• Michelle Vernal

A Shoestring Wedding


I googled it and the average cost of a wedding in New Zealand these days is $35,000.00.  Okay so each to their own I say, but I can’t help but wonder does whether or not your day is magical come down to spending big bucks? Does it mean your marriage has more chance of lasting because you have the bills to prove it will? Can you make lifelong happy memories on a shoestring?

Well, my shoestring wedding story began seventeen years ago when Paul and I hadn’t long been engaged. I think I’ve told you the story but if not, it was his thirtieth birthday, and we were at Bad Bob’s Bar in Dublin. He got down on one knee, and as he’d had a little bit to drink my first thought was that he’d hurt himself, but no he was proposing. A coke ring handed to him by his friend sufficed that night, but I got my proper engagement ring when we popped across on the ferry, to Liverpool. My mum and dad hail from there and it felt like a special connection with them to have a Liverpool ring. I fell in love with a dainty set of diamonds which didn’t cost the earth which was just as well because we were saving to travel around Europe.

Once back at the law firm I was temping at in Dublin (think the first couple of chapters of The Brazilian Job), I loved to sit and watch the light catch those sparklers. I was supposed to be typing, but my head was full of the fact that Paul loved me enough to want to spend the rest of his life with me. Wow. I mean just…Wow. I remember walking down after work to meet him on a Thursday night in Temple Bar where there was a kebab shop we’d fine dine in. My face would break into a silly grin of its own accord at the sight of him. He still makes me smile.

My work pal Janice was full of her recent wedding, and one afternoon, when we were supposed to be typing, she showed me her wedding album. She looked gorgeous, in her white dress with its overlay of Irish lace. I was oohing and aahing over her dress when out of the blue she said, ‘Would you like it?’ She was serious, and she brought the gown into work so, one morning when we were supposed to be typing, I tried it on. It fit, and I felt like a princess. Janice wanted me to have it saying that even if she had a daughter down the track, she wouldn’t want her mother’s old dress. She felt it would be nice that someone who loved the dress as much as she had should wear it. I liked the connection with Ireland where Paul and I had gotten engaged, made lifelong friends and had such a brilliant time. It was stress-free shopping at its best as I handed Janice £100.00 as a thank you. So it was after a raucous Irish hen’s night also organised by Janice, I bought my bridal gown home in my backpack.

Our wedding was held in the front garden of my folks’ old homestead in North Canterbury, and the sun shone that day. My parents and their friends did the catering; the local squash club girls waitressed to raise a bit of cash for the club. My uncle took the photos, and we hired a local DJ. Tents were pitched in the garden for friends to stay overnight. It was everything we could have hoped for all done on a shoestring with a lot of love and hard work from our families. The next day the house we’d bought settled.

That was sixteen years ago today, and now here we are with two beautiful boys and a three-legged cat with anxiety issues. Okay so there’s been some pretty crap stuff along the way, like my sister Rachel’s health deteriorating, my friend having a cardiac arrest then there’s our dad having Alzheimer's (just got off the phone to Mum writing this and my heart is breaking). The thing is though who did I collapse into both times? Paul. Who do I turn to for all the little life stuff too? Yep, he’s always there when I need him, and that’s what matters. Not bad for a shoestring marriage.  

Oh and by the way I tried my wedding dress on not long ago, curious as to whether I could still fit it. Um, for the record, I got into it no problem—I just couldn’t do it up.

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