Well, my predictions about having my photo taken eating my Last Single Breakfast were correct. (By the way, if you get sick of clicking on links, the photos are in a coherent order at our Flickr page.)
Once that was out of the way, I retreated upstairs to have a bath and generally improve my appearance, then with a towel on my head went to sit in the kitchen, drink tea and chat to my sister Laura and her friend Anna who had come to help her make the bouquets. They’d done this once before, for Anna’s sister’s wedding, and the results were gorgeous. Ours weren’t bad either! (For those who are interested in this sort of thing, the flowers were yellow roses, blue grape hyacinths and genesta, which is essentially a white version of broom, and smells like coconut.) Meanwhile, showers of rain were clattering on the skylights in the kitchen. My cousin Ali arrived, bearing balloons for the two small children who were coming. She and Laura were my bridesmaids and are two of the finest people you could hope to meet. Not only are they funny, clever, and sweet, they are also supremely organised (and not just in comparison with me, either). So they and Mum chased me up the stairs in good time to dry my hair, do my makeup and get into The Dress.
(Warning; boring hair bit coming up, but it’s by special request!) I have an aversion to hairdressers, so I was never going to have an elaborate up-do. In the end, we decided to have most of it loose, with little plaits coming from above each ear and joining at the back: it would go with the mediaeval-style dress, wouldn’t fall down, and, handily, the D. B. prefers it in a simple style. The only tricky part of this style is getting the two plaits to look the same. Ali watched me do it and pronounced them symmetrical, and then Laura, who has high standards, said they weren’t and redid one. In the end, I think they were mostly hidden under the veil – you can’t really see them in any of the photos at all. Such is life.
With Shauna’s example before us, the D. B. and I had planned well ahead to ensure I had “something blue” – the stone in my engagement ring. “Something old” was a necklace which used to be my granny’s (she’s not dead – she just gave it to me!), “borrowed” a knotwork ring that belongs to Mum, and “new” – well, take your pick. The dress was new, but so were my shoes, and indeed my pants…
My dress was easy to step into, but the poor bridesmaids had to be laced into theirs, corset-style. We had practised this several times while affixing their shoulder straps, and I can tell you that there are quite a few wrong ways to do this and I have now done them all. Fortunately on the day, they could lace each other. By this point, horizontal hail was sweeping past the windows and rolling down the road outside.
In the end we were ready in heaps of time. I stood around while waiting for the bridesmaids, and Dad took a lot of photos of me; it was an opportunity to practise my vows, and also walking with the dreaded train. In the bridal shop, I had stood on it and wound it round my ankles so many times. I hadn’t wanted a train to begin with, but the dressmaker talked me into it… The best piece of advice I had for dealing with it came, oddly, from the best man: pretend you have no reverse gear and can only go forwards. “Just don’t walk up to any walls.”
The hail stopped. Dad and I went out to the car, holding my skirt up so it didn’t involve itself with any bushes or damp gravel. By this point I was beginning to feel quite excited.
We used to live on the other side of Edinburgh, and we still go to the same church, about half an hour’s drive from our house. It felt rather odd, travelling the familiar route in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes. I think the driver must have a list of soothingly unexciting topics of conversation suitable for potentially overexcited brides: the state of the roads in Edinburgh, the property market and (prompted by the railings in Queen Street) the manufacture of ornamental ironwork. Somehow this didn’t seem incongruous. Dad, who is a calming influence in himself, also heard my vows a few (dozen) more times. It’s strange – despite all the months of preparation, you don’t really take in that the wedding day will actually come, and even as we were travelling down, I was still having to tell myself “This is real, this is it – pay attention, because you have to remember this!”
As we drove, the day became sunnier and sunnier. We approached the church from the top of a hill, and parked some way away because we were ten minutes early. I was determined not to be late, because I am so notorious for being late that I’d never have heard the last of it: but it doesn’t do to be early either, because the ushers need to get everyone safely seated. Furthermore, because this is the church we go to every Sunday, various members of the congregation who live near were wandering down just for the service. A couple of them passed us as we waited and gave us a cheery wave.
Finally it was time to go down. As we pulled in through the gate, the sunlight was approaching blinding levels. The first person we saw was the photographer, who hastened to take a picture of me getting out of the car; not very easy to do in a graceful manner while you’re trying to keep a big white skirt away from the doorframe and the ground. Team Bridesmaid appeared, straightened me up and rearranged my veil, and after a couple more photos, we made it into the vestibule.
I don’t often get the giggles, but when I do, I have serious difficulty stopping. Just trying on my veil had produced unseemly fits of hilarity in the past. Did I disgrace myself walking up the aisle? Well, no. (Though if we’d had “Here Comes the Bride” as our walking-in music, all bets would’ve been off.) Through the veil I could see the D. B. at the front of the church, and I was so happy to see him (after a parting of less than twenty-four hours) that I couldn’t stop smiling. I do love him so much. He was pretty smiley himself. After welcoming everybody, Stewart the minister told us to “stop looking at each other like that!” and got a big laugh.
The service was lovely. Stewart had given us quite a free rein concerning how we wanted things to go, and we got exactly what we wanted: neither too formal nor too prosaic, with lots of singing. The D. B’s dad read a poem, and my cousin Andrew read a bit of Psalm 85 and good old 1 Corinthians 13. (I did feel this was a little vanilla – I think every wedding I’ve been to has had that reading – but after a lot of searching, we couldn’t find a Bible reading that was anywhere near as appropriate.)
Given that we knew exactly what was coming, I wasn’t expecting to get emotional at the vows. In fact, I was almost worried that it would seem so unreal that I wouldn’t really feel anything. How sincere is it possible to feel, I wondered, saying such familiar lines: for-richer-for-poorer, in-sickness-and-in-health, till-death-us-do-part? Talk about cliché. But when it came to it... it was very moving. I didn’t cry (just as well) but I kind of had to concentrate not to. (And no, neither of us forgot our lines in the stress of the moment!) As we put the rings on each other’s finger, I felt as though we’d just won a prize: we did it! We’re really married!
We signed the register. My brother Pete, who has a lovely voice, and Karen, a friend of ours who’s a semi-professional singer, sang a duet from “The Magic Flute”, which was wonderful (we recorded them rehearsing, and I’ve just wasted half an hour trying to work out how I could post the recording, but am forced to the conclusion that I can’t. Alas. They were good.)
Then we came out into the blinding sunlight and posed for a lot of photos, trying very hard to keep our eyes open.
A lot of photos. Normally I don’t care for having my picture taken, and still less for the results; but we had a very nice and totally non-cringe-making photographer, who managed to get enough photographs of me with my eyes open and not making a strange face. (They were digital, so we’ve only seen the selected good ones – I’m guessing the ones in which I am making a strange face have been mercifully deleted). Of the ones of me and the D. B. on our own, I think I like the ones on the prom best.
Then it was time to get back in the car and head off to the reception.