We had just six months in which to plan our wedding. Thankfully, we had some great help from family members, and the girls at Fairytale Brides.
It is said that a man will experience a few key moments in his life: 21st birthday, the birth of his first child and the turning of the millennium in the case of my generation. I recently experienced one of these moments and can attest to it being one of the greatest and most memorable days of my life so far; this is the story of my wedding day.
Following a spontaneous, tearful proposal at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, my fiancée Jodie and I found ourselves swimming in endless possibilities with what our big day could entail. We had just six months in which to plan our wedding. Thankfully, we had some great help from family members, and the girls at Fairytale Brides. Was it not for their knowledge and help, I doubt we would have found ourselves with enough time.
Time flew so fast. Before I knew it, I found myself stood in a very handsome suit, at the top of a rose lined aisle in Manchester’s Hilton Hotel, with seventy five pairs of eyes staring at me with anticipation. Conscious that we wanted to enjoy an intimate wedding, we had chosen to invite our only closest family members and friends. Whilst this was not the easiest of decisions, it did afford us the ability to have a wedding which felt more personal.
Stood at the top of the aisle, nerves began to settle in. I felt a rustling starting to stir, the room came alive with the sense that Jodie was just around the corner; a sixth sense from every guest that something great was about to happen. The violins started, the rich sound filled the room with soul. We had made a good decision by selecting “Bittersweet Symphony” as Jodie’s entrance song. It instantly created a classical air to what was to be a very Mancunian wedding.
And then she appeared. Stopping at the top of the aisle, our eyes met, smiling with emotional honesty – it is a look that I will never forget. Jodie looked beautiful in her Ian Stuart dress. With her arm linked with her dad’s, she started walking towards me as the drums rolled into powerful music. Surrounded by tearful eyes, Jodie’s advance along the aisle passed quickly, our hands gripped tightly as we met. Disregarding tradition, we kissed. Gradually the room quietened, and we turned to our registrar. We really were getting married now!
The remainder of the ceremony passed by in a blur, I wish I could remember more of it. What I do remember is the following: I did not faint, Jodie did not faint and we both proudly declared “I do”. We shared tears at bridesmaid Rebecca’s reading, and took deep breaths as we exchanged our handwritten vows. We fumbled rings onto each others shaking fingers as everybody else in the room ceased to exist. We became husband and wife. Most of all, we smiled.
The ceremony seemed to fly by, before our feet had time to touch the floor, our photographers Lesley and Shaun Meredith (without whom the day would not have been half as co-ordinated) had skillfully taken all the shots they needed. I found myself greeting guests to our wedding breakfast.
The planning Jodie had put into the decoration of the Merchant room at the Castlefield Rooms was incredible. Much had been kept a secret from me until the day. I was amazed upon seeing the attention to detail she and Matt, our floral architect, had taken. Each table had been set with red and black linen, creating a sexy 1950s style, and was adorned with red rose arrangements. Each table was named after one of the places we had visited whilst traveling. In the centre of each table, proudly stood a copy of the travel diary I had kept whilst away. The table plan was cleverly designed with the same theme into a suitcase. Rose petals fell over the vicinity (We must have been responsible for the butchery of thousands of roses that day, but the room looked incredible, so they were sacrificed for a worthy cause).
The smell of the rich white chocolate cake and the sound of alternative acoustic guitar music filled the room, much to everybody’s satisfaction. It spoke volumes of our personality. In an attempt to avoid the wedding cliché of having a DJ, Jodie and I had instead opted to hire a comedian to entertain our guests. Unfortunately, I was unable to announce the evening’s progression as my bride had unexpectedly gone AWOL. For twenty minutes I searched the Castlefield Rooms, enquiring if our guests had any elaboration on her disappearance. It was to everybody’s shock when my new wife finally made her re-entrance in a second wedding dress! It was identical to her previous one, but in a deep red colour; Jodie put me in awe. I would later discover that it is tradition in China (the destination of our honeymoon) for a bride to have both a white and red wedding dress, making Jodie’s surprise exorbitantly apt. Our comedian, Jamie Sutherland, was hilarious and did a much better job of giving the room a great time than any mere DJ could muster.
Conscious that we would need other ways to keep our guests entertained throughout the evening, Jodie and I conducted months of research into alternatives. Casino tables, inflatable games, a murder mystery and star charts… all were vetoed in the name of sensibility. We had just about given up, when we came across the idea of renting a photo booth at a wedding fayre. What fun we had with it! The booth operators provided a box of novelty wigs and glasses to add diversity to our now drunken guests’ photos. We requested that they leave a personal note with each one. Much to my surprise, many of our guests opted for this as entertainment as well as the drink and dance floor combination. At the end of our wedding night, Jodie and I were presented with a book containing copies of all the photos and messages our unsuspecting guests had committed to, leaving us with a fantastic keepsake and proof, should any be needed, that our friends are incredibly creative.
We planned to end our day with a relaxed, romantic feel by offering our guests the opportunity to release a Chinese lantern over the Mancunian landscape. The time came to launch the candles as the sun set over the Manchester Locks. We had thirty candles to launch in total and very minimal knowledge of how to get them airborne. The intelligence of our happy guests overruled any anticipation we may have been feeling as twenty nine candles soared into the sky, creating a beautiful backdrop against the Hilton Hotel, where we had earlier wed. One candle careered into a tree, where it briefly threatened to set Manchester alight before casually floating away. The glow from the candlelight created a fantastic mood to the proceedings and some perfect photo opportunities.
Our initial fear of hosting a dull wedding was eclipsed in the light of everything else we had planned. In fact, the evening went by so fast that we almost neglected to cut the cake. We even managed to squeeze in a first dance.
Our evening concluded as we retired back to the Presidential Suite in the Hilton. In the privacy of our own room, we relaxed until the early hours with music and the free drinks provided by the Hilton. It was the perfect way to end the perfect day, relaxed in the company of our finest.
They say a man will experience a few key moments in his life; my wedding was certainly one of them.