Saturday, 31 May 2014

A brief account of a wedding reception.

That seems like the right sort of title.  I got married on 28/05/2014, or blessed at least, and I wanted to get the details down before something else pushes the interesting little bits out of my head.  I'll break this up into 3 sections, before, during and after and we'll see how that goes.


Pompous.  I like that.

We spent a good long time decorating 50 cups.  That was something.  50 blank cups and saucers onto which we were going to transfer a picture of a tree then add a bit of writing to as a memento of the day.  That was the plan, anyway.  I did a few after work and since it isn't the kind of work that requires a lot of thought but does require a lot of patience and time, I put a few cartoons on.  By measuring each cup in terms of episodes of Garfield and Friends (henceforth a unit referred to as one (1) Garfield, equivalent to about 25 minutes 'cause you don't get commercials on Netflix), I determined that to scribble a graphite outline onto 4 images took roughly 1 Garfield.  It also gave me hand cramp.  To rub the image onto a cup took around 0.5 Garfields.  To trace in ceramic pen took an additional 0.5 Garfield.  I could refer to a half Garfield as an Orson for the half episode that's always an episode of Orson's Farm but that's just being silly.
So a cup takes roughly 1.25 Garfields or half an hour.  Ish.  The saucers took about twice that, so we're looking at 3.75 Garfields per cup.

Anyway you slice it, that's just too long to get done in an evening after work when I need to feed myself and take a shower so we ended up just cutting out a different image from a square of paper, ceramic painting over the holes and leaving it at that.  If you attended and have a cup with a really elaborate tree looking pattern on the saucer or a leaf motif on the cup, you have one of the rare ones.  It's like a collectable card game!  If you have a saucer with a LOT of writing on it, you have one from when Hanna was doing her shift with the saucers and was starting to get a bit more creative towards the end of the last batch.  If you have one that looks like it was written on by a 6 year old, that's one of mine.

I spent most of the time on the cup production line cooking and making tea.  I don't really know how to use a pen for more than 15 minutes without experiencing physical pain (no, seriously) so that was probably fine.

We'd wake up most mornings to find that Hanna's dad had, like the mice in the Tailor of Gloucester, had done most of our work for us.  Along with Chris, who actually kind of WAS a tailor, he may have single handedly saved much of the day.

We packed up on Tuesday afternoon, forgot a few bits, lost the cat's vaccination certificate, found the cat's vaccination certificate and eventually managed to pull into Windermere at around 3pm which was only, like, 3 hours late.  A few family dropoffs, a few meetings of peoples, a massive meal at the local Italian, some fatherly speeches and a trip to the in-laws (hey, there's a term I can seriously use, now!) later, we collapsed into bed.

The in-law accommodation bears mentioning.  Goodness knows how they found it but we discovered that after a mile of driving up a country road dotted with cattle grids, they'd managed to rent some kind of self catering manor house.  I wish this was an exaggeration.  More than 15 bedrooms, 2 lounges, one with a log fire, 2 kitchens, bathrooms all over the place... it's the kind of house where playing hide and seek would require you to pack a lunch.

Our place was rather fancy.  The top floor or a 4 star... B&B seems like the wrong term.  It was like a little hotel with valet parking, complimentary sherry and toffees and a decently stocked bar.  The local ale wasn't my personal cup of tea but you couldn't fault them on variety.  Our room had 3 lights and a remote which allowed you to select 3 brightness levels or, like, 16 colours as well as strobe settings.  Given that this was effectively a bridal suite, we weren't sure why that was there because we don't find discos particularly... well, alluring?  It was nice to set one of them to teal and leave it on as a night light for the bathroom though and it made for a good half hour's sleep deprived amusement.


I insist that there is not enough time in a day to get done what we got done.

Awake, breakfast.  Easy enough.  I think I was supposed to be freaking out at this point but everything was going pretty well.  The only time I felt nervous all day was waiting for Hanna to walk down the aisle and realising that I'd left my deodorant in the room which was now filled with half a dozen women getting changed.  There was a minefield I wasn't about to prance through.  I dressed myself which, as those of you present for my graduation will, was an achievement.  Hanna apparently underwent some kind of Cinderella montage upstairs involving makeup and the most elaborate dress in the world.  I put on a fancy hat and wondered when we were having lunch.

I had an easier day all over, I think.

Off to the venue after realising I'd forgotten the ipod with the music on it that I'd spent 2 weeks preparing.  Whoops.  I then didn't realise that the music for going down the aisle and doing the whole recessional thing was also mean to be coming from my ipod and that I should have given it to the hotel staff.  Whoops again.  It was quite a quiet ceremony.  I wasn't really sure how I was meant to be reacting throughout as I was stood in front of a room full of people I knew to varying degrees so I just kind of grimaced and flapped ineffectually until Hanna was walked down the aisle.  Looking suitably radiant.  That bears mentioning.  I looked like a prat in a hat but I felt kinda fancy and I was wearing big boy aftershave so that was okay.

Vows were exchanged in front of our local priest who's a very nice man and drove a very long way to avoid a boring meeting.  So we did him a favour, I guess.   I couldn't help feeling like I sounded horribly sarcastic throughout the swearing before God stuff which is terrible because that wasn't the intention but damned if I know how you're supposed to address someone when you're stood in that kind of position.  I was sort of focusing on keeping it together through the slight emotional wobble that I was experiencing.  But I didn't fall over or cry inconsolably during the vows so that was lovely.  High expectations!  We exchanged rings and I'm quite sure that mine can't be removed now without a lot of effort.  It's pretty firmly stuck on.  After that, there was a lot of clapping, some parental tears and we retired to some kind of lounge to take photos.  I supplied the venue with an ipod.  It was barely audible throughout the day but the boat made up for that with GUSTO.

We also drank the toasting wine during the photos due to a bit of confusion.  A bit of confusion with the box which had "TOASTING WINE ONLY" written on it in black marker pen.  But heigh ho, I kind of wanted a drink.

A lot of photos followed, as is the way of things.  Family on the stairs, friends on the stairs, family around the hotel, family outside, us walking down paths holding umbrellas, me trying to stab my best men through the head with a samurai sword umbrella, men carrying bags, women wearing hats, women pretending to kiss me, boy-girl conga lines... that was a bit of a blur.  There was also some fishing out of a good luck horseshoe from the lake after it went for a bit of a swim.  That was pretty funny and it came back fine.

Off to the hotel for high tea and lots of little sandwiches.  Our toastmaster did a lot of shouting for us, then people clapped a lot which was nice of them.  I think everyone thought the salmon was tomato.  I certainly did.  Sorry if you don't like salmon.  After a few rounds of sandwiches and cake, a few of us hunted for a beer.  There were no bartenders so our lovely toastmaster sought us out a man who looked like he was employed by the hotel and made him pull pints for us.  I think he may have been a manager or something so that was kinda nice of him.  Speeches to follow.  Hanna's dad's was pretty perfect, Danny's was really rather pleasant and very nostalgic, Wayne's was pretty funny.  The brewery tour satnav story never gets any worse for the retelling.  Mine was long, rambling, partially improvised and is included at the end of this post.  It turns out that "I first realised that I had a crippling fear of public speaking when I was in college" isn't a good opening line unless people know you're trying to go for a funny speech.  Lesson learned!

Back to the hotel to get changed and have a cheeky cup of tea.  They laid on a bottle of champagne on the house which was lovely of them so we gave them tea and cake.  Lonsdale house is staffed by the most charismatic man in the entire world, so if you ever go there (which we can both recommend), look for Andrew.  You'll know him when you see him.

Champagne quaffed due to time restrictions, we headed to the boat we'd rented a little unsteadily, hopped on board and they accepted an ipod happily.  And loudly.  That was much better.  Beers happened, a barbecue happened and a lot of conversation with the new members of my family who really wanted to buy me beers.  Splendid bunch of people.  Lots of new friends made, old friends reunited, music, 3 hours of conversations and a bit of a dance in the rain to our finally-played recessional, You Ruined Everything by Jonathon Coulton.  It's quite a nice song, look it up.  I put in a request for Another Winter by Anamanaguchi as we rolled into port which probably confused the locals.

We finished with a trip to the local pub, a couple more beverages, pool, pinball, more conversations then back to bed as I had to have a little lay down while being overwhelmed by the cards and presents and suchlike that we'd been sent.  'cause seriously, that was all stunning and more than a bit emotional.

Thanks again to everybody who attended, wrote to us or in any way interacted with this wedding.  It was a really perfect day out, just a function with close friends and family, wonderful company throughout the day and 15 straight hours of happiness.  We couldn't have asked for anything more and you all really made it for us.

Day 3 - A NEW HOPE

The aftermath.

A spot of lunch with the Goodways.  Or a Goodway and a Spence.  I mean, I'm not sure if you guys are cool with being referred to collectively as the Goodways so do correct me if you read this.  A bit of a trip around Lakeland Plastics with Emma, no doubt accompanied by my Nanna and Grandad who are probably haunting the Lake District.  A trip to Kendall to drop off the suits and get some fancy-pants bread.  That was bloody good bread.  Then to a little restaurant where were ordered an unreasonable amount of Tapas.  It's worth pointing out at this point that around Windermere, all the restaurants are fairly small.  They're all also very, very good.  We've been to easily a dozen of them now and they've been fantastic.  I always leave Winderemere with indigestion and I never truly care.

Someone appears to have stolen my pepto bismol.  Poo.  There's a jar of Nutella but I don't think that'll help.

Back to the in-law's palatial home for the evening.  Seems they'd already had a photo of the day printed and framed as a wedding present which was pretty amazing.  Lovely picture of us, too.  We're both really chuffed with that, it captured the whole feeling of the day really nicely.

The final day was a high point.  Out in the morning to a local greasy spoon 'cause we decided to see if we could sleep in past the hotel's breakfast times on account of us both having had zero chances to sleep in lately.  Nothing quite like a full English at a cafe to give a horrendous lining to the stomach.  I could have chugged a bottle of vinegar and fire ants after that with no ill effects.  We then went to the Beatrix Potter museum which was pretty lovely but it turns out that going to a museum aimed at kids and filled with kids is a really good way to feel super conspicuous.  We weren't the only adult couples there though so that was fine.  They actually mentioned quite a lot about her life, inspirations and history in there which was pretty interesting so while it wasn't something for the dads in the Peter Kay sense, it was still rather interesting.

Then on to the lake.  We'd noticed signs for speedboat rental and it turned out to be £18 for two adults for an hour.  Couldn't say no at all.  15 minutes of queueing and watching the attendant negotiate with some Chinese tourists, 5 minutes of watching them try to row out of the docks with limited success and we were off.  If you've never rented a speedboat, we heartily recommend it because it's enormous fun.  You get to go where you want throughout the lake, see the yachts up close and exchange gestured thanks with experienced sailors which makes you feel like a courteous badass.  We both had a go, taking turns to operate the gearbox or the tiller and taking photos.  Really great stuff.

I fed a swan.  I used to be terrified of them on account of how they eat people but I think I tamed a few of them.  I also learned what pigeons are.

We went poking around the local shops and found an art gallery.  We'd been in the one in Windermere town centre.  This one stocked a few bits by an artist that we're collecting pieces from so we got a couple of prints.  Or maybe we bought them on the Thursday... I think we did.  But we found a really nice oil painting by a local artist who does some pieces that we really like.  There was one with a couple sailing a rowing boat up to a cliff with a lighthouse at night and a little constellation of a heart in the sky and... we... may have bought ourselves a substantial wedding present.  I think we're yuppies now.  We eat olives and bruschetta and all the rest of that cultured shit.

Then we went for ice cream, a nap and then steak burgers and beer.  Very good burgers, those.

Early morning, early onto the motorway, back home with no trouble, a spot of lunch with my parents and their lovely, lovely dogs who were in town by coincidence.  Back home, laundry, blog, photo upload.  We've got one more day before we head to Brighton for the legal bit.  Genuinely can't wait for that.

Overall, a wonderful week, slightly dull weather but some spectacular views and wonderful memories.  And one slight hangover.

And the speech which may or may not resemble the actual speech I delivered but was certainly the one I was holding on the day:

I’m not known for my experience of public speaking so, thinking on everything I’ve learned on the subject of speech writing and delivery I was reminded of that classic piece of advice: “Imagine your audience is in their underwear”. 


So, how are we all feeling about that?  I’m not actually doing it, don’t worry.  I mean, it seems dreadfully unfair if, like today, your audience has expended a considerable amount of effort in looking exceptionally presentable.  And I find the idea of a lawn full of people in their underwear to be terrifying, quite frankly. 

So, if I may, I’d like to start with a bit of a story, move on to the thanks and then we can all bask in that lovely moment of relief where I stop talking.  It’ll be coming in about 5 minutes so if you want to take a quick nap, I won’t think any less of you. 

I think, though it’s hard to really put my finger on it, that I really fell for Hanna in the summer of 2008.  I’d just graduated from university and I’d decided to take a couple of months off to wind down from all those gruelling 4 hour working days.  I’d spend my days padding out my CV, playing video games and surfing the Internet, all fairly typical student stuff, but I spent a lot of time chatting online.  I met Hanna the previous Autumn in a pub in Huddersfield where we’d gone for a gaming society meeting and we got to know each a little better each Tuesday during our game.  Come the summer, as everyone went home I started chatting online with a handful of the people I’d met that year but I found that whenever I was talking with Hanna, I’d lose track of time.  More than once, I remember going to bed as everybody else in the house was waking up. 

Rather than your stereotypical, rose tinted scene where the feelings of affection are realised as the two gaze into each other’s eyes, we weren’t anywhere near each other when it happened for me.  It must have been 4 in the morning, sat bathed in the glow of my monitor, when I came to the life changing realisation that I’d finally met someone that was so aligned to my own peculiar mental wavelength that we could talk for hours on end without running out of things to say. 

It was pretty astounding.  It still is. 

Come the February of next year, I decided to ask her out.  Wednesday the 18th, 2009 at about 9 in the evening.  One later evening, the following… day I think, I received the most profound and meaningful “Maybe” of my life.  Things have escalated from that point in a really alarming fashion ever since. 

We’d both like to thank you all for coming down.  I realise that none of you live anywhere near Windermere (if it’s any consolation, neither do we) but we hope to have inconvenienced everyone as fairly and equally as possible.  The main reason for being here, however, is that this is the place where we got engaged in the first place (and later this evening, we’ll be going out on the same boat on which the question was, as they say, popped).  It really does mean the world to us that you’ve come to share this experience today. 

So, for specific thanks: 

Tony, thanks from both of us for supporting this union and being willing to allow yourself to be in any way connected to the Sparks’.  I appreciate that it’s more than a lot of people would be willing to deal with.  I’d also particularly like to thank you for what might be the classiest response to “I’d like to ask if I could marry your daughter”, that being “I’m not the one you need to ask”.  I’ll remember that for the rest of my life and, depending on how things work out, will be inflicting it on the future suitor of my own offspring.  Thanks also for the wealth of knowledge you’ve assisted us with over the years. 

Fiona, again, thanks for supporting all of this as well and I can only apologise for adding even more people to your already chaotic Christmas and New Years’ celebrations.  You’re welcome to a lifetime of technical support.  I unfortunately can’t guarantee the quality of any advice I give.  I would like to remind you that while I’m a bachelor of computer science, I have been known to use myself as a volt meter.  Twice.  And thanks for rather a lot of emotional support. 

Alf, thanks for your support as well.  And not just for the wedding but for more household and mechanical repairs than I’m capable of bringing to mind.  I’m becoming convinced that you’re the only person I know, including myself, who’s capable of rehousing my headlights which is a terrible thing considering I’ve owned that car for two years.  Thanks for a lot of practical advice.  I’m profoundly sorry for anything that may happen as a result of me trying to fix any of the technology you own. 

My own mum and dad, Pam and Bob.  Parents, friends, occasional drinking buddies.  After I spent my young adult life immersed in the black pit that was my bedroom, I think we’re all a bit surprised to be here today.  Thanks for more things than I can fit into a speech of any reasonable length, but mostly for instilling in me enough life experience that Ive somehow managed to survive for 28 years.  And dad, on a side note, whatever I may have said over the years, it’s an honour to be mistaken for you and a pleasure to resemble you. 

Does everyone have some kind of beverage? 

On the subject of family, I’d like to raise two toasts, if I may, to absent friends (–one–).  To those who weren’t able to make it today but most of all to those who are no longer with us.  Though I’m fairly sure that Eric and Judy in particular will be here in spirit.  I can’t imagine them turning down an opportunity to visit Lakeland Plastics.  We’re actually down here on my grandad’s birthday so if you’re of that kind of persuasion, have a pint of something for him.  I don’t know if he’d appreciate the beer but I think he’d appreciate the sentiment. 

Special thanks to those of you who haven’t had a particularly easy time of getting here for one reason or another, especially those of you who’ve had to come down on public transport.  Thanks too to the drivers.  I can say from experience that it’s quite a trek to get here.  And sincere, sincere thanks and possible sympathies to any designated drivers. 

Thanks to my best men.  To Danny for wasted days of tiny plastic men and video games and to Wayne for wasted days of beer and video games.  I wouldn’t trade any of that nonsense for the world.  You’ve both been really positive influences on both of our lives and have been directly responsible for some of the most memorable moments of the past few years.  And some of the blurrier ones.  Our past has contained dozens of adventures and I hope our future does too. 

Thanks to the staff of the Cragwood Hotel, to our photographers Lorraine and Derek and to our Toastmaster Michael for helping us to keep this show running.  Your support has been invaluable.  We don’t have a great deal of personal experience in getting married so it’s wonderful to have people around who really seem to know what they’re doing.  We’ve been in safe hands with you guys since the beginning and that’s been very reassuring. 

Finally, very much in your own time and assuming it will cause no physical discomfort, if we could all stand for a second, I’d like to propose two last toasts.  One thanks to our bridesmaids.  (–one–)  Although since I think, though I’m not certain, that that group includes Christopher then in this enlightened age maybe “Bridespersons” would be a better term.  And one more to Hanna, not for her boundless love, patience and compassion but for becoming, and I do mean this most sincerely, the best friend I could ever wish to have.  For keeping me going through the hard times, for helping me to maintain my ever-slender grip on my mental marbles and for being a friendly face at the end of my best and my worst days.  I love you and at this moment, certainly for many more moments to come, there’s genuinely no position in which I’d rather be. 

I’ll shut up now. 


Hanna's dad said...

Great day was had by all. May you both have a long and happy marriage, you deserve it.

Fergal said...

It was a lovely day and I feel honoured to share it with you, Congratulations and enjoy a long and happy life together