As a Jewellery Designer, I get asked to make items for weddings a lot. It’s the backbone of my business really; I can always count on having at least one wedding order a month. I try not to have more than one though; it causes too much drama!
The very last time I had more than one wedding order on my books, I’d scheduled two design meetings in the same place and the brides had bumped into each other. Turned out that they were frenemies from high school and had been using my involvement in the design of the rings to one up each other.
I lost both orders and almost lost a third wedding order due to the town’s rumour mill putting me at fault when one of the feuding brides left her groom at the altar!
Anyway, back to the present.
I was having a coffee with my sketchbook and doodling around some pressed flowers that I’d stuck in as inspiration yesterday when the waitress came over.
“The lady in the book corner asked me if she could join you.” The girl said, clearing the table of my last three cups.
I looked across at the Book Corner. It’s one of my favourite places to sit in the entire shop, a nook created by four huge bookcases with a sofa, three very comfy chairs and a large coffee table in the middle of them. Usually I spend at least one afternoon a week in there, curled up with a good book and a large mug of something tasty.
From my current seat, I could see through the entrance into the nook. A young woman sat in there, the remnants of several large coffees placed around the table which was spread with a scrapbook and various magazines.
“I’ll go join her.” I said, closing my sketchbook and picking up my mechanical pencil. “Looks like she’s planning something.”
The waitress nodded. “Should I bring you another drink?”
“Yes please.” I walked across and into the Book Corner.
She looked up and smiled as I took a seat on the sofa across from her chair. The leather was slightly warm and I vaguely remembered seeing a group of women walk past me on their way out of the coffee shop. Must have been her friends and family. I scanned the table. “Planning a wedding?”
She nodded. “We’re getting married next year. I wanted to make sure that we had a completely original celebration, so we’ve decided that we wanted all the jewellery the wedding party wears to be newly designed, with the theme showing in each one.”
The waitress brought my coffee and collected all the other cups from the table. My Hostess ordered another drink and waited until the girl had left to continue.
“We decided… no… she decided that we’d have a steampunk wedding.” She waved one hand across the table and I realised that all the pictures were of Victoriana or historical in origin.
I flipped through my sketchbook. “I did a steampunk wedding about a year ago. Is this the kind of design you’re thinking of?”
She took the book from me and sighed. “I told her it wouldn’t be as original as she wanted it to be.”
“Been together long?” I took the pad back, turned to a new page and began sketching. In my mind I could see the woman in front of me wearing a particular design of pendant and I wanted to get it down fast.
“Nearly fifteen years.” The woman smiled nostalgically “We met at Uni and I proposed to her on our first anniversary.”
“I see.” The idea was rapidly taking shape on the pad under my fingers. “That’s a long time to be together. Why are you only getting married now?”
She shrugged. “I’m comfortable as we are. We’ve got a good partnership and our love didn’t die the way the last few relationships I’ve had did. So I didn’t see much point in changing it.”
I looked up at her, my pencil stopping. “Why are you changing it now? It’s not as if you need a piece of paper to confirm that you’re a couple.” I wondered if it was a question too far by the way that she sighed and began to pick up the pictures and magazines in front of her. One picture, of a cake made in the shape of an airship caught my eye and set off a new line of thought in my mind.
“Do you mind if I take a photo of that picture? It’s rather inspiring.” I pulled out my smartphone and flipped to the photo app.
“Go ahead.” She turned the picture round so that I could get a decent shot of it. “She picked it as a possible cake design, but I don’t really like it.”
“What sort of wedding did you want then?” I took several shots of the picture and various other bits and pieces she had on the table; laces and ribbons in various colours. “After all it’s your celebration as well.”
She frowned. “I didn’t really think about it. I’ve never thought about marriage. O’course I did when I was little, but it was more the Cinderella style wedding… my mum would go on about the dresses and shoes and hats for hours. When I came out, she never mentioned them again. I suppose that she assumed that I’d never get married, being a lesbian.”
I sifted through the assorted magazines and found various pictures. “So you were more interested in this sort of dress.” I showed her a picture of a blonde woman wearing a sparkling white wedding dress, strapless with a tiny waist above a huge puffy skirt.
She smiled wistfully at the picture. “Yes. That’s almost my perfect dress.”
I took a picture of it, then passed it over to her and she spent several minutes examining the dress in detail and exclaiming over the design on the bodice, made of sparkling diamante. I made a note of the details that she seemed to like on my sketch book page.
“Why don’t you make it a mix of both your wishes?” an idea occurred to me and I turned to a fresh page and rapidly sketched out a pair of female figures in dresses. “You wear your Cinderella dress with a few steampunk touches and she can wear a steampunk dress with a few Cinderella touches.”
“That’s a good thought.” She ripped the Cinderella dress out of the magazine and slipped the picture into a folder that she’d unearthed.
I showed her my sketch. “Something like this?”
The woman gasped. “That’s perfect.”
“And if I do the jewellery like this…” Turning to a fresh page, I sketched again, my hand blurring as I fought to get the ideas down on paper clearly. She rose and moved round the table to sit on the sofa beside me so she could watch.
I angled the paper so that she could see the drawing taking shape. “If I use Copper and Silver together, with a sparkling stone…”
“Yes. I can see both of us wearing that and it won’t clash with the dresses you’re suggesting.” She leaned back over the table and grabbed her phone. “Mind if I take a picture of the drawings and send it to her; the dresses as well… unless you can make them as well?”
I laughed, finished off the jewellery sketch and added a couple of notes in my private code for later use. “Carry on. I can’t make clothes, but the last time this happened, I found a seamstress who could make the outfits for the couple. I can give you her number if you want.”
“Let me see what she thinks of them first.” Snapping the drawings with her phone camera, she sent them with a quick message to her partner. “Thanks.”
I tore the page out, handed it to her and picked up my coffee. “I’m a designer. Sometimes when the image is clear in my head I can create other designs than jewellery.”
She smiled and moved back to her original seat, sliding the dress design into her folder.. I got the feeling she was uncomfortable around me, so I just sipped, putting the sketchbooks and pencil down on the couch where she’d been sitting.
After a long silence her phone bleeped and she picked it up, thumbing her way through the screens to her messages. I waited.
“She loves them and wants the name of your seamstress.” Came the answer.
I grinned, fished around in my bag for the small file that I kept other people’s business cards in and pulled out a rectangle of silver and red card with copper writing embossed on it. “Here.” I wrote a note on the back and passed it across. “You might get a bit of a discount; I can’t guarantee it, but the last couple’s bridal clothes cost a lot less than usual.”
“That would be welcome. The costs are mounting up at the moment.” She took the card.
I flipped through my file. “I can recommend a few people if you’d like; I know a photographer, a florist and a Transport expert.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Transport expert?”
“I made his wife a necklace for their sixtieth anniversary. He runs a Transport Museum and hires out some of the ; cars, buses, horse drawn carriages, hot air balloons… even a biplane. He calls himself a Transport Expert.” My fingers hovered over his card.
“I’d welcome all the help I can get.” She said.
Pulling out the relevant cards, I added a note to the back of each and handed them over. “I hope they’re helpful.”
The waitress brought her drink, a tall latte with a dash of what looked like caramel syrup in it. She thanked the girl and handed the exact money over.
“Are you going to be wanting anything else?” the waitress enquired.
I shook my head.
“I’ll have a cheese Toastie please.” The woman passed over a tenner. “Don’t bother with the change.”
The girl grinned and took the note. “I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.”
“That was nice of you.” I said.
“She’s a hard worker. An extra hours pay is worth the price for good service.” He eyes went distant.
Something told me that she was thinking about a recent argument. “I take it that your partner doesn’t see it that way?”
“Sometimes she does. She’s a bit obsessed with money at the moment… because of the wedding.”
“And it’s making you have second thoughts about getting married.” I swallowed more of my coffee. Damn, it’s getting cold.
“How’d you guess?”
I smiled. “It’s rather traditional for people to have second thoughts during the process of getting married. It’s a good thing in a way because it proves that you’re thinking about the changes that will happen.”
She looked at my hands. “Is that why you’re not married?”
I blinked and drank more coffee.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked… but it’s a bit of a rumour that I heard.” She drank from her latte, wincing as it burnt her tongue.
“I might have known that one was about. Your friends seemed rather interested in me.” I remembered the looks they’d thrown me as they walked past and the burst of laughter that had accompanied them out of the door.
“You’re the best jewellery designer in the county. Everyone wants one of your pieces.” she said.
“Thank you for the compliment. But I’m not going to talk about my past. You wanted me to design you and your partner wedding jewellery, so how many pieces did you want?”
We talked about the design and materials for a while; at least until the waitress brought the woman’s cheese toastie over. Then I wrote her contact details down.
Before she started eating, I gathered my things. “I’ll contact you once I have a model of the rings for you to try on. The casting process can only be done once we have the sizing and design perfect.”
“Okay.” She fiddled with her knife. “I don’t want to change it.”
“Beg your pardon?” I stared at her.
“Our relationship. I don’t think we need to get married. But she’s been so unhappy recently that I said yes to the wedding for next year to cheer her up.” She looked up at me. “Am I doing the right thing?”
“I’m the last person you should ask that question. My relationship failed because I couldn’t give him what he wanted.” I said, surprised by the wave of emotion that rushed over me, clogging my throat. It’s been a long time since I thought about him.
“But you’ve known a few people going through this? I just want an honest answer.”
“Well…the first question you need to ask her is why she is so unhappy that only getting married will help.” I replied, putting my sketchbook and phone into my bag. I looked her straight in the eyes. “Once you’ve talked that through properly, you’ll know if getting married is the right thing to do.
Marriage is a promise to both partners from both partners; that you’ll be there and support each other, no matter what happens to you. That you’ll do your best to communicate with each other when life throws you a googly. That you’ll live together and die together. You have to both want it.”
She sighed heavily. “You make it sound so serious. And she makes it sound like the bandage that will heal us.”
“If there is something wrong now, getting married won’t solve it. You need to fix whatever the problem is first.” I stood up. “Sometimes, the problems are unfixable. Then it comes down to how much you love each other and whether or not you can make the relationship work despite the problem.”
“I see.” She thought for a moment, her gaze wandering over her collection on the table. “Put a hold on that order please. I think we need to talk before we go any further.”
“I hope I haven’t broken anything.” I had a sudden horror that I’d destroyed their relationship.
She smiled sadly. “I think it was already broken. I just didn’t want to see it.”
I stood there, unable to say anything.
Standing, she held out one hand. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll keep your name out of the discussion. You gave good advice. It’s up to us now to see if we can follow it.”
I shook her hand and left the coffee shop as quickly as I could, without seeming in a hurry to get away.
That happened about a month ago. I completed their designs, made the ring models and put the whole order into the In Process cupboard. This morning, I got a phone call from her.
“Hi there. I thought you’d like to know that we still want that order.” She sounded so much happier than when I’d left her in the coffee shop.
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh good. I was worried that you’d broken up.”
“Worried about your commission?”
I shook my head, even though I knew she wouldn’t be able to see it. “No, I’ve been holding my breath all month, wondering if I’d ruined your relationship the way I did mine.”
She laughed. “No. Like I said last time, you gave us good advice. We talked it out and decided that getting married really was what we both wanted. When can we see the ring models?”
I flipped through the day to view calendar in front of me. “Next Tuesday? About ten ay-em?”
“Perfect. We’ll see you then.” She took my workshop’s address down and rang off.
I closed the workshop up and went for a walk in the forest. Not for the first time, I wondered if I should keep listening and talking to people like this. It’s become a habit and I’m not sure it’s a healthy one; getting involved in other people’s dramas.
I think I need to go back to my counsellor and talk to her.