An English Wedding & a reunion of old friends (Part 2 of my trip to the UK)

I have missed so many weddings in England over the past fifteen years living in New Zealand. My dearest friends from school, college and University days have met their sweethearts, walked down the aisle, partied like there’s no tomorrow, all whilst I’ve been wishing for someone to invent instant travel through time. Unfortunately, often laden with a child, and the cost of travelling some 36 hours across the world, the feasibility of me managing to materialise for those weddings has been zero to impossible. But, in this one instance, placed a little closer around the globe to England (on the Californian Coast of the USA, as opposed to Wellington, New Zealand) I felt better placed (and granted more well financed, with children not in babyhood) to make the journey.

This was to be the wedding of the century to date (bearing in mind that I was married last century, ha, ha, and I have three daughters that may, or may not, get married one day… but I am SO not ready to think about the latter just yet!).

It was the wedding of one of my dearest University pals to her long time sweetheart.

Wedding of Alice and Mike

At the wedding were several University pals – making it quite the reunion, some twenty years since we graduated – or there about. It was an opportunity to finally meet the respective other halves that I’d heard my Uni pals dream about in drunken stupor at the University of Southampton, to hear about their off spring, to discuss life on the cusp – or having just turned – forty… and to compare smile lines. It was one of the last friends, of my close buddies from Uni days, to walk down the aisle and the timing was perfect. I wasn’t going to miss this wedding for all the tea in China (or, more apt to my personal circumstances, all the potential wedding YouTube video takes of the wedding). I had to be there.

Surprisingly, my usual instinct to capture every moment on camera totally evaded me at the wedding (and the photographs I did take, later in the evening when the dancing got going… are probably best not shared here – lest I risk ending those very long, special friendships!). I was so caught up in the moment, and literally shaking with excitement at being there, that it felt totally inane to get out my camera. I wanted to embrace the moment heart and soul and, during the service especially, didn’t feel right intervening on the magic of the moment (besides, there were professionals employed to do that already!).

And magical moments there were indeed… The dear youngest son of the bride and groom walked down the aisle, at the tender age of four, holding a sign reading, ‘Daddy, here comes your Bride’! He walked with  a strong step, but bashfully hid behind the sign; the perfect blend of confidence and innocent shyness. He continued, throughout the wedding, past the dinner, speeches and first dance, with equal perfection of character, finishing up with a party building dance of ‘Gangman Style’ on the dance floor!

After the service, at the historic house of ‘The Grove‘, in Hertfordshire, England (where the presence of early man on the land dates back to 7,000 BC!) we were treated to champagne and canapes (which I can never manage to eat without making a mess and general fool of myself – so passed on several times, whilst trying to sip s.l.o.w.l.y. on the champagne!). Whilst we caught up with one another and marvelled at the gorgeous Mr & Mrs in their finery (and pondered on sharing the same space that, once upon a time, Queen Victoria, King Edward, Tiger Woods and many more illustrious guests have stayed, played and partied) roving entertainers kept us all amused (not that we really needed anything extra, but they certainly left an impression… a magician, a pick-pocket and caricature artists!).

Feeling pleasantly relaxed the bell was rung for dinner and we all made our way to our tables for the dinner and speeches  (little did we all know, there were some ‘singing waiters’ to keep us all in high spirits, no chance of a post dinner snooze! By the time the singing waiters had finished with us, we were all ears for the speeches and feeling pumped up for an evening’s dancing.).

I have to mention here how particularly special this dear friend of mine is. I’ve only ever known her to be smiling, positive, caring and thinking of others. Life has dealt her a tough hand; with the unexpected and sudden death of her father to a brain tumour and, a few year’s later, her dear sister, Lauren, also passed away due to brain cancer.  Both her and dear Mum have been absolute troupers. My friend, Alice, raised nearly £40,000 for Cancer Research UK and carried the Olympic Torch through Hatfield, UK, on Sunday July 8 2012;

“Thanks to support of Lauren’s friends and family and the very generous donations, inspired by Lauren’s story. A big honour for me, and a huge source of amusement for Lauren, I’m sure!” (Alice Breheny)

And so, as anyone reading this will imagine, this wedding was extremely touching in so many ways, not just on the happy union of two incredible people, but in memory of two very special people, taken too soon. It was a wedding filled with happiness, tears, laughter, memories and positive thoughts to the future – the full roller coaster of emotions!

As the official photographer rightly puts it (and you simply MUST check out the incredible photographs!);

“Anyone who was bored at Alice and Mike’s wedding at the Grove last weekend deserved to be thrown out.  They were determined to give their guests a great time and every minute of the day was filled.  In no particular order they had … the beautiful setting of The Grove, candy floss, a photobooth, a caricaturist, Keith the Thief (a pickpocket), a magician (amazing), hilarious and very talented singing waiters, a spectacular evening disco, a dancing competition and air guitars.  And best of all a great crowd of friends and family who lapped it up and rocked the night away.  Add to that a fantastic couple and their four much loved children to welcome everyone and it all adds up to quite some wedding.”

It really was one of the best weddings I have ever attended. There was such a positive vibe amongst everyone and it was definitely worth the flight to be there! Alice, ever thoughtful and caring, left a surprise waiting for me on the dinner table at the wedding, which brought a tear to my eye…

A beautiful gift from my friend

I danced the night away with my Uni friends and finally got to sleep about 2am ish… only to be woken around 8.30 am isn for a drive up to the Peak District to see my dear sister and her man! Thankfully I wasn’t driving – my dear folks had stayed the night at The Grove too, and joined in the dancing (but turned in at a more sensible hour!).

What a wedding! I wish Mike and Alice very many happy, wonderful years together and Mike, you are indeed ‘A very lucky man!’…

A very lucky man!


Read ‘Part 1’ of my trip here: ‘LA to UK for 4 days, sans children. A once in a decade trip!

Read ‘Part 3’ of my trip here: ‘Away to the Peak District and pause for thought