Monthly Archives: February 2011

Afghanistan curbs wedding costs

I was flicking through Stylist magazine, which was given to me by our lovely Arsenal Stylist/Shortlist vendor on Wednesday I might add, while eating a slice or two of pizza this lunchtime, and came across an interesting piece in the Elsewhere section on page 10.

Entitled ‘Budget Bride’ it tells of how weddings in Afghanistan have become over-the-top, resulting in many young men going into huge debt, postponing getting married, or even deciding to “stay single forever”.  This deserved a closer look.

Get out the laptop, open google, type Afghanistan wedding curb, hit search, et voila, 21 and a half million hits in 0.28 seconds later up comes a full-blown article from the Telegraph (Lucia at work would be super proud of my speediness to get this information – she doesn’t understand how I can get an answer to a question before she’s even opened her browser). Here are the main points:

  • Unemployment across Afghanistan is very high
  • The average annual income is little more than a few hundred pounds
  • It is commonplace for an average wedding to cost £6,500
  • Many wedding guest lists include 600 guests
  • Well-off families may spend five times the average amount
  • Glass and neon wedding halls entertaining up to 1,500 guests with food and dancing have popped up in recent years (- a great step after years of aggressively oppressive rule under the Taliban)
  • Set lunch menus at the biggest halls currently typically begin at around £8 per head, not including cake, music or decoration

The Afghan government is now looking to ban the tradition of the groom paying the bride’s family a dowry and will limit weddings to 300 guests. The limit on catering would be set at £2.80 per head. This is all in a bid to  protect family life, stop the increase of sex before marriage and reduce the use of prostitutes.

Farid Ahmad Najibi, spokesman for the justice ministry, said:

“We are doing this because it is a big problem for young men and we must protect the family. Unfortunately in Afghan society when one of your relatives has a big wedding with lots of guests, you must have a bigger wedding or it is deeply shameful.”

So, I ask Messers Cameron and Clegg to think about whether we can bring in something similar here please. Ok, I know the situation isn’t quite as drastic as that of Afghanistan. If the average wedding costs £6,500 that’s nearly 22 times the average annual salary of $300.  I guess we’d have a long way to go to go for weddings in the UK to average $490,000 (the average UK salary in 2010 was £23,244). But let’s try and bring down the average UK wedding cost from £21k – nearly a year’s salary, which, in this economic climate and with the cost of housing and living, is a hell of a lot of money. And while we’re at it lets find a way to not make it out of the ordinary and bloody difficult to keep it small, simple and cheap. Let’s encourage against people trying to have a big do, wasting thousands and thousands of pounds on one ‘big day’ and let’s try and make it normal to put that money into your future together. Let’s focus on what the wedding should be about – the union.


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Deciding on the guest list

Well, I think we all know there’s a big day looming on the wedding front. Nope, Jeffrey and I haven’t yet set the date – though we are getting a little closer and think we know what we’re doing. But what we do know the date of is the Royal wedding. That of Wills and Kate or, if one wants to be proper, HRH Prince William of Wales, K.G. and Miss Catherine Middleton. Friday 29 April 2011. And everyone in the UK knows this as we get blessed with an extra Bank Holiday.

Yesterday the guest list for said big day was revealed when the Queen sent out the formal invitations – a white card gilded with gold in a pale brown envelope with the Queen’s initials die-stamped in gold below a crown.

I seem to remember, when the engagement was announced back in November 2010, a spokesman for the Royal wedding saying that Wills and Kate would be “mindful of the economic situation” and plan an ‘austerity wedding’.

aus·ter·i·ty (ô-str-t)

1. The quality of being austere.
2. Severe and rigid economy: wartime austerity.
3. An austere habit or practice.

aus·tere (ô-stîr) adj.

1. Severe or stern in disposition or appearance; somber and grave: the austere figure of a Puritan minister.
2. Strict or severe in discipline; ascetic: a desert nomad’s austere life.
3. Having no adornment or ornamentation; bare: an austere style.

This leads me to conclude that “austerity wedding” denotes – a somber wedding with no ornamentation

Now, Jeffrey and I are planning an ‘austerity wedding’. Something with little fuss and personal homemade touches that don’t cost the earth. This also means a guest list of 50-60 at a push. However, it seems for the Royals this won’t suffice for an ‘austeriry wedding’. Not even 10 times this number is too much. Try 30 times plus some, then a sprinkling more, and a cherry on top.

Yep, the Queen has invited 1,900 people to the Royal Wedding. Ok, so apparently that’s just for the ceremony. But my guess is no blushing bride to be really wants to walk down an aisle with 1,850 people she doesn’t really want there watching her. Even if she does know full well she’s marrying the second in line to the throne. Of these nigh on 2000, 600 people have been invited to a lunchtime reception at Buckingham Palace, with 300 staying on for the ‘evening do’.

Some of the lucky lot cited to have been invited by Her Maj include:

  • David and Victoria Beckham – apparently on account of Wills and David working together on the England 2018 bid
  • Ben and Marina Fogle – “personal friends of the Prince and Miss Middleton”
  • Elton John (and I presume David Furnish and Zachary too)
  • Joanna Lumley (who doesn’t like Kate’s style)
  • Kanyeezy (really?) – one of the Prince’s ‘crazy dope’ favourite recording artists
  • The King of Bahrain – not a good idea, surely Ma’am?
  • The Kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan
  • The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
  • The Sultan of Oman and the Sultan of Brunei
  • 1,000 friends and family of the couple – 1,000 friends and family? Is that even possible?
  • 200 members of the Government, Parliament and diplomatic corps – poor Ed Miliband is apparently only invited to the ceremony, whereas lucky ol’ SamCam get to attend 2/3 of the day. I guess that’s what you get for being top dog of the Government and not the opposition
  • 80 representatives of Wills’ charities

Some guest list, no?

Based on this, we’re changing course. The guest list for the marriage of Jeffers Kojo to Sophie Anne Kingo will herein consist of:

  • The woman from procurement at Cheshire West and Chester Council who I worked with on a work project from September to December 2010
  • Nyron Nosworthy, Defender for Sheffield Utd, and any WAG he has on the go –  (ok, albeit ex) “personal friend” of Jeffers Kojo
  • Some bloke who I don’t know but who probably sang at my Mum and Dad’s wedding – with his partner and adopted son
  • A woman who doesn’t like my style
  • Kanyeezy – one of Jeffers Kojo’s favourite recording artists
  • Colonel Gadaffi – dictator and thug, standing up against and killing his people who just want democracy. (The King of Bahrain being invited to Wills and Kate’s wedding makes me believe this type of guest is essential)
  • A variety of Queens – I feel women are playing a somewhat minor role in Wills and Kate’s guest list. I’d start with Dronning Margrethe of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of Holland, and Queen Sofia of Spain
  • The Crown Princesses Mary, Letizia and Victoria of Denmark, Spain and Sweden respectively
  • the Sultan from Aladdin
  • 1,000 members of our family (this includes cousins 10 times removed, second husbands/wives, and crazy old aunts we forgot were still around), and friends (including random acquaintances we both saw last five years ago)
  • 200 members of local and national government (hey, I’ve worked with a fair few)
  • 80 representatives from charities I’ve donated to in the past – Comic Relief; some random Pakistani/disabled/blind (delete as appropriate) children’s charities I’ve given money to in Bethnal Green underground station these past two and a half years; Children in Need; St John’s Ambulance; DEC; and so on.

And I think that might suffice. It looks like our “austerity wedding” may have just gone out of the window. But hey ho, I do get to say my vows in front of 1,850 people I’m not really fussed about being there I guess. A small trade off perhaps for marrying an Ashanti Prince…

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Guest blog – choosing ‘the one’

Jeffrey and I were in my home county of East Yorkshire over the weekend and ventured to the small seaside town of Hornsea with our friends Hannah and Martin on Saturday for fish and chips and some good old fresh North Sea air.

After munching on some lovely fish and chips and having a stroll on the beach we drove to the very bizarre Hornsea Freeport – “the UK’s first designer outlet” – for a wander. Whilst there, we thought it might be fun to look in the Wedding Collection where Jeffrey and Martin took it upon themselves to hunt out the perfect dresses for me and Hannah. They found this tough, and so did we. There was nothing that appealed to us and we came to the conclusion finding a wedding dress must be hard work. 

With a vast array of wedding dresses available, how does a bride-to-be choose ‘the one’ – if there is such a thing? That’s the very question one bride struggled to overcome. The result? She bought 20 dresses and wore nine of them on her big day. Bride-to-be and friend of mine Kirsty Anderson discusses wedding dress shopping in the first of (hopefully) a series of guest blogs from friends tying the knot.

I think the act of choosing a wedding dress is symbolic of how many women approach their whole wedding. As with this article, there are some women who get just a touch carried away and the day becomes more about what you’re wearing and less about celebrating your love. On the other hand there are others, such as a woman I work with, who is keeping her wedding small and intimate and her mum is making her dress (albeit she’s a fashion designer!)

My hunt for a dress began with a very moral assurance that I wanted to get it from the Oxfam wedding shop – I’ve never been one for caring too much about my clothes and the thought of a designer dress, bought at a quarter of the price with the money going to a good cause was tempting. However, laziness got in the way and with no Oxfam wedding shop in easy travelling distance and nothing on their website that grabbed my attention, that plan was abandoned. But I still wanted my dress to be bought from somewhere that meant something to me. After visiting a few shops in London and not having found ‘the one’ I went up to Derbyshire (where I grew up and where I’m getting married) and found a lovely little shop that swept me away. I’m a bit cynical about sales people, and try to resist their tactics – but this shop is so delightful and made me feel like the only person in the world getting married that I was sold hook, line and sinker! With my mum and sister there for advice, I spent about 2 hours trying on a host of dresses and fell into the old cliché that when I tried on my dress, I just knew it was the one.

I’m not entirely sure what this says about my wedding. Possibly that it is important there is meaning to the day, not to spend too long fretting about what you wear or the colour of the napkins, because you’ll still have a great day, but also to enjoy some of the girl-hood fantasies of a wedding and dressing up like a princess! 

Image – Oxfam Bridal

Oxfam has eleven bridal departments across the UK, all of which offer a warm welcome, specialist advice and a wide selection of bridal wear and accessories. Many dresses are donated by designers, so you can buy the wedding dress of your dreams for much less that you would expect. A smaller range is also available online.

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Quick Hull Ceremony Rant

It may come as no surprise to some of you that we’re not really getting anywhere on the wedding front. This has undoubtedly led to me really hating this period of my life that I’m supposed to be enjoying. Right at this moment, I’m finding the idea of planning a whole wedding a complete turn off, wondering how we can get married with as little fuss and pain as possible. This had led Jeff and me to have a complete rethink about our wedding day, with lots of different options arsing – both favourable and otherwise.

At the weekend, when in Denmark with my parents and sister, the option of having the wedding in Hull/East Yorkshire arose. This started off some serious thought about how that would work, and led to me getting carried away with other minor wedding/honeymoon details. Today and yesterday were the days to look into this option a little further – more specifically where we could hold the civil ceremony.

So, I made a phone call to Walkergate House, Beverley to see what our options are on that front. It turns out it’s much cheaper than the beautiful Islington Town Hall, but that both ceremony rooms hold only 40 people. This is a somewhat lower number than the 55 we were hoping for and which consequently we think is the minimum we can get away with. So I’ve started looking at other alternatives. This is not proving easy. In my search I’ve discovered three Hull city centre options. So how do these options fare?

  • Hull Guildhall – looks lovely (external picture below) and could be a goer. Only they didn’t share the cost with me over the phone so I eagerly await their wedding brochure to find out whether this is over our budget.
  • Hull City Hall – doesn’t cater for the ceremony only on a Saturday. But at £180 for a Friday afternoon this could suit.
  • Hull Registry Office – as far as I’m aware this place is not up our street.

But what have I learnt from this? If you want to get married somewhere nice in and around the West Hull villages/ Hull city centre you need to want to get married in a church or a hotel. And from earlier posts you’ll know that neither of these are up our street.   

The search continues…

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Why all the engagements?

Well, it seems 2010 was the year of the proposals (or as Jeffrey calls it “men joining the one knee club”) for many people in my and Jeffrey’s peer group. But I’ve been wondering what is making so many people want to get married recently. As far as I can work out, all of these people have been together anywhere between one and a half years and six years and range from age 24 to early 30s (I think).

If we look at a few external factors I imagine there are a fair few reasons people could come up with not to get married:

  • somewhere in the region of 58% of all marriages in England and Wales end in divorce
  • in 2008 there were 11.5 divorcing people per thousand married
  • weddings are expensive. In 2010 the average cost of a wedding was £21,000 (yes, you read that right – twenty one thousand British pounds)
  • there’s a recession on, unemployment is high, living is getting more expensive – with VAT now 20% and the CPI up to 3.7% the vast majority of us have taken a real term decrease in wages. All in all, life seems that little bit less stable
  • living together or having children out of wedlock is no longer frowned upon like it used to be. One example of this is from when Jeffrey told his friend Peter that he had some “big news”, asking Peter to guess what this might be. Peter’s first answer – “Sophie’s pregnant”
  • the popular belief that “we don’t need a ring and a piece of paper to prove how much we love and care about each other”

But maybe these factors are having the reverse effect:

  • the number of divorces decreased from 14 per thousand in 2004 to 11.5 in 2008 – are divorces getting more expensive? Or are people more sure when they do get married? or maybe this is affected by the fact that…
  • people are waiting longer and are older when they get married – in 2008 the mean age for never-married men and women getting married was 32.1 and 29.9 years respectively. An increase of about 3 years for men and women since 1998. Can you be more sure about where you are heading, and how you feel about someone having lived life a bit longer?
  • more often people are opting for smaller, lower key weddings which don’t cost the earth, breaking with the UK tradition of massive weddings for which you must save for years or rely on your parents to fund – e.g. me and Jeffrey – see other examples and tips for cheap nuptials here
  • in times of unease and uncertainty people look to those they love for support and stability (I’m speculating). Could getting married be seen as cementing your relationship and increasing your sense of stability?
  • times are hard meaning you need to save money wherever you can. Could people actually be responding to Cameron’s ridiculous reintroduction of the Married Couple’s Allowance? *

I would be very happy to hear why you are getting married, got married, or would like to get married in the future. Similarly, for those of you not interested in ever tieing the knot – why not?

But, to finish, here’s a little run down of all of our friends/colleagues tieing the knot either this year or next. Congratulations to you all. And I’m calling on some of you to share your experiences with the world via Sophie Kingo’s Getting Married:


  • Kirsty and Mark (London)
  • Kirsty and Steve (Hull)
  • Vikki and Simon (Hull)
  • Ben and Karen (London)
  • Nicola and Tim (Bishop’s Stortford)
  • Lizzi and Dave (Hull)
  • Rob and Nicola (London)


  • Jenni and her lucky fella (London) – follow her path to the marriage via Just Two Brides
  • Bethia and her man (London) – this coming Saturday!
  • Lucy and her fiance (London)

*note – I doubt it

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