Remembering the magical day when I finally said “I do”.
An interlude: Matt and I waited three years and three months between getting engaged and getting married. After getting our first home, four deaths in my family and a murder on the same road as our formerly chosen velue, we decided that 2013 would be our year, “come hell or high water”. This is the story of the day we finally sealed the deal.
Matt and I also got married in the museum in the grounds of where we went for our first date, which should have been a first choice when we looked back! However, we wanted an outdoor wedding, and so it wasn’t our first pick.
It’s a cool and overcast Thursday. We’d booked the reception venue for two days – one day to get set up, and the other for our wedding reception. We carry in boxes and crates then turn our focus to draping soft voile down the walls and hanging bunches of balloons and ribbons around the room. At the tables, my mother and brother are busy laying out table names, flower arrangements and the napkin swans they made without telling us. Room set up, we stand back to take in the view ahead of the big day. I have to admit, it’s a little nerve-racking.
“So I guess this is it, I’ll see you tomorrow then” Matt says, taking my hand in his. For whatever reason, the moment has that iconic Johnny Castle-Francis Houseman feel about it.
“Yep, see you tomorrow” I reply softly. My nervousness is palpable. We part ways, looking back to one another and waving. That would be the ast time we saw one another as single people, and now it was gone.
Or, at least it should have been.
Sat down to enjoy a calming cup of tea with my family, my mobile phone rang: Matt. Is he calling the wedding off? Perhaps he is missing me?
“Hi love, do you have your keys on you?”. A strange question.
“Of course, why?”
“Could I pop down and borrow them please? I’ll give them back to you tomorrow. The lounge door has got stuck, but my suit is on one side and I’m on the other. I need to get in through the back door to get it.” Whoops and hollers ensued, we’d be reuinited for one last time ahead of the wedding, after all.
At my parents’ house, my father had draped the pathway handrail with more white voile and the planters that lined the path had now been decorated with various wedding-related symbols, all drawn in colourful chalk. It was just the kind of stupid (and highly sentimental) thing my father did.
“You’re a softie” I tease him, squeezing him to me.
“Yep, well. You’re my daughter, and I’ve only got one” he replies. I smile fondly at him.
Throughout the evening we share stories of my childhood, of me growing up and memories of my relationship until now. We recall the ex that my brother scared off, the way I swore I’d never drink or have sex before marriage (and how both of those changed no sooner than I turned eighteen) and how my future husband had set the tone for our marriage on our first date by asking me if I cooked my bolognese sauce “from a jar”. The whole evening is relaxed, warm, and familiar.
“This is the first time we’ve slept in the same room in… how long?” I ask my brother as we settle down for the night.
“Since… Christmas ninety five?” he grins. It was a Christmas Eve tradition – sleeping in the same room so that we could wake up together on Christmas Day.
We stay up until 3AM, talking more about the past, about our childhood and about his soon to be brother-in-law. He speaks fondly of him, of how protective he is of me, how happy he makes me and how it shows. My heart swells with love and pride – I knew they’d approve of him, eventually.
“Are you two still awake?” my mother asks as she pushes open the door. We talk for a bit about nerves and she offers me some Kalms, to help me calm. Half an hour later, I’m sound asleep.
“Helen! Malcolm! Time to get up…”
For whatever reason, my first thought of the morning is that it’s Easter Sunday, and we’re about to go on an Easter egg hunt. It takes me a few moments to collect my thoughts, and then the realisation sinks in:
Holy shit! I’m getting married today.
I join the family for breakfast, opting for nothing more than a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits. My stomach is in knots, but I’m trying my best to hold it together.
“Nervous?” Dad asks.
“A bit” I shrug, “I just want to see him now.”
The first of my bridesmaids to arrive is my parents’ neighbours’ daughter, Ellie, followed by my best friend, Catriona, and then Matt’s friend, Jenny. We huddle together, sipping rosé wine and getting ready. For some peculiar reason, every time I’m calm then Jenny is nervous, and every time I’m nervous, Jenny is perfectly calm. It becomes a joke between us throughout the day.
I find my way into my dress in a way that still confuses me, diving my way through layers of tulle and beaded duchess satin. Make up applied, hair fixed and dress and gloves on, it’s time for my father to see the completed look.
“Oh, Helen,” he gushes, “you look bloody beautiful, my love” he whispers. My eyes water, but I don’t care about my make-up. Right now, all that matters is this moment.
“Shit!” my mother exlaims, making her way down the stairs.
“The cars are here” Mum says anxiously.
I dare to peek outside, and outside of the gate is a convoy of white taxis, led by a white Mercedes S Class limousine and all from A Class Taxis, personally selected by us to provide our wedding transport and owing to how often we rely on them to transport us elsewhere around town: Classy cars, suited, friendly and trusted drivers. It’s always the personal touches that complete the big day.
Dad and I take the limousine, adorned with the symbolic white ribbon on the front. Classic FM plays quietly on the radio and I relax into the ride. The driver doesn’t drive fast, if anything, I think he drives slightly slower, perhaps allowing me some time to gather my nerves. We weave our way through the gates, pulling up outside the museum. When we arrive, the bridesmaids and my mother are already there.
“There’s been a bit of a problem,” my mother says as she greets us, “the groom’s transport has got lost. The bride has arrived before the groom has.”
So that Matt wouldn’t see me ahead of the wedding, I ended up squirrelled away in an old Victorian schoolroom, decorated with dark wooden desks and a cane. I did have to smile to myself that even without meaning to, I still wound up in a room so thickly associated with corporal punishment. I was also waiting to marry the man who happened to be my Dominant, no less.
Groom eventually located, it was time for me to make my entrance. With my hand resting on my father’s forearm, we formed an orderly line outside, ready to enter the picture room.
The music wasn’t our selected “Canon in D Major”, and I’d later learn that the CD refused to play. Instead, Matt had randomly and hurriedly selected a piece from a bunch of other CD’s. I think it was Beethoven, but I may be wrong.
Upon reaching Matt, I let go of my father and took Matt’s hand. I’d forgotten myself, and just wanted to be reunited with him. Nothing else mattered anymore: together, we could take on the world.
We listened to readings from my brother, of “The Relationship Promise” by Luke Wright, and a poem that I wrote myself. We didn’t have any hymns or religious readings because we had a civil ceremony, so instead, we kept the focus on love, family and gentle humour.
But no humour would prepare us for the moment that the rings wouldn’t come off of the ring cushion!
Unknown to us, my mother had used a ‘loose stitch’ to sew the rings to the ring cushion to keep the page boy from losing them. When our best Man tried to remove the rings from the cushion, the stitch had tightened and the rings wouldn’t budge. In the end, it took three people and five minutes of our ceremony to get the rings off of the cushion!
After the ceremony, we stopped in the dairy garden for photographs. The weather was cool and it was spotting with rain, but that didn’t hold us back. Use of the dairy garden came as part of the booking, so it was a ‘now or never’ opportunity. Weather aside, some many of the photos were fabulous.
We made our way to the reception venue where our caterer had disappointingly changed up the wedding breakfast menu, all without any notice or confirmation. Instead of hot roast chicken we were served wafer thin cold roast beef, and instead of couscous and pasta options, we were served boiled new potatoes and vegetables. Dessert was unexpectedly changed too, and instead our promised lemon meringue pie, we were served apple pie or chocolate gateau.
Our first dance was to Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”. It wasn’t our first choice, but I coudn’t guarantee that I woudn’t cry throughout Trisha Yearwood’s “How Do I Live” and Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” had seen our footwork go wrong more times than I honestly care to count. Resigned to our fate as a pair of left-footed fools, we threw a bunch of potential songs into a bag, drew one out and stuck with it. Fortunately, it worked out rather well.
My cousin fell foul of me that night, chasing me around and ushering me out of the door. It’s bad luck for the bride and groom to leave last, she insisted. In the rush of being usered out, we left all of our honeymoon luggage by the door.
We took a quiet taxi back to the hotel, along the A4 Portway and under the now-iluminated Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the tide high, the orange-yellow lights reflected off of the water and I sighed. Finally, it felt good to be married.
In the city centre, the streets were alive with revellers preparing to enjoy their Friday night. A drunk man approached us to shake my new husband’s hand, and as I got out of the car and made my way for the hotel, I heard a car horn beep.
“Congratulations!” came the shout, and the driver reached out of the window to high-five us both. Even if we’d left the party, we hadn’t left behind the celebrations.