I wake up on Saturday morning and look across the double bed to where C, my bridesmaid, has kept me company in my last night as an unmarried woman. “It’s your wedding day!” she whispers and I smile. In 8 hours I will be standing at the altar.
Our wedding guests seem to have taken over the hotel and breakfast is a family affair, with parents and in laws and friends everywhere I turn. Everyone is smiling at me.
After a trip to the hairdresser to prettify our tresses, the bridesmaids and I meet up in my hotel room. There’s still time before we need to get ready so we assemble a carpet picnic – salads, pretzels, grapes and champagne – and, like so many girlie sleepovers and get togethers before, put on Dirty Dancing. Watching Johnny and Baby twirl across the floor to rapturous applause is like a soothing ritual.
By the time the film finishes and Johnny and Baby are reunited, it’s 1pm and we begin to smooth on make up and mist on perfume. Every mirror is pressed into service and cosmetics are shared across the table. My Canadian friend Steph pops in and out, taking pictures.
Finally, finally after so many hours imagining how it will look, I put on the dress. The girls give the obligatory gasp. I think, yes, S should like this. The girls then help me to put on my headpiece and veil, anchoring my ears beneath the band – I’ve never liked them, they stick out too much – and giving a light coat of hairspray to keep the pins in place. I replace the brooch on the dress with one from my Nan, a visual reminder of a loved one who can’t be there.
In the car on the way to the venue, I am squeezed in between my mom and dad. It may not be conventional, but I want both of them there to share this final journey. Although I left home ten years ago, and have been with S for seven, my parents confided in me the day before that the wedding marks the end of an era for them. My train, although short, spills over my dad’s feet and my mom holds my small bag and wrap. Strangers smile at us, so obviously on the way to a wedding. We stop for a quick photo by the suspension bridge and all eyes are on us, a taste of things to come.
Just after 3pm, the strains of Vivaldi start up and dad carefully takes my arm, steadying me on my very high heels, and we walk down the steps and up the aisle to where S is waiting under the gazebo. I make sure I look straight at him first with a personal smile before turning to see all the guests assembled on the lawn. Everywhere I look is someone I love; it’s such an overwhelmingly happy feeling and I just can’t stop grinning.
As soon as we are announced as Mr and Mrs, the champagne starts to flow, the cameras click and the hugs begin. Heeding advice from other brides, I try to take in each moment, to pause and savour and enjoy seeing so many facets of our lives come together on a Saturday in October. There is so much love in the room it is tangible; I gulp it in alongside the champagne. Laughter and happiness surround us as family and friends drink a toast to our marriage and give us the best possible start to married life.
All too quickly, it’s 11.30pm and my husband and I, reluctantly, pull away in a taxi. We get back to the hotel and relive the day over a glass or two. I look down at our hands with their new rings, entwined on the bedspread. After twelve months of planning and imagining every last detail, the day is over.
But the best is definitely yet to come.