Why ink, more than diamonds, is the real wedding committment

Sarah Morgan said 'I do' with a tattoo and has zero regrets

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Call me ‘not that sort of girl’, but I just couldn’t get excited about a wedding bouquet. Don’t get me wrong: I love flowers – dark red roses, fat with scent – but I couldn’t see the difference between a tenner’s worth of peonies from Columbia Road Flower Market, and the £200 frouffy arrangement you hurl at your single friends at the end of the party. The whole idea seemed so (literally) throwaway.

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I married my husband Tim in 2009. I’d always planned to get a new tattoo on my hen in Brighton, and I realised with excitement I could get my wedding flowers at the same time: at a seaside tattoo parlour. Juicy, red, traditional roses. A permanent bouquet – something to bridge the one day of ‘a wedding’ and the lifetime of ‘a marriage’.

The idea of a wedding tattoo isn’t so original – back in the 1990s, Pamela Anderson had ‘Tommy’ inked on her finger to celebrate her nuptials to the Mötley Crüe drummer. More recently, Beyoncé got ‘IV’ on her ring finger to commemorate her and Jay Z’s birth dates, and their wedding anniversary. Mariah Carey plumped for her husband’s surname for the big day; Cheryl Cole got ‘Mrs C’. 

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The appeal of the wedding tattoo is obvious – a souvenir of your nuptials, and a sort of doubling-down on the permanence of your commitment, as the notion of marriage becomes ever more fleeting. It’s a shame that just as we’re getting genuine equality with who can marry whom, the institution itself has never seemed flimsier. But we all know that the best we can do is stand up in public and just promise really hard that we’ll kinda sorta try not to screw this up. (That wasn’t how I phrased it in my wedding vows, obviously.)

But a tattoo? Permanent ink drilled into your epidermis?  While they can, of course, be lasered off, or covered up, it’s still a pretty hardcore statement of intent, probably the most extreme way our culture has to say ‘forever’. I will permanently alter my body for you, my darling, as a symbol of our love.

‘Branding’ yourself also feels pretty badass – it flirts with the notion of being property, a possession, subverting feminism on your own terms.

Dominique Holmes, tattooist and author of The Painted Lady, loves creating wedding tattoos. ‘I’ve done beautiful original tattoos for clients who wanted to mark the occasion, or just do something non-traditional for their big day. Some women don’t feel comfortable wearing jewellery, and a tattoo – like the male and female sugar skulls I just did for a client – can carry the same significance as a ring for them,’ she says.

But what if it does all go wrong? For me, my roses aren’t just a symbol of my wedding, but also of my hen weekend, hanging out with my best mate, recovering from the needle with booze and giggling. No matter what becomes of my marriage, those are not memories I’d want to erase. Though I do also have my husband’s name tattooed in a discreet spot, which might have me reaching for the lasers…

My roses healed in time for the big day and I matched them with a pair of powdery, lipstick-red heels from Vivienne Westwood. Not very demure, but then, neither am I. I liked playing with traditions – the white dress, the flowers – and making them more authentically ‘us’. I was never going to wear a floor-length gown, or carry flowers that cost more than my dress.

In the end, though, I did hold a bouquet – my mum surprised me by whipping one up with a tenner’s worth of M&S roses that matched the groom’s buttonhole and gave me something to throw at the end of the disco. But I still love my forever roses best.

Words by Sarah Morgan

Photography by Eva Roovers

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