Episode 3: Musical Minutiae
We've attended two weddings since I last wrote. Both were stunning and, I'm ashamed to say, both left me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The reception for the first was staged in the grounds of a grand country house on a huge estate in Scotland, accessed via a driveway that would have taken the best part of the day to complete on foot and with its own stretch of prime salmon fishing river. After a bountiful champagne reception, the bride and groom emerged on a pair of thoroughbred horses and led guests up a candlelit trail to a vast marquee erected in an equally vast walled garden. The evening finished with a firework display that made the Millennium celebrations look lightweight.
The wedding service for the second took place in a picture postcard 14th-century church owned by the groom's parents before guests retired to their "farm", which was quite unlike any farm I'd ever seen before. Set in bucolic English countryside with fields of swaying wild grass and a gently meandering river spanned by romantic bridges, the reception was held in a series of interconnecting wigwams that would not have looked out of place at Glastonbury Festival, set against the backdrop of one of the biggest houses I've ever seen. Even the children's treehouse had a slate roof and a fully functioning chimney.
Being 10 years older than the woman I am to marry means our tastes in music differ somewhat. My formative music experiences took place at illegal raves, while hers involved dancing Scottish reels in the Highlands
In fact, everything about the day was perfect, from the most delicious canapés I've ever eaten (I still dream of the sweet tang of chorizo and chilli jam on ciabatta toast, although wrestling the whole platter off a waitress is something I'd rather forget) to the 24-piece swing band and the happy coincidence they chose to get married on the hottest day of the year. The only scrap of consolation was the groom's evident discomfort when his best man started regaling the audience with tales of his teenage drug use.
No, there's nothing like other people's weddings to put the fear of god into you about your own. As every week passes the cliff face of tasks we need to tick off before our big day at the beginning of September seems to become higher, steeper and ever more daunting. There have, however, been some small wins along the way to keep spirits buoyant, such as successfully pulling off a look of mental engagement while my fiancée and her mother discussed flowers for what seemed like the best part of an afternoon, and not falling out with the vicar (again) when we met for a cosy chat over tea and biscuits. It turns out he sees himself as a "modern sort of guy", which translates, in clergy speak, as opting to wear a suit with his dog collar and offering couples the use of his iPod dock should they wish to exit the church to "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi rather than the organist.
Music is one of the finer details of our big day that I find myself becoming increasingly hung up with. Being 10 years older than the woman I am to marry means that our tastes differ somewhat. My formative music experiences took place at illegal raves in fields and warehouses, while hers involved dancing Scottish reels at village halls in the Highlands. I play our baby daughter albums by The Stone Roses and Mr Bob Dylan; she feeds her a diet of syrupy pop. Not surprisingly, the song we glide onto the floor to for our first dance is still under discussion and suggestions such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2 are doing little to solve the impasse.
I figured that a one-day stag do in London would be suitably old school, suitably curmudgeonly and suitably cheap. In other words, me to a tee
Such considerations seem a tad premature when we have still to book a DJ, reach an agreement on the design and wording of the invitations (tip: do not commission with the instructions "Surprise us"), can't decide on the hymns and readings for the service and I have yet to buy my suit (mainly because, thanks to the chorizo and chilli jam on ciabatta toast experience, my waistline continues to expand at a rate of knots). But all this is not to say I have been totally idle; I have booked the honeymoon and my stag do takes place the weekend after you read this.
Having spent a small fortune in the past on long and debauched weekends in Amsterdam, the south of France and Ibiza, I figured that a one-day event in London would be suitably old school, suitably curmudgeonly and suitably cheap. In other words, me to a tee - even down to the fact that I've insisted the main activity of the day should be mini golf. My only other rule is no strippers; I'm still damaged, some 23 years on, by the roly-poly-a-gram my older sister booked as a surprise for my 18th birthday party. Having waited this long to get married, I'm hoping my closest friends will be mature enough by now to ensure that I survive unscathed. And if they're not, there will still be enough time for my eyebrows to grow back.