What Shirley Did… Got Upfront And Honest.

Hi everyone,

Honesty month for me … It’s tempting to read the Real Bride reports and assume that everything is easy or happy for us all the time – even as a Real Bride reading the other Real Brides’ reports, I can feel like that. There is certainly a temptation on my part to write in an upbeat, jolly, happy style because I don’t want to come across as miserable or unhappy and after all, weddings are supposed to be happy times. But I feel like I’ve been a bit dishonest with you all because life, certainly my life, isn’t like that all of the time and I’ve had some difficult and stressful things to deal with over the last couple of months.

The two main things which have happened are 1) Rog got made redundant in December and 2) I’ve had a big setback with the dental work I’ve been having done for the last 3 years which has meant a lot of pain and a large portion of my time has been spent in the dentist’s chair. Wedding planning is pretty stressful in itself and especially when you get into the last 3 months, it feels like every single thing takes about 10 times longer than it should, or is more complicated than it should be. Add in a teenage daughter, PMT and a lack of sleep and you have a recipe for stress!

There have been times when I’ve wanted to (and suggested to Rog!) that we just run away to Gretna Green and get married quietly now and leave the circus behind. There have been times when I’ve just sat and cried and said I don’t want to do it anymore. Rog has been a rock and just held me and told me is going to be ok, which is all I really need sometimes. Yes it’s hard, yes it’s stressful, but we planned our wedding because we wanted to share our happiness and love with our friends and family and as appealing as running away seems, we can’t bring ourselves to do that. So if you’re out there thinking that you’re the only bride who feels fed up with the planning – you’re not!

We are fortunate enough to have a couple of amazing suppliers to remind us that we’re going to have a fantastic day and have provided us with evidence to prove it! They are namely Ben Tomlin from Touch Photography and Jeff Wood from Jeff Wood Visuals. Having a photographic record of our wedding day was the number one priority on our wedding to-do list for a number of reasons:

  • Rog’s second job is as a music photographer and so quality photography was always going to be a must for him.
  • We felt strongly about spending the majority of our budget on things that we were going to have to keep after the day was over.
  • Having both been married before we had clear views on what we felt was worth spending money on and what was not and as we’re paying for this entirely ourselves we have full control over how we spend our budget so we blew most of it on photos and video. 🙂

We fell in love with the photography and videography that was featured on Vicky & Jeff’s wedding on RMW and got in contact with Jeff Ascough and Jeff Wood to see if they could do our wedding. Unfortunately, Jeff A doesn’t travel outside the North West unless he still has your date free 3 months before your wedding. We found out later that he is one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world (ahem!) so it wasn’t surprising that he wouldn’t travel because … well … he just doesn’t *need* to! Here started a mammoth mission to find a photographer whose pictures had a feel of Jeff’s style to them – the reportage, documentary, emotional, fly on the wall, “catching the moment without being seen to be photographing anything” type style.

We looked at literally *hundreds* of photographers. We narrowed it down to three who we actually got in contact with. One never replied to our email, one replied telling us exactly what his style was and this was how he shot and if we didn’t like it then too bad (I’m paraphrasing, those were not his exact words but it didn’t leave us with a good feeling!) and one was Ben @ Touch, who replied with possibly the most enthusiastic email ever! He was full of excitement for our wedding and gave us loads of information in that first email about what to ask any photographer, plus lots of things to consider regardless of whether we ended up booking him or not. Many of Ben’s past clients say that he becomes your best friend very quickly and this is definitely true!! He’s such a lovely guy, brimming with enthusiasm and he is always always smiling. We’ve met Ben a few times now as he ended up doing a family photoshoot for Rog’s 50th birthday present as a surprise for Rog last May, plus he took the RMW Real Brides Hen Do photos and over Christmas he did our engagement shoot.

Our e-shoot was when Ben really showed what a star he is. After having gone to the park for our family photoshoot, and likely similar-ish photos for our wedding portraits, I decided I wanted something really different for our engagement shoot. What would be really really cool (I decided in my infinite wisdom) would be a Christmas market/funfair type of thing. Where better to go that Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park in the dark to get the funfair lights in photos? This was very different to what Ben normally does for couples’ shoots, but he took the challenge on without batting an eyelid. (He probably secretly thought I was a crazy Bride but hey, he never said so!)

We met up in the pouring rain but within half an hour someone had crashed into Ben, bashed his knee and his camera stopped working. His spare wasn’t capturing the lights the way he wanted, so he hotfooted it home across London to get another camera. We’d been back taking pics in the now driving rain for about another half an hour when we had a frantic phone call from my daughter saying that police were at our house and we needed to get home ASAP. We had no choice but to cancel the shoot and rush home. Fortunately our neighbours had scared the burglars off and nothing was nicked but it was close to the end of Winter Wonderland season so we weren’t sure if we could now get the shots we wanted.

Ben agreed to meet us again only a couple of days later on a bank holiday and this time it wasn’t raining (yay!). It was absolutely heaving with people though and seriously freezing cold yet Ben was still smiling and laughing. Even when he had to sit on the wet grass to get a shot he wanted, he didn’t moan. It definitely wasn’t an easy set of shots to get, and I left feeling a bit worried that our chattering teeth or gritted grins were going to be the best shots we’d get out of it – I was seriously beginning to regret insisting on something so different and difficult for an engagement shoot. Fortunately Ben is a miracle worker and I think you’ll agree that the shots we have are truly amazing, given the circumstances.

You can see the full slideshow that Ben did for us on his blog this afternoon.

Jeff Wood is another star supplier – despite living about 200 miles away, he came all the way down to our house to meet us a couple of weeks ago. We had a lovely chat with him, he’s so easy going and fun to get on with so again it felt like we were having coffee with a mate rather than a supplier meeting. He suggested doing a fun e-shoot video and came back last week to shoot us messing around with some wedding stuff. It was really interesting to see how he actually works and because it was an e-shoot rather than a W-Day shoot, we were able to mess around with some light flare effects that are too risky for wedding days which makes it a bit different. Plus we managed to finish the photobooth props that I’ve been putting off for the last few months – bonus!

Luckily the weather was warmer and sunnier so we got to do some shooting outside in the park with Baxter (our puppy) as well. It’s brilliant to see a snippet of how we look on film as well as getting to know Jeff better and we can’t wait for our W-day film now. 🙂

Are any of you having stressful times outside of wedding planning? Or even with your wedding planning? Have you found that it’s brought you and your man closer together? What do you do to de-stress? I’d love a few good tips on how you chill out.

Lots of love,


Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

24 thoughts on “What Shirley Did… Got Upfront And Honest.

  1. Shirley, these photos are incredible! I love them 🙂

    And I know you’ve been going through a tough time recently. I think, like you say, all brides feel that it’s all a big mess and there’s too much stress! I know I do. I know your wedding will be amazing because it’s all about you and Rog – and what could be better than a big day all about two fabulous people 🙂

    Loves xxx

  2. Oh my God. Thank you. I’m trying to plan our wedding and have spent the last two days feeling so down about it all and on the verge of tears.
    Dealing with venues that don’t seem to listen to our requirements and send confusing quotes was stressful, then I started trying dresses on and hated all of them as they felt so restrictive. The whole debacle is making me wonder whether I want a ‘proper’ wedding day or not.
    I’m really on the verge of throwing in the towel and not doing any of it at all. I’m glad it’s not just me that feels this way. I’ve never felt so stressed out in my life.

  3. This couldn’t have been better timed if baby Jesus himself had organised it! I’ve just come off the phone to a distraught Dad (who hasn’t eaten all week through stress and worrying) because of an argument with my Mum over a bridesmaid dress!!!! A bloomin stupid bridesmaid dress! We’ve still got 18 months to go and to be quite frank I’d like to elope and leave them all to it 🙁
    It’s so nice to hear other peoples woes…it makes me feel like I’m not completely on my own with a mental family and a head ache the size of an elephant!
    Those photos are beautiful! It’s so nice you have such lovely suppliers! Keep your chin up…we can do this!

  4. @Shirley – can I just say how bloomin’ lovely your Rog looks! I think he is one of those people that 110% suit their name…I am always jealous of such people as I think my name makes me sound like a 65 year old dinner lady…but I do try and rock it!

    Stress remedies for me are:

    *Buying blazers in a plethora of colours (just purchased a Barbie pink one at luncheon, it’s almost so wrong that it’s right if you know what I mean)
    *Waiting for the Big C to announce that he has a lads weekend away, waving him off and then settling down to watch anything with Ryan Gosling in, whilst wearing fleecy pjs, eating McDonald’s Chicken Selects (so much more than your traditional nugget) and spending a strange amount of time clipping my fringe back, staring into a mirror, and then shuddering at the thought of revealing my forehead to the world
    *Speaking to my old man…girlfriends, mum and big sister are all great but boy does my old man ‘get’ me…he’s also good on perspective…he’s from Yorkshire you see and they’re good at the down to earth stuff on that side of the hill
    *Pretending I am a Pussycat Doll, Britney Spears (circa 1999 obviously) or Jennifer Lopez (during the P. Diddy years)…hoody on, hood up, lots of eyeliner, bum shake. Preferably while wearing ridiculously large hoop earrings. G.A.N.G.S.T.A.


  5. Hey Shirley,

    Love your engagement pics, Ben is such a cutie and takes magnifique snaps. Also love the idea of an ‘e-shoot video’ it looks top class and I can’t wait to see the actual wedding vid.

    In terms of destressing, I don’t mean to sound like a n*b, but I tend not to get stressed. People have told me that I’m nearly horizontal or something like that! That being said, I still have 6 months to the wedding so nearer the time I may well turn green i.e. incredible hulk mode, watch this space…

    I always find exercise puts me in a good mood or anything that releases endomorphines sex, chocloate (maybe not in that order, depends!)

    Big love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  6. Awwww Shirley, this may be my favourite one of your Real Bride posts so far, not just because of the honesty but also because your video is amazing – Rog sounds like so much fun!!!

    I think it’s really important for us brides to realise that everyone finds planning a wedding whilst getting on with life tough. I don’t really have any other engaged friends that I can catch up with and sometimes I feel like everyone’s happy and loved up and that’s it. I got to the point where every time Tom and I bickered with each other over something small, I would get worried that maybe we’re just heading for divorce. Stupid I know!!!!

    The photos look amazing and I particularly love that your video basically doubles up as a DIY tutorial (I may have watched it several times). Perfect!

    Can’t wait to see all your wedding pics – it’s going to be perfect!

  7. I dont very often comment, but i just had to today! I think you are totally amazing for writing this and being so honest – I found planning my wedding the most stressful thing in the world!! I find that most people i spoke to forget about all the strife and put their rose tinted specs on & thought I was slightly weird for admitting i didnt enjoy it! My husband is and was amazingingly supportive through it all and I think it makes you stronger to go through all the stress and trouble together. Fingers crossed that Rog gets sorted on the job front and you catch a break :). Xxxx

  8. Shirley the photos are gorgeous!!! The Christmas funfair was an inspired idea and the effort was totally worth it!!

    I know exactly what you mean about stress though…being usually quite a laidback individual I was totally unprepared for the crazed stresshead that I morphed into just after Christmas with just under 4 months to go to W-day. Then…5 weeks ago I slipped while walking the dog and now have my right arm in plaster with a suspected fractured elbow waiting for MRI scans and God knows what else! Ultimately though this has caused myself and Mr L to take a bit of a step back from all the madness as well as giving him a practice run at ‘in sickness and in health’! Yes theres still stacks to do but at this point as long as I can wear my dress without teaming it with a huge plaster cast (who knew that they cast your whole arm if you break your elbow?!!) (putting my own underwear on would also be a bonus!), not be wearing a sling in our photos and be able to participate in my own first dance I’ll be over the moon! And lots of our fabulous friends have offered to come and blitz our remaining DIY tasks if we’re still stuck nearer the time (7 weeks and counting!!) ! I really wish it hadnt happened but its definately made me realise that W-day is about so much more than the details that I was stressed about! And also so excited to be spending the rest of my life with someone lovely enough to put up with both the crazy stresshead and demanding, whiney incarnations of the girl he started this whole wedding thing off with!!! (yes I am very much a delight to live with at this point!)

    Hope everything starts to settle down and works itself out for you!! And although fracturing an elbow seems to have destressed me I don’t recommend it- it really hurts!!! Maybe just some old-fashioned yoga/deep breathing and nice music?!!


  9. Hi Shirley. I’m so sorry to hear about Rog’s redundancy. No wonder you’re stressed with all that additional worry. I personally find running, music and cooking all help. Cooking something delicious while listening to music, having been for a run, really works, but that zen like combination rarely happens, sadly!

    On the plus side, your engagement shot is absolutely beautiful!!

    And by the way, thank you for sending me a comment about decorating a plain white space using lighting, I read it and didn’t have time to reply straight away cos was rushing out, then couldn’t remember which post it was on etc. Arrrgh, didn’t want to appear so rude. Thanks for your suggestion, I think between ribbon banners for day and lighting for night, we’ll be fine. And I”m sure your wedding will be a real joy!

  10. @Rachel/Celine/Kelly etc – I couldn’t have got through the last few months without the other Real Brides and our FaceBook group for sanity. Thank you all xxx

    @Miss D, Hayley & Bex – I’m glad its not just me who doesn’t always feel the love of wedding planning. I like the idea of it, just not always the reality and sometimes its hard when everyone expects you to be totally in love with the idea of weddings and then you tell them that actually you’re so over it all and just want the day to be here and go on honeymoon. I’ve had some funny looks too Bex!

    @Ruth / Pamela / Kelly / Celine – Rog is revelling in the man love you lot are giving him this afternoon. Its done lots to boost his ego lolol

    @Fiona – OMG you have had a horrible time with your elbow lovely! I hope that it improves rapidly and that you manage to not be in a cast by your wedding day. Isn’t it great to discover who your amazing friends are (sometimes you get a totally unexpected but lovely surprise from someone who you didn’t think was that close to you but they drop everything to help you) – say yes to them all! And in a way, I think its great to have a reminder that getting married is about being with the one you love and spending the rest of your life together EVEN when its tough and things don’t go to plan. As I said to Charlotte last week – the test of a real relationship is when you pull through tough times together, its easy to be in love when everything is easy but can you stick together when its not?

  11. @Helen – you’re very welcome! I’m glad I could be of some help. Ribbons and lighting sounds fantastic, I would have had some ribbons if I had anything to attach them to 🙂

  12. Thank you thank you thank you for this!!

    As much as I am loving the wedding planning process (who knew there was so much pretty out there!!!), and I am truly LOVING it (its an excuse to make all sorts of things!! and to unabashedly pour over RMW….), there have been times when I have very much wanted to just be married and have it all behind me. Alongside huge amounts of people drama (e.g. a really close friend refusing to come to the wedding because she’s not a bridesmaid, being yelled at by my fiances grandfather after we asked him to do a reading at our wedding that isn’t religious, the list goes on and on…), I am also still trying to get to grips with being diagnosed 2 years ago with provoked vulvodynia, a long scary word which basically means sex is ridiculously painful.

    Despite repeated – and sometimes quite funny, but still unsuccessful – efforts to fix the problem, and with less than 2 months to go, the honeymoon is looming like a big fat accusatory finger pointing at me with the message “you have to have sex!!” (think an “Uncle Sam Wants You!” poster). My fiancee has been ridiculously patient and tolerant, but I’m gutted for him that he’s going to be marrying a broken bride.

    So thank you so much for this post – it really helps to know that others are finding the process stressful too.

    In terms of de-stressing – bit of an odd suggestion, but have you tried knitting? (dont judge me!). Otherwise I’ve ironically found that getting stuck into making stuff for the wedding has helped – it reminds me that at the end of the day we’re supposed to be having fun with it all, and I’m going to be marrying the man I love which is about as reassuring as it gets.

    I think I might change my approach though and go de-stress at a fun fair – I am green with jealousy at your amazing e-shoot idea!! the photos are stunning! Good luck to you and Rog!!!! I hope things start looking up!! xxx

    (apologies for the crazy long post!)

  13. Aaahh, I’ve got 3 months to go and was beginning to feel alone in the whole, tears, stress and everything taking 10 ltimes longer – great to know its the norm!! Xx

  14. Also… Shortly after I got engaged I was made redundant. It was extremely stressful, but after 5 gruelling months I finally got a job in my sector and could start looking forward to the wedding again! My Maid of Honour was also diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time. Sadly I didn’t live in the bridal bubble for too long either, but at the end of each day I just think about how lucky we are to be so in love and when times get tough we hold hands and face the world together. I really hope you have some better luck 🙂 xx

  15. what beautiful engagement photos! you both look amazing.Your photographer is a master behind that lens.

    thank you for sharing with all of us other brides the tears and the stress, i have had many a day where i’ve felt stressed, quite lonely and overwhelmed with the decision making and just wishing we were just married!

    Can’t wait to see the snaps of your big day. xx

  16. Great post Shirley!

    It’s amazing what can be produced in times of strife!

    You photo’s are ruddy gorgeous which is NO surprise as you and Rog are gorgeous oh yeah and Ben’s a genius behind the lens!

    As for you video, it’s AMAZING!!! I really LOVE IT!!! I’m trying to sort out some sort of video for ours but budget is small!

    I’d love to know how you find people who have just started a business and therefore would be well cheap! I don’t think 51 days is enough time to find out!

    Take care! And keep up the great work!

  17. Aah I just love your video – its so so gorgeous! I love how Jeff has managed to capture even in those few minutes the emotion between you two. 🙂

    Also your photos are absolutely gorgeous – you both look so happy. They are photos to cherish for ever!

    Shirley I know you are going through tough times but your wedding I promise will all be worth it.

    Rachie xo

  18. Shirley – I absolutely love your pictures pet, so “true” and you look so ruddy happy – which is obviously the only thing that matters.

    I am 100% sure that everything is going to work out just fine and you are going to have the greatest W-day EVER.

    Big Shirley And Rog Love

    Charlotte xxx

  19. @Shirley – oh can’t life be crap sometimes! The best de-stresser for you I think are these beautiful photographs; whenever you start to get stressed just take a peek at these creations of joy and look at the happiness and love on both of your faces, they are truly lovely.
    (sorry to sound a bit smooshy and old ladyish, but they reminded me of my first date with my man which was at a funfair!)

    @Pamela DEFINITELY going to try the pussycat doll treatment when the man isn’t around to pee himself laughing at me 🙂

  20. Shirley – this post is brilliant. You have hit the wedding nail on the head – so glad I’m not the only one feeling like this at the mo.

    I think the best antedote to the stress is to look at these pictures (so beautiful!) and watch the video. They can’t fail to cheer you up!

    Other things that work for me:
    – Cuddles with Mr A and Elvis the ginger wondercat (or Baxter the wonder spaniel!)
    – Singing (badly) to my soundtracks from West End musicals (I know, I know, special) or Dolly Parton (I recommend her songs Better Get To Living and Together You and I for maximum cheeriness!)
    – Eatingcheese
    – Drinking wine
    – Face pack and nail varnish 🙂

    Much love xx

  21. Ohhhhh, Shirley! Could not have opened the website to see your post at the better time! I have less than three weeks to go and even though I have kept it so cool and relaxed for so many months, now this whole planning is really hitting me…. So glad to see that there is even so many more brides feeling the same way, because it really does feel lonely in this planning the W-day world sometimes….
    Your pictures are truly stunning, and ladies, gonna try all your advices to keep it as a relaxed and enjoyable time as possible!

  22. Ouch – poor you and your poor mouth. Dental stuff is beyond horrid.

    Lovely pics – and I love the effect of the lights behind you so I reckon you were spot on with your choice of background (damn those dastardly burglers)

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