The wedding service
At 7.20am I was on my way to Hereford to do some shopping. Concerned that we wouldn't have enough drinks, I'd decided to get a load from the local supermarket, to where they could be returned afterwards if we didn't use them (although I'd forgotten that alcohol can only be sold after 8am - had to wait by the checkout with my trolley, watching the seconds tick by!).
That trip kind of set the pace for the rest of the morning. I think it was also demonstrative of how I was having problems letting go. Having spent so many weeks planning and organising, I was now finding it hard to trust that the details would sort themselves out. I wasn't used to having so many people on hand willing to help, and still felt that if something needed to be done I should do it myself (not that I didn't trust others, but rather because it was my 'responsibility' to make sure everything was OK).
In the face of this my brother Stephen did a fantastic job of ensuring that I breathed before the service. I was confined to my bedroom, forbidden from coming downstairs. I was to get dressed, and then sit on my bed and wait until it was time to go.
I more or less managed this, and the last hour or so before the service was actually pretty relaxing.
A memorable moment came at 2.30pm, half an hour before the ceremony was due to begin. I suddenly realised that I could hear the bells ringing at the church across the valley - they were ringing for us! That made me so happy... I thought of the difficulties I'd had in finding the bell-ringing team (in the end I located them through a wild Google search!) - it had definitely been worth it!
All suited up, we then made our way to the church in my little hire-car. *Twinkle* would be following later from the guest house with her father in the classic 1930s Alvis, owned by a neighbour of ours who had very kindly offered his services (and he did so against the odds too - only a few days earlier the gearbox had packed up; he'd put considerable effort into finding another in time so that he could drive us on the day).
*Twinkle*, father, and the Alvis, arriving at the church
Arriving at the church a few minutes later I was stunned - there were all these people there that I knew!
I know it sounds silly (after all, I was the one that had sent the invites out) but it really was amazing. All these dear friends and family members, some of whom I'd not seen in ages, had come together for us. It was surreal in a way, and time and time again I found myself surprised and delighted by the faces that were there. The neighbours had come down to watch as well - these were the neighbours that had donated flowers from their gardens, given us cards and presents, leant us staplers for our order of service, dropped off hay bales for people to sit on, offered their homes for our friends from far away to stay in...
And this is something that has really touched me: the community effort. I lived in Orcop for about 8 years, until the age of 16 when I moved into that bedsit with the walls that crumbled when I attempted to put a shelf up. Since then, with the exception of the Torquay Years, I've always regarded it as home, that safe place that never changes and is always open for me to come back to should I need to.
That's why that despite the fact that I've not 'lived' here for 14 years it felt appropriate to hold the wedding in the valley. It was also an area that *Twinkle* was familiar with having visited here several times for little holidays. Looking back on the events of last week, I can see now that it was indeed a very good decision.
Yesterday, I was going through a list of people that had helped make it happen. Not counting those actually present at the wedding, I came up with over twenty local families that had played a vital part in ensuring that everything was in place. As mentioned above there was the car, the flowers, the accommodation, there was also parking at the church (in people's driveways and also in a field of sheep), local B&B and camp site owners who had been so flexible, the church cleaning team, the chap who mowed his grass next door so people could park on the verge, the provision of an amp for the service, oh, and the Royal Air Force too - they did a low, slow fly past in a Hercules when we came out of the church!
It seemed everyone in the area knew about the wedding, and expressed their support and congratulations.
Naturally, we are both very grateful for the all of this support. ...and it feels good, affirming my connections with the area before leaving the UK.
Anyway anyway, where were we? Ah yes, I'd arrived at the church.
Walking down the aisle to take my seat at the front I was again delighted to see yet more familiar faces - caw, this was all a bit exciting really! Everyone was here to share in our marriage commitment.
After a little wait, Mum #2 pressed the magic button, and Pachabel's Canon filled the church - *Twinkle* had arrived. I didn't turn around though, too nervous at first, but then I kept on hearing Louise urgently whispering in excited tones to Stephen, "Tell him to turn around! Turn around!"
And so I did.
I must admit I felt breathless when I saw *Twinkle* in her wedding dress. She was the most beautiful bride in the whole world ever, soooo beautiful (OK, so I may be biased). I wasn't sure if I was going to cry or not, so looked away ...but had to look back again. Caw blimey, this is quite a coup I thought. How on Earth did I manage this?
Having had the rehearsal not 20 hours beforehand, we were both pretty comfortable with our lines (although I'm told that we both said "till death us do part" backwards - not that we noticed!). It was good though, it felt very right to be making those promises. I know one or two members of the congregation raised their eyebrows at references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit (knowing that neither of us are active church-goers); they told us so afterwards as well. But as I have written before, I see these elements of church services as just another interpretation of broader spiritual ideas / truths / beliefs that are the very core of our existence, regardless of religious beliefs. 'God' 'Love' 'Source', no matter what your chosen label, it's still referring to the same thing, and that's the energy source from which we have come, and the energy source that connects *Twinkle* and I.
I was sooo happy when we were pronounced husband and wife! tee hee. What a happy moment. In fact the whole thing was rather happy.
I'm so glad we got married in that church too - it was the perfect setting, with its cute red carpet and sloping floors. Many people have commented on how much they enjoyed the service, and I must say, it really felt very right.
Mum #2 was in ambidextrous mode, and in addition to being our DJ, she read that lovely chapter from Corinthians on Love - she even did the last line in Japanese (and great pronunciation too!). My sister Emma, and *Twinkle*s friend Mariko from Osaka read from Gibran's The Prophet ('Valentine'), giving us the opportunity to think about what we were entering into.
As we signed the register with our witnesses Jess (my sister, with nephew Jamie in tow) and Xinxin (dear friend from Sheffield), so Ruth began to play her piano and sing Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together'. She has such a great voice, just beautiful. Added so much to the atmosphere. Thank you Ruth.
(Jamie is hiding behind Jess)
Following our blessing, DJ Mum #2 pumped up the volume - we receded down the aisle as husband and wife to Mendelson's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - a traditional and very jolly tune!
And with that, we were married :-)