By Friday night I was so tired I was seriously contemplating ringing Janey and telling her to get on with it herself. But I didn’t. Come half past eight on Saturday morning I was at the church hall, finishing off and doing a final sweep up. The fun and frolics started at Ivy and Jim’s house at nine with the arrival of Hair and Make-up and Ivy panicking because the bouquet appeared to be “wilting”. Pam the Florist whizzed by on her way to finish off the church and Uncle Jim nearly dropped his bacon sandwich “F*** me, it’s Judi Dench!”
The photographer – Terry – was everywhere. You couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without a camera flash blinding you. If you ask me, the candid album is going to be bigger than the actual wedding one. He got a lovely shot of me, whilst sweeping the floor, shall we say adjusting my underwear. He's promised to delete it. Hm.
Chaotic, that’s the best word to describe the morning of The Wedding: Fractious bridesmaids who were bleating that their hair wasn’t straight enough. Ivy running out of pins for the button holes which necessitated her running down to the corner shop with curlers in her hair and her wedding makeup sliding off her face. Mac was an angel throughout and he and Caitlin spent the morning watching DVDs (I rarely use the TV as a babysitter, don’t tell Bea) and shushing us when we got too rowdy and they couldn’t hear Flushed Away.
Janey looked glorious in her dress and I must admit I shed a few tears. We had some “artistic” shots taken (by this Auntie Ivy thought Terry meant nudity and she thundered up the stairs to find her daughter sitting in the bathroom, a white sheet draped round the shower cubicle as a backdrop, on a chair holding her bouquet, fully clothed). Whilst all this was going on, Janey said some truly lovely things to me and I was awash and had to be touched up by the Make-up Lady who rued not using waterproof mascara in the first place. I escaped to the church before I could cry any more.
The place was jampacked – the Bimbola’s were in full flow, all dressed like gaudy peacocks, each trying to outdo the other. Toria, as Janey’s best friend, could be heard saying loudly “Didn’t want to be a fricking Maid of Honour” and Lisa responding “You ain’t got none of that”. The celebrity from Big Brother (my lips are sealed) arrived with her Z-list celebrity boyfriend and, amazingly enough, a bodyguard. The Chinese whispers started and swept round the guests like wildfire so that, by the time the immediate family arrived (Ivy looking amazing in lemon), she was “that bird off Hollyoaks”.
At twenty to four Darren arrived with his best man, both strutting round manfully and rolling their eyes at the goings on. Darren’s mum Lou (in a retina searing cerise suit and not, for once, her habitual denim) kept pulling at his tie and adjusting his buttonhole. Darren’s dad Roger sat in gloomy silence reading the paper. I was running around, as Serena pointed out to me, like a “blue arsed fly”. I wanted everyone in the church by ten to four, seated and calm. The Funky Vicar was wafting up and down the aisle humming the wedding march and dispensing bonhomie. Clambering into the pulpit, he boomed out “Before the bride arrives I’d like a moment of contemplation please.” which made the baby at the back of the church start crying.
He then asked us all to look at our own lives, at our own marriages and relationships and to contemplate them in silence. All around me, couples clutched hands and snatched kisses, the singletons in the pews looked as if they’d rather be elsewhere. I used to hate going to weddings when I was single. David was sitting next to Bea’s husband Stephen, the space he’d saved for me next to him lovingly protected by a prayerbook and the Order of Service novel. On my fifth run down the aisle to check that the organist had the right music, I leant over and gave him a kiss, aiming for his cheek. Unfortunately, he turned to look at Stephen and I caught his ear. Romantic.
The bridesmaids and Mac were waiting outside the church along with Bea (stunning in emerald green with a huge hat) who was weeping over Caitlin who looked so sweet in her white dress. “How wonderful, suddenly I’m seeing my little girl get married!” she wept. Mac looked alarmed at this “I’m not getting married!” he insisted, sticking his little chin out defiantly. Tatiana and Juliet twiddled with their hair and moaned about the cold wind that was whipping their dresses about.
Then Janey arrived to a chorus of “ooohs and aaahs” from the gathered crowd. Almost always old ladies with shopping trollies aren’t they? Crowds outside churches on wedding days? She looked stunning, her hair artfully arranged and minus her usual chewing gum. Uncle Jim had a few tears in his eyes as he met up with us at the porch and Bea and I turned and legged it to our seats, me giving the pre-arranged sign to the vicar. Janey came down the aisle to “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”. How apt. Everyone in the congregation were nudging each other at the irony. Bea was keeping a close eye on Caitlin who had linked arms with Mac. The lump in my throat got bigger.
Darren agreed that he did indeed take “Jane Elizabeth Mary Katherine Anne to be his lawful wedded wife”. Janey promised that she would “love, honour and obey” - which caused a few titters from the Bimbolas – “Darren Cyril” to yet more titters. Lou looked most affronted at this and had a face like she were sucking lemons for the rest of the ceremony. They signed the register as we listened an recording of Eva Cassidy sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and they came back slowly down the aisle to Elvis' Love Me Tender - "so she can milk it for as long as possible" said Maria.
We had five minutes of rain before we could start on the photos which were long and interminable – apparently. I had to scoot over to the church hall where I bumped into Pam the Florist looking regal in a delicate cream suit with a feathered hat who was quite chuffed to have been called Dame Judi by a number of guests. Janey, she told me, had asked her not to reveal that she wasn’t the great actress. Guests, bored with the lengthy photo session, started to wander over and set up camp at the bar where Manuela The Caterer’s brother Juan was bow-tied and gorgeous.
The table plan went to pot until I went round and personally hoiked people out of seats and practically put them in their correct positions. Grumbles – good natured and otherwise – were a small price to play for Janey and her ever critical eye.
The bride and groom arrived and, while the wedding party sat down to chilled melon, roast beef and summer fruit terrine, the guests had to make do with some appetisers – all gorgeous and handed round by Manuela and her heavily pregnant sister Juliana which started many of the elder members of the party asking when Janey would be “getting in the family way”. The speeches were mercifully short and I blushed to the roots of my hair when Janey toasted her "wonderful cousin who arranged all this".
By seven pm the disco was in full swing and buffet had started. Janey and Darren’s first dance was to Something by the Beatles. I had the urge to get up there and join them and the children that were swaying – that was our first dance song too so David asked them to play it again later, just for me. The food was amazing and there were copious jellied eels, prawns in thousand island sauce and whelks with enough vinegar to float several battleships. Manuela was handing out business cards all night and kept shoving food in my direction.
Dave on the disco had a good mix of music all night. The Bimbola’s gave their all to Beyonce, Uncle Jim, Uncle Bill and Cousin Tony got down and funky to the Rolling Stones and the children enjoyed a little bit of Chico-time. I was ready for a sit down but apparently I had to be up and dancing or "it'll ruin my wedding day". Janey was looking radiant and her voice getting louder and louder as more people told her she was gorgeous. The reporter from the Parish Magazine was asked if he wanted a quiet space so he could ask them his questions. He looked a little bewildered at this but gamely followed the bride and groom into the kitchen where they held court for about ten minutes. He left, clutching a sausage roll, in rather a hurry.
The Happy Couple left at eleven, heading off for a night in a hotel before flying off to Mexico on Sunday afternoon. The rest of us stayed until gone 1am, and only stopped when the Funky Vicar appeared on stage in his pyjamas and asked us to "desist, for it is now God's Day".
He was persuaded to stay for a rousing rendition of New York New York and a plate of whelks. We tidied up around him and Uncle Jim as they both enjoyed a spirited debate on whether or not God frowned upon Sunday trading.
An excellent day......am exhausted but it was worth it. Congratulations Janey and Darren and I hope that this post does the day justice!