BlogOfTheMoon

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Wedding: A best man's perspective

Yesterday was Jo and Dave's wedding. The executive summary: brilliant, the best day I've had in years! The longer version follows (apologies to LiveJournal users if the cut doesn't make its way through the syndication feed).

I have said before that although I have no objection to marriage, I dislike the ceremony, tradition and stress of weddings (I'd be happy with "Do you? Do you? You Are!", followed by a piss-up in a brewery). However, everything came together in this one to result in the best day that I've had in an awfully long time.

As best man, I was at Dave's flat early to ensure that he was up, ready, not panicking and not trying to run away. Happily, the hammer was not needed and both kneecaps were left intact. A few minutes before leaving his flat, Dave hands me a bunch of cards and paper, "here's the wedding regrets," he says. What? "Oh. Did I not mention that?" Apparently it was my responsibility to read out the regrets of the people who couldn't make it. I decided to ignore this for now, and stuffed them into a free pocket to deal with later. We left the flat and, after a brief stop at a florist to pick up lapel flowers (thistles), made our way to the hotel where the reception was going to be held, to drop off presents and other stuff and meet Dougie, who had a spare clip-on bow tie for Dave (since even after over an hour's trying, he couldn't tie a real one). We got a taxi from the hotel to the Univerity Chapel (where the ceremony was to be held) and ran into the first hitch of the day. Stopped at a set of traffic lights, the engine spluttered and died. Several attempts to start later, we got out and were able to flag down another taxi very quickly and got up to the University without any more problems.

We were there reasonably early so hung around outside, took the opportunity to go to the loo and did all the other things that bride grooms (and attendees) do while they're waiting for their brides. People started slowly trickling in and after the photographer had done with us, we went in and took our places at the front of the chapel about ten minutes early. I don't know about Dave, but after twenty minutes I was worried. I blathered quite a lot to try and keep him (and myself!) occupied. Joanna eventually turned up about half an hour late. We learned later that this was because some silly woman had bumped into the back of the wedding car! Joanna and her father were unhurt, but apparently there was some damage to the other car. The ceremony itself went off perfectly. It had to be cut down slightly due to the late start but Jo and Dave were married in the witness of myself and chief bridesmaid Gillian. This was where I got my second surprise, as Louise (the University's wedding organiser) hands me the forms and charges me to take them to the registrar within three working days. Apparently this is another responsibility of the best man. Oh, and I don't think that people will let me forget having to stand on the first step for photographs with the bridesmaids, while they stood on the ground (both of them being much taller than me).

The photographs will be lovely, although there was a cold wind blowing meaning that the bride and bridesmaids were freezing. The photographer did a couple of group shots of the entire congregation before focusing on the family and hanger-on (me). Unfortunately, the rain started just as he was finishing and it came down hard. The photographs had been taken on a lawn at the South Front of the university, at the bottom of a hill, making it hard work for the ladies to get back up again, especially in the rain!

Once we were safely at the top of the hill, the wedding party was whisked away in the fancy cars to the reception, and I was left to organise herding the rest of them on to the bus to take everyone to the reception. Not as easy as you'd think, when everyone's walking at different speeds, some head to the loo and some stop for coffee! Eventually we got everyone on board (with me accepting responsibility if we left anyone behind. Since I didn't hear anything later, I guess we got everyone) and were dropped about 200 metres from the hotel, since that was as far as the bus could go.

Once we were inside, I could relax for a bit and mingle, although I did wonder why people kept asking me where they should put presents. It wasn't until after I was told that this was another best man duty that it made sense. Mark, the master of ceremonies for the day, was excellent. He helped me with that and everything else. Actually, the whole staff were excellent. Very attentive, polite and efficient. They helped make the day go incredibly smoothly.

By this time I was getting used to be told that things were my responsibility. I had to round up the wedding party (bride, groom, parents, bridesmaids, me) for more photographs. Easier than it sounds! Still, the photographs of cutting the cake went very well with several other cameras in evidence, as well as the official one.

Getting people together for the line-up was more difficult, especially since there was a piper involved but nobody seemed to know when she was supposed to play. As I was running around trying to get the parents and wedding couple together for the line-up, I realised that I was really enjoying myself. Running around, rushed off my feet but having a ball of a time. So I went through the line-up and after everyone else was in, I had to go back out again (along with the bridesmaids, who had also come in and sat down) and be piped into the dining room.

The meal itself was lovely, the vegetarian option (something involving puff pastry, vegetables and tomatoes) was great. Unfortunately, the lovely-looking dessert was laced through with alcohol, so I had to make do with a bowl of strawberries. Nice strawberries, but the chocolate thing looked amazing. The meal was inevitably followed by the speeches. Good ones, all of them. The father of the bride started and as he went through I became more and more glad that I didn't have to follow him. There was a lump in my throat more often than not during that speech. This was followed by a gaelic blessing. The blessing was supposed to have been done after the marriage ceremony, but was cut out due to time restrictions. Then Dave gave a speech thanking everybody for coming, thanking certain people in particular (including myself) and toasting the bridesmaids. As specific people were being thanked, Jo's younger siblings were handing out presents to them (the presents that I had helped carry in earlier that day, and had assumed that they were presents for the bride and groom.) and I got a beautiful gold pocket watch. It's absolutely lovely and Jo and Dave know me really well to have got me such a perfect gift.

Okay, with that out of the way, I've got a few minutes to try and sort out my speech while Jo does hers. Or so I thought. Apparently she decided not to speak and the microphone was put in front of me. Eek. The huge round of applause before I had even spoken didn't exactly help calm my nerves either. Okay, so I got up and gave the regrets, although with less polish and more stammering that I would have done if I had some preparation time. I did point this out though, and got a good natured laugh. The speech itself, after I got going, went down well. People laughed in the right places and everyone that I spoke to afterwards said that it was fantastic. Mind you, the wine was flowing rather freely at the tables! For those of you who want to read the speech itself, here it is.

After the speeches, all that was left was the ceilidh and the dreaded first dance! I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever, and despite mentally counting "one, two, three" in my head, I still ended up being all over the place. I started the dance with one bridesmaid while the other danced with one of the ushers and we switched half way through. By this point though, there were other people on the dancefloor making it impossible to see my blunders. Heck, it was almost impossible to move, it was packed. The ceilidh was really good fun. I think that I danced more at that ceilidh than I have done in the rest of my life put together! So what if I kept getting the moves wrong and stepped on a few toes. Nobody seemed to mind. Although I did worry when I almost flattened the bride during one of the spinny bits in one of the dances!

We ended with the traditional Auld Lang Syne with Jo and Dave in the middle of the circle. There were so many people gathered, though, that when we rushed into the centre, we couldn't get within a few metres of the couple. The number of people at the whole evening was fantastic. The Hamilton-McKenzie clans are both huge, and a vast number of them were gathered there, not to mention the large iO crowd and various other friends. It was good to see so many people that care about Jo and Dave gathered there to wish them well.

I was there from (before!) the beginning of the day, right to the very end. It was an absolutely fantastic day. Everybody did everything to make it go as smoothly as possible. I ran around; I organised people and had a great time doing it; I avoided flattening the bride; hugs were given, hugs were received; and to cap it all, I've been metaphorically adopted by both families. It was the perfect start to what will be a wonderful marriage between two wonderful people.

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