Thursday, 27 March 2008

Where to Wed?

I have to say immediately that both of our families have been amazing about the sort-of "surprise" decision, and the short timespan, the location, everything. A huge thank you to Dani's parents and my mom and Aunt especially.

Where to wed?
In my first post, I explained how it was easier for us, legally, to get married in the US. You see, while I need a and permission to marry, which costs money and takes a lot of time (I believe up to 14 weeks, and my visa runs out before that), Dani does not need a visa to enter the US to marry me because he does not intend to stay in the US. (Note that he would need a visa if he did plan to stay. We are going to live in London.

So our plans to quietly and quickly elope in England were shot down. Originally we'd thought to marry but not tell anyone, and then when/if we ever were ready to have a wedding we'd just say "hey we're engaged," etc. Yes, that would have been lying. Some people might think that's wrong. Well, we didn't do it anyway, so no worries.

Then our thoughts turned to a wedding in the States. No way were we going to go to Vegas! Ick. Then my conscience kicked in and I began to think of my mom, and how she'd really like to be there...so much for eloping! After the conscience kicked in, the sentimentality kicked in, and I realized I did in fact want to have a (small, small, small) wedding at my grandparent's house, my second home, where my grandmother has her wedding photos, my mom was first married, and both my aunts had their wedding receptions (I believe one was married right there, too). We've got seven acres of gorgeous lawns, gardens, and the "rose arbor," a goregous white-painted wood trellis under which everyone gets married. My gran used to run the house as a B&B and we've had other weddings there too. Very close family friends had a lovely wedding there last summer, for example.

So! After a very sweet conversation with my grandparents, it was decided. Nothing made me happier than telling my Gramps over the phone:

"Dani and I are getting married!"
"Oh? Where?" he asked.
"Your place, if that's ok!" I said loudly into the phone (he's a bit hard of hearing.)
A deep and hearty laugh echoed back through the receiver.
"Well, you'll have to bring him over here!" Gramps barked, "so I can meet him!"
I smiled quietly on my end of the Atlantic.
"You've already met him, Gramps...but you'll get to meet him again soon."

It is inevitable that my side will outnumber Dani's, as most of "his side" is in the UK, Bulgaria, or Australia. But his best friend & girlfriend will be there, and they are fantastic. I'm so glad. Also, Dani's parents, sister, and grandmother, his closest family members, will all be there.
His parents have met my mom & aunt & uncle, but I'm glad all the family members will get to meet.

We are lucky to have the perfect location in the family; as far as I've read, the location can be the biggest hassle, or fuss or whatever. That's the thing: Dani and I are aiming for a low-key, low-fuss wedding. Small. We've invited about 60 people but are anticipating about 35 guests, due to short-notice, other commitments, and long-distance.

We won't have a bridal party. My little adorable neice, who is a little over 2 years old, will be the "flower girl," and my best friend will hold the rings. We're having a non-religious ceremony, and we'll be outside under the rose arbor (unless, of course, it rains! In which case we'll be inside.)

So plans are in motion...I think I'll hit the US turf running: I have plans to go cake-tasting, menu-viewing, caterer-selecting, visa-figuring-out, license-renewing, and maybe, maybe some time on the beach!

Wedding Plans

So, Dani and I decided to get married! There was a sweet romantic part of it, too, not all immigration worries.

To start from the beginning...In the fall of my junior year, I was studying abroad at the University of Reading (Dani was in his final year there). The first time I met Dani he espoused the wonders of the Reading University Mountaineering Club. He highly recommended it and convinced myself and a few of my housemates to join.

When Dani and I started dating a few months later, we "officially" decided to start dating when we were on a Mountaineering Club (RUMC) trip. We had lots of time on the mini-bus ride to talk, and so it was decided.

Well, I think it's very cute that the weekend after I got back from Prague (and the week of research,) we went on an RUMC trip to Wales. And it really was on the mini-bus ride up that we decided to get married. :) But for the romantics out there, Dani did ask "the question," and my reply was "you aren't asking me on a minibus! Wait until we're on a mountain or something!" So two days later, on the Sunday, on the top of an incredible hillside at an abandoned slate mine in Wales, he asked me again. No kneeling; it isn't our style. But it was very sweet and you could say it was the beginning of our official engagement.

I think anyone looks for themes or meaning in life, but as a writer I'm especially happy to note that theme in our relationship. Hats off to the Mountaineering Club!

An almost-expat Rant

These past seven months Dani and I have been living together, comfortable as an old married couple. Except we weren't fussed about the marriage part. So, it was tra-la-la until I took a(n excellent) trip to Prague in mid-February.
Whereupon I almost wasn't allowed back into the UK. I blame this on the idiot-overly-make-uped-trainee at customs who didn't have a clue as to what she was doing. But to be fair, my status as a "visitor" didn't entirely mesh with "living with my boyfriend." At this point I already had a ticket home in April for a visit, so I managed to winkle my way into the country on the promise/threat that I had to leave when I said I would. Which I will be doing on April 1st. However, I was also required to have a visa upon my return. Fair enough.

After a lot of research, as I'd anticipated, my only visa option turned out to be the spouse visa. Lucky me I have a fantastic boyfriend with whom I want to spend my life. Let this be a warning to any happy-go-lucky Anglophiles: figuring out how to legally stay in the UK sucks. The system sucks. The Embassy, Immigration Department, Nationality Office, all of these places that seem to have useful names? They are worthless. Get ready to spend hours on hold listening to unhelpful phone messages, whereupon the phone is actually set to hang up on you so you can't even wait on hold for a line to open if you want to.

The number you need to call to ask questions about the Spouse Visa is 08706067766 (or that was the number at the time of posting). Call at 9am or you will never, ever get to speak to a human.
Don't waste your time with the Nationality Office if you are interested in getting a Spouse Visa. They are totally worthless.

Also, unless you have a whole lot of time to plan ahead, get married in the US to your British lad. Because in the UK, it sucks. Why? At every possible turn, you are charged ridiculous fees to get married. But not only are you charged to get married, you are charged to get a license for permission to get married. And yes, this is because you are an American. I believe it is true for Aussies (even though they should be considered more "British" than all of the EU-members who can breeze in, marry, work, whatever).

If you want to get a Fiancee Visa (which we opted to skip: you will see why in a moment) you have to apply for and get the visa before you enter the UK. The visa is good for 6 months and costs 500 quid.

If you want to get a Spouse Visa, you have to get married outside the UK, apply for, and get the visa before you enter the UK. The visa is good for 2 years and costs 500 quid.

Hmm...

If you want to get married IN the UK, I can't help you, and neither will the UK government. So good luck with that. I know it is not impossible because we have friends who have done it successfully, but it is a huge pain in the tookus and costs a heck of a lot of money. (I'm not bitter.)

So, there is the romantic story of how Dani and I decided to get married. Cynicism aside, we're very happy and excited, and I've spent the month emailing my amazing mom and aunt who are helping coordinate a wedding in not a lot of time. 3 months, in fact. Dani and I are getting married at the end of May.

Oh, and girly excitement...I'm getting my ring tonight! Pictures to follow.