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.