence surrounded by the people they love?

Christabel writes and conducts weddings, blessings, commitments and renewal of vows ceremonies for One Life Weddings One Life Weddings specialise in unique and personal ceremonies conducted in any location. Outdoor weddings in fields, meadows, private gardens, woodland, tipis, yurts and marquees, and ceremonies at unusual or unlicensed venues are their speciality. For more info email:

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