After about six months of frenzied (read: disorganised) organisation, a week and a half ago Jenny and I finally turned up at Craig Y Nos castle, filled a room with friends and family and got the deed done.
We actually turned up the night before - tradition going firmly out the ornate window of the bridal suite - and enjoyed a drink in the evening sunshine in the castle courtyard. Craig Y Nos is one of those Victorian castles built to show off rather than to oppress the locals, but thanks to a stint as a tuberculosis hospital in the early 1900s it's garnered a reputation for being haunted; it's a gorgeous location, though, well worth the potential for being spooked on the premises. That our ceremony was carried out by one of the UK's authorities on debunking the paranormal was entirely coincidental. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)
Thoroughly unspooked, we rose the next morning into a whirl of activity. According to witnesses, we remained scarily calm throughout the morning, while the flowers & cake arrived, and we set up the conservatory for the wedding breakfast. Mid-morning we met up with Kristin - our highly-recommended photographer - in our normal clothes for some pre-wedding photos, then headed back to our room a little behind schedule to start getting ready. Considering that my hair took slightly less time than Jenny's to get ready, I headed down to check on everything half an hour pre-ceremony; no-one was waiting outside, so I had a moment of displacement. Surely this wasn't really happening.
Then I walked into the hotel bar, where everyone was waiting, getting drinks, having a chat. It was wonderful to see everyone there, and to put the finishing touches in place, but also the one moment in the day where I felt momentarily overwhelmed. Still awesome, though.
We winged the ceremony, in all honesty. Jenny was beautiful. I was there. We had a vague plan of how things were going to go, some form of order of service, and thanks to the inestimatible oratory of Lionel Fanthorpe we somehow made it from one end of the show to the other without fumbling our words, tripping over or otherwise staring at each other in wordless horror as we realised we had no idea what was going on. In other words, it was great. Gee passed the rings over with nervous efficiency, and we escaped into the courtyard to bathe in the flash of a bevy of iPhone cameras pointed our way.
Gee, you see, has claimed he's been writing his speech for the best part of four years. So when he turned up that morning looking more than a little nervous, and mentioned in passing that he hadn't written anything yet, I laughed. In part, because I had faith that he'd pull something out of the bag; in part, because it'd be funny to watch him try to wing it; and in part, because I didn't really believe him, and there wasn't much I could do about it if I did. I think he was telling the truth.
But Gee is a legend of a man, a natural entertainer, the sort of person who naturally becomes the centre of attention in any company not by overpowering his fellows, but through sheer wit and good humour. He stood up in front of everyone gathered in that conservatory, and gave one of the finest best man speeches I've ever heard, as if everything he'd been considering writing down over the past four years had subconsciously crystallised in his head. And once he was done, the look on his face when I admitted to conspiring with the photographer to get it all on video was priceless. YouTube, here we come!
After that it all became a bit of a blur. I've got a tendency to drink too much at weddings, but I wanted to remember mine, so I endeavoured to keep the Penderyn to a minimum. I'm not sure it helped. We didn't have a dancefloor or loud music, just a room full of leather armchairs, and a courtyard with tables for the smokers, so we flitted from one to the other, trying to be involved in every conversation, to thank everyone for being there and making it such a special day. And then it was over, and everyone departed to their taxis and their B&Bs and their haunted hotel rooms. And my wife and I retired to find another bottle of bubbly ensconced in our mini-fridge.
Well. It'd be rude not to, wouldn't it?
Even now, a week and a bit later, it's all going a little hazy. This may have gone on a little long, but I wanted to put down my thoughts as some sort of memory of the day, something to be cross-referenced with the photos when I look back on the anniversary of the day when we finally got our act together and became Mr & Mrs Haines. Listening to the Bastion soundtrack as I feverishly scribbled my speech on the back of a piece of paper. Seeing Jenny walking down the aisle, being photobombed by a group of pleasant but rather inconsiderate sightseers. Helping my wife down the thorny path to the country park, untangling the mesh of her wedding dress every few feet from the grasping branches. Hanging out and drinking whiskey with the finest friends a man could ask for.
We always said we'd save getting married until we needed an excuse for a damn fine party. I think we succeeded.