Miranda, Melissa and Andrew tried for several days to come up with a fancy name for the new business and failed miserably. In the end it was Belinda who suggested the name should reflect the business and be a simple internet search term and so Wedding Dress Bargains was born. Brian acquired an off-the-shelf company with a crazy name and it was re-registered as Wedding Dress Bargains Limited with six directors who where also the shareholders in the company. Brian and Belinda had 10 x £1 shares, Jinnie had 20 x £1 shares and Miranda, Melissa and Andrew each had 5 x £1 shares. Belinda, Brian and Jinnie’s larger holding represented the fact that between them they had put up the money for the company in the form of director’s loans that were to be paid back from future profits.
The first shareholder’s meeting took place on a Saturday afternoon, around Belinda’s dining room table and elected the board of directors, Miranda was managing director, Andrew and Melissa were co-design directors, Brian finance director while Belinda and Jinnie just sat on the board as directors. The shareholder’s meeting was immediately adjourned and a board meeting commenced in its place. Brian said they needed a company secretary to take the minutes and officially record votes. He proposed that Ro would be ideal, as she did such a good job with the DKL board meetings. Jinnie agreed to approach her but on this first occasion she took the minutes herself in long hand.
Belinda had presented a specification and quote for turning unit 15 ground floor into premises for WDB as the company rapidly became known. Brian had then presented a proposed budget for the company’s first six months, it incorporated leasing the unit, refurbishment as specified and quoted by Belinda, hiring four full-time staff, the purchase of equipment and materials and running costs such as gas, water, electricity, rates, telephone, internet and materials. All the directors agreed to give their time for free until the company was on its feet. The full-time staff were to be Natalie and Petra as seamstresses, a school leaver Lorraine who was to be general dogsbody; answering the phone, making appointments, letting people in, looking after orders and sales and anything else that needed doing. Lorraine had answered an advertisement in the Crawley Observer as had Elspeth a middle-aged Scottish saleswoman with experience of measuring ladies who had been made redundant from a posh dress shop in Crawley that had closed when its lease had expired.
The board agreed to lease the unit at the reduced price Belinda had negotiated and to accept her quote to do the work. Off the record, she said Simon could start on the work almost immediately as he was currently helping Peter until the next small project came up. Brian explained that he had acquired for WDB the small business version of the accounting software that Trattoria Trevi used and that Nigel was advising on all things IT; PCs, a server, networking, broadband and a website.
Andrew proudly presented his rendered images of the fitted-out unit and it was generally agreed that it looked inviting but not so posh that customers would be put off by it looking expensive. Miranda was anxious to get the business up and running and suggested she use her contact to get a piece in the Crawley Observer. That was agreed and Belinda confirmed that the refurbishment and fit-out work would take three weeks but with Christmas in the middle it would take a little longer and the 2nd of January was designated as the first day of trading.
The following Monday morning Jinnie sat down at her DKL computer and called Ro on Teams. Ro seemed extremely happy and bright for a Monday morning and after a short chat about DKL business, Jinnie got down to the real point of her call. She told Ro all about the new business, and how she, Belinda, Brian and Miranda were all directors but they needed a company secretary and would she like to do the job part-time and of course she would be paid.
Ro didn’t hesitate to say ‘Yes’, and then said to Jinnie, “I think I might have found the company’s first customer.” Jinnie said, “Good and who is that?” expecting Ro to say her sister or a friend. Ro burst out in a huge smile and said, “Me, Jed proposed on Friday night and of course I said yes. Apart from Mum and Dad you are the first to know.” Jinnie replied, “How wonderful. I am absolutely delighted for you both, you make a lovely couple.” Ro said, “We have agreed that you, Paolo and the twins are at the head of our list for wedding invitations. If it hadn’t been for you we would never have met and you were so kind on our first date. Please say you will come, we are planning a June wedding, but there is just so much to do and such a short time to organise things that I don’t know what to do. Mum says to get a wedding organiser, one has been advertising on the TV and she says they look wonderful but I don’t know if Mum and Dad can afford that sort of expense.”
Jinnie thought quickly and then told Ro, “You don’t know this but I am a major shareholder and director in that company. You know I am the chief operating officer of the Trattoria Trevi Group of companies, well the events company is a 50% owed subsidiary of theirs and Miranda is its managing director. She will ring you shortly to arrange a meeting with you and Jed to sort out the wedding and your dress and your bridesmaids’ dresses and don’t you worry about costs I think this is going to be my wedding present to you and Jed. There is just one proviso, we must be able to use pictures of you and your bridesmaids in our advertising as our first ‘paying’ customers. Melissa’s will be the first wedding arranged but it has really been set up and her dress made before the company was in existence. She was the inspiration, but you will be its first true customer for dresses.”
By now Ro was sobbing with joy so loudly that Brian had come out of his open office door to find out what the problem was. Jinnie quickly explained to Brian, while Ro gathered herself together. When he hugged her and congratulated her it started her off again for a few moments. Brian asked if he could tell Belinda and Ro said, “Yes, it isn’t a secret and Miranda will know shortly anyway.”
Jinnie and Brian continued the computer meeting for a while as Ro went off to tell Jed what was happening. Brian suddenly said, “You know I have been thinking, if it hadn’t been for Ro’s hard work and dedication this company would not exist. I think that Belinda and I would like to show her and Jed just how appreciated they are here. Do you think they would mind if we paid for their Honeymoon?” “I think that is a wonderful idea,” said Jinnie, “but I suggest you don’t tell Ro, talk to Jed in secret. It is traditional for brides to be kept in the dark about honeymoon destinations.”
Jinnie continued, “What a pity that Melissa will be in Madrid in June when they plan to marry, she did such a wonderful job on my hair and makeup that I would have happily employed her to do Ro’s.” “I am certain she could recommend someone,” replied Brian. “I seem to remember she has a friend who helps her out when the numbers get a bit too big for her to handle on her own.” “You’re right,” said Jinnie, “there was someone else with her at my wedding who helped with some of the bridesmaids’ hair and makeup, they all were delighted with the results.”
Jinnie rang Miranda and told her the news, what she had promised Ro and what her stepfather Brian was proposing. Miranda promised to ring Ro immediately and organise a meeting with her and Jed and a separate one with Melissa, Andrew and Elspeth. “It may have to be a home visit as the unit won’t be ready until the new year but I doubt she will have sorted out the bridesmaids till then in any case.” She then said, “You realise that this is another customer that our TV and radio campaign has brought us. Brian did a quick calculation yesterday and he reckons the campaign has paid for itself twice over. Mum has booked to take all the construction division staff to the Show-ground for their Christmas party, but of course I am giving her trade prices.”
This made Jinnie think and she asked, “Have you much capacity left?” “Despite taking up the option of the additional 50 extra places, Fridays and Saturdays are virtually sold out. For some unknown reason Wednesdays have the most spare capacity and Mum’s party is booked in for the Wednesday before Christmas.” “Could you fit in say 30 more that night?” asked Jinnie, “I would like to treat the DKL Directors and their partners, senior staff like Ro and Jed and reward a few staff who have worked particularly hard like the girls on reception. It would be a good night to come as Belinda and Brian will be there and so I guess will be Peter, Richard and Jason. I will invite Alberto, Guido and Alphonso and their partners but I suspect they will all refuse as the Wednesday before Christmas will be particularly busy in the restaurant trade. I might even invite my sister and her husband so they can see just how hard the events business is.”
“I think we can do that, I’m on the computer checking now. Yes, I have just reserved three big round tables of 10 and of course it will be trade prices for you too. Now I just have to swap the tables around a bit so that your party and Mum’s party are close together and sitting close to the entertainment, we have some fabulous acrobats who do some amazing stuff. Just a couple more things, can you let me know if there are any dietary requirements, you know, lactose intolerant, vegetarian or the like, oh and the free wine it’s a bottle between four, do you want red, white or half and half, we can even swap a bottle for half a dozen bottles of beer if you prefer.”
“My, you sound professional,” said Jinnie, “Can I up the wine to four bottles per table, two red and two wine and also have a dozen bottles of Beer on each table, say six lager and six IPA. That should get them started then I’ll put some money behind the bar, I don’t want them to think I am stingy.” “I’ll sort that out as soon as I have spoken to Ro. But in the meantime can I trouble you for a credit or debit card number.”
Jinnie started making out a list of whom to invite. She listed all twelve directors, the chairman and their plus ones and then put a cross against Belinda and Brian that made twenty-two (11 x 2). She then put a question mark against Alberto, Guido and Alphonso that took the number down by six to 16. Then she added Ro and Jed (18) the two receptionists (24), Penny and Dan (26), Jerry’s secretary and her plus one because she was nearly as good as Ro. That made 28. ‘Damn,’ she thought, ‘I’ve booked for 30 and there is no one else from work I would like to invite.’ She scratched her head and turning to Larry who was half asleep in his basket, she said, “Come on Larry who else should I invite to make up the 30.” Immediately Lucia and Vincenzo popped into her mind and she said, “Thank you, Larry.”
Jinnie composed an email to everyone on her list thanking them for their hard work in getting the company off the ground and informing them of the party, its date, time and location and saying that they could all bring a plus one. She then made a joke of saying that excluded Ro and Jed as they would obviously be bringing each other. She asked for an RSVP as soon as possible with a note of any dietary requirements. She hit the send button, then strolled back to the house to invite Lucia. She told her she could bring Vincenzo, as she would love to meet him. Lucia’s reaction was, “I can’t go if you are going, there will be no one to look after the twins.” Jinnie said, “That won’t be a problem, I’m sure Mum will look after them for one night.”
Jinnie then rang Penny who was enjoying her post-operational leave lazing around and doing her Christmas cards and Christmas shopping. Without hesitation she accepted and Jinnie had her first double tick on the list. Jinnie strolled back to her garden office and was delighted to see a number of the people she had invited had replied. As expected Alberto, Guido and Alphonso had all replied saying thanks for the invitation but they couldn’t possibly miss a working evening at such an important time of the year. Jinnie dashed off an email saying how sorry she was that they couldn’t make it but instead she would take them all to dinner in the New Year.
She then opened a steady stream of acceptances with a single note about a wife who needed a gluten-free meal. When she read Dirk’s reply it was written in his usual brusque manner, “Thought you knew I don’t have a ‘plus one’ can I bring a mutual friend? We both eat anything.” Jinnie chuckled and, guessing he was referring to their old friend Willie, sent an email back saying, ‘Of course he could bring a friend.’
The ever-practical Ro phoned Jinnie to say she and Jed would love to come and she was looking at hiring a coach from Manor Royal so that everyone could drink. Jinnie said to send her the invoice and she would organise for it to be paid. Ro then reminded her that a work’s Christmas party was tax deductible, so to keep all the paperwork for accounts to process. Jinnie then asked her if she had spoken to Miranda. Ro said, “Only briefly, Jed and I are going to meet her at her TTEvents office at Belinda’s after work tonight and I am going Melissa’s house tomorrow evening for an initial meeting with her, Andrew and Elspeth.” “That’s excellent news,” replied Jinnie. “The earlier we get things moving the more likely we will be able to get together your perfect wedding.”
Despite it only being ten minutes walk from the main office, Ro had never visited the Wright Refurbishment offices and was surprised at how close it was when Jed drove into the car park and into a ‘visitor’ spot. He explained he had been there numerous times, installing IT equipment, linking it to the Manor Royal network and sorting out problems. Ro pressed the buzzer. A voice came out of a speaker saying that if they pushed the door when the lock buzzed, the door would open and someone would be right there to collect them from reception.
It was actually Belinda who led them through to the big glass meeting room where Miranda was waiting to greet them. Belinda explained that currently Miranda was working from a tiny office upstairs but would be moving down the block to unit 14 when the refurbishment was finished in the New Year. In the meantime she had loaned Miranda her meeting room and she was off home as Brian was bringing in fish and chips for their tea. Miranda, Ro and Jed already knew each other so Miranda got down to business straight away asking questions about what sort of wedding she wanted; church, registry, how many would be invited, on and on the questions came and Ro gave most of the answers with Jed agreeing to most things.
Ro explained she lived within the parish of Worth and that meant she could marry at either St Nicolas’ Church in Worth or St Barnabas’ Church in neighbouring Pound Hill. She had always dreamed of marrying in St Nicolas’ Church as it was a beautiful old building dating from the 10th century. Had a vaulted roof and the most fabulous wooden beams. The only problem was it didn’t have facilities for a reception or a party in the evening. St Barnabas had a church hall but could only take about a hundred people, couldn’t handle the sit-down meal they wanted and it wasn’t anywhere near as picturesque as St Nicolas. Miranda asked how many invitations they expected to send out and Ro and Jed looked at each other before Jed said, “Well there lies the problem, we have counted up about 170 or 180 including children. But we fully expect to get around only 150 acceptances.
Miranda puzzled for a moment and then said, “Let’s get this straight, you would like to marry at St Nicolas, have a sit-down reception for 150 and a party in the evening for the 150.” “Not quite,” said Ro, “The first two bits are right but we would like the party to be mainly for people who aren’t invited to the reception – maybe a 100 people. Some from the reception like our mums and dads, the best man, the bridesmaids and special guests but mainly a younger crowd like old school friends.”
“Now that’s simplified things. Here is what I suggest and you stop me if you don’t like my suggestions. We book St Nicolas for the service say at midday that’ll give Jed’s people coming up from Cheltenham time to get here, then we hold the reception at Trattoria Trevi Turners Hill. We have invites printed that say people are invited to the wedding of Ro and Jed at St Nicolas and to the reception at Trattoria Trevi for say 13:30. That will give the photographer time and ample time for everyone to get there. Then we have separate invitations printed inviting 100 people to ‘party to celebrate the wedding of Ro and Jed’ and we hire St Barnabas church hall for that. While we have been chatting, I have checked the hall on the internet and it has a small kitchen so we could do an evening buffet and hire a DJ. Anyone you want to come to both events we send the two invitations in one envelope. Everyone else gets one invite or the other. How does that sound?”
“If you can arrange that it would be perfect,” replied Ro and burst into tears, not for the first time that day. Ro asked for the loo so she could compose herself and while she was washing her face and redoing her makeup Miranda asked Jed if Brian had spoken to him. He said yes, but it was to be a secret from Ro. He explained that he had visited Madeira on holiday a few years ago and wanted to take Ro there to see if she loved the island as much as he did. Brian had said that sounded perfect and once Miranda had coordinated the date he would sort out the flights, accommodation, transport to the airport and everything else. Jed said the only thing left for him to do was ensure Ro and he had up-to-date valid passports.
Ro came back from the loo fully recovered and apologised for being so stupid, but everyone was being so kind and lovely that she was feeling very emotional. Miranda said, “We are almost finished for tonight but once we have got all the bookings made we are going to have to meet a lot more to finalise all sorts of things from the flowers in the church, the men’s buttonholes, your posy, the font and exact wording on the invitations, the reception menu and wine and a whole lot more, but that’s for when we meet in the new premises in the New Year. Now when you meet Melissa and Andrew tomorrow, hopefully they will have some fabric samples you like. They have fabulous ideas for dresses but will accommodate anything you want and sketch the design while you are there. Elspeth will take all your measurements so the dress Natalie makes will fit like a glove. They will also sort out what you want for your bridesmaids but they will have to come in to be measured.
Miranda continued, “Melissa is a trained hair stylist and makeup artist so she will offer you a hairstyle and make-up trial. Please say yes, she really is very talented. I know she is my sister but she did my wedding, Belinda’s when she married Brian, Jinnie and her sister Penny and numerous others. On the day it’s not just you that her team will do it’s the bridesmaids, matrons of honour, flower girls, your and Jed’s mum and anyone else you nominate. This is all part of our wedding package so this is all being paid for, nothing will cost you a single penny. Before we say good night I’ve just remembered one other thing Jinnie told me. Once you have decided on the dresses, talk to her as she knows the most fabulous shoemaker who will custom-make shoes for you and the bridesmaids. However it will mean a couple of trips to Barnet for you all to be measured, lasts made and fittings. Jinnie says these will be the most comfortable shoes you ever have, but it takes a while as Arni works on his own and once again Jinnie says she is paying.”
In Chapter 29 – A Wedding Dress Designed
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