“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part”… This was all far too traditional for us 14 years ago so we made our own vows up as many people do now. I think the idea was to make it more personal to us, to let the real Mr & Mrs Brown shine through. The funny thing is that I have no idea what our vows were, I don’t even think we have a copy anywhere. What I do know was that we wanted our marriage to be rooted in love, equality and respect.
As is our general approach to life, we ‘winged’ the whole wedding thing. We wanted a minimal fuss, maximum fun wedding. We didn’t want to get sucked into the commercialism that can come with weddings and whilst the wedding was important, the act of getting married itself was what mattered. My wedding dress was from the sale rail of a local shop and a friend kindly adjusted it from a size 14 to a size 8 (those were the days!). The chicken fillet bra was from Marks and Spencer’s and my wedding shoes were £10 from Mark One. The bridesmaid’s dresses were reduced from House of Fraser and by the time we had used the discount from the store card and Mum had returned them as they were reduced further in the January sales, they were about £15 each! Mr Brown bought his wedding suit from Carnaby Street, as was his dream, and accessorised it in Burton. Boy we had class! There were no wedding cars, instead we used my father-in-law’s Jeep, Mr Brown went in his own car and the close wedding party and bridesmaids hitched a lift with our friends. Our photography teacher friend took the photos, our electrician friend did the catering and Mr Brown’s band spontaneously entertained the guests in the evening. We lovingly made our invitations, table decorations and favours; pebbles with guest’s names and personalised sticks of rock. It was totally us, the new Mr and Mrs Brown.
As with most things we do, we didn’t really think things through. The last week of May that year was a wash out; rain, storms, wind, typical British weather. Our evening celebrations were on a tourist boat around Poole harbour. As the day drew closer, we realised that the day could be an absolute wash – out. Our only option would be to hold the evening reception in one of the pubs on the harbour; that would be fine, we’ll wing it! Luckily we didn’t have to as 1st June 2002, the day before the first England match of the World Cup, was a scorcher. We also winged it in terms of timing. Traditionally, the bride is late as we know. As the Jeep got closer to the wedding venue, we started to think about time. Our wedding was at 1:00pm, we didn’t want to be too early or too late, just on time would be good for me. Well, that was easier said than done as we didn’t have a watch between us. The Jeep didn’t have a clock and mobiles weren’t really much back then. So, we drove to a local village, stopped and asked three people the time, not one of them could help us. So we winged it, again! Luckily, we judged it right and we only prompted a few guests to leg it inside as they saw us approach.
Our wedding day was just what we had hoped for. All of our lovely family and friends, a beautiful hot day and plenty of fun and laughter. It only seems like yesterday. Over the last 14 years, we have experienced the usual common stresses which can test any solid relationship. The change in dynamic when your first child comes along, and then your second and third and then a dog! As the years have passed, we have grown and developed as individuals from our exuberant enthusiasm in our 20s, the changing existence of our 30s to the philosophical and content nature of our 40s; our relationship has had to grow with us. Our marriage is by no means perfect; we irritate each other as much as the next couple, power struggles continue and our interests and hobbies seem to widen. Yet we can contend these differences as we recognise and embrace them. We are not the youthful and energetic twentysomethings that got married on that hot day in June 2002. We are now 40 plus with three children, a dog and sizeable mortgage.
When Felix was first diagnosed, there was concern from others about how this might affect our marriage. People were worried about the impact of something as serious as this on us and how we would cope. We knew it would place additional strain on our relationship as we both tried our hardest to hold Team Brown together. However, I think that through our respect for each other and the acknowledgement of how tough it is at times, our marriage is stronger than ever. For the first time, we are paddling in the same stormy waters and we have to protect and watch out for each other. We have closed ranks and created a wall of protection around each other, wary our fragility. It means we both understand how the other might be feeling and the ache and the rawness of that emotion. We can and do fully empathise with each other. And so, if Mr Brown is engrossed in his gaming I let him be, as he does when I am up late writing as we know why we are doing it. If we fly off the handle or snap at each other, it is easy to trace the catalyst. We know and understand each other’s nuances and peculiarities enough that things do not need explaining, discussing or debating. Occasionally we’ll check in with each other and confirm “we’re doing OK aren’t we” both of us fearful of the future, desperate for each other’s reassurance. To date, we do reassure each other, that yes, we’re doing OK, we’ll get through this. For that I am grateful. Whatever those wedding vows were, they seem to be doing their job.
And so Mr Brown ~ Happy Anniversary ~ I love you xxx