I set my alarm for 6am, the morning of my wedding. I got up and shaved my legs in the shower. I cut my ankle and it bled quite a lot.
I went down for breakfast. Tess was there with her boyfriend.
I had less than half of my cereal before abandoning it, as I felt sick. I always feel sick when nervous, so I assumed it was that. I went back up to my room.
The hair and makeup stylist arrived at about 8.30am and she did the first stage of my hair, before starting on Tess.
I felt stressed about whether we were going to be ready on time.
I’ve had a recurring dream for years, where I’m getting ready for a wedding – sometimes I’m a bridesmaid, sometimes the bride, sometimes just a guest – and I’m doing my makeup. Time keeps going quicker and quicker and I’m getting later and later. Time is messed up, like it often is in dreams, so I look at the clock and it’s fine, and then I look again, a few seconds later, and hours have gone past.
The afternoon before, we had a hair and makeup trial and I was surprised by how long it took. We had started at about 2pm and I was late for the dinner with our families, hours later. I knew from previous bridesmaid experience that it takes time, but even so.
I kept doing mental calculations about how long we had and pacing up and down, as Tess and the makeup artist chatted casually and her makeup progressed painfully slowly.
My friend who had a COVID wedding just before ours said her favourite part of the day was when she was getting ready, with her friends. I have had lots of nights out where my favourite part was getting ready, but I didn’t really enjoy this as I was so anxious.
My Mum was with us most of the morning. It was nice being with her and my oldest friend. However, I’ve written previously about my Mum’s memory problems, which are getting worse.
We had agreed my Mum, rather than the official wedding photographer, would take photos of getting ready, as she’s a photographer too, but she had forgotten and not brought her ‘big camera’. She did have the smaller camera she always carries with her and I’m not sure I could tell the difference, but I thought it was sad she hadn’t remembered. I know she felt bad.
We had also arranged the night before that she would come to my room at 10am, as the makeup artist was going to do her makeup as well, but she was nowhere to be seen at 10am.
I wandered the corridors in my curlers, trying to find her and phoning her. It turned out she had forgotten and was still having breakfast with my Dad. She did join us after that. It didn’t affect anything, time-wise.
When the makeup artist finally finished Tess, she said she would do my Mum next.
I leapt up and said, “I was thinking, it might be better for my stress levels if I could go next, if that’s OK?”
*The next part is lots of detail about makeup and also possibly a bit bratty*
The beautician did a brilliant job with my hair but I felt a bit disappointed with my makeup. I had shown her a photo the previous day, of the eyeshadow I wanted, and she hadn’t really done it like the photo. I think it looks cool when the eyeshadow fades from one colour to another, across the eyelid. She had used similar colours but hadn’t got that effect. I did say something and she got it more similar to the photo, on the actual day.
I also hate it when people have too much mascara on, so their eyelashes look like tarantula legs. I did say I wanted less mascara but there was still too much when we were done.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for lipstick. I kind of wanted really red lipstick if I could pull it off, like Gwen Stefani in the video for Don’t Speak. However, if it wasn’t me, or would be too much with the eye makeup, I wanted a colour that was natural but flattering.
It turned out she had loads of different shades of pink but didn’t really have a red that was what I wanted, so we ended up using a red that I had in my makeup bag. She applied it in a way that looked more subtle and it did work well. However, it didn’t stay on.
When I was very into makeup in my twenties, I found a way to make lipstick stay on until the next morning, with primer and lipliner. I feel a bit disappointed when I look back at photos and in most of them, it looks like I’m not wearing any lipstick, and it all looks a bit unfinished.
Anyway, after she finished my makeup, I went into the ‘dressing room’ of our massive bedroom. I got into my dress, and also used the eyelash comb from my makeup bag to try and get some of the mascara off.
I practised walking up and down in my dress with my bouquet. I realised the skirt was so long, I needed to use both hands to lift it while walking, but when I was walking down the aisle holding my bouquet, I wouldn’t be able to.
I had brought some sewing things and Tess helped me pin up the front of the dress so I could walk more easily.
Andrew called me again, mid-morning, as he’d forgotten his razor and shaving foam. I offered to lend him mine and suggested he ask at reception, but he said he’d ask his brother.
I managed to eat half of a Nakd bar before feeling sick again.
Tess was drinking Prosecco and I wished I could join in, but as I was pregnant, I had decided the only drink I’d have was a single glass of champagne, toasting at the reception.
The wedding was at 1.30pm and when we were arranging things, there were a lot of warnings from the Registrar about how we had to be ready on time.
The Registry Office officials came up to talk to me at 1.15pm, which, because of COVID, we weirdly did standing on the landing outside my room, with masks on. Just as they knocked on the door, everyone’s hair and makeup, apart from my lipstick, was finally finished.
I thought they might ask me some quiz questions about Andrew, to check we’re really in love and it’s not a marriage of convenience, but it was mainly things like details for the marriage certificate.
“Right. Is it OK if I quickly put some more deodorant on? I’m really sweating!” I said, when we’d finished.
I went back into my room, put deodorant on, and had a final check in the mirror and tearful hug with Tess and my Mum. The makeup artist did my lipstick.
My Mum went on down and the photographer took pictures of Tess and then me walking down the stairs.
I finally walked down the aisle, to Here, There and Everywhere, by the Beatles. The room looked great. It had views of the lake, a grandfather clock and an arch of flowers, which looked perfect.
My heart was pounding and but I was beaming.
When I got to the front and reached Andrew, my first thought, on this momentous day – our wedding day – was this:
Why is his top lip bleeding?
As the ceremony progressed, I noticed more and more cuts on his face. There must’ve been about ten.
It turned out, when he’d forgotten his razor, he ended up using his brother’s. His brother had a cut-throat razor which Andrew didn’t know how to use.
The registrar who was conducting the ceremony was lovely. I hadn’t expected to love the ceremony so much. As it wasn’t in a church, and what we were allowed was limited by COVID, (no readings) I had thought it might feel like a formality, but it wasn’t like that at all.
I grabbed Andrew’s hand as soon as I got to front and we held hands throughout.
There was one moment, during the exchange of rings, when I got choked up, saying my bit, because I was so happy.
Andrew had a tissue in his pocket but it took ages for him to get it out, because he only had one hand free, as he was holding my hand and the ring.
I felt so happy – like I was finally getting everything I’d always wanted.
We signed the official documents, which took a while. I was a bit annoyed, because there were supposed to be two songs playing, (You Got the Love by Candi Staton and You Showed Me by the Lightning Seeds) but something went wrong with the music. Obviously this isn’t the end of the world, but with COVID, music was one of the few things we were still allowed to make it our own.
Something I’ve noticed since people started getting married in other places, besides churches, is that the timing of entrance music can be a bit tricky.
The law only changed in the 90s, allowing weddings to take place outside of churches and registry offices. When I used to be a runner in church weddings, I noticed the standard wedding entrance music, Here Comes the Bride, is about the right length for how long it takes to walk down the aisle of a church (or the organist is used to making it fit).
Now people get married in a range of settings and walk in to a range of songs, and they don’t always fit. Usually the song is significantly longer than the walk, which leaves an awkward dilemma. They don’t want to cut the music off abruptly but they also don’t want to stand awkwardly at the front for two more verses and choruses while no one knows what to do with themselves.
The worst example of this was at a friend’s wedding. She entered to I don’t wanna miss a thing by Aerosmith. It’s a long song. The aisle was short.
They were barely at the end of the first line of the first verse when she got to the front. They did the worst of both worlds and stood awkwardly for a really long time, before whoever was in charge of music finally couldn’t take it anymore and cut Steve Tyler off mid sentence in the final chorus.
At ours, the wedding co-ordinator was efficient enough to subtly fade the music as soon as I got the front, but she must’ve forgotten to turn the speakers back up. When the music was due to come back on for signing the registers, it was barely audible. Andrew’s brother was in charge of the music and I could see him trying to make it go louder and looking around anxiously. There was just silence except for the official telling us where to sign.
When the ceremony was over, we walked out into a conservatory which looked out over the lake. We were handed glasses of champagne and I said, “I’d better not, I’m pregnant!” The arch got moved outside so we could have some photos standing under the arch, with the lake and mountains in the background.
We had photos and our families milled around and were handed glasses of champagne. There were awkward hugs as we weren’t sure what was appropriate with COVID. Andrew’s parents kept their masks on most of the time whereas my parents didn’t.
We got a few messages from friends and family who had watched the wedding over Zoom.
The photographer took photos of us, in various groups and then on our own, by the lake. I really enjoyed the photographs. It had been sunny when I was getting ready in the morning, but during the photos it was grey and cold. It was kind of atmospheric.
A family, on a walk, nearby, shouted that I looked beautiful, which was nice.
After the photos, we went back to the conservatory and hung around with our families, until the wedding breakfast was ready.
My brother and his girlfriend hadn’t been able to come to the wedding, at the last minute, and his girlfriend was making the cake. She sent it in the post but we really weren’t sure if it would make it. While the room was being set up for the wedding breakfast, I saw through the window that the cake was there. It had made it! We had one layer of chocolate cake and one layer of traditional wedding fruit cake. As I really like ladybirds and Andrew likes cricket, it had a pattern of ladybirds and cricket balls.
Then we went in for the wedding breakfast. Because of COVID, the rule was that people could only sit on the same table if they were from the same household. This meant we had six tables for nine guests, almost like an exam hall where everyone has their own desk. Tess, Andrew’s brother and his sister each had to sit on their own, and we and our parents were able to sit on tables of two. They had arranged all the tables in a sort of horseshoe, facing ours, but it did have a strange feel.
In the interim, between the ceremony and dinner, I had first got a feel for how this group of people, our families and Tess, might not totally click.
Andrew had told me his parents never stay in hotels and never go out for dinner because it’s too extravagant. That day we were having dinner in a hotel – the kind of dinner with lots of courses, where you don’t get that much food but it’s very artfully arranged. They were not in their element. In some ways, my parents are really similar to his, but also really different.
Tess and Andrew’s siblings were good at keeping at the conversation going, but it was more difficult because we were all sitting so far apart. It dragged.
I can imagine at a normal wedding there might be one table of people who don’t really click that much, but normally the bride and groom would either be unaware or would only think about it for five minutes, while going round to say hello in between courses. For us, that table with stilted conversation was all there was.
It’s hard to describe exactly what it was like, because everyone got on fine, but you know how sometimes you meet new people and the conversation is so good, it’s flowing so much you completely lose track of time? It was the exact opposite of that.
We knew the speeches, after the meal, would be at 5pm and we had to stick to that time because people we tuning back in on Zoom. I remember after one course, thinking This is dragging a bit. I looked at the time and it was 4pm. Then there was a good bit of conversation then went on for a while and I thought Great! Loads of time must’ve gone past now. I looked at the clock and it was 4.05pm.
One thing that helped was the wedding playlist. I put on a mixture of Christmas songs on, as it was the weekend before Christmas, and wedding-related songs. Often when there was a lull in the conversation, we would all then focus on the playlist and someone would say “ah, Spice Girls! Two Become One! Yes, this was a Christmas number one!” or “Guns n Roses November Rain? Because of the wedding in the video?”
I found this quite fun, but the next day Andrew said “I could see my parents were getting annoyed with the playlist.”
I can’t remember much about the food but it was lovely. However, even though my nerves had passed, I still struggled to eat. At one point I was enjoying some food but then retched.
(The next day, when I woke up, I was sick and it turned out to be the start of hyperemesis, severe pregnancy sickness, which I had to spend some time in hospital with, but I’ll write a separate post about that.)
After we finished eating, we had the speeches. First, we had the readings which we weren’t allowed during the ceremony. My brother, over Zoom, read the bit Hugh Grant says at the start of Love Actually:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
My mum read an extract from Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton:
Andrew’s sister read the poem A Vow by Wendy Cope.
“I cannot promise never to be angry;
I cannot promise always to be kind.
You know what you are taking on, my darling –
It’s only at the start that love is blind.
And yet I’m still the one you want to be with
And you’re the one for me – of that I’m sure.
You are my closest friend, my favourite person,
The lover and the home I’ve waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve you
From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
I love you and I want to make you happy.
I promise I will do my very best.”
Tess and my Dad gave speeches, then me and Andrew. This was another of my favourite parts of the day. Everyone’s speeches were both funny and moving.
The one thing I was sad about with the speeches was that no one on Andrew’s side said anything. He didn’t officially have a best man, so it wasn’t completely obvious who should give speeches, but he did ask his family to and they didn’t. I don’t know how much was down to him not being direct enough when he asked them and how much was down to them being rubbish.
I think he was indirect. Sometimes when I nagged him about whether he’d asked his brother or parents, he said things like “they won’t want to, it’s not their thing.” This makes me think they might not have realised what my lot were doing and maybe would have said something if he’d been very clear.
But on the other hand, he said his Dad said, “I will say something if I feel moved to on the day.” Which makes me think they did know.
After all of our speeches, I looked at his brother and parents in a “Aren’t you going to say anything?” kind of way, which they didn’t respond to.
Andrew and I were chatting about this the other day and he said it would’ve been nice even if they’d just stood up and said something general like ‘congratulations’ or wishing us luck. He went on to tell me about when he graduated from uni; they didn’t stay for long at his graduation. He remembers coming home on the bus on his own, and they didn’t buy a photo of him with the scroll or anything. It’s strange because it is obvious they love him and are proud of him in other ways but they don’t seem keen to engage in these customs celebrating him.
We didn’t hear at our end, but my friend who was watching it on Zoom said someone else piped up, “isn’t there going to be a best man speech?” as we were making wrapping up noises.
I felt bad for him and also embarrassed as my Dad, Tess and Andrew all talked about me at length, and it was only me who talked about him.
This was compounded by the fact my parents had brought lots of pictures of me and put them up, dotted around the room. They had brought photos of me as a child, plus some big canvases with pictures my Mum had taken of me as a teenager as course work for her photography course. I appreciated the sentiment but it was embarrassing! I don’t know if they just assumed Andrew’s family would do the same, but the pictures and then speeches made it seem like the Dater Analysis Show, rather than about both of us.
After the speeches, the two of us went up to our hotel room and lay on the bed. I had a cup of tea and we chatted and relaxed. We also consummated the marriage, standing in front of the mirror.
My cousin and also one of Andrew’s friends had contacted the hotel and arranged for bottles of Prosecco to be left in our room.
After a while, we went back down and had drinks in the bar with Andrew’s family, then there was an evening bit where we had bacon sandwiches and wedding cake. I enjoyed that more.
We didn’t have an official first dance as there wasn’t really dancing, with such a small group, and Andrew would never have agreed to it. The closest thing we have to ‘our song” is Regulate by Warren G. The first night we had sex, we had been on the tube and when the train went through Warren Street, I had said, “I always sing in my head, ‘On a mission trying to find Mr Warren Street’ when I go through this station.”
He had said that he and his friend always text each other lines from that song.
When we got back to our hotel room, I put Regulate on and we danced to it.
So that was our wedding day.
It wasn’t the best day of my life. It might not even be in the Top 10, with half our siblings missing with COVID, the awkward dinner conversation, the stress getting ready and the Dater Analysis Show. I enjoyed the weekend we got engaged more, because it was just us, enjoying each other’s company.
But do you know what? It doesn’t bother me.
If our wedding day was the best day of our lives, it would be downhill from there. I’m happy we’re married now. All I wanted was tell a room of people how much I love him, which I got to do (even if most of them were on Zoom) and to be his wife. I still get a kick out of calling him my husband, nearly a year on. I know we will have so many happy days to come.
Sometimes, with friends and family, and other times with just three of us.