The 10 Year Anniversary

Mr Gardiner & Mr Hutchence

30th June 2017

When we became Civil Partners 10 years ago; only 18 months after they became legal, we had no idea that Equal Marriage would hit the Statute books so soon thereafter. Therefore when we first decided to take the plunge, we planned a big splash at Crewe Hall with almost all the trimmings; 120 day-time guests, live musicians, bespoke gold-brocade wedding-coats, exchanging watches as well as rings and two cakes.

So roll on ten years we are still very much together and were thinking about how we should celebrate our ‘Tin’ anniversary?  After we’d thought about a big-trip abroad or holding a fabulous party we said ‘Why don’t we get married?’

We would very much like to thank the former Prime Minister David Cameron for taking the brave and far-sighted decision to introduce Equal Marriage.

Sharing an interest in politics, we met and renewed our initial acquaintance whilst both delegates at Conservative Party Conferences. It was after the second of these occasions that Simon took the initiative to pursue matters with Stewart; nine months later we were living together in Port Sunlight.

Subsequently we have bought a house together in Knutsford and are very much part of the local community and we were very pleased that some of our new friends and neighbours were with us to celebrate our marriage.

So here we were, back at Crewe Hall; wearing our 10-year old watches, sporting those same brocade coats; albeit with slight alterations courtesy of John Homoky at Phillip Alexander, who designed and created these exquisite garments to help provide the ‘Wow-factor’ for our first Big Day. The Ceremony was conducted by Michelle Gibbs from Cheshire East, who had assisted at our Civil Partnership 10 years before. Thank you Michelle for making us feel so special. However the biggest difference was the weather – it didn’t rain and we even glimpsed the sun!

This time, with only 38 daytime guests; we have decided to go for intimacy over razzmatazz. Our closest friends and family-members were invited to attend the marriage ceremony in the Carved Parlour at Crewe Hall on beautiful invitations designed and printed by Rebecca at Inprint (Knutsford). Thanks Rebecca for your patience; as the Invitations and Orders of Service had various iterations; owing to our ever so subtly differing tastes.

We were led into the ornate, room by our 17-year old niece, Naomi carefully carrying the original but newly polished and engraved rings. The ancient glass glistening at the far end of room casting shadows on the short-stretch of red carpet we were about to tread.

While the music this time was recorded, it was nonetheless chosen with care, personal to us and provided a beautiful tone to proceedings; as Mozart, Saint Saëns and Handel was seamlessly juxtaposed with Jay Ungar, Elvis Presley and Eva Cassidy.

Three friends, Katy, Nicky and Anna read beautiful prose pieces between the music, our vows and the legal declarations. These readings all spoke about what is meant by True Love and the significance of Marriage. This was something we particularly wanted to echo on this our second Special Day. So cheers to Kahlil Gibram, Louis de Bernières and to the anonymous wordsmith who penned the third piece for helping us make this point so eloquently.

We decided to have photographs to remember the day and as evidence that once we both had hair; Stewart’s is rapidly thinning and is really quite grey. Simon’s on the other hand is longer than it was and with his beard gives him a whole new look! We were so pleased that Frank Henshall agreed to do his magic behind the lens again and made us look like film-stars for the day. Our guests didn’t look half-bad either.

As Frank snapped away we mingled with our guests on the terrace, whilst sipping champagne and Pimms before we were all called to the Great Library for the Wedding Breakfast. Though before sitting down to enjoy Asparagus Spears, Fillet Steak and a Salted Caramel Parfait; especially created by the Chef for the occasion, we treated our guests to a couple of speeches. These seemed to produce a greater than expected amount of tearfulness amongst the guests, but this was nothing to those tears that trickled down Stewart’s face when he unveiled the original oil painting by Anna Razumovskaya, that Simon presented to him as his Wedding gift.

As a wine connoisseur Simon insisted on making sure the wines complemented the food and in place of Champagne we served the much-lauded English Sparkling Wine – Nytimber produced in Sussex and sharing a nomenclature with Village where Stewart’s parents now live. It was therefore appropriate that it was Stewart’s Dad who proposed a toast to the happy couple. Though for Simon this was rather a poignant moment as it had been his late-father Fred who had done so 10 years before.

With the food eaten, in line with tradition we cut the first of our two cakes; as the grandson of a master-baker Stewart wasn’t making do with one! Tracy Bettaney, a former colleague of Stewart’s, crafted two works of art. There was a hexagonal fruitcake adorned with sugar paste flowers for the daytime. In the evening the buffet table was transformed by a three-tier confection topped with a gold gondola. This paid homáge to a City we love and where we began our honeymoon.

Although we wanted the wedding ceremony to be an intimate affair we were keen to share the day with as many people as possible and so in the evening we hosted a big wedding party in the Long Gallery. We chose to wear Black-Tie and were very pleased to use the occasion to acquire new made-to-measure dinner suits; with bespoke detailing and personally chosen linings. Many thanks to Karl Emery at Harris & Howard in Alderley Edge – James Bond eat your heart out!

Some 170 people joined us as we danced the night away thanks to the dulcet tones of the Nat O’Brien Band and the mixing-skills of Andy Douglas. We had fun choosing the music for both sets, but decided that like 10 years ago we would begin and end proceedings with the first piece of music we had ever danced to in public as a couple; the Monkees Daydream Believer; some who know him well may consider this to be Stewart’s signature tune!

So as the daylight passed into dusk outside and the music reverberated against the ancient walls of the long gallery, everyone was having fun and memories were being made for us to share with friends and family as we enter the next stage of our life together as a married couple. However, first we must get used to referring to each other as my Husband; rather than the often used ‘the person to whom I must be civil’. Something we can both practice every day while on or second honeymoon; as we revisited Italy; stopping in Venice, Rome and Ravello, overlooking the Amalfi coast and the location for honeymoon number one.

It was a fantastic day and we would like to thank all those who came to help us celebrate – apparently we will be doing it all again in another 10 years!

Venue – Crewe Hall – www.qhotels.co.uk/our-locations/crewe-hall

Photography – Frank Henshall – www.frankhenshall.com

Daytime clothes – Phillip Alexander – http://www.phillipalexander.co.uk

Evening suits – Harris & Howard – www.harrisandhowardbespoke.com

Button-holes – Knutsford Bloom – www.knutsfordbloom.co.uk

Cake – Tracey Bettaney  – tabettaney@hotmail.co.uk.

Stationery – I-print – www.iprintcheshire.com