9 things I've learned from my 9 year relationship

Disclaimer: I'm a newlywed, but I don't think our relationship is perfect. Sometimes I could happily ring J's neck. When he mixes his drinks he throws up, and guess who gets to clear it up? Moi! I spend all his money, so he could quite happily punch me in the uterus, I'm sure. And the Relationship Gods proved this yesterday when we had our first marital row, over A Game of Thrones of all things! But whatever happens, we love each other.

These are some things which strike me as being important in a long and happy relationship.

1. Trust someone worth trusting

Some of my previous partners deliberately cultivated a state of distrust between us. I can't stand game-players. I like someone who does what they say they're going to, when they say they're going to and no pissing about. J goes out with his mates occasionally, but he always texts me while he's out to let me know he's thinking of me. He's a real homebody though - he'd rather stay in with me - that's just the way he is.

If you start dating someone and they're deliberately messing you about to boost their own ego, boot 'em into touch - unless of course you like the mental stimulation and challenge of dating a player! There will always be people out there who don't need to induce jealousy in others to feel secure in themselves. Don't feel you have to settle for someone who plays with your emotions. There are good people out there, you just have to dig them out!

2. Vive la différence!

J loves drumming, I love a CSI marathon. J loves science, I love celebrity gossip. We give each other time to follow our own interests (although tv and gossip are hardly interests, haha) as we can't be in each other's pockets all the time. It's good to have different interests. Time apart gives you time to miss each other, even if you're only in different rooms.

3. Make sure to let your partner know they're loved and desired

We tell each other we love each other all the time, several times a day, in fact. Every day when J comes home from work I follow him to the bedroom where he gets changed and have a quick squeeze of his bum, or we'll have a quick snuggle on the bed. I'm VERY upfront about fancying J. I'm the man of this relationship, I think :D He's a lot more subtle than I am. Yesterday I had a short dress on and hadn't bothered to put any leggings on underneath since we were hanging around the house, and he said 'I like it when you have your legs out.' Or I'll be washing my hair over the bath and he'll grab me around the middle and comment on my hourglass shape......but then he'll spoil it by doing pelvic thrusts behind me and making me giggle so hard I get water everywhere ;) Let your lover know you fancy the pant(ie)s off them!

4. Communication is key

Because I'm usually so happy, when I'm upset, angry or perturbed about something it's pretty damn obvious. J is brilliant at getting me to talk when I don't want to. If something has really upset me I find it hard to make eye contact when I'm talking (or else I'll cry) so I'll mumble what's bothering me into his chest while giving him a hug so I don't blub like a baby when I look at him. Always try to find a way to open up a discussion, even if you have to do it in a roundabout way like me. Don't let the sun go down on an argument unless you're really, really pissed off and they deserve a night on the sofa! Ha.

5. Snuggles
When I asked my hubby what is important in relationships, he said snuggles, so here we are! Sex is great, and I'll come to that shortly. Non-sexual touch is also great and lovely. Sometimes we have a snuggle and it's nothing more than that, and other times it leads to something else. It'd be pretty crap for both of us if we felt every cuddle had to lead to sex. I love that we can go with the flow. When we're hugging I love to close my eyes and concentrate on how nice it feels, how warm J's body feels. Those 10 minutes of snuggles are my favourite minutes of every day. Don't be too busy that you can't enjoy the feel of your partner's body. Listening to someone's heartbeat is so relaxing, too.

6. Laughter

Having someone to laugh with when life bites you on the arse is so important. J makes me laugh so hard sometimes that I ruin my make up from crying. He's such a dork. He'll lurk around doorways waiting to scare the bejesus out of me, pull funny faces when I'm in need of a laugh and he dredges out his funky dance moves when I'm so down. He's usually just in his pants when he does this, so of course it's funny. I wish he'd let me video it, but he won't (damn it!) If your partner can make you laugh when all else has gone to shit, you've got something special!

7. Sexy time

Sex isn't the be-all-and-end-all of a relationship, but it can be the glue that holds it together. There have been times when we haven't had sex for a long time (after my operation, for instance) and as soon as we get back into it, the closeness it brings is magical. We are lucky to have a good and fulfilling sex life, but if we didn't, I'd have no hesitation at all in going to couples therapy to try to remedy the situation. Don't be afraid to use tools to enhance your experiences! We have a selection of buzzing friends, a selection of flavoured lubes and we aren't afraid to use them - there's no shame in it. Nothing is too weird between two consenting adults, well not unless you're involving small furry animals! Our sex life gets better with time and we're not afraid to try new things once in a while to jazz things up. It amazes me that people can raise kids together, share a whole life and yet not tell each other what they really want in bed. Hell, write it down on a piece of paper and swap if you're shy. Desiring someone and being desired is important, which leads me onto my next point.

8. Make an effort

We've been together a long time, and I always make an effort for J. I spend a good portion of his wages on clothes, make up, skin care and perfume so I look and smell nice for him. I'm especially keen as I'm 6 years older than he is. Perhaps I make more of an effort as I'm fat - I could be overcompensating. If people are thinking 'Jesus, that guy's wife is fat!' I want it to be countered with 'But she's bloody gorgeous!' (In an ideal world I'd love to be thought of as 'just' gorgeous, but I know most of the world doesn't think that way.) Just today J said he's so glad I still I make an effort for him, because he knows not everyone does in a long relationship, and he feels lucky I do. I keep myself looking nice as much for me as I do for him. It's a psychological thing for me - if I look good, I feel good, but I'm always happy to receive a compliment from my hubby. I think it's quite a lot easier for men to look nicer - all J has to do to please me is not cut his hair too short, keep some stubble on his face and keep on drumming so his legs and bum stay lovely and muscly. But still, he does those things to keep me happy. If it doesn't make you feel less than yourself, there's no harm in doing things to please your partner.

9. Don't let temptation in

J and I both have the same feeling about temptation - that you'd be an idiot to let it run wild. As soon as there's a hint of something that might possibly harm your relationship, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Once, when J and I were newly dating, some girl in a pub pinched his arse and put her arm round him. He immediately came and stood behind me, put his arms around my waist and said loudly AND incredulously 'Can't she see I'm with you?!' Message sent. Messages sometimes need to be sent, or ignored, if someone is trying to send you a message you don't want to hear. Temptation spreads. It isn't like curiosity - it doesn't get satisfied - it grows. Egos are naturally hungry and sometimes the safest thing is to get outta dodge before you do something stupid. It isn't weak to admit that sometimes you need to err on the side of caution. Someone I know vaguely is still on my shitlist for the lusty way she looked at J the first time she met him. There's no harm in being watchful. I trust J, but I don't trust other people ;)

What do YOU think is important in a relationship? Have I missed anything important?

9 things I learned from planning my wedding

1. I had 15 months to plan and there were still a few things that could've been structured a bit better.
You need more time than you think to plan. Start planning as early as possible and enlist trusted help if you can. Make sure your bridesmaids are going to be people who are excited for you, want to help you plan, and will be a calming presence on the day.

2. However much time you think you need to get ready on the morning of the wedding, add more. I got up 4 and a half hours before the wedding and I really could've done with another hour. When I arrived at the registry office I was sweaty, pretty much entirely make up free, dying of thirst, and LATE. I'd barely had a drink all morning and the only food I'd had had been hand-fed to me by the bridesmaids while I did something else.

Work out how long you need to get ready on the day and add 30-60 minutes for the unknown. The worst case scenario is you get more time to beautify yourself or be primped by your hairdresser/make up artist.

3. Although you might be tempted to have your family around you as you're getting ready, as I did, it's a massive distraction. 20 minutes before I was due at the registry office I was in my underwear. No dress, no make up on, no shoes on and a million thoughts dancing around my head because everyone was asking me questions simultaneously. I had literally 30 seconds to swipe some eye shadow and lipstick on before I ran out of the door.

Get ready with as few people as possible present on the big day. The more people you have around you the easier it will be for things will get out of control. There was so much unnecessary stress I caused myself by having too many people in the house.

4. It goes so quickly. Everyone told me this but it really does. The importance of the photographer really comes in because you'll use the photos as a memory aid. Don't be afraid to ask your guests for (digital) copies of their photos. It costs nothing, and on the day you're so busy being social and in love, you can't be everywhere at once.

Take the opportunity to get together with friends and family to talk about things from their perspective. It really enriches the experience for everyone and prolongs the joy. Send a 'round robin' email asking guests if they have any photos they wouldn't mind sending you, or even better, pay them a visit! 

We're going visiting next weekend to chat with everyone and to see if we can snag some photos. 

5. Make sure your dress is the best you can get for your budget. Do your research, ask around, visit bridal shops if that's your thing. As a plus size bride I knew bridal shops would be a soul-destroying experience for me, so I bought my dress online. My dress was very inexpensive, but the experience was rather stressful coming up towards the wedding as I only received it 4 or 5 days beforehand. Despite the worry I was lucky, because my dress was absolutely beautiful and most important of all, wonderfully flattering! When we thought my dress wasn't going to come, we immediately knew how miserable I'd be in the 'wrong' dress. If we'd had to, we would've searched the country for the right dress, money no object, even if it got us into debt.

Set a budget for your dream dress, then do your research to get the best you possibly can for that amount. A bride HAS to feel beautiful and confident and if the dress is wrong, it'd be just awful.

6. Make sure your venue is the best you can get for your budget. I had initially crossed our wedding venue off the list as I (wrongly) assumed it'd be ludicrously expensive. It turned out to be very reasonable and EVERYONE loved the food, the building and the service we got from the staff. Half of our budget went on the venue and the food and it was worth every single penny.

Check out all the venues on your list, even the ones you assume might be out of your league financially. You might get a pleasant surprise! Ultimately, there is no monetary amount you can put to seeing your loved ones enjoying the day just as much as you are. It's priceless.

7. Always go with your gut feeling. We cancelled our original venue as the owner was odious and clearly only interested in making a buck. I had an uneasy feeling about him from the start, and we were lucky that a change in circumstances meant we had to cancel. Even though we lost money we made the right decision. From the very first meeting with the final venue we went with I felt reassured and we fell in love with the venue.

Trust your gut. If something feels 'wrong' and if you can tell someone wants to screw you for every penny they can get, don't touch them with a barge pole! If you're paying someone thousands of pounds they need to be serving your interests first, not theirs.

8. Lean on your bridesmaids and best man on the day. Everything will go crazy on the day and you'll need them to look after some of the details. My BMs had my glasses, phone etc. The photographer had a calming effect on me. When me and my new HUSBAND (sorry, I couldn't resist!) went back to the hotel for a rest in the afternoon, we came back to find our bridesmaids had decorated the cake and laid out the table decorations for the evening buffet. It was a lovely surprise and a weight off my mind. 

Surround yourself with people you love and trust and your day will be infinitely less stressful.

9. Whatever stress you go through, it will ALL be worth it. At times I felt like cancelling the wedding when outside pressures got too much, but it was all forgotten on the day. I wish I could go back in time and say 'Leah, stop worrying. The day will go fine. Save yourself the grey hairs!'

As long as you have planned everything thoroughly, the day will go great. Just trust it will be OK. It'll be better than OK! It'll be the sum of all your highest hopes and dreams put together, amplified by a thousand. Relax, you've done the hard part. Smile, enjoy looking beautiful and bask in the love of your partner. See how much love there is in the room for you. Soak it all up, it's beautiful.

It really WILL be the best day of your life thus far.

Wedding photo dump! Part 3 - final part.

Lovely cupcakes made by my friend Elaine

First dance

Giggles as our first song was the wrong one!

Amazing light show

Flower girl C caught in the light

Wedding photo dump! Part 2

Nom your face!

Lovely Rachie

Me giving my dad a quizzical look

J's speech

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears ;)

Giggles in my speech

The best man doing his speech
Thanks for peeking!

Wedding photo dump! PIC HEAVY. Part 1

Batman garter :)

Engagement ring

Detail on my bouquet

Best bloody bouquet evarrrrrrrrr

Bridesmaids bouquets

My lovely shoes, which I couldn't wear :(

Lovely cameo necklace

Pretty flower girls
J waiting for me

Bridesmaids and flower girls

J STILL waiting :)

My dad

Here we come!

Serious business!

I look cute :)

Giggling my head off putting my rings on

Get a room!

The look of love
More coming soon!

The wedding day part 2

The 'players' mentioned  are:

J - My hubby
Rach - bridesmaid
Emma - bridesmaid
JP - Rach's BF and my long time friend
Pete - best man
Marina - best man's wife and bridesmaid (she had to stay home)


The plan for the wedding lunch meal was that my step dad Pete took me and J to the venue first, so we could make sure everything was tickety-boo there before everyone else came in. Plus, it's traditional that we should get in first. Unfortunately not everyone got the memo, so as me and J arrived and were posing on the stairs of the venue on the red carpet they'd put out, we had members of his family mentally willing us to hurry up as it was blowing a gale. If it hadn't been for the fact J's grandad was there looking cold and miserable I'd have insisted every bugger else wait, but as it was we hurried in. I think we only managed two shots on the stairs so I hope they came out OK.

We went in and I had a quick glance over the place cards as everyone spilled in behind us to make sure they were as I left them, then headed off to the loo. God alone knows how I was in such need of a pee, as I'd had no more than 2 slurps of Bucks Fizz and a small glass of water in the registrar's office (because my mouth was like dust with nerves) and I'd been up 5 hours by this point! Nerves, I guess. Anyway, I soon discovered it's very hard to pee in a meringue dress and it was a miracle my train didn't end up being dunked in the loo at some point during the day ;)

After my pee I grabbed hold of J and took him around trying to introduce members of his family to my family, but despite all efforts there were two distinct camps all day, with the 2 families at opposite ends of the large bar room, pretty much. That was my perspective of it anyway, I might be wrong - I was so busy doing the hostess bit I wasn't in one place for very long. We had about an hour there to mingle (and for me to cool down because wearing that dress was hot work) before lunch was served. Oh, and what a lunch it was! When it first came out I was distinctly unimpressed, as there was a chicken breast wrapped in bacon on a few potatoes. Then the veg came out - oodles of it, way more than anyone could eat - delicious oiled new potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower smothered in cheese (to die for!), peas, carrots and probably more I can't even remember.

Everyone (all bar one person, I think) loved it and commented on how good the food was. Because J is a chipatarian (he has lots of food phobias which mean his diet is mainly spud-based) and had a huge plate of chips for his lunch there, covered in tomato sauce. Everyone came to take photos of it as it was so funny. J started to go a bit pink in the cheeks and around the ears, so I reassured him they were laughing with him not AT him. The photographer Justin got a shot of the Heinz sauce bottle, as it was already on the table when we arrived at the venue.

After the main meal we had chocolate gateau. I don't like anything chocolate flavoured - milkshake, cupcakes, mousse, gateau (yet I love chocolate) so I didn't eat all of mine. No names mentioned, oh I lie, Rach's table had the entire rest of the gateau to themselves! :O Hahaha.

It was actually pretty hard for me to sit down in my dress as my tits were hoisted up so high in the corset of the dress, and there wasn't much room in there to eat or drink. It was worth it though to look so nice. I think my friend JP was the first person to tell me I looked nice after the wedding, when he said something like 'You look bloody amazing!' It was good to hear - as I said in my last note, I had literally 30 seconds to put a bit of eye shadow and lippie on and that was it so I felt like a minger until I got some reassurance. And did I get some reassurance!! I really did feel like a princess on the day. The dress was really flattering and made my boobs look awesome (sorry, it did!) and so many people told me I looked absolutely beautiful. I believed it too! My hairdresser Helen did an amazing job of my hair (which stayed in place all day), my dress was beautiful, my jewellery from Sarah (link here) was lovely, Rach had done my nails and eyelash extensions, and I had a lovely bridal glow which was part blissful happiness and part sweat, hahaha!

After lunch came the speeches. My dad went first and I was really proud of him as he didn't make any notes and just spoke from the heart. I hope someone videotaped the speeches as I would love to hear them over again. J was next and he's written bullet points down to remind him. He did a really nice speech thanking the bridesmaids and flower girls, the parents, the best man and thanked me for being gorgeous and arranging the wedding on my own. Awwwww. Mind you, I had told him if he didn't thank me in the speech I'd rip his nuts off ;) ;)

Next it was my turn and I was shaking like a leaf. I was so nervous my speech started off as normal and sped up until I must've sounded like one of the Chipmunks! :)

Then came the best man's speech and I was very impressed that Pete remembered the day, date and year he and J first met. Wow! There was lots of computer-y talk that went over my (and a lot of other people's heads!), but that's OK as this was J's and Pete's moment and it made me laugh knowing those two are peas in a pod. They both work in IT, it's their thing. Pete also mentioned J's musicianship, which I was really happy about as J is an awesome musician and it's a big part of his life (and his drum kit is a big part of our spare room, hehe!)

Pete also said that J only really came to life when he met me, which was lovely. Obviously Pete knew J as a single fella, and I'm guessing there were some miserable times alongside the fun times, like when they traversed Europe together. I know J had no confidence in himself when we met, and it was my not-so-gentle prodding and belief in him that led J into his current job, which is quite frankly an awesome job. I knew he could do it with his eyes closed and pretty much insisted he apply. Anyway, I'm getting off topic. Pete gave a lovely speech and it was nice of Pete to come over from Sweden and do his duty as best man. It's just a shame Marina had to stay behind :(

Then there was a bonus speech, where the mood took my uncle and he did an impromptu speech, urging everyone to toast us. Twice ;) We nearly ran out of booze (nah, just kidding!)

After the speeches everyone inevitably deviated back to the bar and the lovely Chesterfield armchairs (one of which I got pretty much wedged into in my meringue later on!) and settees. We did more mingling then decided to go and check into the hotel. We had about an hour to 90 minutes there, where I kicked off my shoes and had a lay down. It was so nice to be alone together for a while and just take a breath! I kept looking at J's ring finger and thinking how I fancied him even more with a ring on his finger! We held quite non-traditional views about wedding rings before the ceremony. We were just going to wear our rings for the ceremony then not bother any more, but we've both since changed our minds. J needs a slightly bigger ring, and I need a slightly narrower band as I can't bend my knuckle properly wearing my engagement ring and wedding ring, but we will both be wearing our rings, I'm very happy to say ;)

When we got back, Rach had put the 3 tier cake out and decorated it with the flowers I'd left, and she did an AMAZING job. Emma had put all the petals, diamanté and LED tealights out on the tables ready for the evening and they looked absolutely AMAZEBALLS. They both did far better a job than I could've done and it was so nice to have some pressure taken off me.

Since I had talked to everyone there at this point I decided to sit down and spend some time with my family. I also gave out the presents to the flower girls, bridesmaids, mine and J's mums, dads and my step dad. Everyone seemed to like their gifts, so that was good :) Then it was a case of clock watching, relaxing and drinking lots of non-alcoholic fluids while waiting for the evening guests to start arriving.