Earlier this week we received a package from Kent County Council with details of our ceremony. Contained within the pack is what can only be described as a script for our wedding, with several options for alternatives, including us being able to write our own vows to each other. Reading through it was an odd sensation; envisaging us saying these words to each other filled me with equal parts sick anxiety and warm excitement.
The getting of this pack, however, proved something of an uphill struggle.
We booked our ceremony back in January 2010, when we selected our venue. In fact, it was the venue who made the booking on our behalf. We received a letter through shortly afterwards letting us know that we needed to pay the booking fee within a certain number of days, which we promptly did. We knew there was still the fairly hefty outstanding balance of the actual registrar’s fee, but there was no real rush to pay that at that moment in time. We decided to wait until we had saved up a lot more money and paid out deposits for all the other elements of the wedding.
In February of this year, during half term, I rang up to pay the outstanding balance. I tried on a couple of different occasions, but, although I got through to someone within the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the office responsible for our ceremony were NEVER available.
Half term ended and we didn’t worry about the payment for a while. We knew there was still no real sense of urgency and it’s difficult for us to make phone calls during term time as we’re mostly in class and teaching and when we’re not, not only is it tricky to make a private phone call, but we also have a lot of work to get done in a rather short amount of time.
So, come Easter, we tried again. In what was fast becoming a pattern we tried and failed several times to get through to the relevant people. At one point we did get our phone call returned, but by that time we were out with friends in London and it wasn’t convenient to make the payment at that time. We tried again. Still no joy.
THEN, we started getting voicemails telling us we needed to pay. I managed to find the time to call up, during my time out of class – the 9th phone call I had made to them – and spoke to someone who was still no help and told me that it could take them five working days to get back to me as they had a massive backlog.
That evening I wrote an email, explaining exactly how many times I had tried to make payment and detailing the times either of us were available to take their return phone calls. Funnily enough THEN they managed to get straight back to us, at a mutually convenient time and we made the payment.
And so FINALLY we were paid up and eligible to receive our ceremony pack.
It is slightly worrying, though, that these are the people we are relying upon to actually marry (“civil partner”) us. If they can’t even manage to take a phone call when you are trying to PAY THEM MONEY, then I can’t help but wonder what they will be like over something far more inconsequential to them like, say, our civil partnership ceremony.
In different, but equal, realms of inadequacy I must place the counselling department at Guy’s hospital. Our second appointment, made for next Tuesday, has again been cancelled – although at least, this time, in advance of us actually turning up at the hospital. Apparently they had made ANOTHER mistake with the days the counsellor we had booked with actually works and the appointment we had made couldn’t be with the counsellor we thought we had booked with.
We rang back, happy to accept that appointment with ANY counsellor, but they had totally cancelled that appointment for us, as it wasn’t with the “right” counsellor, so we need to make another. And no, they are not available to give appointments that will in any way fit around our working week, so now we are going to be waiting until July, when we break up from school and are available during the day. But they couldn’t make an appointment that far in advance, so we are clearly going to be going to back to that thrilling game of voicemail tennis as we continually miss each other’s calls and probably never get to make an appointment that WE DON’T EVEN REALLY WANT BUT HAVE TO HAVE AS A LEGAL REQUIREMENT!
Also, by the end of July when we break up for the summer, I should already have had some initial tests and scans, so I’m hoping these are not held back by the fact that we haven’t had this counselling session yet.
I’m grateful the counselling department will not actually be responsible for any of the procedures I will have to undergo, considering their complete lack of anything resembling organisation, or even, good customer relations. We are, after all, paying for this service, making us customers as well as patients.
I guess it is too much to ask for everything to be simple and straightforward, but I really am hoping that things can be more like plain sailing from here.