Thursday, July 08, 2010

A nice day for a white wedding

Now that I'm back home and back in the swing of things, it's time to catch up on what happened on the UK trip after I could no longer keep up with posting to my blog from there: that is, the day of the wedding.

I struggled to find a way to pack our things on the previous day so that we could do the next morning's clothes change, then change into the wedding stuff at the venue (possibly in a tight space without easy access to the luggage), then change back before heading on, then into night clothes that evening, then into the outfit we'd wear for the trip back. That's because we were leaving too early to put off the packing until that morning -- mostly to satisfy Siobhan's paranoia about being late. (Despite several amusing mishaps, still to come, we were the first to arrive at the hotel.)

The train trip to Marsden was pretty straightforward despite two train changes, and the luggage wheel breaking off again -- the makeshift fix didn't last, oh well. Before we'd left, I'd gone online to search for taxis in Marsden. The only hit I found was one called "Marsden Taxi" so I noted their phone number, in case when we got to the train station, there wasn't a taxi break or any listings posted. And there weren't, so we called. The guy there seemed puzzled at the idea, and had no idea where the train station was in Marsden; the conversation was so confusing and unhelpful that a friendly, helpful passerby took the phone from Siobhan and tried to talk to the people at the other end for us, figuring it was an accent or culture problem, only to find even he couldn't make sense of the guy on the other end. Eventually, he concluded they'd be there in about ten minutes, and left our phone number.

Twenty minutes later, we called, to find them saying "that's too far away, we're not coming." When I look into it now, it seems that Marsden Taxi is not actually that close to Marsden: it's in Nelson, west of Leeds. So indeed they are too far away: one wonders why they are named for a town they're not even close to. Maybe it's a family name. I suppose the website I'd searched on made the same mistake. But what's most ridiculous is that the people there couldn't explain this and didn't bother to call us back to tell us they weren't coming.

Fortunately, the pub across from the train station (named "The Railway") was open, and they were related to someone who owns a taxi company in the next town over, so we got a taxi in short order and made our way to the hotel. There, we had two hours to kill in a lounge, after the owner tried to charge us a night's room lodging just to use their bathrooms to change into our wedding clothes -- the woman who runs the weddings quickly put that right, but in all, the hotel's owner was eager to find anything at all to charge anyone for.

Other than that, it was a nice enough venue. The weather, which had been perfect our whole trip, had changed to windy and threatening to rain, so we decided to have the wedding indoors, in a rather nice room called the Stone Room. There wasn't any food at the pre-wedding reception after all, so our decision not to have lunch on the way started to seem like a bad idea. At the last minute, the bride decided to risk the rain and have the ceremony outdoors.

The ceremony itself was interrupted by the occasional bit of goofing about or a stumble here or there, but nothing that had the slightest negative effect on the whole. It really came out lovely. Siobhan is nervous about public speaking usually, but all that fell away and her delivery of the ceremony was nearly perfect, with great intonation and projection. Not bad considering she hadn't started rehearsing until the train ride over! Both groom and bride started crying a bit during their vows. I think they found excused to kiss maybe three or four times before the "you may now kiss the bride" moment. And the rain held off throughout.

Then came the endless photography where every one of the 225-1 combinations of guests had to be arranged and photographed. This got cut off midway through due to the rain gradually picking up, so many of the photos were done later, or indoors.

Then came the "wedding breakfast" -- this is what they call it even though it happened at 4:30 and looked just like a dinner. It was during this that we had the toasts. I'd been rehearsing my best man speech for days; in keeping with my speech style, I had written a full speech, word for word, with no intent of actually delivering it, but instead went from an outline (which I never actually looked at). Instead, I improvised it, and it never came out the same, but this kind of improvisation requires me to also have written it beforehand to work.

I started out very rocky for the simple reason that, since my speech wasn't first, I couldn't prepare for it. If I had been, in the minute before my speech, reviewing how I was going to start, it would have been smooth as silk. But that would have required not really listening to the speeches before mine, and that would be rude. So when it was my turn, I wasn't entirely ready, and my first two or three sentences were slow, fumbling, and stilted. Then I got the rhythm and the rest of the speech went very well. Laughs at the funny bits, which were spaced out well, and a few improv bits bouncing stuff off the other guests. It wasn't a hallmark of public speaking or anything, but it went just about how I wanted it to, apart from those first few lines.

The "breakfast" ended with the cutting of the cake, but somehow, the serving of the cake never happened, so we never got to try any. The cake itself was beautiful and I can't wait to post a picture of it. Instead of the usual stacked tiers, it had three tiers that were separated from one another and joined by little plastic stairways. The bridesmaids were on the lowest and largest tier, with a big bouquet; the best man and maid of honor on the middle tier; and the bride and groom on the top tier. Too bad we never got to have any. Maybe it eventually got served hours later after we left.

By the time we got into the reception, and other guests started to arrive, and the DJ arrived, we were all getting quite tired, and I was also getting very uncomfortable, having been in a tuxedo for many hours. Those shoes are pretty awful, the pants were quite uncomfortable, and perhaps worst of all, not being able to wear a hat for hours gives me a headache, and the headache was in full force just as the DJ decided it was a crime that people could still barely hear each other over the music, and heroically decided to set the situation right. And being an inherently antisocial creature surrounded by about 80 people, of whom I knew about a half-dozen, I was having a tough time of it. I feel bad about not being part of Al and Janice's party, but I really couldn't do anything else but go sit in a corner and wait.

We left around 9:30, with the party still going strong and likely to go on until the wee hours. They'd only just started putting out the buffet and Al got us a few to-go containers full of nibblies to take on the taxi. We left as "early" as we did (though that was actually quite a bit later than we'd originally intended to leave) because we had an early start on a very long day the next day -- we had to be at the airport early to secure seats, and besides, no matter how early you go to bed and how desperately you need a full night's sleep before heading into a marathon of 20+ hours of travel, Suri's not going to sleep past 6, and I'm not going to be able to sleep after she wakes up when we're sharing a small hotel room.

No dealing with taxis and trains on the way back, thankfully. A local taxi company had a flat rate to get to the airport which was less than the cost of the train tickets, let alone the train tickets plus taxi fare, and the driver was amusing -- a "cheeky monkey" -- who kept up with Siobhan in the stream of patter they exchanged the whole trip. The hotel was fine (despite a vending machine that stole four pounds from me trying to get a diet Coke), their shuttle service was efficient, and we managed all the luggage shuffling.

The flights back were not nearly as draining for me as the ones heading out. Part of that was a longer layover, and getting to do the harder trip first, before my knee was aching. I also learned from the previous trip and did a better job handling my carry-on. It can't have hurt that we got to the airport without having had any long drives or large struggle with packing to do beforehand. Customs was lengthy but no real trouble. That long layover was pretty boring, especially since JFK does not have free wifi and its restaurant choices weren't great and were overcrowded; that it was 97 degrees outside didn't help either, as the air conditioning couldn't keep up with it. The final flight to Burlington was at a time when we were dragging pretty badly, but otherwise it went fine, and I even had that rare luxury, an armrest on the aisle that went up. In all, despite the crazy-long layover and the way the time zone change hit us, the trip home wasn't too bad. And it's nice to be home, in my own bed, on my own sofa, with my dog, and no luggage to lug.

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