Episode 6: The Big Day
I have an admission to make: I never thought of myself as The Grumpy Groom, well at least not until I was given the moniker by the annoyingly perceptive powers that be at MR PORTER. I will confess to an innate ability to fast forward from trifling dilemma to full-scale cataclysmic meltdown, but getting married was something I was always happy about, especially as pretty much everyone I know had given up on it ever happening to me.
That said, in the final two weeks before the wedding I most definitely reverted to type. Whether it was feeling as if my brain was going to explode over seating plans or agonising over suitable presents for the parents, fussing about the prospect of driving 600 miles from London with an eight-month-old baby on board or being resigned to the Scottish weather requiring us to provide a pontoon bridge to get guests into the marquee, I could feel deep trenches being scoured into my forehead.
My only hope was that things would be better once we got to Scotland. With five days to concentrate on nothing more than what needed to be done and the fact that I was - really - about to tie the knot, I'd banked on the stress ebbing away and being able to finally come to terms with the life-changing event we were about to star in. Who knows, I might even be able to enjoy it.
In the final two weeks before the wedding I most definitely reverted to type. I could feel deep trenches being scoured into my forehead
In fact, what unfolded was nothing short of magical. The anxiety and sense of foreboding that had become such familiar companions dissolved almost from the moment we left London in a car packed with clothes, wine, bridesmaids' dresses, baby gear and pretty much everything else we might need. Had we attempted the journey in our ancient Renault Clio, we might still be on the motorway now, whereas the loan of a brand-new Audi A6 estate, complete with leather seats, Bang & Olufsen stereo and, most importantly, enough room to get everything in, allowed us to clear the first hurdle in style.
The journey north set the tone and from then on it felt as if I was being gently submerged in a warm bath of emotion, to the extent that I found myself crying almost constantly. Seeing the marquee go up - cried; pegging my future father-in-law's socks to the washing line and thinking about everything he and his wife were doing for us - cried; playing golf by myself one evening because it was deemed a good idea due to the frequency of my crying - cried; waking up on the morning of the wedding to find my baby daughter smiling at me from a cot next to my bed - cried; taking a pre-service walk beside a river with my dad - both cried. I blame it on my Welsh genes but whatever was to blame for my lachrymosity, when the time came I felt purged - or so I thought.
Many people had warned me to try to take in as much of the day as humanly possible as it would go by in a blur. Well, I can say with absolute certainty that there are moments I will never forget, the most significant of which was standing at the front of a packed church in my beautiful suit by Mr Richard James, the minister telling the congregation to rise and the sound of the bagpipes heralding my bride's arrival. At the rehearsal the evening before, I had been told it was bad luck to turn so, with tears welling (so much for being purged), I looked ahead until it was safe to glance to my left. What I saw at that moment made my chest swell to bursting point; everything in life narrowed onto this one, impossibly beautiful woman who was about to become my wife. Forget the marriage vows, I wanted to kiss her there and then.
The Grumpy Groom becomes the Happy Husband
There are moments of the day I'll never forget, the most significant of which was standing at the front of a packed church in my beautiful suit by Mr Richard James and the sound of the bagpipes heralding my bride's arrival
I'm not known for smiling a great deal, which might explain the title of this column (although I prefer to put it down to my particularly dry - some might say arid - sense of humour and a good deal of embarrassment over my cosmetically enhanced Bee Gees teeth). But on the day of my wedding all that changed. The sun shone, the singing in church soared, the bridesmaids and page boys looked and behaved like angels, my wife looked utterly stunning and we were surrounded by our families and friends who all seemed to be high on the joy of the occasion (either that or someone had spiked the champagne). Even my best men chose to ignore the copious material at their disposal and were so kind in their speech they made me cry again. And when I wasn't crying I was beaming like an idiot, so much so that by the end of it my face ached.
Afterwards, we honeymooned by driving through the Scottish Highlands to the Isle of Skye, feasting on incredible food and landscapes to match. Our culinary road trip, designed to ensure that neither her dress nor my suit would fit by the time we got home, culminated on a rocky outcrop at sunset, looking across the water to the mountains of Scotland's west coast with just each other and a bottle of fine red wine for company.
For all the stresses and strains in the build-up, our wedding felt perfect. If I could have had it bottled, I'd pour a glass whenever the clouds gather and a reminder is needed of how wonderful life can be. The Grumpy Groom is no more (although he did resurface temporarily when I discovered how frequently my bald patch appeared in the wedding photos). In his place, for the time being at least, is a man I'd always hoped to become: The Happy Husband.