Because someday my children will find this entertaining rather than mortifying, one more snippet of Team WestEnders lore...Wedding Day.
Saturday, May 16th 1998 dawned on an extremely optimistic note--warm and sunny. Why do I remember this seemingly insignificant detail? It's just that for the prior TWO WEEKS it had been raining. No, not merely "drizzling" or "sprinkling", but prodigious downpours that soaked everything in sight, accompanied by heavy, blanketing grey clouds. So when I awoke and saw blue skies and brilliant light, suffice it to say that it only added to the already joyous mood of the day. And speaking of happiness--what better way to kick off a day of celebration than with leftover cheesecake from the previous night's Rehearsal Dinner? (Yes, for breakfast...it might have had fruit on top...or not...don't judge!) I had spent the night at my parents' house, so I got to spend my last few hours as a single woman hanging out with my family.
To squeeze in some extra chick-bonding and primping, we had scheduled a group hair-and-manicure appointment for most of my bridesmaids and me that morning. (I know--you're speechless with shock at how this seems extraordinarily unlike me...but it's not every day a non-celebrity gets the opportunity to don a long white dress, parade in front of a crowd, and act like a princess, so I was gonna milk it for all it was worth...) A period of immense silliness ensued, as we girly-girls attempted to avoid any activities that could potentially smudge our freshly-beautified nails...which led to one of my bridesmaids sharing a story about a colleague who would walk around after a salon session with her hands on her chest, fingers spread wide...protectively "breasting her nails". (Yes, take a moment if you will to imagine the scene: four of us practicing this maneuver...I swear we probably looked like we were trying to corral our wayward boobs...or something similarly ridiculous. Good times!)
When we'd succeeded in becoming sufficiently sugared, painted, coiffed, dried, made-up, and oh yes, dressed, we trooped outside to board the stretch limo that would convey us to the church. After a high-spirited ride (characterized as I recall by much singing, lubricated by free-flowing champagne...and ginger ale) we piled out in as dignified a fashion as possible to attend to the ceremonial portion of our day. And the actual service proceeded as such things do--there were readings, blessings, words of wisdom and advice, an exchange of vows, a kiss, and a brand new husband and wife. Then (I don't honestly remember whose brilliant idea this was) we gathered behind the church for some spontaneous, charmingly whimsical (or embarrassingly childish--take your pick) photos on the playground equipment. (Hey, the way I see it, we were merely honoring our vows, you know the ones, "Better/worse, richer/poorer...blah blah blah...'In seriousness or in fun'." That's definitely in there, right? Even if you have to kind of read between the lines...) By then the delightful Spring morning had progressed to an unseasonal 90* afternoon, so we retreated to our air conditioned ride to continue to the next stop: Post-Nup Party Town.
And quite a shindig it was. There were the conventional elements universally included in such occasions: delicious food, scrumptious cake, energetic dancing, abundant laughter. But a few things stick out in my memory as making it more uniquely OUR special day...like the fact that the Bridal Party made their entrance and was introduced to the unmistakable strains of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Also, Husband and I chose to throw into the crowd--rather than the traditional bouquet and garter--soft squishy baseballs. We did do the ritual First Dance (to a song by Clint Black...no, my kids won't have any idea who that is...Google it...), a moderately-accurate and (I'm told) somewhat impressive foxtrot, thanks to a 6-week course of lessons I'd forced Husband to endure in the months leading up to the wedding. (Yeah, of course I loved it! No big surprise there...)
Eventually we wound down, worn out from all the hype and non-stop hoopla, and retired upstairs to our hotel room for some much needed (and deserved--getting married is hard work, y'all!) slumber. Because we were far from done...the next morning we met downstairs once more for a lively brunch with all of our guests who had also been hosted by Marriott for the night. Then it was off to Camden Yards for our first Orioles game as a married couple. As partial-season ticketholders, we sat in a section with a tight-knit group of fans who had been together for years and knew us well...and so the festive atmosphere continued. (How could it not? We brought them cake!) At the conclusion of the game, we headed to the airport to jet off for our honeymoon (still in our baseball gear, the significance of which will soon become clear). Yes, the lush emerald hills of Ireland awaited us...but they were going to have to be patient, as we encountered one snafu after another on our journey.
First we flew from Baltimore to JFK without incident. However, that was to be the first and last smooth event of this particular leg of our trip, unfortunately. It was reported that a baggage truck had collided with our Aer Lingus plane, causing it to be grounded as a precaution. We were quickly shuffled onto a British Airways flight, which would take us to Heathrow, where we would connect once more to get us all the way to our final destination, Shannon. Despite the chaos, once we were safely in the air I couldn't very well complain about our mile-high accommodations. We were provided with drinks (including wine...FREE) on a near-continuous basis, two full meals, a care package that included toiletries (again, this will be critical, shortly), and hot towels to freshen up periodically.
Had I only known what was coming, I might have tried to use those washcloths to bathe a little more thoroughly. You see, we landed without mishap, true...but also without luggage...which had been rerouted from our original plane...to heaven knows where, as far as anyone could speculate. Bottom line: we had now been wearing our proud Os shirts for 24 hours (not to mention the...ahem ... "unmentionables"...underneath) and would continue to do so until reunited with our bags. Whenever that might be. So there we were: grimy, exhausted, jet-lagged, and confused. And there was still one more hurdle to leap before we could at long last collapse in the first hotel of our vacation. We had reserved a rental car to be ready for us at the airport. Very smart, good planning, yeah? Uh-huh...except that when we arrived, the company only had manual transmission vehicles available. Which Husband doesn't know how to drive. Oh, and with the steering wheel on the right side of the car, naturally, and the gear shift on the left, exactly the reverse of what I've been operating my entire life. AND....they cruise around on the wrong--I'm sorry, "other"--side of the road than we do in the U.S. You think I was bewildered before?
As if that weren't enough for a sleep-deprived, culture-shocked American to deal with, now throw in the fact that the "roads" that we would be navigating in the initial part of the adventure were really more like narrow, winding, dirt-and-gravel "paths", with space for two verrrrrry compact cars to scrape by each other...barely...carefully...holding one's breath and praying...while tree branches brushed the driver's window in a disconcerting whisper. (One that said, "You're driving into the woods, for heaven's sake, move over, crazy lady!" Or maybe that was just the onset of the hysteria...) As a final obstacle, every few miles or so you'd be obligated to slam on the brakes and skid to a screeching halt...for bunches of f...luffy SHEEP. Standing. In. The. Road. It was enough to make one mad, I tell ya. (In the UK "nuts" kind of way, not the American "pissed off"...although yeah, that too...) But, as the Bard would say (probably after circumventing the farm creatures and cozying up to a few pints of Guiness), "all's well that ends well". Our rogue suitcases arrived; our life-threatening transportation was swapped for an automatic so Husband (he of the steelier nerves) could take over management of the Irish thoroughfares; and a grand tour of the island commenced.
And that, my boys (and anyone else who is still with me on my rambling narrative expedition--you made it! Congrats!) is how your parents got hitched (again without any mushy stuff...you're welcome). Now, all this has made me nostalgic, so if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go see if we have any cake lying around, by chance...