Sometimes you go to bed at the end of the day and you have no recollection of anything that happened. One day this week passed in such a manner. It was a Thursday. We did some more tidying up, we started packing for the weekend ahead, and that’s about it. I took zero photographs, which is very unusual. A busy, productive day but totally unmemorable. I don’t know why I mentioned it really. I’m sorry I wasted your time on this paragraph.
Jump to Friday. Pauline and Andrew drove to the airport to pick up Robert, who’d flown in from Vancouver. Yes, Liesel and I only saw him fairly recently, but this was the first reunion with his mother, my sister Pauline, since he moved to Canada all those years ago.
Now we are six. For the first time, there are six people staying in our flat overnight, which seems to have shrunk in size. Rob drew the short straw (we drew it for him) and he slept on an inflatable bed in the office/studio, curled around the legs of the desk.
Before settling down for the night though, we had fish and chips from the local chippy. We bought far too many chips. Which is why, for breakfast the following day, we had egg and chips.
And so, after years of anticipation and planning, the Wedding Weekend began. I am pleased to announce that my daughter Jenny was marrying Liam at an event postponed for a couple of years because of the pandemic.
We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. After our stodgy breakfast, Pauline, Andrew, Rob and I drove to the venue, Knockerdown Cottages, near Ashbourne, on the cusp of the Peak District National Park in the Derbyshire Dales. Yes, what a beautiful part of the country. Just look at the view!
After a lovely drive, despite a couple of diversions, we arrived and parked at the venue at about 11.45. I saw Liam and walked over to say hello. I was immediately told to go to the back of the line over there, to join Jenny, as they were timing the walk up the aisle. Well, a trail of hessian mats on the grass, that led to a gazebo in front of which the ceremony would be conducted. I felt bad that the others were unloading the car without my help. (Afterwards, not at the time, I was in a whirlwind out of my control.) We had a lot of stuff. For the weekend and for a couple of weeks afterwards too. We spent much of the weekend meeting old friends. Danielle, Louise, Katie and Sarah, Jenny’s friends from school, along with the leader of the gang, Helen, were all there leading the procession, followed by Martha and William, with Jenny and myself walking slowly behind. This wasn’t really a full-blown rehearsal. Another long-time friend, Ross, took us through the ceremony, advising us who stands and sits where and when and of course all I can think of is how I
can possibly will probably mess the whole thing up.
Meanwhile, back at home, Liesel and Leslie drove to the airport to pick up Michael (Sarah’s brother) and Astrid, visiting from Norway. After a quick trip to Quarry Bank Mill, they joined us at Knockerdown later in the afternoon.
I was glad our car was amongst the first to arrive in the morning, we could be useful for a bit. We moved bottles of wine and fizz from one cottage to another, we moved some furniture. As a former postie, I was given the task of delivering the Welcome letters to each of the cottages.
Most of the guests arrived soon after 3pm, as did the groceries we’d ordered. Ours came from Ocado as usual, but during the course of the afternoon, Tesco and Sainsbury were represented.
The venue includes a games room and a swimming pool. I confirmed at various times over the weekend that I am still no good at pool (it was a manky table, but I don’t think it made much difference), table tennis (the table seemed much smaller than I remember from my youth) and table football (despite spending too much time on the game while at university).
With about 75 guests in one place for the weekend, there had to be a disaster. And the first one sadly fell to Martha.
For some reason, she threw her mermaid into a tree. It took several people, several sticks, a ball, a pool cue and a broom to finally dislodge the doll from the arboreal resting place.
Pizza Pi turned up and set up his wood stove in the courtyard, right outside our cottage. Nice and convenient and we wondered, unnecessarily, would our cottage be filled with smoke? The pizzas were very tasty, and were accompanied by a variety of leaves and salad.
It was good to see Michael and Astrid again after all these years. Also here were several members from Liam’s wider family including Una’s sisters and Alan’s brother Lawrence.
In the evening, everyone sat down and ate more pizza and snacks and drank copious amounts of alcohol and non-alcohol. Matt, a very entertaining friend of Jenny and Liam, took us through a number of fun party games.
Modesty prevents me from saying that our team, number 10, won. After each task, someone had to run up to Matt and declare their team number. Our table was the closest. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t the best! Obviously.
After a busy, exciting and fun day, of course it was quite hard to get to sleep that night. Finally, after all this time, I was within hours of delivering the Father of the Bride speech. Those who know me know I am not a natural extrovert, I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention and I certainly don’t perform in front of more than four people at a time. So the butterflies were slowly gathering together in my stomach.
When I emerged from my pit on Sunday morning, the kitchen was a hive of industry. Liesel and Pauline were making sandwiches for the children’s lunchboxes, and Leslie was making use of her origami skills, folding and sealing the lunch boxes with all the other lovely components.
I ate a hearty breakfast, spent some time alone going through the speech for the hundredth time. I’d been working on it for nearly three years, on and off, so of course, by now, it made no sense, it was absolute rubbish. Fortunately my secret proofreader/editor has helped out recently, thank you, Helen!
Another disaster. Someone gave me some cash with which to pay the bar staff when they arrived. Liesel saw me put it in my pocket. Later on, I couldn’t find it. I asked around, I retraced all my steps, but no. People agreed with me that this new-fangled plastic money is so easy to lose, when you pull something out of your pocket, for instance. The bar staff were paid, so don’t worry about that.
Three days later, in a place a long way, away, I bent down to put my trainers on. There was some sort of obstruction in my left shoe. Yes, you’re ahead of me. It was the cash I now remember putting there for safe keeping. I think it’s fair to say, pre-speech nerves adversely affect the memory.
Back to Sunday. The children had a Hearts Trail to follow, a series of 18 heart-shaped wooden plaques carefully hidden by adults.
William started well but later, I witnessed one of Liam’s aunts completing his sheet on his behalf. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
Another disaster, oh no. William was stung by a wasp. He soon got over the shock but that was something else we could do without.
While chatting with Uncle Lawrence by the pool, I saw Pauline walk by with a couple of the lunch boxes. I was going to help deliver them, but alas, I’d missed my opportunity.
The weather couldn’t have been better for an outdoor event. A bit cloudy but sunny and with bright blue skies.
I wandered around the site for a while, and even though I knew Jenny and Liam wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, I wondered whether I should attach a ‘Just Married’ sign to the back of this old vehicle, for their post-ceremony departure.
My moment arrived. Time to have a shower and put my wedding attire on. I’d picked up my suit from Best Man in Stockport on Thursday: one of the tasks that I seem to have performed on autopilot.
I was pleased that my clothes all fitted well, even though they felt unusually tight.
Guests made their way to the gazebo where seats had been placed. I was pacing up and down in my cottage, waiting to be summoned.
Someone gave me a pretty little boutonniere to wear. Another potential calamity. In my nervous state, I was bound to prick my finger on the pin and get blood all over my pristine, new, white shirt. But no: this particular disaster was averted and I continued to wait.
Forlornly, I looked through the window towards the bride’s cottage while waiting for the call. Many other people were coming and going but all I could do was walk around the living room again. And again.
I obtained some new spectacles recently. Same prescription as my everyday ones, but these don’t turn dark in sunlight. I remembered to wear them. I would not be ruining photographs today by having shades in front of my eyes.
I paced up and down a bit more. This was like waiting for a baby to be born or something. Exciting, but nerve-wracking.
The bridesmaids all looked gorgeous, the guests all looked splendid, my family all looked very smart and well-turned out. I probably looked OK but as I wore out the carpet in our cottage, of course I had my doubts.
At last, I was called to meet the bride. She looked stunning. I knew she would, but even so, I had to swallow something hard and jagged.
Thanks to Ross, the celebrant, for taking this picture. I’d left my phone behind in the cottage. Mainly because I wouldn’t be able to take pictures for the next hour or two, but also because the pockets in my hired jacket had been sewn shut.
I accompanied Jenny from her cottage all the way to the gazebo without once tripping over my own feet, despite wearing brogues, which I’m not used to and which are longer than my trainers. In addition, I didn’t stand on Jenny’s dress while various girls tried to keep the train under control. Jenny and I followed William at a distance. He was behind Martha who was keeping a good distance behind the bridesmaids.
Other potential faux pas were avoided. My trousers didn’t fall down. I did not have a coughing nor a sneezing fit. And I think I was in the right place at all times.
After turning past a certain tree, Jenny and I heard the processional music, an instrumental version of Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight, from The Lion King.
After delivering Jenny safely to Liam, and shaking his hand, I went to stand next to Liesel in the front row. Ross soon told us all to sit down, and I breathed a sigh of relief: so far, I had not messed up.
The Humanist ceremony was really nice, and I look forward to reading Ross’s words at leisure later on. They were delivered beautifully at the time, but half my mind was elsewhere. Martha performed her reading really well, and so did Liam’s Mum, Una.
During the slow walk back, we each picked up a small bag of (biodegradable) confetti with which to shower the newly married couple and their children, mainly for the benefit of the photographer, Marc.
(I’ll post one or two of Marc’s photos at a later date, but as mentioned above, my phone wasn’t with me during these events.)
Between the wedding ceremony and the Breakfast, we enjoyed drinks and snacks in the courtyard again, conveniently close to our cottage. I collected my speech, printed out in a large font and glued to a set of seven cards. I checked I had this set of cards in my pocket a dozen times. I checked they were in the right order another dozen times.
Guests gathered for the Wedding Breakfast in, what felt to me at the time, the hottest room in all of England. The Sun was pouring in, I was still wearing my suit and I was trying to suppress my state of nervousness.
I looked around and reminded myself, as Chris had said, that these hundreds of people are on my side, that they’ll listen politely while looking forward to the other speeches. Writing this now, a few days later, I realise that my lack of confidence is really showing through. Hundreds of people? Well, seventy-five including about twenty-five children.
Chris’s entrance into the room was quite flamboyant. Jenny and Liam followed with a little more dignity.
I was introduced by Matt, I stood up and read from my crib cards for four of the longest and quickest minutes of my life. It went very well. I’m glad I raised a toast to Jenny’s Mum, Sarah. I was delighted when people laughed at the right time, at the jokes. Again, I’m pleased to say my worst fears were not fulfilled: I didn’t drop the cards, I didn’t read them in the wrong order, I didn’t move away from the microphone and my trousers didn’t fall down.
Modesty forbids me from mentioning how many people came up to me afterwards and the following day to say how much they’d enjoyed my speech, that I’d hit the right tone, the right mix of seriousness and humour, that my nerves hadn’t shown at all.
Helen gave a speech too, with a little help from Martha. She was followed by Liam and by Chris himself.
We guests had selected our meals some months ago, and like most other people, I’d forgotten what I’d opted for, so thank goodness for the personalised menu on the table in front of us. The food was very good, prepared and served by some friendly, helpful caterers. I enjoyed my spinach and artichoke pie and mash with a parmesan crisp served with various beans and peas. This was followed by Bakewell tart with ginger cream which I ate before I had a chance to take its picture.
Yes, I had retrieved my phone by this point. So of course, I shot Jenny and Liam too.
Between the end of the Breakfast and the evening activities, I think I just socialised, and enjoyed having successfully delivered a Father of the Bride’s speech.
Jenny threw the bouquet over her shoulder towards all the single ladies.
Martha was delighted to pick (some of) it up but I’m not sure whether she knows the significance.
The Sun was beginning to set and this was a great photo opportunity for Marc and for the rest of us.
I’d forgotten there were so many formalities at a wedding. I was quite happy to grab a slice of cake and tuck in. But there was the matter of the official Cutting of the Cake.
Martha was on the scene and very quickly announced ‘I want that bit’.
A little later, Jenny and Liam took to the floor for the first dance. The first song I remember the band, Funtime Frankies, playing was Summer of ’69. The dancefloor soon filled but my feet kept themselves to themselves, at least until a pint of beer later. The band were really good, performing old songs with great skill, and I know it’s an old-farty thing to say, but they were really quite loud.
During the evening, we made several visits to the bar for a wide range of beverages. And water.
As darkness settled on Knockerdown, I think we were all still a bit high from the emotion if not from the alcohol. More food was available and I feel sorry for those folks who mistook the jalapeños for mushrooms. Hello Andrew!
Michael and I had a nice chat about Sarah and the wider family. He and Astrid went to bed and I moseyed on over to the After Party, much to Helen’s surprise, I think. I had a bottte of beer, very rare for me at around midnight, before hitting the sack myself. I said good night to the new Mr and Mrs W.
Breakfast for me on the day after consisted of veggie sausage roll, although bacon butties were available for the carnivores. This plus a few cups of tea were very welcome. But I think one of the most memorable sights this day was seeing that Martha didn’t change out of her pyjamas all day. She and all the bridesmaids and Jenny and Helen were wearing personalised robes and I think Martha just didn’t want to take hers off.
We had fun and games in the field including a 9-hole Crazy Golf course that materialised early in the morning. I played two rounds. Once against Pauline and Andrew and once with Martha, Emily and Papa. On both occasions, I got the highest score so I think that makes me the winner.
William played tag with me and Emily for a while. There was a short race course for space hopppering around. The track itself was William’s safe ‘base’ while the island in the middle was ‘super-base’. William’s other job, which he took upon himself, was to carry a crate of bubble mix around. Bubbles were blown.
There wasn’t enough food here this weekend, thought absolutely nobody at all. So it was lovely to welcome the barbecue in the afternoon. At this point, the wind got up and blew one of the gazebos across the patio. I ran over to unload the children from the bouncy castle, just in case, and the rain followed soon after. I’m glad I had my ice cream before the rain set in, since the freezers were outside, exposed to the weather: and wet weather and electricity are not a good pairing.
Weddings are of course mainly about the people, so there will follow a few mug shots, just some of the guests. I hope they don’t put you off your next meal.
Shortly after this picture was taken, so were the subjects. Liesel and Leslie drove them back to Manchester Airport for their return flight to Bergen.
They missed some of the early evening entertainment which included children’s Pass the Parcel and a Pub Quiz. Liesel returned just as the last question was being posed, which is the only reason our team didn’t win. In fact, the winners were the team led by Liam and Jenny which seems only fair. The prize consisted of a few items of old tut previously donated by Liam and Jenny.
The end of the day meant lots of goodbyes of course and I for one was glad of a slightly earlier night in bed.
In the morning, we had to vacate the cottages by 10am. We then hung around a bit to help Jenny and Liam load up their van and Helen and a couple of others to take their stuff out. I think we finally hit the road at about 11 o’clock, having agreed to meet up with Pauline, Andrew and Robert in Bakewell. But that story’s for another day.
Several days later, I can still feel the positive vibes from this wedding weekend, and I mean no disrespect to those who organised and attended my own weddings when I say that I think this was the best, most enjoyable wedding I’ve ever been to. So well planned by Jenny and Liam. Thanks a million to them and thanks to everyone else for making it all so much fun. I can’t wait to see Marc’s professional photos and share one or two here, such as: