It was an absolute privilige to be a part of their special day for two reasons. One is that I have known Karen for a very long time. In fact, she is one of my oldest friends. Our story is unorthodox, we met age 10 in Ibiza, this is us back then:
Karen (L) and Me age 10
We just clicked straight away and spent virtually the entire holiday with each other from the moment we met. On our return to the UK we embarked on an adventure, taking the act of being 'penpals' to the extreme. I think our parents thought this would probably fizzle out. Truth be told I had many other penpals over the years but none of them lasted the distance. Karen and I did.
We visited each other in school holidays and I am sure 11 year olds were much more innocent then. I recollect us creating magazines straight from our imaginations but using the things we were into (Care Bears!) as characters. She was an incredibly talented artist even back then. Our time hanging out together was spent having picnics, midnight feasts and sneaking out to the garage if we were feeling brave. We thought we were incredibly cool but I have seen the photos from back then and we are hilariously late 80s - not cool at all.
And we just kept writing.
Through secondary school I told Karen things I told nobody else because she was an ally, a confidant, a rock. Whatever other petty friendships and cliques were going on at school did not matter, I always had her. We told each other about first crushes, first kisses, first breakups. Boys tended to be a rather big theme.
I have a box containing many, many letters from Karen. Lots of them feature neon envelopes, gold and silver pens and illustrations all around. I am sure in comparison my letters looked incredibly boring. I never had half as much artistic juice as she did, it was all about the words for me.
And then we hit college and University and drifted a little, I think both of us had so much going on in our lives it was inevitable but I never ever doubted it would pick back up. You just know with some people that they are always going to be around, it doesn't matter how great the space or the time, when you reconnect it is like you spoke yesterday. These are the keepers, the ones you should treasure. Lifetime, rather than reason or season friends.
Emails had of course taken over from the humble bic biro by the time we were back in touch but Karen and I were both happy, I was with my now husband and Karen had bought a house and was also in a long term relationship. All was well with our worlds.
2006 proved to be an annus horribilis for both of us. For various reasons we both went through hell. I remember reading an email from Karen at the time and going and standing in the toilets at work and really bawling. How could life be this unfair? I responded by sending chocolate, a massive slab of it, through the post to Karen's parents address as I knew it would reach her there. To be fair, in any given situation, chocolate is usually a pretty good plaster.
Both of us got through our woes. In fact I would go so far as to say both of us NEEDED to go through them in order to get to where we are today. Karen would not be married to her amazing husband Martin if it had never happened, I would not be so happy in my life with Stu.
The last few years we have properly put dedicated time back into seeing each other, we speak regularly on text and email and it remains one of those friendships that you absolutely never have to question. This is me and Karen at her parents a couple of years ago:
I felt so proud of Karen as she got married last week and very honoured to be a part of her special day. I wonder how many people who start off as penpals at age 10 get to share in someones life as much as this, we are lucky.
The reason I titled this post 'A Tale of Two Weddings' was that another wedding was also in the news last week and I found the contrast both hilarious and fascinating. The alternative nuptials were those of Petra Ecclestone and some bloke which cost, depending on who you believe, anywhere between £3-5million.
Frankly I feel slightly sick at the thought of any wedding costing that much. I wonder how many schools that could have built in third world countries, how many people in the UK currently not allowed expensive cancer treatments could have been saved or had their lives prolonged? It just feels wrong to me.
I do wonder whether people genuinely believe that the more money they can throw at something the better it is? I would say that Karen and Martin's wedding last week absolutely destroyed that notion.
In contrast to the lavish Italian castle, Vera Wang gown, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Black Eyed Peas (!?) organised by a plethora of wedding planners, Karen organised her entire wedding herself and also handmade 95% of the decorations, wedding stationary and table settings. In fact the only things in the wedding breakfast room NOT made by her which I could identify on the day were the cakes (which were made by her best friend Jodie) and the Welsh Cake favours (which were made by me). Oh and the bunting. But we shall forgive her for that.
These are the place names she handmade:
Around the room were heart shapes woven from wood, the wedding stationary was all intricately matched with vintage string and luggage tag themes, every little detail had been meticulously thought about, planned and executed. I would expect no less from Karen, I know what she's capable of and it shone right through on her special day. The day was SO Karen and Martin - relaxed, friendly and fun.
I do wonder whether the new Mrs Stunt (personally I would stay Ecclestone rather than take that name) put even a fraction of the effort and consideration into her day as the new Mrs Stutely did. Why would she when she has spent her life surrounded by minions?
What I felt was most heart warming about Karen and Martin's day was something which I absolutely guarantee was missing from Petra and James'. It was the fact that this was a real coming together of people who genuinely loved the bride and groom, nearly every table in the wedding breakfast had somebody on it who had contributed to the day in some way, it really felt like a team effort sending this couple on their way into married life and every single person in the room was there for a very good reason.
Money does not make a good wedding, the people do.
Anyway Karen, you know how much I love you because I put it in the poem I read at your wedding, thank you for letting us be part of that special day.