October, 2011

Oct 11

The reception

Walking back into Casa Esquileo Cabanillas del Monte nearly took my breath away. The last time I had been to the 18th century estate in Segovia, close to Madrid, the floor was covered with frost and we could see the breath in front of our faces. We could only imagine what it would look like in the summer, filled with all our nearest and dearest.

Now, that day had come, and the place was transformed. The grass looked greener and lusher than ever and flowers decorated every corner. Oriental-style parasols provided some shade from the sun, and an ancient-looking cart had been placed in the corner of the gardens.

And there was the small matter of our 90-something guests, all cheering and clapping as we walked in as husband and wife.

Right then, I felt as close as I’m sure I’ll ever come to knowing what it feels like to be a celebrity at a premiere. You’re wearing a fabulous dress, you’re spent hours on your hair and makeup and everyone is dying to give you compliments and get their picture taken with you.

But it has to be better – because even a film star collecting an Oscar couldn’t have felt as happy as I did right then.

We were finally married! And seeing all those people from different places and eras of your life, all together for one time only, it blows your mind.

As the sun crept towards the horizon I did my best to try and talk to every single one of them.

I grabbed a glass of champagne from one of the waiters walking round with trays, but soon found I couldn’t drink it. I was far too thirsty, so switched to water instead. In fact I found throughout the night I had in total about four glasses of wine or champagne and that was it – I was far too drunk on happiness to bother too much with alcohol.

Or food – I didn’t manage to eat much either, much my annoyance.

Managing a few canapés at the start of the reception was do-able, but when the time came to sit down for our lovely three-course meal of lobster salad, roast lamb, and mascarpone ice cream with summer fruits my appetite had completely abandoned me.

It’s funny, but everyone told me to make sure I enjoyed the tasting sessions we did at my caterers, as I wouldn’t eat anything on the big day.

I scoffed at the idea. Me, not eat? Don’t they know how much I love my food? But they were so right.

The nerves and excitement made it impossible.

I pushed my food around my plate so much that Fernando, our caterer, came over to tell me off. Then there was the head waiter wringing his hands and asking what was wrong with the food and would I like something else to eat?

The guests all loved the food, though – so we were really pleased about that.

After dinner, it was time for the speeches. But we made a bit of a mistake handing out cigars before hand, so there was a mass exodus from the hall to the gardens.

And while everyone was out there puffing away the waiters, thinking that was the end of the sitting down bit, cleared away the champagne.

In the meantime the Spaniards got impatient, and demanded the bar be opened up!

It was all slightly chaotic, but we somehow managed to get everyone back in their seats and be able to get on with the speeches – always my favourite part of any wedding I go to.

I always find it slightly sexist that the bride just sits there and doesn’t say anything, so I was keen to get up and say a few words. I was adamant that I should go first, though as I was afraid I’d spend the majority of the speeches blubbing. I at least managed to keep dry eyes for my own speech – though I did come close to shedding a tear after I was introduced as the new señora de Borrachero and the cheers and clapping seemed to go on for a full five minutes.

My dad spoke lovingly about how pleased he was to welcome J into the family. J abandoned his notes and spoke from the heart to thank all of our amazing friends. My maid of honour said some really lovely things about the both of us. And I can’t repeat a lot of what the best men Jim and Mike said.

After dinner, I threw the bouquet, which landed straight in the hands of my bridesmaid Amy. “You’ll be waiting a long time for the next wedding then girls,” she told us, though her boyfriend Scott did seem very pleased she’d caught it.

And there were more tears when our photographer showed us a slideshow of the amazing photos he’d taken already throughout the day. (He went on to take an impressive total of 8,000.)

Then before I knew it, we were twirling around the dancefloor (well as much as I could twirl in my dress) for the first dance. After all the fretting and worrying about it, it was totally fine.

After listening to every song we had on iTunes that we both liked, we picked a total outsider – Tangerine by Led Zepplin. As soon as we heard it, we knew it was the one. And the little bit of practice we did put us both at ease.

As soon as the last chords ended, our DJ Amos dropped Michael Jackson’s Got To be Starting Something, the dancefloor filled up, and the party really got started.

The rest of the night seemed to pass in a blur. Highlights included the whole dancefloor singing in unison to Bohemian Rhapsody (complete with the rocking out, head banging bit) and Pulp’s Common People – one guest’s comment: “The Trainspotting generation grew up and got married”

I certainly wasn’t expecting the Macarena to go down a storm like it did.

Then there was another surprise from Amos – who did a heroic seven-hour DJ set for us. He put on Mrs Robinson, and the place wend wild.

Somewhere in the middle of this people started invading the dancefloor in fancy dress – which we had brought for people to wear in a photo-booth we’d set up.

And I discovered what the nipping feeling in my hip was, when Phoebe investigated and pulled a two-inch pin from the top of my skirt.

We finished at about 6.30am in the morning, and I’m happy to report we were the last ones to leave. The guests hadn’t quite managed to drink the bar dry, but they’d had a good try.

So that was my wedding. Over a year of planning but in some ways, a lifetime in the making.

I’ve never felt as happy, or more loved in all of my life as I did that day.

I will treasure the memories forever.

Oct 11

I do

I like to think I’ve lived a bit in my life. I’ve found myself in some strange and weird situations over the years.

But nothing, absolutely nothing has come close in terms of total surreal-ness to walking down the aisle. It was a total slow motion, out of body experience.

And the nerves really did kick in at that moment. I think I held onto my dad’s arm for dear life as we stepped into the church.

There was no danger of crying. I felt absolutely stunned. I knew everyone would be looking, but it was just weird to feel every pair of eyes locked on me, some of them already shining with tears.

Suddenly I felt my jaw wobbling with nerves. Then I gazed to the front of the church and saw J – more handsome than I’ve ever seen him in my whole life. And I will never, ever, forget the look on his face as I walked towards him.

When I arrived at the front of the church – which had been transformed into a sea of beautiful white flowers and greenery by Linda – we kissed, (though maybe we were supposed to wait till the end of the ceremony for that?) and all my nerves evaporated.

The ceremony was conducted in Spanish, which didn’t turn out to be such of a problem for our non-Spanish speakers as we would have thought. I think it helped that we had a lovely string quartet and a soprano to break up the chunks of talking.

Afterwards, many people told us that our priest, Padre Mariano, had such presence and a great way of talking that it hardly seemed to matter that they couldn’t understand him.

The Spanish speakers found his words during the sermon heartfelt and relevant. Thumbs up all round.

When it came to the vows, we dispensed with the usual “for richer, for poorer” stuff to tell each other why we wanted to marry each other, in our native languages. It felt more real that way, though it was all I could do to stop my voice from choking when I told J why I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

We also had two readings – one in Spanish and one in English. This was my surprise for J – I got his brother-in-law to read out a particularly romantic section of J’s favourite book Lord of the Rings, which he had read to me long before we’d got engaged. I’d never forgotten it, and it seemed the logical choice. J was certainly touched.

It was my little nephews and niece who stole the show, though. They were the most adorable group of flower girls and page boys, although there was a slightly dodgy moment when my brother’s little girl Isabella tried to grab the photographer’s camera then screamed her head off when she wasn’t allowed to do so.

The other only hiccup was J’s ring. As I placed it on his finger it caught on his knuckle. Nothing strange there, you might think. Apart from the fact that it wasn’t actually his ring.

In the car on the way to the church his sister Alicia accidentally dropped the two rings. His got stuck under the seat, and try as they might, they couldn’t get to it.

In the end my friend Jane stepped in and let them borrow hers, but poor Ali was distraught. She gave the reading in Spanish – delivered beautifully – but if you looked at her knees you could se they were shaking. That’s how nervous she was that I would realise the ring wasn’t J’s and get upset about it.

I was totally oblivious, though. And Before long Padre Mariano was wrapping up the ceremony by asking each of our parents what they wished for us in our life together.

My mum, who has hardly ever spoken in public, got the whole church laughing when she answered simply: “All the happiness in the world and many many children.”

We were the last to leave the church, stepping out into a rain of rose petals and what seemed like a hundred camera flashes. We stood there, rooted to the spot.

“What are we supposed to do now,” I asked no-one in particular.

“Kiss,” someone helpfully suggested – so we did just that.

Oct 11

The morning of mornings

When I woke up that morning, just for an instant, I didn’t know where I was. My mind grappled with the strange mahogany-lined room, oriental-style paintings and unfamiliar TV.

Then my eyes focused in on the huge dress hanging from the curtain rail and the confusion came to an abrupt halt.

It smacked me across the face full force: today is the day I get married.

Everyone told me I wouldn’t sleep a wink on the eve of the big day. But as soon as my head hit the pillow I was gone.

I guess it helped that we’d been running around like maniacs for the past few days. Practice session with the photographer, visit to the lawyers, drop the dog off at the kennels, go to the suit hire shop, write thank you cards, decide and practice the first dance, meeting with our priest – all those last minute little details that aren’t major issues but still have you running all over town.

Somehow J even managed to get in half a day of fishing, and I cooked a meal for seven – including three friends we had staying ahead of the wedding.

So as a result I was so exhausted that a sleepless night on the eve of the big day just wasn’t going to happen.

I was already tired to the point of feeling sick by the time we arrived at our hotel – El Rancho in Torrecaballeros – on Friday night.

We had planned to get there by 6pm so we could settle in and relax a bit before meeting the Friday night arrivals downstairs in the hotel bar for a catchup drink.

But we were still in the house at an hour past that time. Unable to find my garter, I was emptying every drawer and cupboard and working myself up into a state.

In the end we just had to go without it, poor J trying to convince me that nothing would go wrong just because I didn’t have my “something blue”.

After a leisurely drive (well you don’t want to be fined for speeding the day before your wedding, do you?) and a last minute visit to the church for some form filling out business we arrived at the hotel at 9pm, just when we were supposed to be meeting our guests.

But it was all fine. We did get downstairs to mingle – albeit a bit late. And my Auntie Joyce had the most wonderful surprise for me – she gave me my grandmother’s wedding ring to wear as my ‘something old’. That sparked the first tears of the weekend.

Shortly after, the missing members of my family – My two brothers and their wives and children – arrived. They’d almost missed their flight and had luggage lost by their airline, but at least they’d made it.

It felt like the party was in full swing by the time I excused myself. I was struggling to keep my eyes open, but J was full of beans. “Make sure he goes home at a decent hour,” I instructed Mike, one of the eight best men/testigos.

“I’ll do my best,” he said. “But I can’t promise anything.

The next time I saw J, he looked like… well, not great. But it wasn’t because he was hungover.

After taking care to spend the night apart – as tradition dictates – we bumped into each other at breakfast. I hadn’t even thought about it, since J never eats breakfast. What was he doing there, then?

“I haven’t slept a wink,” he told me miserably. “My mind’s been going a million miles an hour thinking about everything we’ve got to do.”

I left him with a big mug of coffee, and the promise that I wouldn’t keep him waiting too long at the altar.

Then it was upstairs to the bridal suite to get ready and wait for the nerves to set in. I felt surprisingly calm but like I was waiting to be taken over my pure terror. ‘This can’t be right,’ I thought, as I paced the room practicing my speech and waiting for my bridesmaids and Linda’s hairdresser Charo to arrive. ‘I feel far too relaxed.’

One by one Phoebe, Amy, Nina, and Emma arrived, as did Charo and Linda, and the room was a hubbub of activity. We ordered a bottle of champagne, I had a ham sandwich and two bananas (the last single food!) and the girls did their hair and makeup. My mum popped in at one point, and immediately started getting teary eyed. It was just going to be one of those days.

I knew everything was going to work out OK, though, especially when I found a surprise present from my dress makers, Rosa Clara. in the bottom of my dress bag they’d left me a blue garter – I was going to have my ‘something blue’ after all!

Somewhere in the middle of it all, our excellent photographer Jorge – aka JM Photoemotion – arrived and started capturing everything on film. Finding the right photographer was one of the most stressful things about wedding planning for me, but I’m so glad I took my time. Jorge was amazing and his pictures are truly beautiful. We get all our photos at the start of next month but so far the ones I’ve seen (including the ones I’ve posted here) have blown me away.

Before I knew what was happening, it was time to put on my dress, with a lot of help from Linda and Charo. From that moment everything went surreal, like I was watching a film starring a prettier version of myself. Was that really me in the mirror?

The moment you put that dress on everything changes. People talk to you differently, look at you differently – their faces go all soft and their eyes go all dewy. Everyone wants to give you the biggest hug of your life. It’s great.

And the people who know you best are the most affected. When he came to the room to get me, my tough northern dad shed a tear – something I’ve hardly ever seen him do.

“You can’t cry dad,” I told him. “You’ll set me off.”

We’d just about recovered our composure when the phone rang. It was my new brother-in-law Ben calling to tell us everything in was in place – it was time to go.

I took one last look around the room, at the empty bottle of champagne and the vacant hanger which had held my dress up until an hour ago.

I had two thoughts. 1) The next time I walk into this room I’ll be married. 2) How on earth am I going to be able to go to the loo with this dress on?

I looked at my dad, and my maid of honour Phoebe and realised they both looked as nervous as I probably felt.

“Let’s do this,” said Phoebe.

So I hitched up my dress and strode through the door, out of one chapter of my life and into the next.

Oct 11


It was the happiest day of my life.

You hear it every time from the mouths of brides and it sounds like such a cliché. But you know what? There’s no other way to describe it. Pure unbridled joy. All your favourite people in the same place, so much love and emotion. There’s nothing quite like it.

And it goes so fast. They all say that too, but again, it’s true. It passes in a happy blur then you’re left with a slightly scuffed up wedding dress, hundreds (or maybe thousands) of photos and a head full of amazing memories to last you a lifetime.

I am married. I am Señora de Borrachero. The honeymoon is over. It’s all hard to believe. All that planning and waiting and it’s all done and dusted. There’s so much to tell I don’t even know where to start. I think it’s best to break the whole thing down into several posts.

For now I’ll start with newly-married life. The wedding and honeymoon will follow.

So, have things changed now I’m a wife? Do I feel any different? To my complete and utter surprise, the answer is yes.

I always agreed with people – like Jodie Kidd in this week’s mag in fact – who said “marriage is just a piece of paper” or “I couldn’t possibly feel closer to my other half than I do right now”. It’s just one day of your life, after all, right?

But now I feel differently. When you’ve shared something so emotional and intense – when you’ve promised to love someone forever in front of all your loved ones and God, if that’s what you believe in – it’s impossible not to feel different.

And I’m sure J agrees. The jewellery-phobe who said he probably wouldn’t wear his wedding ring after the ceremony, now wears it with pride. He likes having an outward sign that he’s married, he says.

My good friend Eli always told me being married is just like it was before, only better. I know what she means.

It is strange and pleasing in equal measures when J introduces me to someone as “my wife” or “mi mujer“. And I feel the same when referring to him as my marido. It feels grown up and sophisticated, but I don’t feel old, like I feared I might, being labelled with that tag.

And I do feel closer to him. Little things have changed. It’s subtle. We hold hands now, when we never did before. There’s an unspoken sense of ‘us against the world’. And it feels like there’s something extra forged between us that can’t be broken.

We are still giddily happy. Even going back to work isn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. Of course it does help that most of my workmates were at the wedding and we keep breaking off what we’re doing to share funny stories and memories from the big day.

We got our Libro de Familia – the Spanish ‘family book’ or wedding certificate – today in the post. So it really is official.

My head is full of hopes and dreams for the future. Where will we be and what will we be doing in ten years time? Or 20, 40, 50? The possibilities seem endless right now.

Emmy-nominated Comedy writer Gene Perret wrote the following about his marriage: “Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day.”

I hope that I can look back and say the same.

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