Saturday, 17 October 2009
We Got Married
And now the wedding day itself.
Side-note before I begin. Although I’m writing up the day as an aide-memoir, I’m also aware that this blog can be googled and read by strangers, so it’s going to be very light on names and specific details, as I have no desire to betray my own privacy, never mind anybody else’s. Those who were there, or invited, or who contributed, will be able to look at photos on Facebook or by popping around for a cup of tea and an evening with the big wedding album.
The day, of course, had been meticulously planned down to 5-minute intervals by D. My contribution to the day was through being consulted at each decision and agreeing with what D had already decided. That’s only old long-suffering husband joke, BTW, and not remotely the truth; we did all the walking around the venue, meeting caterers, photographers and so on together, though D did all the flower, cake and clothes-based deciding.
Woke up. SB made bacon and eggs and coffee. S came around with MG who had travelled all the way down from up North. How did I spend the morning of my wedding? I watched the first story of the Sarah-Janes, which was mostly hilarious and marvellous, save for a weak comedy sub-plot which seemed to have been added by a different hand at a later date. And then I watch a bit of an Attenborough nature show on blu-ray to see what HD telly looks like. It’s great. You can make out every single penguin.
Then a shower, and a shave – a shave which took about half an hour, I was so careful it was as though I was restoring an ancient painting – then into the suit. From this point on, time was speeding up. It would feel like five minutes had passed and it would be twenty minutes later. I ran-through my speech to the assembled focus group; cutting a couple of over-eggs, but with a greater sense of confidence about the rest.
Then the taxi. Which is when the nerves started. It’s quite an odd thing; before a wedding, everybody asks you if you’re nervous. Which after a while gets a little wearisome; but I was so nervous whenever anyone asked I’d give them a full and accurate description of exactly how nervous I was. I was mentally very much in the moment, like when you first arrive in a new country on holiday, or find yourself in a car crash; it’s all vivid and your brain is set on ‘Record’. I also found I’d forgotten how to go to the toilet. And in the car, on the way, I thought I was suffocating. It was a stuffy car, and I’d garrotted myself with my tie, so no air was getting in. Reluctantly I loosened my collar by one button.
I arrived at the venue about forty-five minutes before the ceremony. Some of D’s friends were already there, soon her brother R was there, and E arrived to set up the video. Deciding with him where to put the camera, I was grateful to have something to do. I spoke with the junior registrar, just to check my name and single status hadn’t changed. And then I wandered.
I popped into the reception room. It looked glorious, white tablecloths, all mint and sparkling with massive loudspeakers in the corner. The flowers were in the Long Gallery, looking splendid. Button holes were in a box as indicated. The CD player had moved unexpectedly in the night to another corner of the room. Everything was set. I had nothing to worry about except worry itself.
People started arriving. I went down the creaky staircase to meet my parents just as they were coming up in the lift. It seemed a little unreal to meet them in this context. Things got even more unreal when I went downstairs to see my oldest friend and next-door-neighbour, JD, with his girlfriend. And next to him, my sister and her boyfriend. And looking across the room, it was like seeing everybody I’d ever known at once; like the Sergeant Pepper album cover or my Facebook ‘people I actually like’ list. I wanted to say hello to everybody, dashing from person to person, meeting D’s uncle and aunt, shaking hands, being asked if I was nervous, telling people how nervous I was, meeting wives and girlfriends, and eventually moving outside for air and to see where some more friends were having a last-minute smoke. I also met M, the site contact, who seemed lovely, if a little confused about who was my best man, N. Who was also there from about half-an-hour to go, sitting in the Long Gallery with his girlfriend N and forever asking me when he should sit up or stand down.
At this point it was about five minutes to go. I thought only five minutes had passed but the clock was ticking, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. I’d texted D to say I’d arrived. R told me D was on her way, but her car was stuck on Blackheath so she’d be late. But I couldn’t accidentally set eyes upon her as she drove in, so it was time for the ushers – S and R – to usher everyone in the Long Gallery. They’d already done this. By the time I got there, it was full. I went to the front to speak to the Proper Registrar, DS, who was lovely with a very calming way of speaking. She indicated a knot in the floorboards where I should stand. And so for the last minute or so all I did was stare at that knot on the floorboards. I didn’t want my marriage to begin on the wrong knot. I told my best man when to stand – at this point, plans seemed to be shifting by the minute, we weren’t standing exactly where I’d thought, would we be standing or sitting during the reading? Time for an executive decision. Standing. I didn’t want our backs to the camera set up in the corner. Posterity is important.
Oh, I haven’t mentioned the photographer yet, N. She was there, buzzing around like a photographic bee, but – brilliantly – without being distracting.
Every now and then I’d look back at the gathered throng. GR waved a copy of Doctor Who And The Power Of Kroll he’d brought specially. CH pulled a scary face. Others did thumbs-up, which is Traditional.
Buttonholes! We had buttonholes. My mum pinned mine. Never having worn one before, I wasn’t sure what to do, as apparently there’s a Tradition about which side they go on and which way up. Fortunately N’s girlfriend knew the Tradition. My tie was re-tightened, my collar re-buttoned. I still had no idea how to go to the toilet or whether I would ever be able to go the toilet again.
D’s mother, bridesmaids and brother entered and took their places. Which meant that D had arrived and was probably outside the door. Everyone stood up. My best man sat down. Then I stood, as though pulled by an irresistible force, and made my way to the Knot where I would tie the knot. Best man still not sure whether he should stand or, indeed, if he was at the right wedding.
The music started – too quietly, should’ve been louder – the version of Maybe I’m Amazed off of Paul McCartney’s Working Classical album.
I looked over my left shoulder, and turned. And there she was, on her father’s arm, looking perfect. A gorgeous dress, just the right combination of romantic and drop-dead sexy. She’d had her hair done. It sounds like a cliche, but sod it, she was a vision of loveliness. Eyes sparkling. Beaming a smile of nervous and excitement.
I’ll remember every step she took towards me.
And then we were together, and everyone sat down except for my best man, and the registrar told us face each other. And at the moment the rest of the room melted away and it was just D’s face, and her hand in mine. My future bride was smiling at me and that was my whole world.
I’d have to check the video what happened next. All I remember is D’s face. I think we moved to N’s reading of Shakespeare, which was simply beautiful; she did the clever thing of including us in it, as though the speech was written to advise us. Did it get applause? I don’t know. It must have done. All I could think about was D’s face and her hand in mine.
The service was much as we’d rehearsed, except it was easy to state the words loudly and clearly without slipping into William Shatner or Cartman impersonation. The registrar only gave us a few words of the ceremony at a time; I had to resist the temptation to say ‘why I’ in a Geordie accent. I sighed with relief after the just cause or impediment bit and I paused just before saying I do; I wanted to make the most of the moment. Moment? It was a millisecond. And I said I do. And then, shortly afterwards, so did D.
It was ring time. My best man had the ring I had entrusted to him about five minutes or five hours earlier. I placed it on the end of D’s left middle finger. And then the instruction came. ‘Engage the ring’.
Then the registrar – who, by now, had decided on a new career as a stand-up comedian/Blakes 7 dialogue consultant – said a few words I can’t remember about friends being a witness to the marriage and that they should remind us if we ever forgot. I was still entranced by D and what working parts of my brain remained were devoted to not accidentally standing on her dress. And looking out at everyone smiling. No-one crying, I think.
And, in the background, SM and his wife slipping into the room, late arrivals.
D and I kissed as wife and husband. Best kiss ever. We had a couple more.
Then, as is Traditional, we walked down the aisle – couldn’t hear the music if it was playing, I had my own music – and out into the reception room place. A glass of champagne drifted by. I grabbed it, and drank half in one mouthful.
After about five minutes of rushing around say hello to people I hadn’t said hello to and chatting to my new relatives, it was out to the gardens for photos. Which was surprisingly painless, largely because the photographer wasn’t doing the perfectionist thing you sometimes get, the whole ‘Could Uncle Jack move three quarters of an inch to the left and try to smile less seedily’ thing.
It was almost relaxing. We worked through all the combinations of relatives, bests, bridesmaids, ushers and everybody else. Hopefully they all came out okay. Then, as if by magic, or at least without me noticing, everyone made their way into the Old Library for the reception. D and I had a quiet moment outside where we tidied up some wine glasses, checked there were none left upstairs, and D made sure a discarded coat and rucksack were checked into reception. Because even when there is nothing left to sort out, if D wants to sort things out, she will find things that need sorting out.
Into the Old Library to applause, to sit between D and my mum. Decided to alternate between red wine and water – the Jesus of Nazareth technique for not getting drunk. The food was magnificent. Mmmmelty salmon. Bread with peppery bits in it. Sausages. Vegetarian stuff that didn’t taste of packing. I had seconds. And profiteroles dripped with black and white chocolate, to signify racial harmony. I popped into the catering place to check what the plan was regarding the toasting wine – speeches – coffee – cake- cutting running order, because although it had already been sorted out and was running perfectly, it doesn’t hurt to double-check for your own peace of mind – or your new wife’s.
Everyone had their toasting wine, I cued my best man, who was now fretting about when exactly to ping his glass for attention. The father of the bride, my father in law, gave a lovely, charming and witty speech about how friends are the new family. He also pre-empted my first joke, so when I did my speech, I had to go off-script straight away, which was kind of a good thing because it meant I never felt the panic to go back on-script; my first joke got a laugh, so did my second. I wasn’t nervous, I was enjoying myself hugely. Though my right hand started shaking, not having been included in on the memo. My last joke got applause, which kind of messed up the toast – knowing that people repeat your last three words, I’d been racking my brains on how to toast my new wife without getting one hundred people saying ‘my new wife’ in unison.
And then my best man did his speech, which was hilarious, inspired, superb, which was a huge relief because I thought, given the material he had to work with, the odds were against him. He did me proud. He got more laughs than I did. The one thing I’d been worrying about and it was three bull’s-eyes in a row.
The cake-cutting was weird; being photographed to commemorate a married life of cutting cakes together whilst holding the same knife. I nearly forgot to actually eat any of it. Our cake was also magnificent, with a beautiful twining rose stem design, very art deco.
Next, the first dance, to the Beautiful South’s cover of the Zombies This Will Be Our Year. We’d rehearsed this bit, but nevertheless it felt bizarre. We don’t dance a lot, and wedding dresses are not the easiest things to get hold of; you can’t feel your partner’s back, you just feel corset ribs. But by the end some other couples had joined in which spared out embarrassment. Then we had Take That’s Shine as our ‘floor-filler’, which worked, up to a point, though the hall was too well-lit and the guests still too sober for the party to swing to its fullest amplitude and Erasure’s Victim Of Love proved a sure-fire floor-emptier.
The rest of the night was all one whirling, wonderful blur. With more red wine. Sorting out the lighting so the hall wasn’t seated-people-in-darkness, dancers in bright-lights. Flittering around, talking to everyone. D raving to JR about his novels. My mum trying to get me work and complaining to TS about the cover of his magazine. My dad being a little bit drunk, which I’ve never seen before. My mum being convinced that SM had told her he was gay (which you really wouldn’t suspect from his dancing). Catching up with JD. Popping outside to catch up with the smoking gays, to cool off and get scandalous gossip. Seeing such a wonderful once-in-a-life-time collection of friends and relatives on the dance floor, joining in with Elvis’ Burning Love. The DJ, PC, getting away with playing Tainted Love because he’d opted for the vastly superior Gloria Jones original. Forgiving him for Song 2. Doing the hokey-cokey to Don’t Leave Me This Way. And me, manly-hugging and kissing everyone in sight, drinking in compliments like wine, thanking everyone for being there, and basking in the glow of my wife’s beaming grin. All magical. I think everyone knew how much I loved them by the end of the evening. I tried to be as thorough as possible.
Oh, and I eventually remembered how to go to the toilet, which was useful.
As isn’t traditional, D and I were the last to leave, having hugged and kissed goodbye to everyone and seen them safely off into taxis. And when we got home, we had a cup of tea and I draw a veil.
Well, that wasn’t under three hundred words, was it?
Spotify wedding playlist