I am Some Bridey Love Mum

Ok so it’s a bit off topic maybe, but my Lovelies have asked for more Lifestyle content, and sure why not?

So tonight is Mammy’s advice to any Brideys in the audience.

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The Him and I got married on a Wednesday, over Christmas in 2009, which was (you might remember) the year of THAT BIG SNOW.  I’m sure it was a huge inconvenience to many.  I’m sure some people grumbled about our choice of date.

But here’s the thing about weddings, they’re a lot like parenting really.  Because everyone has an opinion (or ten) and if you try to please everyone, you’ll spin right through the whole event in a whirlwind of stress and worry.

So from an oul married woman to you, the lucky Lovely who is planning your big day, here are some of my words of wisdom…

  1. Firstly, you WILL get opinions thrown at you.  As usual, people usually don’t mean any harm or to interfere, and yet it can be exhausting.  There is NO WAY of avoiding this.  We had our whole wedding arranged and booked for 18 months before we even put a ring on.  We got engaged just 10 months before the wedding, announcing our engagement and the date and venue etc in one go… and even then, we had “You need to look at this venue/band/DJ etc.”   We didn’t.  We’d booked what WE wanted.  And it was perfect.

2.  Do what YOU want.  Don’t book a hotel just because that’s where your 4 sisters got married.  Don’t get married in a chapel/church/field because that’s what people expect.  Don’t have a video if you don’t want one.  Don’t wear heels if you don’t want to. Don’t have a top table if it terrifies you.  Don’t have a traditional first dance if you hate the thought of it.  Decide with your partner how YOU see your day, and WHERE you see it happening, and do it.  You’ll be married the same as everyone else whether you have fancy cars or 47 priests on an altar. Your Day, your way.  And yes you may have some people grumbling about how THEY would have expected it, or done it, but unless you’re marrying your great Aunt Jacinta, her opinion isn’t that important.

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3. Don’t get caught up in who can and can’t make it.  Whoever wants to be there and CAN be there, WILL be there.  Life gets in the way some times; illness, no babysitter, kids suddenly sick, weather… And while you might be genuinely sad that someone can’t make it, or doesn’t turn up, the wedding will go on without them and you’ll still be married to the love of your life.  The only people who NEED to be there, are you and your partner and whoever is celebrating the marriage for you! We had some guests who didn’t make it (or used the snow as an excuse not to make it!) and yet, the day went on and we’re still married.

4. Stick to your means:  Don’t put yourself in debt for 5 years for one day.  You don’t NEED most of the things you think you do. Why do you need the most expensive hotel?  Why do you need 6 Bridesmaids? Why do you need eleventy billion people there? If you WANT them there, go for it.  If you don’t, why are they invited? If (like us) you are both from huge families, don’t be afraid to set limits.  Only aunts and uncles, or first cousins only, or adults only… or only the family members you see and spend time with?  Imagine!  Imagine NOT inviting the cousin you haven’t seen since you were 4, or the aunty who you’re pretty sure despises you? Imagine!

If you are going to be paying for this wedding yourselves, YOU are in charge of what, when, how and who…(If getting help, of course the people who are helping to fund it should be respected and included in plans.) Yes of course, many of us want to keep everyone happy, especially our parents, but it is YOUR day and if you are going to have to leave out your team mates or workmates so some schoolmate of your Mum’s (who you don’t know) can come, it might be time to have a chat with Mum.  Surround yourselves with the people who mean the most to YOU.  (Both of our sets of parents hosted a table each at ours.  It worked perfectly for everyone. Just a suggestion!)

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5. Say NO.  “We want to get you a magician as a gift.”  “We’d love to get you doves as a gift.”   “I’d love you to wear my veil.”   ALL of these are kind gestures and if they suit you, go with them.  But if you hate magicians, don’t want to see any birds on the day (unless they’re on your plate) and don’t want to wear a veil, JUST SAY NO.  But I might offend someone… Are they you?  Are they your partner? Are they getting married? No? Well then, they’ll get over it BECAUSE IT’S NOT THEIR WEDDING DAY!

6. To Kid or not to Kid…  OOOOOOOOOh, yes.  I am going there.   You can probably guess where I’m going with this.  Do you WANT kids at your wedding?   Then THAT’s your answer.  If you have kids, chances are you’ll be glad of some company for them.  If you have nieces and nephews, you’ll most likely want them there.  I’m talking OTHER people’s kids.  It’s so difficult to draw a line here and you’ll always get “Well if the kids aren’t invited, we can’t go…”  And while this is sad, it’s not your problem.

If we are invited to a wedding and the kids are invited too, unless it’s their aunt or uncle, they ain’t going NOWHERE!  If we’re invited to a wedding and can’t get a babysitter, we don’t go.  Or one of us goes.  It makes us sad, but our kids come first.  If we are invited to a wedding without the kids, usually we highkick it up the road, delighted at the prospect of a date day!

Of course, every situation is different and there are things to consider, (eg. Your friend’s Baby is 5 weeks old and she’s breastfeeding tends to be a genuine enough one), but if it’s someone who has 3 kids and just wants to bring them, then NO.  This is hard to do.  It causes problems.  It did at ours.  But we stuck to our guns and only had the first cousins, the youngest of whom was 5.  Outside of that, nope.  Some people didn’t come.  We were sad.  We’re still married though.

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7.  Delegate:  If (like me) you are a complete Monica, this can be hard.  But rather than getting stressed about what needs to be done the week or day before, delegate.  I only had one grown up BM. Thankfully she is as OCD as I am, but she took charge of things like collecting dresses and flowers and such, allowing me to spend the day before my wedding relaxed, getting my nails done and going for tea with Himself.  I did the same the day before hers. She gave me a to-do list. I dood it.   And never mind the BMs, I bet you have a friend or two who aren’t in the wedding party but who’d love to help with stuff? Let them.  Don’t spend the week before your wedding so busy that you miss the excitement of it.

8. On the Day:  1.  Between courses at the meal, we went to 2 or 3 tables to say hi to our guests.  It only took a few minutes and it meant that we didn’t feel obliged to spend hours after the meal walking around tables.  2.  Every so often, we’d meet to take it all in. Just us. He’d nod across or I’d catch his eye and we’d go to the bar, on our own, have a drink and watch the fun unfolding around us.  If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have seen each other all evening AND we’d have missed his cousins doing a human pyramid on the dancefloor!

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9.  Does it matter?  Problems will arise and issues will present themselves.  The people you THINK will be problematic or stressful, are usually the opposite.  No.  The drama Llama usually comes in the person you’d least expect.  No matter what arises, stop and ask yourself, Does it really matter?  Does it really matter if John Joe and Jacinta won’t come if Nancy is invited?  Does it really matter if your hotel tell you they have to change the layout of the room.  Does it really matter if your invitations have the wrong shade of mauve on the ribbons?  Does it really matter if Uncle Jenny doesn’t like the band?  NO.  So unless the problem is going to affect you and your Him or Her getting married and declaring your love to each other, feck it.  It doesn’t matter.

10.  Enjoy.   Yes it’s cliched and it’s easier said than done sometimes, but your wedding day REALLY should be THE best day EVER.  And it will be if you remember that table plans and flowers and bouquets and all that jazz are superfluous.  Only have them if you want them.  (Ditch the table pan.  I’ve been to so many weddings recently where bar the front row of tables of immediate family, the rest of the hall was free-for-all.  Worked great.    Allow other people to help, do what YOU want and remember what’s important to YOU.

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And if you disagree with anything I’ve written, that’s fine too.  My way obviously isn’t how EVERYONE would do it.  You don’t have to agree.  You do what is right for YOU.

I loved every second of being a Bride.  I loved every second of our wedding day.  I’d do it all over again in the morning… and I’d even marry the same Him.

If you are getting married, I wish you all the love in the world.  Enjoy every magical moment, however and wherever you’re doing it.

Mammy x

I am State Examinations Mum

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Exam season is upon us again.

It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?

If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.

  1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
  2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
  3. Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) exam4
  4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up. exam
  5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
  6. Positivity: Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it. exam1
  7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too. Use different colour pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
  8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders. exam3
  9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin!)
  10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.

I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t. Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.

And the very best of luck to your minions.