Wedding Report ~ Emily & Stef: Part Two
29 Friday Jul 2011
18th June 2011
From the road, the campsite looked more like a series of meringue wisps popping up over the hedge of a field. Behind them stood a backdrop of majestic castles and ancient cathedrals, shadowed under a sky of moving clouds as thick and delectable as marshmallows on a plate of brightest blue sky.
The clouds seemed to dance tentatively towards the site before rushing past apologetically and collecting further away into a much more sinister accumulation. Above the white tips of tipi tents the sky remained the colour of summer; over the medieval castle it darkened and threatened to break.
Down a narrow single track made sodden and muddy by the previous day’s downpour sat an enormous JCB tractor. Would this be the wedding transportation for the bride or had some happy campers already needed rescuing? No matter, round the corner stood two proudly hand-painted wooden signs pointing cars to their parking spot for the day.
A summer wind ran around the campsite, adding to the sense of industriousness as everyone carried out their tasks. All guests made themselves useful, carrying trays of food, moving furniture or tending to children. The whole event was being expertly presided over by Charley, a kooky little blonde with bags of energy and an eye for fine detail. Every tiny sight, sound and smell was tended to with her vast planning and styling expertise.
Wild flowers and tall grasses swayed in the breeze, a silent chorus of assenting applause. The smell of logs burning on the campfire, food frying on the barbeque and freshly cut grass beneath rain droplets permeated the air. The thick syrupy sound of Brummie accents surrounded everyone like a warm hug.
Inside a large yurt further down the site, a tall bespectacled man sat at a vintage Singer sewing machine, creating a rainbow of bowties from swatches of multi-coloured floral fabrics.
A human pyramid of industrious young men amalgamated itself from helpful chaps who stood on one another’s shoulders to affix paper lanterns to a 20-foot high tent roof.
A humble trestle table transformed into a bakery and confectionary, lined with adorable miniature cupcakes and a technicolour dream of sweeties and lollipops. Heart shaped balloons adorned the entrance, whilst their regular shaped siblings popped up further inside the tent in a burst of colour.
The perimeter of the tent became laced with fairy lights and dotted with little lanterns. Bunting swung through the space in a mixture of pale colours, one special strand spelling out the names of the soon-to-be-weds next to the dance floor.
Children in bright pinks, yellows and blues tumbled through the field from one tent to another. Everywhere they looked something new and exciting appeared; a table full of crafts, a tent full of food, an altar full of flowers. Rushing between one location and the next like a blur of colour amidst the wild flowers, they merrily ensured that all tasks were completed to the toughest judgement: the attention of a child.
“Has anyone seen my husband?” Charis asked. “He’s got my dress. I think he must have gone off with Stef somewhere. And we haven’t practiced our song for a week. I think I might have forgotten the words. I don’t want to be the girl that everyone thinks ‘She’s been wearing that outfit all day.’ If you see him, can you tell him I need my dress?”
In one corner of the field stood a beacon of happiness, bedecked in bunting and chalkboards. Children stood in front of the vintage ice cream van in absolute awe, knowing that indescribable pleasures of a world of ice cream awaited them. A kindly lady in a floral frock assured them there would be time enough for cones and cornettos once the business of the day had taken place.
As if hearing some silent call, people emerged from the tall grasses, striding up the field towards the hub of activity. Cars pulled on to site carrying bemused looking elderly relatives and a parade of fantastic hats. Men appeared wearing braces and bowties made out of balloons. Women compared wellies whilst frantically trying to avoid a Monroe moment with their dresses in the wind. Teenage girls strolled through the field with immaculate hair, only to reveal they were wandering around with hairbrushes firmly affixed to their hands.
A specially mown section of the field was marked out with small spinning garden windmills and candle lanterns swinging precariously on steel rods, leading the way along the strip of grass to a circle hewn with wooden folding chairs. In the midst of it all, Christian, his son, Steve and Evelyne discussed the most appropriate layout of rugs and chairs to achieve the inclusive cyclical atmosphere that Emily wanted.
At the apex of the area stood a makeshift altar. A trestle table with neighbouring wooden poles was strung about with handmade bunting, flittering in the wind and grounded to the earth. On, under and around the altar sat a meadow’s worth of flowers, seducing the eyes with a medley of pinks, rubies and lavenders from inside their vintage bowls and buckets.
Occasionally a cloud would overspill its load, causing umbrellas to go up, anorak hoods to be huddled under and a mass movement towards any tent with alcohol in it. As cups began to overflow with wine and beer, the rain would move on and the guests would re-emerge blinkingly into the sunlight.
Owen materialised from thin air, striding across the field with Charis’ dress in one hand and a harassed expression on his face. A group of people pointed at him and shouted. Charis appeared sometime later, relaxed, relieved and wearing the correct dress.
Whilst guests acquainted themselves with each other and relatives greeted loved ones after unknown periods of absence, a guy and a girl approached each other near to the vast lake at Arundel castle. Whilst planners cycled manically around the campsite, Emily and Stef saw each other for the first time, bedecked in their wedding finery. Whilst friends and family alike debated the merits of setting out blankets, the soon-to-be-weds met in solitude, embraced and indulged in the moment. With the stresses of the week well and truly behind them, they made the most of their time alone together, indulging in the gift of solitude and each other.
Meanwhile, handmade pinwheel corsages of felt and buttons were being handed out to guests, alongside ribbon streamers and a brief program of the day. Inside the coloured covers were the words not only to the ceremony songs, but also to the shared history of Emily and Stef. The mother of the groom lamented that her corsage didn’t match her outfit; a lady was heard bewailing the fact that she couldn’t sing and children battled over how many streamers they were allowed to have.
A buzz went through the assembled guests and everyone surged out of tents, unsure of what it was they were clamouring to see. And there he was, the groom, resplendent in a pink linen suit, white shirt, bowtie and flip-flops. The retro 80’s sunglasses completed the picture. Here was a man who was in full-on celebration mode, swigging happily from a camping mug and greeting his adoring fans.
Accompanying him, John the best man was clad in a blue blazer, bowtie, floral shirt, white trousers and wellies. The ensemble was topped off with a jaunty trilby hat, adding to the congregation of flat caps, pork-pie hats and fedoras. Not a hired suit nor tailcoat in sight.
All of a sudden, guests started flocking towards the marriage circle, commandeering blankets and creating their own pitch. Adults came eye-to-eye with infants as they settled on to the ground. The landscape turned from pure green grass to a rainbow of colours as outfits clashed with blankets, parents clashed with children, corsages clashed against frocks.
Victoria, the officiant, ensured that the integral family members were seated on the folding wooden chairs and that a sufficient aisle was left between the two sides of the circle. As she began to introduce herself and explain the nature of the Humanist celebration we were witnessing, the sun tentatively crept out from its vantage point. Anoraks came off and sunglasses went on. Bottles of beer and cups of fizzy coloured pop littered the edge of blankets and excited little ones swung round in the trail of their ribbon streamers.
And then suddenly there she was. The crowd raised themselves up on to their knees; half-stood; leant over each other to catch a glimpse of the bride emerging from a retro silver Mercedes. Behind a bouquet bursting with summery blooms stood a bride in vintage lace, surrounded by bridesmaids in the sweetest floral print dresses. Coos and sighs whistled through the crowd as they reassembled on their blankets, content with their first glimpse.
The gentle strains of acoustic guitar filled the air. The groom having already seen his bride stood casually in front of the altar, hands clasped lightly in front of him. A smile gradually spread across his face as the wedding procession of summery sirens, ranging from the tiniest of woodland nymphs to the most majestic queen of his heart began their ascent along the aisle towards him.
Looking every inch the rustic bride, Emily wore her handmade dress with shining pride. Months of work and collaboration with her friend Christian were evident in the tiniest details, from the 35-year old lace to the secret blue stitching inside the gown stating the wedding date. With demure shoulder straps and a belted waist that emphasised the fullness of the skirt and net petticoat, the crowd could not take their eyes off her as she made her way along the aisle.
With each step closer to the altar, the clouds dissipated allowing the warm summer sunshine to kiss the congregation. Holding fast to her father’s arm, Emily surveyed the gathering with an emotional smile, taking in the array of faces, colours, and smiles greeting her eyes. Accompanied by Allison, Katharine and Nicki, the pixie-like Imogen, Jessica and Missy preceded the bride, scattering her path with fresh petals. By the time Emily reached Stef, the thought of rain was a distant memory.
A knowing look passed between the bride and groom; a stolen kiss and an encouraging smile. Emily’s chest rose and fell rapidly with the emotion of the moment, Stef took her hand reassuringly, kissed it. A brief introduction from Victoria before the opportunity to sit down and catch their breath. Their chairs were conveniently placed in front of a banner emblazoned with their names, rippling in the wind. Oren, excited and full of love, rushed straight into Emily’s lap, ensconcing himself for kisses and cuddles as his parents listened attentively to the words of their ceremony, surveyed their guests and held hands.
“This marriage ceremony celebrates that two people, Emily and Stef, trust the love that they have found,” Victoria told the assembly. “It is a partnership in which each can grow and be their true selves, whilst encouraging the development of the other. Today Emily and Stef are telling their friends and family, and in fact the world, that they have a true and lasting relationship and have created a family unit.”
As the guests began to settle into the gentle warm tones of the Celebrant, she explained the ethos behind the Humanist tradition and the role of this wedding within Emily and Stef’s lives. Other couples huddled closer together, held hands, shared smiles at the thought of such mutual love and respect to create an equal partnership. Older guests nodded in thoughtful agreement.
Emily turned to look at the crowd, someone mouthed, “You look beautiful” to her and tears sprang immediately to her eyes.
Victoria handed the spotlight to Owen and Charis, as well as handing the words of The Wedding Song to the nervous chanteuse. The softest notes from the guitar hummed through the crowd beneath Charis’ sweet voice as she described building a life together, making babies on the beach and smiling inside in the knowledge of being complete.
The emotion of the occasion, of seeing her oldest friend finally getting married, of the words of the song, overcame her and she looked hastily away from Emily. As the song progressed her voice became stronger, the guitar became a heartbeat to the music, the words infused themselves to everyone’s consciousness. A choked, awe-struck audience whooped and applauded in response once the final chords had melted away.
“A wife and a husband are each other’s best friend, confidant, lover, teacher, listener and critic,” said Victoria, which we had all just witnessed in Charis and Owen, never mind the bride and groom. She then went on to explain how Emily and Stef had met through dancing, something we had learnt in the handcrafted booklets we were all now clutching.
Emily’s mum then took to the stage for a reading outlining the analogy of dance as a relationship. The joy of such a dance, she told everyone, is not only the joy of creation; it is also the joy of living in, and for, the moment. Emily squeezed Stef’s hand a little harder.
As Helen finished her reading, strong and triumphant despite the determination of the wind to carry her words away with it, she was greeted with an enthusiastic chorus of applause. Capitalising on the enthusiasm, Victoria then invited all the guests to stand in order to take conduction from Claire in the singing of Stand By Me.
Tens of coloured booklets opened simultaneously to the lyrics of the song, less as an aide memoir and more as a defence against audience participation. This barrier was easily penetrated by Claire’s request to start off with a simple thigh slapping, hand-clapping tempo. Then she added a little vocal rhythm, deftly and swiftly seized upon by baritone men in the audience. As everyone began to sway, allowing their inhibitions to be doo-wopped out of them, Claire incited everyone to go for it.
A chorus of tentative voices lurched into the first line, checking their song sheets. A shaggy haired fellow in aviator sunglasses added a few heartfelt ‘Ye-eah’s on to the end of each line to encourage everyone. The finger clicking became more of a dance. Children looked quizzically up at their parents, wondering where they knew this song from. The groom and his brother caught each other’s eyes and began harmonising with one another, complete with eyebrow waggling, pointed fingers and great big grins. Everyone strived for the high notes of darlin’, darlin’ darlin’ and let it rip.
The only way such a unanimous performance could be followed was with Emily and Stef’s vows. The assembled group remained standing around the couple as they took their cue cards from Victoria and turned to face each other. Keen to be a part of this momentous moment, Imogen insisted on standing next to the Celebrant to witness her parents’ words.
Stef promised to be with Emily in the rain and the sunshine, through the most beautiful summer’s days and the coldest of winter nights. He promised that there would be more time lying on the beach, gazing at the moon telling her that he loved her, regardless of how tough the times got.
Emily took a minute to compose herself, allowing herself to indulge in her emotions before holding her vows firmly in both hands and taking a deep breath. She promised to be true to Stef, to respect him, and to grow with him through the years to come.
“I will continue to support and encourage you to be the best you can be,” Emily told him. “I will give you the space to be you and the companionship to be us.”
“I will always be your biggest fan…and your toughest competition.”
Laughter swam around them as Stef bowed his head in loving acquiescence.
She gave him her hand to hold, her heart to keep and her life to share for the rest of their lives.
Victoria asked if all of their friends and family pledged to help support Emily and Stef in their marriage. The enthusiastic assent from everyone was bellowed from the depths of each individual set of lungs. The force of the words even managed to blow one gentleman’s hat clear from his head, which was luckily and adeptly caught by Polly the nimblest of wedding photographers.
As Stef’s Mum stepped up to the altar to deliver he reading she apologised for not knowing whether to protect her dress or her hat from the high winds but decided that, in the interest of decency, she’d focus on keeping her skirt in place. Having explained that it was unclear whether the attributed author of her reading may or may not have existed, she gave a teaser with the first line, asking if Stef recognised it. Looking non-plussed, Jan continued.
“I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me.”
Jan’s voice rang out strong and determined, pausing for emphasis, looking over at her son and new daughter. Her conclusion was met with yet more raucous cheering and no little applause.
As Victoria said, “And now we come to the moment for Emily and Stef to exchange rings”, she paused and looked to the heavens. Raising one hand to the skies, she gesticulated for everyone to look.
The ground began to rumble as everyone turned their faces to the air. Through the circling blackening clouds emerged the most fantastical looking futuristic aircraft. Thundering across the sky, the stealth bomber elicited a communal gasp from the entire wedding before disappearing over the horizon like a hallucination.
“I had in fact arranged for it to drop Emily and Stef’s rings off,” joked Victoria, before producing their actual wedding rings. Explaining how they had made each other’s rings but not yet seen their own, Victoria passed the rings over to John in order for him to present them to each integral family member to bless with a kiss.
With each ring imbued with kisses of good luck, Emily and Stef finally got to see them. Triumphantly, each ring was a perfect fit as they slipped on to respective fingers, as a reminder of the day and the promises that they had made.
Therein followed a most beautiful blessing of hands. Whilst Victoria described the hands that would work together, passionately love you, comfort you like no other and that even when wrinkled and aged, would still be reaching for yours, Oren ran up to Imogen out of his parents’ view and the two shared an enormous hug. Imogen passionately kissed the top of her little brother’s head and half the circle of friends who witnessed it absolutely melted.
Having pledged themselves to one another in front of their closest family and friends, their celebrant finally invited Stef and Emily to share a kiss. And in time-honoured fashion, they obliged with all the relief, adrenaline and emotion as befits two people who have just devoted themselves to each other for the rest of their lives.
The cheering and clapping subsided just enough for all the children in the party to gather in front of the altar in a rendition of If You’re Happy and You Know It. Whilst it was the youngest members of the group who led on the song, their older counterparts (now thoroughly devoid of any inhibitions) gleefully joined in, dragging the words out of their memories and acquiescing in each and every gesture. Polly was not alone in struggling to keep a straight face as one incredibly unhappy little boy had the misfortune of standing right at the front in fierce defiance of joining in. As his peers clapped their hands, stamped their feet and nodded their heads, he remained resolutely still with an enormous frown plastered across his face.
Nevertheless, the sweetest sound of 27 angels’ voices lifted into the air, celebrating the joyous occasion with an innocent aria. With one final unanimous wish from everyone for them to have a long and happy marriage, Emily and Stef were at last declared husband and wife.
Holding their children and with smiles on their faces, the newlyweds made their way down the aisle surrounded by ribbons floating on the wind, clapping and grinning faces of all those around them. As everyone turned to follow the couple, the clouds that had avoided blighting the ceremony made themselves known, hanging pendulously above the town.
Stopping for photos, hugs and kisses, Emily and Stef finally had the opportunity to greet all of their family and friends together. Guests streamed to be near them before moving on the bar, the campfire and the ice cream van. Soon enough the first spots of rain plummeted to earth and in no time at all everyone was cramming together under canvas from a vast and rapid downpour. Four hardcore guests remained huddled around the campfire beneath a golfing umbrella, one lady in a lime cardigan persevering with keeping her large beige sunhat on no matter what.
Using the patches of cover available to them, Emily and Stef posed with Imogen, Oren and Max for family portraits and couples shots. Emily shrugged on a mustard yellow cardi and bright red wellies, initiating a whole new level of style to festival Bride fashion. Around them, everyone else mingled, drank and chatted, invigorated by the spirit of love lingering from the ceremony. Friends, godparents, colleagues, grandparents, and people who could not remember a time when they did not know Stef or Emily excitedly discussed what they had just witnessed, trading stories and sharing jokes.
As quickly as it started, the rain stopped. Hoods came off, umbrellas went down; sunglasses went back on and a polite British queue formed outside Betty, the Vintage Scoops van. A blackboard in the back window of the ice cream van celebrated the particular flavour of Emily and Stef.
All of a sudden a playlist of thumping tunes leapt into life and various beats emanated from the beer tent. Posing with their friends and various family members, Stef and Emily were in their element beneath the photographers’ gaze. Whilst having a picture taken with his grandmother, guests cogitated whether they had co-ordinated their outfits as Stef’s pink suit highlighted the rosy accents in his grandmother’s dress.
Regardless of the weather, a sunshine of blooms greeted the eyes no matter where you looked. It became apparent that as everyone else slipped into party mode, Miss Pickering was quietly tinkering behind the scenes, moving pots, jars and vases of flowers between locations, protecting them from the elements and ensuring that no space was devoid of floral accompaniment.
A small boy stood in front of the biggest roasting hog known to mankind. The carcass was indeed larger than he himself. Patiently, he stood from the end of the wedding ceremony, staring, until his time came. The sense of a massive scout trip suddenly overcame the gathering as the hograost was served.
Everyone flocked towards a pile of wicker baskets to retrieve their own vintage plate and cutlery. With no two items the same, people formed an orderly line to get to the food, complete with homemade apple sauce and a mixture of salads in Tupperware with cling film over them. A barbeque of vegetarian foods sat snugly next to the roast, but the little boy who had waited so patiently for his lunch would not be moved from the front of the queue.
His commitment was soon rewarded with a bap piled high with pork. Wheeling on his heel he said loudly, with no little modesty, “Look Mummy, I’ve got pig!”
As everyone crammed on to benches and round the fire with tiny mismatching side plates piled high with food, the whole campsite became one giant glamorous picnic. More spots of rain failed to put anyone off their food; rather it made them eat in more determined manners beneath the brim of their hoods. When the rains finally came and the picnic mission had to be aborted, both friends and family adopted a D-Day mentality and packed out tents by perching wherever there was space – on benches, chairs, stools and floors.
From beneath her own private tent enclosure, Stef’s grandma looked on from her throne, surveying the proceedings of those around her. Men stood around the campfire, talking about their own bonfire experiences like primitive cavemen. Dads and Uncles rediscovered their inner youth by playing Stuck in the Mud with toddlers and 5 year olds. Balloon animals broke free from constraints and floated through the air, rolling across the field and resting in long grass and ditches. As the roasting pig grew incrementally smaller, were these the same sights that the Queen would be surveying from her own enclosure at Royal Ascot at the very same time?
Children with painted faces of tigers danced the afternoon into the evening, like mischievous spirits searching out the latest form of revelry. As the sun slipped lower in the sky, more souls gathered round the fire as the vestiges of warmth from the day melted in the cool evening sky. Kindly helpers swept up mountains of dirty plates and ferried them to and from the washing up bowl. Letters spelling out LOVE became scattered and disjointed between picnic hampers. Vintage blackboards with various messages and instructions stood jauntily atop embroidered tablecloths.
Children and adults alike ran through fields of tall grass and wild flowers to the biggest yurt of all. A frisbee appeared from somewhere and proved to be its own method of transporting a group of men from one end of the site to the other. Charley cycled back and forth to try and retrieve more fairy lights, cake knives and a myriad of other buried items.
Inside the yurt, everyone assembled with their chins tilted to the sky. The roof had blown off and paper pom-poms flittered in the excitement. By tying Pete’s boots to the string of the roof and launching it across the radius of the tent, Owen was able to rectify the situation. A chorus of oooh’s and yeeeah’s radiated from inside as the canvas snagged and snarled on its path to righteousness. Eventually, with a stick, a chair and the help of Alex, the roof was righted once more and the guests all parted at Christian’s request, like waves creating a spit of land for the newlyweds to walk along.
Underneath a canopy of multicoloured paper lanterns, Stef and Emily were announced and strolled through the congregation hand-in-hand to the dance floor. In the excitement of eating, drinking and talking at an increased volume, most people had failed to notice that Emily had snuck off to do a quick change. The sash of her dress, the petticoat and the flower in her hair had all been transformed into the brightest fuchsia with a matching cardigan. The bolt of colour signalled that this was a bride ready to party and wonderfully in tune with her pink-clad husband.
Gathering around the dance floor, everyone clamoured to get the ripest spot from which to listen to the speeches. Parents perched on chairs with toddlers squirming on their laps; people squatted down on the floor in a familiar fashion with people they’d never met before; men stood shoulder-to-shoulder creating a guard around the perimeter of the dance floor.
It began with Emily’s uncle reciting a poem he had written especially for her. In it, he recounted the ballad of her life, from time immemorial to the present moments. Guests looked on with mouths agape, wondering if their own uncles knew half as much about them, let alone enough to be able to write an entire ballad.
In a bizarre twist, both mothers of the bride and groom burst into song when prompted to remember what Emily’s favourite song from Brownies had been. Emily looked laughingly on, bewildered, with little or no recollection as older relatives around the room picked up the ditty and even managed to recall some dance moves to go with it. A wave of incredulous though somewhat bemused applause followed.
As the sound of rain began to gently tap on the roof of the yurt, Helen stood to give a small speech to her daughter and new son-in-law. “The only advice,” she told them in conclusion, “That I’m going to give is two simple words: keep dancing.”
Philip then took Helen’s place in the centre of attention as a deluge rushed deafeningly down on the canopy overhead. His voice struggled upwards against the roaring of rushing water and in an ingenious twist he was able to link the inclement situation to the day on which Emily was born. Both of his daughters were brought to incoherent and hysterical giggles by tales of their nitty childhood, to the point where Emily needed to be held upright by her new husband.
Having composed herself, Emily then began her own speech by thanking everyone for their hard work. Through talking about their distant and recent history, her previously held belief not to get married and the story of her proposal, it became apparent that even if she hadn’t always intended to get married, she would always have ended up marrying Stef. Despite her warnings to the contrary not to fall in love with an entrepreneur that saw her digging an increasingly large her hole with her newly affronted spouse, the love between the two was nothing short of undeniable.
This continued in Stef’s speech, during which he could not stop himself from marvelling at all the qualities he loved in his wife. He managed to bring his own mother to tears with a heartfelt thanks for the support of his parents. He told the story of how he and Emily had met, despite their disagreeing on when exactly that was. He praised her generosity, her freedom of spirit and her laughter, claiming that the latter must have worn off over the years as he could now laugh at himself enough to stand up in front of all his loved ones in a pink suit. With a final thanks for her fine baking skills, Stef raised yet another toast to the love of his life, to Emily.
Undoubtedly nervous about the pressure to entertain, but hiding it amicably well beneath a trilby and a Walsall twang, John’s best man speech was nothing short of magnificently sweet. From his description of “the reckless sense of adventure that makes Stef who he is” to the conclusion that “Emily has become the roots of who he is”, he completely charmed the crowd. A mutual love of music that sounds like a broken fridge, an exotic escape to Belgium and a geek-love that shall not be spoken was vital to showing not only how Stef was loved by his friends and family, but also in why Emily had fallen for him.
With a final heartfelt and prolific toast to the new couple, the speeches were completed almost 45 minutes after they started. The relaxed atmosphere felt more like friends having a bantering conversation than a series of monologues. Everyone was relaxed enough to continue to tell stories about Emily, Stef, each other and their shared histories that the best part of an hour disappeared before it was time to cut the cake.
With Imogen firmly involved in this endeavour, sitting on her father’s hip, Polly induced a countdown from ten and as the knife plunged through the sponge an enormous cheer soared into the greying sky. No sooner had the cake been formally cut than Charley busied herself with portioning the multicoloured dream cake into enough morsels for everyone. A band of mischievous adults hovered around the cupcake decoration table, stuffing mini heart-shaped marshmallows into their mouths before spotting the sweetie stand and ransacking it for all its worth.
A princess in a pink dress held court throughout the day no matter where she was – walking up the aisle, dishing out cupcakes, presiding over jenga, dominating the dancefloor – no task was too small for Imogen to make sure that every single one of her parents’ guests fell in love with her.
The discordant first notes of Lovin’ Spoonful cranked out of the sound system and all heads swivelled back to the centre of the yurt to see Emily and her father taking to the dance floor. Deftly stepping out to What A Day for A Daydream, the pair practically jitterbugged around the tent with enormous grins on their faces. Around the edge of the floor, toes tapped, heads nodded and some brave boys began to whistle along to the familiar tune. Tiny toddler bums wiggled to the jaunty tune as they wrestled with balloons and cakes.
The music soon gave way to something much more 21st century and there was Stef, a John Travolta in light pink, slicing up the dance floor to some thoroughly modern beats. Shimmying up next to him, Emily sang out the words to him “Happy, make you happy baby.” Proving themselves to be adept hipsters, they freestyled with great aplomb to roars of approval from the onlookers.
With a song so epic, they couldn’t help but invite everyone else on to the dance floor with them. Stepping onto the edge of the laminate floor as though it might be somehow electrified, people gingerly began to loosen their hips, dip to the music and spin each other round. Soon the entire tent was filled with gyrating bodies, from the smallest, most uncoordinated of dancers to the most lithe and experienced of jivers with dancing shoes that had seen many years of boogying.
The music subsided into an 80’s disco. Children looked with wonder at their mothers “vogue’ing perfectly. Adults danced like kids, kids danced like adults. Chaos ensued at one point as a toddler paraded through the cluster of bodies on the dance floor clutching a collection of weighted helium balloons. As adults tried to extract themselves and him from the tangle, the little chap waddled more furiously around trying to include as many people as possible in his game.
Stef and Emily took to running in and outside in various states of excitement to gather people for funny photographs. With bare feet and a handmade “Laughter” sign, Emily leapt around on the wet grass beneath the emerging moon. Groups of friends pulled funny faces and more props and people were gathered as Polly encouraged increasingly ludicrous and lovely shots.
Inside the tent, men took to showing each other bottles of booze whilst women happily hoovered up the remains of cupcakes on separate sides of the tent like a divided school disco. Little luggage tags with love notes to the newlyweds began being tied to the skeleton of the yurt, waiting to be found during a clean-up operation in the unimaginable future.
Through the slit of the yurt door it was possible to glimpse Owen and John sharing swigs of whisky from a hipflask, as though hiding round the back of the tent from their respective wives. Wising up to the fact that they might still be visible, they stood like startled rabbits in headlights before wandering in an uncertain trajectory down the field and out of sight.
At the top of the field, friends sat around the campfire, chatting and singing songs, laughing and pulling pranks. At the bottom of the field the old began flagging before the young. Children refused to get tired and cranky, instead preferring this playground of wonders to last forever than rest their overexcited minds. Hugs and kisses exchanged from the bottom of hearts as relatives bid the newlyweds adieu and headed for their cars.
The dedicated partymongers remained, dancing within flickering fairy lights in a canvas temple, beneath the stars of the sapphire sky. And as the night closed in around them and the dew settled on top of the wet grass, Emily and Stef renewed their love once more through dance, surrounded by the closest of friends and the happiest of memories.