After the wedding, we headed back to the UK for a bit. The celebration was being held in a small pub in Cambridge, The Cambridge Blue and we had a few things to get ready ahead of time. Also, my parents were coming to the UK to hang with us and Alex’s parents.
The week up leading up to the wedding was fairly uneventful. We had a long and annoying trip home from Copenhagen, but made much less long and much less annoying be being given a lift from one of Alex’s friends. Alex and I argued hugely over what music was appropriate for dancing to and what music was only appropriate for background noise. We ended up with 10 hours worth of music for a day that would only require music for, at the most, 8 hours, but alt at least we didn’t end up killing each other.
I went on a trip with my Dad to Titpon, a small town outside of Birmingham, where an ancestor of ours originally came from. We went to the ‘Black Country Living Museum,’ which was all about mining in the area. I overcame my fears of small, dark, wet and cave-like places and managed to go on a tour of a mine, during which I must have seemed so confident that a middle-aged lady attached herself to me for the entirety of the trip. Literally attached herself to my bag every time we had to move off with a little, ‘Now, where’s my lovely lady?’ It was weird and also sweet.
The real shadow over-hanging the week, of course, was the prospect of the UK referendum. We’d all been gobsmacked over Jo Cox’s death the week before. Alex’s father told us he literally couldn’t stand to talk about it. I felt heartbroken, which was strange because I had literally never heard of her before then. I think it was a combination of the extremity of the violence and anger directed at her, the fact that she had small children, that she shared a lot of the same politics as myself and just seemed like a hugely decent human being with ideals, drive, energy and passion. It didn’t help that when I first heard about the incident she was alive and being taken to hospital and I somehow managed to convince myself she would therefore be fine. I still can’t believe she died. There’s some strange childish part of me that still thinks that if she’d have survived everything else that happened afterwards would have been ok. Or, at least, not as bad. Anyway, driving around Tipton trying to find the Dudley Castle with Dad the day before the referendum, I spotted a UKIP bus and legions of overjoyed UKIP fans (in stupid hats. Why in stupid hats?) lining up to have their photos taken with some UKIP councillor. It was shocking to see them all in the flesh – up until that point they had literally existed as characters on computer or TV screen for me (me being from the London global elite, and all *dramatic eye roll*). My first instinct was, naturally, to roll out of the moving vehicle and give them all a right good kicking. Which obviously wouldn’t have played well, nor would it have made anything about Jo Cox any better. Sure it wasn’t Nigel Farage’s fault directly. But he has a lot to do with the current hysterical state of debate.
Anyway, Alex and I headed into London on the Thursday so that I could vote in the Australian election. (UK) Labour supporters at the station gave me a ‘Remain’ sticker and as we got into London, the number of ‘Remain’ stickers on people both young and old, from all walks of life, gave me hope. I met a friend for lunch at the Jewish Cultural Centre, JW3. When I went to buy a Snapple, the guy behind the counter saw my sticker and said, ‘thanks for voting to keep us in’ (not that I voted, of course, not allowed and all, but it seemed too complicated to go into at that point). When the woman ahead of me took too long to buy her lunch, the cafe guy who had thanked me told me to just take the drink for free. I got a free drink just because he thought I had good politics! I mean, I had the decency to feel pretty guilty about it all, but it really did feel even more embarrassing to explain it to him afterwards at that point. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a bad person.
That night, as we were going to bed, an exit poll had Remain at 52% and Leave at 48%. So, when I woke up at 5am to find Alex staring at his mobile phone and he told me it was 52% Leave, 48% Remain, my sleepy brain, went, ‘oh god, no worries then.’ It took a good 60 seconds for it to properly process the sounds he had made, at which point I woke up completely. It was a complete panic. Not only was the state of the world very different to how I’d assumed it was, this decision seemed to completely upend Alex and my plans for the future.
That morning was difficult. We had so much to do. I had to buy flowers for the tables in the pub. I had to write a speech. We had to move out of Alex’s parents place and to the hotel we were spending the weekend at. I had to iron my dress. We had to go to the pub and check final details for the next day. But, neither Alex nor I had any desire to get out of bed. All we wanted to do was read more and more terrible stories about what the terrible future held and what terrible human beings we all were now that this was the way the vote had gone. Alex said to me, ‘Have a shower. It’ll make you feel better.’ And all I could think was, ‘I don’t want to feel better. I want to feel WORSE.’
Somehow we got out of bed and got everything done that needed to be done. We went outside and the sky was not yet falling. People were walking around as if it were a normal day, instead of running and screaming and ducking for cover. It was all very strange. I kept trying to eavesdrop to see if I could find people who voted ‘Leave’ to hate or people who voted ‘Remain’ to commiserate with. But people seemed to determined to continue on as if nothing had happened. Had something happened? Surely something had happened. It was all terribly confusing. Had no one read the paper that morning?
Somehow we got to Saturday. I dragged myself out of bed (terrible night’s sleep) and started the whole process of getting pretty all over again. It was far less stressful this time. This time, instead of being stressed about being pretty, I was stressed about the speech I had to give. I didn’t want to give the speech. Even though Alex and I had both decided that we should give speeches, and it may have actually been my idea in the first place. Still, that was all irrelevant. Now I didn’t want to do the speech. I didn’t want to do a performance of love. I just wanted to be in love. I was in love with Alex, wasn’t that enough, goddamit, why did everyone insist on asking how it felt, it feels how it feels and you can’t describe it without resorting to cliche and making it sound cheap and ordinary and trivial and it wasn’t ordinary, not at all, so why did everyone insist I go ruining it by trying to describe it with my poor words, eh? Eh? Also, there was part of me that felt that if I got the ‘performance of love’ test wrong then my guests would all think, ‘well, that’s disappointing, isn’t it? The marriage is clearly not going to last. I mean, she’s clearly not REALLY in love. That was just not a good enough speech.’ Maybe someone would ring up Denmark and have our marriage made null and void. This is what my brain does to me.
Anyway, I managed to scrawl out something before putting my curlers in. Erin came round to help again and then we ‘paraded’ to the pub, less out of desire this time and more out of an understanding of Cambridge traffic jams. There was a jam and it wasn’t going anywhere. Still, a little child did stop in the middle of the footpath, gape up at me and yell to his mother (in Spanish): ‘The lady in red! The lady in red!’ That certainly made the walk worthwhile.
The pub had been beautifully done up by Alex’s parents, aunts and friends. We’d gone for a kind of ‘picnic’ feel so all the tables had kitschy, patterned tablecloths (made my Alex’s aunts and Alex’s mother’s friends), mismatched flowers and I’d made cheat’s bunting (strips of material instead of neat triangles). I’d been worried because we couldn’t put it all together before the day, but it looked super-dooper, even if I do say so myself:
The first half of the wedding day was lovely until I remembered that I had to do a speech that I hadn’t even read through since writing it, at which point, it was panic-anxiety stations to the max. Petticoats and high heels and tight dresses to not assist when one is panicking, I must say. I got much advice ranging from ‘push on your lower abdomen’ to ‘have some more alcohol’ to ‘millions of people have done it before you and survived and you’ll be able to do it too.’ All of which was true and helpful but none of which calmed me down sufficiently.
Somehow, we finally got to the part of the day when speeches were done. My brother did a stellar job of MC-ing and Alex’s parents spoke beautifully to start. My own dad brought the house down with laughter and then, just to really stretch those emotional muscles, he made everyone dissolve into floods of tears, myself included. Alex’s friend Anna made, I think, the best Brexit joke of the day (in what was a hugely competitive field – I feel like a lot of friends treated our wedding as a wake for the EU, and that was ok, I completely understood and if it hadn’t been my wedding I probably would have done that too). As Wonderfriend Erin was taking to the stage, however, a huge clap of thunder made itself heard and the heavens opened, pounding our tiny marquee with hailstones the size of extra-large marbles. Poor Erin rose valiantly over the sound, but after she finished we took a 15 minute break. The hailstones provided an excellent distraction from my speech, especially as everyone tried to justify why the hailstones were ok. One friend explained that rain is good luck on your wedding day and what was hail but very hard, very concentrated rain, so this could only meanWh even better luck. Someone else explained that Zeus was angry because Alex had taken me as a bride and to be wary of any swans that might visit me in the evening time.
When the hail calmed down, Alex gave his (very sweet) speech and then I made mine. It was, of course, fine. People laughed in the right places, nobody called the Danish authorities to say a mistake had been made, we shouldn’t actually have gotten married, it was all ok. And that meant the only thing left to do was to enjoy the rest of the evening! We cut cake, we did a first dance to the Magnetic Fields’ ‘I’m Sorry I Love You’ (which I like to think of as the most British love song title ever) and all was good.
There’s not much else to say, really. It was a fantastic night with much dancing and drinking and talking and laughing. I danced so hard that the ribbon on the back of my dress came off somewhere between the pub and the hotel (poor vintage dress lasted 70 years in mint condition, it comes into contact with me and it lasts 2 events. Le Sigh). Brexit didn’t ruin it (though it tried damn hard and is still trying). It was so wonderful to have everyone there who was there and we hope they all had a fantastic time. The pub and it’s owners were great, made everything so easy with organisation and really helped us to get the best day we possibly could have. Everyone who helped out on the day or in the lead-up (and there were lots of them – friends who went shopping with me, friends who approved dresses, friends who picked up dresses, friends who did my hair, friends who attached eyelashes, friends who decorated on the day, friends who picked up cakes, friends who took photos, friends and family who made speeches, friends who organised Hen’s Nights and Stag Nights and Shag Nights, people I didn’t even know who sewed us 20 tablecloths, wrapped flower pots in paper and ribbons…) were incredible and the whole thing wouldn’t have happened without them. It was a perfect day only because everyone pitched in and it made both Alex and I feel so loved and cared for by our friends and extended family. So, to you, all of you, thank you.