Last weekend, we escaped the Norfolk storms to attend a wedding on the Sussex coast, in Eastbourne. When you are invited to a wedding, it is sometimes a mixed blessing. You want to go, but you have to consider the distance involved, arranging accommodation, getting time off either side of the day, and for us, someone to look after our dog.
This was one wedding we were always going to attend, as it involved good friends from our time in London, and for me, a friend and former colleague that I have known for almost twenty years. We arranged a hotel a long time ago, and Julie got the extra day off. There was the bonus that we could even stay in the same hotel where the wedding was to take place, avoiding any extra travelling. We did have a slight problem with the dog-sitting, as the original person couldn’t do it, due to family dramas. However, we managed to get other friends to take him, where we knew he would be well looked after, and happy too.
A long drive south on a Friday afternoon is always going to be potentially tiresome. After a good start, in decent weather, we hit a ten-mile tailback at the Dartford Crossing, which added over ninety minutes to an already considerable journey. Because of this traffic problem, we didn’t arrive until after 7.30pm, almost two hours after we expected to get there. The hotel was fine though. An old-fashioned, very English establishment, favoured by the older generation. The weather stayed warm and fine, and we met some other guests in the restaurant, catching up after a few years apart.
This was a cross-cultural wedding, with my English friend of Greek extraction marrying a Malaysian lady with a Chinese family background. This added to the enjoyment, with guests arriving from all over the world, and everyone mixing comfortably. It was also not going to be that traditional in style. No Best Man, only one speech, and no over-dressed parade of wedding ‘helpers’. The groom was also the photographer, which led to some interesting situations, although there was a video team, as well as back-up photographers, using cameras set up and supplied by the groom. Just the right number of guests filled the grand room where the civil ceremony took place, and a happy informal atmosphere was constant throughout.
The vows were touching, the registrar casual and relaxed; yet it still managed to be very moving, bringing tears to many an eye. With the bride swept aloft, and carried back through a cloud of confetti, we were able to enjoy the spacious terrace and gardens, in weather that just kept getting better. There were no deadlines, regimentation was absent, and the photo sessions were similarly relaxed, devoid of uncomfortable posing and affectation. Good planning was evident throughout. Appropriate props had been arranged; lovely coloured parasols to reflect the Chinese aspect of the day, and fun glasses for both children and adults to enjoy. The group of children did not have to restrict themselves to behaving correctly in a formal dining room, and were able to play freely around the grounds. As a result, there were none of the usual tantrums and fits that can often spoil proceedings.
When we went back inside for the meal, tradition was broken once more. The groom made his short speech immediately, and then the cake was cut, before the food was served. We all thought that this was a great deviation from the norm, getting all the formalities done at the outset. The food was unusually good for a wedding feast. Each course was delicious, served promptly, and piping hot too. Even better, there were natural pauses between courses, giving us time to relax, cool down on the terrace, and chat to the others around our table. An inspired theme, was to have a film quiz between courses, with each table getting a question on a specific film, and a prize for whoever answered.
The highlight of the mealtime, was the sudden appearance of a uniformed waiter, and two young waitresses. They announced that they were ‘singing waiters’, and delivered classic songs, in very good voices. They cajoled tables to clap and dance in turn, and soon the whole assembly was singing along. It took some time for many of us to realise that their presence had actually been arranged, and that they were a professional group, and not hotel staff at all. This deception made it even more enjoyable. They returned later, dressed as the girls from Abba, and got the whole room moving, with a medley of favourites from the Swedish legends. This was a massive ice-breaker, and great fun for all ages. A fabulous idea for wedding entertainment.
When the meal was over, and coffee had been served, many of us chose to retire to the terrace, to escape the heat of the function room. Some sat on the tables there (us included), others took to the benches around the putting green, watching the children play excitedly. We bought drinks from the bar, but nobody had too much to drink. The day had been paced with care and precision, and everyone was happy, and feeling mellow. There were good spirits in abundance, old friends catching up, and new friends to be discovered. Rarely has a wedding been this good.
As it got later, some guests drifted off to bed, though some of us remained on the terrace until after midnight. Every single person commented on what a great day it had been, and how much they had enjoyed every aspect of it. We exchanged e mail addresses, and arranged to meet after breakfast, or to catch up again soon. We took our leave of others, sure in the hope that we might meet again, in the not too distant future.
So, Antony and Natalie. Thanks are due for putting together such a wonderful occasion. We send our love, and wish you both a long and happy life together, as man and wife.