It is 7 am, and I am confused. Actually no, that is an understatement. I am baffled and a tiny bit scared. Roused from slumber by some unknown factor, it takes me a few moments to work out a) why I can’t roll over and b) why I seem to be lying at the bottom of a giant rubber well.
Then it all becomes clear. The machinations involved in packing the entire bridal party into my parent’s house has meant that rather than sleep in an actual bed, I have been relegated to an inflatable mattress in the narrow confines of my father’s study. I have therefore spent the night wedged in the tight space between the bookshelf and his desk on a mattress which has for some reason deflated slightly, to the extent that my body weight is causing the top and bottom ends to rise up to meet each other, trapping me in the middle. After a few moments contemplation, I realise that nobody is around to witness how undignified my exit will be and clamber over to where memory tells me the door should be.
Wedding day has dawned. I’m bricking it, and I’m already married.
As I explained yesterday, our family home is temporarily the House Of Hormones, its four walls concealing six women along with my father and myself. For years I entertained the fantasy of existing in a world full of women only to now discover that the reality doesn’t quite live up to expectations, especially when we all tumble downstairs to a “serve yourself” breakfast dressed in a range of night attire.
For the bride, every wedding day has to start with a crisis of some description. No wedding in the history of humanity has ever run as smoothly as it should. For most normal people I’m told this involves the discovery of some vital cog in the machinery which has been overlooked, or the church burning down overnight, or the cake being delivered with “Happy 80th” emblazoned across it. We were alerted to my sister’s own crisis by a strange slapping noise emanating from the hallway, followed by a brief cry of pain. She had contrived to stumble over her trousers and perform a suitably bridal faceplant into the wall of the hall, raising the nightmare spectre of swelling and bruising. The bridesmaid team immediately swung into action with appropriate levels of comfort and reassurance, after which an ice pack was swiftly applied. The daggers I received when I whispered to Mila my suggestion about a Phantom Of The Opera themed wedding suggested to me that it was one best not repeated to the room at large.
Owing to the bathroom lock crisis (see yesterday), I lingered over breakfast and waited for everyone else to begin the beautification process. This proved a wise move. My father had attempted some impromptu repairs to the troublesome lock, the fruits of his labours evident to all. The barrel of the lock now lay forlornly in the middle of the landing carpet, a useful new ventilation hole now marking the place in the door where it had once resided. I threw caution to the wind (and plenty more besides) and stepped inside.
Having dressed in casual clothes, I ventured downstairs once more to discover that I was being sent on another mission. More items of crucial significance had been generated overnight and were now sitting in the hallway waiting to be transported to the park. Thus my father and I leapt into the car and repeated our delivery duties of the day before. The reception room was now almost completely transformed, tables and chairs made up to look like a haberdashers paradise. We deposited a spare vase of lilies, the all important card containing the table plan (I’m sitting just below the top table under the watchful eye of Mother, so no yawning during the speeches alas) and for some reason a bag of ivy that has been freshly clipped from the garden wall. For fear of seeming ignorant I declined to enquire what it was for and quietly deposited the bag where someone would find it and know what to do with it.
Back then to the church where the cards with the orders of service were placed at the back and final checks made. It seemed like every conceivable issue had been anticipated. Microphones were installed at the front so we could all hear, a pair of none more “Posh and Becks” thrones (well OK high-backed wooden chairs) next to them for the bride and groom to sit at the appropriate moments, and even a cache of golf umbrellas tucked away in a cubbyhole at the back, just in case the weather turned miserable.
A phonecall cut short our wanderings and we hurried back to the car. It soon became clear why. The bridal team had set out in relays for the neighbouring town for their all-important hairdressing appointments and were now running late, thus leaving the pre-booked makeup girls sitting on our doorstep waiting to be let in. My father and I were at something of a loss for how to make small-talk with two ladies who spent their lives working with mysterious items as concealer and waved horribly painful looking eyebrow plucking machines around. Happily that awkward social situation was averted by the arrival of the bride and her maids, brimming with hairpins and wearing that slightly flushed look that all women have after being attacked with scissors by aggressively camp men.
Once again the House Of Hormones effect kicked in and so swallowing the temptation to retrieve paint rollers, turpentine and Polyfilla guns from the garage to assist with the process, I scampered upstairs and contemplated the penguin suit that had been manipulated onto the train the previous day. You will appreciate this wasn’t entirely my choice. My agreement to spend the day in costume had finally been secured by my mother’s assurance that she would pay for the hire and anyway “all the male family members will be wearing the same, and you will stand out otherwise”. Not that bland conformity has ever been my primary concern when dressing of course, but it sounded a good enough reason. I subsequently discovered that my father was instead going to wear his own father’s regimental Highland outfit thus not only “standing out” but ensuring that I was going to be the only male family member on our side wearing the ostentatious getup.
Suitably attired (after a brief struggle with the buttons on the gold waistcoat) I ventured downstairs to find the makeup session still in full swing. By now it was just after midday and the ceremony itself was less than an hour away. Alerted to this, the bride was frogmarched into the hidden sanctum of the living room to put on The Dress. What happened next took place behind tightly sealed doors, but the snatches of conversation that drifted out suggested a momentary confusion as to exactly how it all worked and which way round things were supposed to go. Resisting the temptation to shout “the udders go in front of the hind legs,” I instead turned around and discovered that I was to be sent on another mission.
Yes, there were still a couple of things to be taken down to the church, specifically the stoles for the bridesmaids in case they were cold and a sheet of hand written instructions for the ushers to ensure that nobody parked themselves in the pews reserved for the family. This sheet itself caused a brief crisis when it could not be located anywhere in the house, forcing a temporary suspension of my mother’s makeup session as she went to discover it.
As I drove down with the minutes ticking away and the Saturday afternoon traffic queues through the village relentlessly refusing to part for me, I wondered if it was fashionable for the bride’s brother to be late as well. Sure enough having parked in our specially designated “wedding guests only” area in the park, I found myself marching up to the church accompanied by most of the other guests. Racing up the pathway, I encountered the ushers and told them to have entertainment ready given that when I left the house, nobody of any importance had been fully dressed. Entering the church, I found half the congregation already in place, the groom sweating at the front and a best man delighted to finally receive his instructions specifying exactly where everyone was supposed to sit.
It was now that the contents of a mysterious suitcase I had been handed were unveiled. This case contained the all-important marriage registers, borrowed for the day from the neighbouring church given that our own closed church no longer required ones of its own. Also inside was the booklet of blank marriage certificates, my father having commented that such an object would be worth thousands in the hands of criminals. For that reason, I was instructed to make sure they were gathered up at the end of the service itself and then locked away in a car boot. It didn’t bear to contemplate losing it.
With just ten minutes left and as the only member of the bride’s family there, I took a deep breath and did my family duty by standing outside the entrance, making small talk with the vicar and waited for the cars to arrive.