It was easier to tell the story of our Turkey wedding as it all just unfolded and I wasn’t responsible for any of it – I just had to turn up with a dress and a smile.
For the Belfast wedding I was much more involved! Honestly think I could be a wedding planner now after a 4 month crash course I completed on the way to 30 September 2017.
The first item on the plan was to decide the dress. As one wedding dress shop assistant said – ‘the dress is the most important decision’! No pressure there then! I only went to a few places as I just didn’t have a lot of time. Running my own business and most teaching evenings and weekends means that the times I was available to go try on dresses my friends and family were working and it’s really not much fun wedding dress shopping by yourself… I tried it and wouldn’t recommend as it’s such a big decision you really do need another set of eyes.
Plus time was off the essence most dresses need to be ordered in and take around three months to arrive… I needed the dress by the middle of August to ensure I could take it to Turkey with me. Clearly I should have thought of this when I got engaged at the start of April but it was May before I started looking. My good friend Helen works on the Lisburn Road so she suggested we met at Blush Boutique one lunchtime. I tried on about 8 dresses including the one I eventually chose. We narrowed it down to two: both Spanish lace by Barcelona based dress company La Sposa. My mum and dad were in Australia at the time but when they got back I said come and see the dresses. I tried on Raven and they said – that’s it, that’s the one. I also knew that the style of wedding dress in Turkey was for ‘big’ princess like dresses so I said ok I’ll take it! Phew! Big decision one done.
As a side note Muhuthin, my husband wore the same suit he wore to the Turkish wedding. He bought the suit in Turkey a few days before our wedding there. He also got his lovely shiny black shoes, his white shirt, his cufflinks and the light blue and gold tie in the same place. But for the Belfast wedding we decided he needed a new tie – to make the photos different! I wore a red belt (as is tradition) at the Turkey wedding so my dress would also be ‘different’. The day before – yes the actual day before the wedding (he was working too much) we went to House of Frazer in Victoria Square and bought his new dark blue and coloured tie he wore in Belfast. Later that day he ended up very sick in bed with a migraine headache (he never had one before in his life!) I had to go to the wedding rehearsal without him! Luckily he felt much better the next day…. there had to be a bit of drama right?! Actually he says he was still sick on the wedding day but no one believes him as he was killing it on the dance floor later that night – it may have been something to do with the ‘medicinal’ whiskey several friends were plying him with! He had been suffering with a sore throat in the lead up to the wedding too but it was all alright on the day, thankfully 🙂
The next decision was the venue. We wanted to keep it as simple and as easy as possible. We already going to be married in Turkey and we had plans to buy a house. But it’s still important to check out as many venues as possible as you don’t really know till you go and see them… and this was the fun part. My friend Clare came with me to quite a few of the venues and at each place when we said ‘I’m thinking of having my wedding here’ we were treated royally! We really enjoyed getting free tea and coffee – easily pleased obviously!
When I was really serious about a venue I brought mum and dad for the 2nd visit. I went to four places with them – the most impressive place was the Merchant Hotel. What luxury, what opulence, what service! They took us around the hotel on a tour talking about all the possibilities of what we could have, they served us tea and coffee from silver tea pots and brought over a cake saying – congratulations! Mum and dad were so impressed. ‘This is it’ they said. And I loved it too… but realistically it just didn’t suit us. I thought about it and I said no – it’s too expensive. I couldn’t justify the money and it really would be against my whole idea of keeping it simple and easy. The most important thing to me was to have my friends there and for everyone to have a good time. As much as I loved the Merchant as a venue I don’t think I would have been able to have such a good time knowing I’d bankrupted mum and dad for the pleasure!
We choose Ten Square Hotel, also in Belfast City Centre it is has recently been refurbished and extended and is just beautiful and tastefully done. When I say ‘we’ I mean me as Muhutin, my husband let me make all the decision to with wedding. Basically he just didn’t mind, from talking to friends this seems to be the norm. Men just don’t seem to have the same interests in wedding details, they’re happy to turn up and enjoy themselves but don’t ask them to help you make the tiny details decision – though I did of course keep him up to date and even got him to come down and look around the place. He was just going along with whatever I decided!
Matt our Ten Square Events Planner was super helpful making it so we could have things exactly as we wanted. On balance I have to say it couldn’t have been better. The food was fantastic, the service excellent and everyone had a ball and to be honest our room on the wedding night (which was included in the package) was nicer than the room I stayed at in the Merchant a few years ago!
We had 67 guests for dinner– despite trying to keep it to 60 the numbers just crept up – I believe this is another common phenomena of small weddings! Another 40 or so came down in the evening. Everyone was of the same vibe to have fun enjoy themselves – exactly what we wanted J
The Celebrant and ceremony
Another big decision was who was going to marry us. I didn’t want to get married in a church as I’m not religious and it wouldn’t have a special meaning for me. Plus my husband is a Turkish Muslim and since 2005 I have been a Buddhist when I took the ‘Five Mindfulness Trainings’ or precepts from Plum Village. In 2012 I went even further and ordained as a member of Thich Nhat Hanh’s lay ‘Order of Interbeing’ (OI). The Plum Village tradition has had a huge impact and influence on my life so when I was getting married I wanted to honour that tradition in some way. These are two of the 14 Mindfulness trainings which I took on when I become an ‘OI’ say:
The Second Mindfulness Training: Non-Attachment to Views
Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing nonattachment from views and being open to other’s insights and experiences in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.
The Third Mindfulness Training: Freedom of Thought
Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our view on others, we are determined not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever – such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination – to adopt our views. We are committed to respecting the rights of others to be different, to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, learn to help others let go of and transform narrowness through loving speech and compassionate dialogue.
So although you could call me a Buddhist you can see that my trainings say not to be attached to ‘buddhism’ as a label or as something I say I am. I wouldn’t want my practice to make anyone especially my family and friends feel uncomfortable but I still wanted to something different for my wedding ceremony. You can read all 14 Trainings here.
At home I have a book by Thich Nhat Hanh ‘Chanting from the heart – ceremonies, practices, verses and daily practices from Plum Village’ .
It has everything you need if you run a sangha or are interested in these practices including the wedding ceremony. In all my years of frequenting Plum Village and it’s sister dharma centres around the world I’ve never actually attended a wedding ceremony. I believe it’s a very rare occurrence. I asked some of my monastics friends if they could come to the wedding – I was hoping they would be able to do the ceremon but it seems because of their vows they are unable to attend wedding ceremony unless it is someone from their own family.
I then thought of my wider OI family and wondered if anyone would be able to do it for us, my beautiful friend Rose from England is member of the OI and she came to our wedding but she felt too shy to lead it for us. There are some OI people in Ireland but I am the only one in Northern Ireland. I really wasn’t sure what to do when my lovely friend Teresa told me about the Reverent Marie Claire Contino. Claire is the only Interfaith Minister in Northern Ireland meaning she is registered and able to conduct legal ceremonies. She married both of Teresa’s daughters. I couldn’t believe my luck when it turned out she was available on the 30 September.
We went to meet Claire and she was just lovely, warm, welcoming and understanding about what we (or mainly me!) wanted. Muhutin was happy with whatever I wanted but I did consult with him at every stage and change a few things because there were some things I suggested he definitely didn’t feel comfortable with. But as I stated earlier one of my practices is non-attachment to views so I let it go…
Claire explained during the ceremony she would be wearing a unique sash that had symbols from all the worlds religions on it and what’s wonderful about Interfaith ceremonies is that there are no restrictions over the content. You have complete freedom of choice to create your own unique wedding ceremony, using words that are most meaningful for you. With a Civil or Humanist ceremony, you cannot use any words or elements that could be defined as religious or spiritual. When she is Claire was everything I didn’t know I was looking for.
Though it was wonderful to have such freedom it also meant a bit of work as I had to develop the service! Luckily Claire could help with this as she sent me though lots of different options for readings and vows and even the structure etc. It was Claire who suggested to us the sand ceremony we included. This was where each of us got some sand from our respective countries and poured it into a container to symbolise the union of two countries in our marriage. The Turkey sand came from Altinkum beach and the Northern Ireland sand from Portstewart strand. It was a really nice thing to do. We also had a candle lighting ceremony which was also beautiful and meaningful.
I think the personal nature of our ceremony and the fact that we created it ourselves made it more meaningful to us as a couple and to many of our friends. It had all the regular elements like readings too and here they are:
First Reading by Aislinn Loughran
~ First a meditation from Plum Village
Breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I hear the sound of the birds.
Breathing out, I smile.
Breathing in, I am aware of tension in my body.
Breathing out, I release my tension.
Breathing in, I am aware of the preciousness of this day.
Breathing out, I vow to live deeply in this day.
Shining the Light – by Thich Nhat Hanh
When we love someone, we should look deeply into the nature of that love. If we want to be with someone so that we can feel safe, that’s understandable, but it’s not true love. True love doesn’t foster suffering or attachment. On the contrary, it brings wellbeing to ourselves and to others. For true love to be there, you need to feel complete in yourself, not needing something from outside. True love is like the sun, shining with its own light, and offering that light to everyone.
Second Reading – Zeki Kaya
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.
~ ~ ~
The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
How blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
I had to have meditation from Plum Village and who better to deliver than a beautiful 12 year old mindfulness practioner Aislinn. I also wanted some words from Thich Nhat Hanh and I wanted something kind of Turkish. The best I could come up with was Rumi who spend most of his adult life living in Konya Turkey. The Rumi was read by Zeki who dad is Turkish and Muhutin’s cousin. Both young people were fantastic and read beautifully.
Clare was wonderful and held everything together in a gentle, respectful and authoritative manor.
I don’t think our ceremony was wildly different than other ceremonies but the bit that was different from ‘normal’ ceremonies but I’m sure it is the first time anyone in a Northern Ireland wedding ceremony has ever included the Plum Village wedding ceremony as part of their service! This includes bowing in gratitude to our parents, teachers, friends and all beings. Then we bowed and promised to practice the Five Awareness on each full moon night – here they are:
The Five Awarenesses ~ from the Plum Village tradition
The First Awareness
We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us.
The Second Awareness
We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children and their children have of us.
The Third Awareness
We are aware that our joy, peace, freedom and harmony are the joy, peace, freedom and harmony of our ancestors, our children and their children
The Fourth Awareness
We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love.
The Fifth Awareness
We are aware that blaming and arguing can never help us and only create a wider gap between us; that only understanding, trust and love can help us change and grow.
It was really beautiful and many people told me it was also very moving. I was afraid some people might think it was weird but actually it seems everyone loved it!
We also printed our prayers in our wedding booklet as follows:
Thoughts and Prayers
May we all be peaceful, happy, light in body and spirit.
May we all be safe and free from injury
May we all be free from anger fear and anxiety.
May we learn to look at ourselves with the eyes of understanding and love.
May we be able to recognise and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in ourselves.
May we learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in ourselves.
May we know how to nourish the seeds of joy in ourselves every day.
May we be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May we be free from attachment and aversion but not be indifferent.
May your house be a place of happiness for all who enter it, a place for growing, and a place for laughter. And when shadows and darkness fall within its rooms, may it still be a place of hope and strength for all who may enter. May no person be alien to your compassion. May your family be the family of all humankind. And may you be blessed with a lifetime of joy.
The theme and colour scheme!
So I’ve got the dress, the date, the venue the celebrant (not forgetting the groom) what else do you need at wedding? Guests of course!
Muhutin and I went to Plum Village a week after we got engaged. We went via Bordeaux which is 100 miles from the mindfulness practice centre. While spending a few days in this romantic and beautiful city we ended up buying my enjoyment ring in lovely little boutique jewellery shop. I also found myself in a cute little stationary shop with gorgeous, different and French cards.
I love cards so I bought some including a postcard of a bride and groom. It looked Turkish to me though of course it was French. Knowing that 5 months is not much time to give your guests enough time to attend your wedding I thought I have to get the invitations out quickly. Having worked on magazines and Internal communications for years in the past I have some skills with images. So I took a photo of the beautiful blue and gold postcard with the cartoon bride and groom and added some text and colour to create the invitations. I then just texted or emailed it to people I didn’t print a single invite (money saving tip!). Check out the Immeasurable Minds Instagram account for some images of it.
Normally you will get your colour scheme from your bridesmaids but as I wasn’t having any bridesmaids mine came from the French postcard! As my sister Jenny and niece and nephew Daisy and Ollie weren’t able to attend the wedding it didn’t feel right for me to ask friends to be bridesmaids – plus who could I ask from all my lovely friends?! I was a the maid of honour bridesmaid at Jenny’s wedding and I knew she was very sad she nor her kids who would have been flower girl and page boy couldn’t be there for my weddings. Jenny lives in Australia now and it would have cost her over $6000 to come back home after just being home last December plus the kids would have had to miss several weeks of school. No bridesmaids suited my idea of a simple wedding and I decided the blue and gold invitation would be the colour scheme inspiration.
My lovely and creative friend Helen works in an advertising agency and she volunteered to print the place names, menus, table plan and Order of Service booklet cover for me. They were printed on beautiful blue slightly sparkly card and were just so beautiful. Thanks a million Helen. The actual order of service booklet I got printed by my usual printer Mark at CopyWorld, Newtownabbey who always takes time to care about any job he does. He stapled the paper into the covers Helen got for me making them proper little booklets guests could take away. These little stationary pieces are exactly the kind of things that you might not thing about but they can really add to over all look and feel of your day. The other thing I didn’t initially think about was ‘dressing the room’. Wow even beautiful hotel rooms need to be dressed.
At first I was trying to ‘keep it simple’ but in the end I went for beautiful chair covers from ‘over the moon’. Bernie who runs the company is very helpful and we decided on periwinkle bows for the chairs and as they it ‘lifted’ the room. I also went a little crazy on Pandahall and Amazon and ordered lots of sparkly stuff for the tables and wedding favours. At this point I had been sucked into the wedding madness… I got little gold boxes with bows on to fill with the Turkish delight I’d brought back from Turkey – luckily my fabulous friends Donna, Clare and Katrin who had arrived from Estonia for the wedding helped to package them! I also got little laser cut hearts saying Mr & Mrs Kaya 30.09.17. I bought a 100 ‘evil eyes’ to add to the blue and Turkish theme and along with my wonderful girlfriends we cut blue ribbon and threaded it to make lovely little take away for the guests. Then it was blue and gold petals and little blue and gold crystal hearts to throw around the tables… and on top of that my brother also made me blue and gold wooden table numbers! I was really grateful to Clare and Katrin for decorating the tables – they did look really special.
And postcard continued to inspire. When I was a kid looking though my mum and dad’s wedding album I formed a memory of the one of them cutting the cake so I decided it was important to have a nice cake. ‘Cakes by James’ were recommended by Ten Square. Mum, dad and I went for tasting and thoroughly enjoyed it! Delicious. James asked me my theme and I showed him the invite. He said send it to me and I’ll see what I can do. In the end he created THE most beautiful and special cake featuring the two little people from the postcard at the top this was exactly what I could have wished for. Sadly our cake was the last cake they made as James and his sister decided to close the business and go back to university to study for a Masters degree.
So now we have the ceremony and the cake and how the room will look (we (Muhutin and my parents and I) had also done a tasting night in Ten Square where we choose two vegetarian options – well it was my wedding and I am a veggie… but there was also meat for the carnivores) but wedding wouldn’t be a wedding without music!
Stephen Linton was one of my students. I think he has been to every course I offer and I admired his dedication travelling from Magerafelt to Belfast to attend. I also got to know him a little and find out that he is a dedicated music teacher and that he has a great love for the piano. He runs his own piano academy in fact. So without ever hearing him play I asked him if he would mind playing at our service – he said he would be delighted. I heard him play for the first time two weeks before the wedding! Trusting my inner compass worked out well on this occasion as he is a wonderful musician! We met in Ten Square and went though some music options – Stephen suggesting some and I telling him what I really liked and then continuing in the following days to decide on the this superb order:
A thousand years ~ Christina Perri
Music during readings:
I Giorni ~ Ludovico Einaudi
Music during signing of register:
Somewhere over the Rainbow ~ arranged by Keith Jarrett
River Flows in You ~ Yiruma
He also played for the guests while they were waiting for me to appear and the ceremony to begin. I can’t thank Stephen enough he was truly wonderful and made the service extra special. If you want to learn how to play the piano or brush up on your skills– check him out.
For a wedding you also need a band and DJ for the party after! Another item on the do to list that I just kept in my head. But this time I was very lucky: my dear friend Clare has a brother in law who is the band The Knievels and he also does DJ. Whoop whoop! This was then easily arranged. Prior to finding out about the Knievels I’d emailed a number of wedding bands trying to get a booking. Many replied saying 2018? Trying to book a wedding band for September in the July and August of the same year is not a good idea. Word to the wise – book a year in advance if you can! But then it’s not really necessary – it worked out great for us! The Knievels where fantastic and had everyone up on the dance floor all night. Our first dance song was ‘How long will I love you’ by Ellie Goulding.
By the time the DJ set started I’d really relaxed and kicked off my high heel wedding shoes for a boogie! (I got my wedding shoes and handbag on Amazon in June when I was recuperating from a twisted ankle and couldn’t get out to the shops!)
I have to mention my flowers. I could not have been any happier with them, I absolutely loved them! My florist was another recommendation from a friend, the beautiful Sharon. Gerard from Glen Florists on the Glen Road, Belfast is Sharon’s cousin. I went to see him and have a chat about what I wanted. I told him about the blue and gold theme and that I liked things to be simple and natural. I found a nice picture on Pininterest and said something like this. I don’t really know enough about flowers the different types and names of them but Gerard did me the most wonderful bouquet and flowers and they smelt divine. It may have been the eucalyptus but honestly I was delighted with them as my flowers in Turkey were fake!
Hair and make-up
Sharon also lent me my hair jewels which I wore in both Turkey and Belfast. At Sharon’s wedding 9 years ago I remarked to her how much I loved her hair jewels. She remembered that and when she saw me a few months before our weddings she asked me if I wanted to borrow them. In fact she gave them to me but I want to return them. So kind of her and I really think they made my hair style at both places J I got my hair done for the wedding in Conroy on the Lisburn Road as that’s where I go to get my hair done by the wonderful mystical Maggs. I’ve been getting my hair done by Maggs since she first came to do my MBSR about 5 years ago.
A few months ago when I was in to get a rare cut and blow dry at Conroy I was at the sink getting my hair washed when I became aware of the person beside me. I looked over and recognised her as Tracey Hall now Rodgers who was also one of my former MBSR students. I hadn’t seen Tracey in a few years but she is just one of most fabulous people I know she runs the model agency Style Academy. When she heard about my up-coming wedding she said ‘I’ll do your make-up’! What a fortunate meeting that was 🙂
Tracey also did a trial of my wedding make-up before I went to Turkey. I went to her house and she sat with me a few hours catching up and teaching me how to apply my make-up myself for the Turkey wedding. She also wrote down everything she did and a list of products that I needed to buy. I followed her instructions and was just delighted with my own make-up in Turkey and then for the Belfast wedding she came to Ten Square in person and did me up! It was really so kind of her – she helped everyone that morning even pinning my dad’s button hole. We are really grateful to you Tracey!
My photographer was another recommendation. This time from the lovely Liane. Liane’s brother in law was married recently and they had been delighted with Collette O’Neill from Collette Creative. I checked her out and gave her call she was free so I booked her. And so glad I did. Collette is happy spirit, shape shifting around your day unobtrusively capturing all the special moments. She’s also very creative and took us on a tour of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter for our formal shots – capturing really cool backgrounds and nooks and crannies that you’d never normally notice. Thank you, we love our photos!
We’ve great and very different photos from the Turkey wedding too but one of the best things we have is the wedding video. It is so much fun to watch and remember what happened and see all those moments you can easily forget. After watching the Turkey wedding video I decided we definitely needed one for the Belfast wedding – not least so we could send it to our Turkish relatives. At this point my keeping it simple idea was really just that an idea! Muhutin really didn’t want to spend any more money – I just don’t think it’s possible to have a cheap wedding – or it might be but I couldn’t do it!
So in service of trying to be frugal with finances I went with a videographer who had never done a wedding video before! Daniel F Holmes was recommended to me by my friend Donna. Daniel is a young American guy from Arizona who happens to be living in Belfast right now. He went to film school and makes documentaries for a living, but surprisingly he was keen to make a wedding video for us. He was little cheaper than the cheapest wedding videographer I could find at short notice and I decided to take a chance on him! He did a great job too! Check out this4 minute video he made summarizing our special day. 🙂
So there you go a crash course in wedding planning. The day went fantastically well, we’re married twice and legally now and I’ve changed my surname to Rea-Kaya. I think I passed the test! I’m available for consultation only – but not any time soon! Wedding fever is officially over 🙂 Thank you sincerely to all our family and friends for coming to support us to our Best Man Cetin Kaya, my parents and all the above people herein mentioned!