After breakfast and once I had returned from taking the car home, Simon (one of my Groomsmen) and I went for a walk along the riverbank and we chatted about this and that; mainly how we had been friends for such a long time and how pleased he was to see me so happy after all these years. I also started to feel a little odd.
The ceremony wasn't until about 4pm so we had plenty of time to kill. However, Best Men were needed to do Best Men-related things. This meant lanterns and candles and battery powered candles and their placing, so I was left to fend for myself
I had checked out of my garret from the previous night so took up residence in Simon's room where I tried to avoid seeing the Dark Lady who was only next door as I gather it is bad luck.
The time dragged. I began to feel weirder. Up to this point (apart from the stress of the day before, trying to get everything and everybody in the right place) I had been very relaxed about the whole wedding thing.
I was beginning to get all emotional. I have always been a big weeper. Music can reduce me to tears very easily, as can film and TV. Being a contrary wise character I am generally unmoved by the mawkish and sentimental. However, if I have had a couple of drinks and start to read the obituaries in the local paper where well-meaning folk have ordered up one of those off-the-peg verses to illustrate the loss of a loved one, you know the sort of thing:
"I sit and wonder every day
Why the Lord chose to call you away
I think he saw you needed rest
He only takes the very best"
…I do start to wobble. Yet along with many I also find myself wanting to snigger. This apparently is a common thing at funerals where emotions are heightened.
I still felt very odd. Sitting in the hotel room listening to people scurrying back and forth wondering at what time I should change. The time hung heavy.
Luckily guests started to arrive from further afield. Nerd Night DJ's began to arrive from the north of England. Janice Long arrived with partner Paul and Dr Strangelove looking sharp in a new suit (the elegantly-tailored whistle hiding the full horror of his terrible legs!) We stood in the bar and I drank water. If I was going to weep I didn't want it to be made worse by having had a drink or two. Also I may get dehydrated so it seemed sensible to top up.
I was looking forward to being a husband and a Stepfather. I had no doubts about that but I still felt a bit like a condemned man. Maybe it was the waiting?
Neale James, the photographer, provided a welcome respite as he had been rushing around photographing all and sundry and arrived to take a few pictures of me as I squeezed myself into my finery. He also expertly pinned my buttonhole to my jacket as my sausage fingers had ceased to work.
At last it was time and in the gathering gloom we made the short walk to Rye Town Hall. I now began to panic as one very important guest had still to arrive. Without her this would blow a massive hole in the proceedings. I hoped the Dark Lady hadn't got wind of this. Simon hadn't seen them nor had Clive. As is the law I had to go and meet the Registrar and Glenda, who was going to conduct the ceremony in an anteroom.
I was now feeling very, very weird.
At first there seemed to be a problem with my names. I have rather a lot and not all of them are "Christian" or "given" names. I have an extra one: "Phillips". It isn't a double-barrelled name. it is a name my paternal Grandfather took as a thanks to the parents of a friend of his whom he lived with after falling out with his Dad. We pretty nearly have all have it including my Father and my Sister. Registrar, who was American, was finding it hard to grasp due to the paperwork that had come from the Hastings office. When I had applied for the licence months ago they weren't sure what to do with the name or where to place it on the forms. This was foxing them. So not only was I feeling very strange, a vital component of the ceremony was still in transit and I feared the thing wouldn't go ahead because of an intractable problem with one of my names.
All was eventually agreed and as I was doing a bit of signing off official documents I saw a smiling Simon give me the thumbs up from the doorway: the missing member had arrived.
With a few minutes to kill before the start and whilst the DL was being grilled in the antechamber I sauntered into the hall. It was packed with our friends and relatives. I began to fill up. We had spent weeks deciding on some background music for the event to be played before and after the ceremony and every song meant something to us. Every so often, when there was a lull in the conversation, I would just make out a few bars of a tune or song. This made me fill up even more! My Sister came over to buck me up a bit and our Witness, Susan the Finance (don't hate her she's not a banker), who introduced us in the first place also came over and told me in no uncertain terms to "hold it together".
This was awful. I was going to breakdown and howl all the way through my own wedding. If things got much worse I would start moaning and gnashing and wailing. It wouldn't be a day of joy, it would look like a Middle Eastern funeral!
We took our positions. Glenda, me, standing at the front, everyone else stood up and then Jimmy Durante struck up "Make Someone happy".
My eyes began to mist up...oh no, I was going...where was my hankie?....."MAN UP!" I can hear you screaming at your screen. This was terrible! How was I going to get through the next thirty minutes???? Perhaps now was the time for strategic fainting as we have discussed on the show so many times over the years.
Then the doors opened and I saw her...The Dark Lady
She stood taking in the scene. She looked fantastic and the dress was amazing and perfect; I was the world’s luckiest man without a doubt. An audible gasp was heard around the room as she walked slowly down the aisle behind her beautiful daughter, Ella, who was the prefect bridesmaid. On the arm of her, son Jamie, who was doing "giving away" duty as her Father was sadly long gone. I suddenly felt very calm and immensely proud. Everything was going to be just fine.
Glenda was brilliant and put everyone at their ease and we didn't have to worry about remembering what to say at what time. I was obviously so keen to make DL mine that I leapt in with "I do" slightly earlier than I should have and the DL got her own name wrong! We were relaxing into now and enjoying it as we stood at the front. There were a few damp eyes but everyone seemed to be having a good time. During the vows the emotion hit me again so the ones we had written for each other came out in a strangled gasp from me. And the official ones had me doing the laughing at funeral bit. One particularly long one and I had to ask Glenda to repeat as I said, "I'm sorry I have short term memory problems"!
We had had laughter and love and the serious side and then it was time for our special guest. The one who I worried wouldn't arrive in time.
When the Dark Lady and I first met, one of the many things we found in common was our love of music. Riffling through her iPod I found a song that I loved and had featured on the show before as part of "Lester’s Library" some time ago, as well as other tunes performed or written by this artist.
She had come to the song and the singer via the soundtrack to the film, My Sister’s Keeper, starring Cameron Diaz.
I refer, of course, to Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" performed by Edwina Hayes.
A few months back I had contacted Edwina and asked if she would do us the honour of singing at our wedding. To our delight, she agreed.
The effect was astonishing, the whole atmosphere changed as she began to sing. We were suddenly aware that as the lyrics and the melody hit home every single person in that room burst into tears! (You can see a video, not from the wedding, here).
We mopped up and when the sniffling had halted we carried on with Annie, DL's "Best Woman", doing a terrific job of reading the lyrics of "I Want To Grow Old With You" by Adam Sandler from the film, The Wedding Singer. Google it, it’s lovely.
With that we were married. I suddenly had a wonderful wife and two lovely step children. I was a very lucky man. We left to the applause and cheers of the audience to the strains of "Bring me Sunshine" by Morecombe and Wise. It suddenly occurred to me: I didn't feel weird any longer!