Wedding Report ~ Claire & Callum: Part Two
23 Friday Dec 2011
Click here for Part One…
With a schedule of clockwork timings, the groomsmen were soon calling for teatime and escorting guests back through the gardens towards the barn with a less genteel shout of “Get a move on!” Hanging back from the meandering crowd, Claire and Callum stole a gentle kiss and a quiet word with each other as the rest of the party formed a polite queue in front of the barn to find their seats.
With tables named after Knights of the Round Table and guests’ names pinned to lines of ribbon on a board decorated with kitsch floral fabric, the queue delighted in seeking out their own names and locating their correct seat. Shouts of “Dad, you’re on Guinevere!” could be heard wafting out of the barn doors to those still waiting outside.
Inside, the barn had been entirely transformed into the style of a village hall with two extremely long tables running the length of the room and one long table perched horizontally in front of the stage for the principal characters. The curtains had been drawn back from the stage to reveal a banquet of sweet delights, including a 3 tier cake taking centre stage surrounded by flowers, an apparently endless sweetie buffet with “Love is Sweet” emblazoned on a scroll banner above and a birdcage and post-box for cards sitting sweetly together in the corner.
Guests shuffled past one another to seat themselves in their allocated spots. White linen table cloths covered the tables with squares of vintage fabric on top. The long tables were packed full of vintage china, tiny pots of jam, napkins wrapped in sage or pink ribbon with a sprig of lavender, heart-shaped sugar cubes, individual portions of clotted cream, a mismatching variety of teapots in all shapes and sizes and more scones, cupcakes, sandwiches and slices of sponge than it would ever be possible to consume.
Once everyone had found their seat, the new Mr and Mrs Johnstone were enthusiastically announced into the room and warmly welcomed with raucous applause, whistles and hoots and even some clanging of cutlery against china. With all eyes waiting expectantly on them, Claire laughingly called out to her guests “Dig in!”
With little further prompting, hands stretched across tables to reach for buns and butter. Friends and family sat face to face across the long tables, laughing beneath a sea of bunting and twinkling lights. The room tucked into their afternoon tea as the jukebox played out with ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.’ Children excitedly stacked their plates with everything except savoury food whilst enormous burly Scotsmen daintily munched their way through precise little finger sandwiches.
In the spirit of wedding camaraderie, guests obligingly passed plates of food back and forth to one another, refilled cups of tea and even scuttled outside to the hot water urns to refill empty teapots. Happy, familiar chatter floated beneath the oak beams of the barn as friends and family supped their way through tea with Great British cheer.
Indeed, with the sun streaming in through the barn doors and double height windows hardly anyone even noticed when for a moment the barn was plunged into the dark ages as all the electricity cut out. It was only when the jukebox sprang back to life and the fireflies in the ceiling began to dance again that people realised it had been missing.
Whilst one table gossiped fiendishly about mutual acquaintances, another seized upon tea accessories to stage tongue-in-cheek photos on iPhones, and on the other side of the room young men indulged in juvenile fun by throwing aeroplanes back and forth at one another.
Flutes of champagne began to filter down the tables, passed on from one person to the next as the bridesmaids delivered them. Some people gratefully began to sip the bubbly nectar before realising these glasses were in preparation for the speeches. Their neighbours did little to conceal this fact and publicly chastised their haste to begin drinking.
Whilst waiting for the speeches, relatives at the end of the room took the opportunity to peruse the boards of sepia photos on the wall. With waves of giggles they recognised younger versions of themselves and helped their own children identify family members from bygone eras. So absorbed were they in investigating these images that they didn’t realise the whole room were looking expectantly at them, waiting for them to sit down for the speeches.
Like the cheekiest of comic heralds, it was once again Jon the groomsman’s duty to introduce each of the speeches, which he did to gales of appreciative laughter.
Claire’s father, Frank, began with appreciation for all the guests who had travelled some distance to share in the day. To great roars of approval he name checked those who had arrived from Sussex, Scotland and Manchester, as well as a much quieter cheer from old family friends who had managed to make the trip from Norfolk.
He spoke fondly of his daughter and her love of Cornwall, despite getting married in Devon, as well as addressing Callum as a “loving, caring young man” that he was proud to invite into his family. Looking up at her father with glassy eyes, Frank offered Claire just one piece of advice for her marriage: “Husbands are like candles – if you leave them alone they go out.”
As Donald, the father of the groom, took his turn in the limelight, his speech was full of accolades for Claire and her family. Having admitted that he himself was a man with no sense of occasion he commended ‘Team Whitmore’ for being great organisers and an unstoppable party planning force.
It had caused him some concern, he said, to hear that they were planning a wedding in the middle of nowhere in Devon, but he hadn’t reckoned on the determination of Claire and her family, as well as Callum and Claire’s amazing team of friends. It was with genuine admiration that he congratulated them all for pulling off such an enjoyable celebration.
For his son, he imparted his own words of wisdom that he had learnt throughout his own marriage. Three little words of advice were all he needed to learn, Donald told his son, “You are right.” With hoots of laughter, Donald raised a toast to family and friends and glasses chinked in enthusiastic agreement.
With the least flattering of all introductions from Jon, Callum humbly thanked his father and new father-in-law for preceding him. Glancing around the room at all the faces smiling back at him it seemed as though he was temporarily lost for words and overcome by the love in the room.
With one hand frequently touching Claire’s shoulder for reassurance, he began to tell the story of how when he had asked Frank for Claire’s hand in marriage, his future father-in-law had responded rather brusquely with “What if I say no?” which had rather put him off.
Regardless of that distraction and the rocky start they had meeting at a party that was later raided by the police, Callum’s voice grew stronger with conviction as he explained that he had not been nervous at all during the preparations about marrying Claire as it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do.
“Thank you,” he said, turning to look down at her. “For loving me for who I am.”
With his final compliments going out to their bridesmaids who had been both endlessly helpful and effortlessly beautiful, Callum raised a traditional toast to the bridesmaids and returned to his seat with a soft kiss from his new wife.
It should have been no surprise to anyone that as the most organised bride known to mankind, Claire had a speech prepared on efficient little cue cards. What she hadn’t been prepared for however was the barrage of emotion that overcame her as she acknowledged the loved ones absent from the day. Up and down the tables, eyes were gently dabbed with napkins as they too shared Claire’s tears and watched her clasp Callum’s hand in her own for comfort.
With the help of her Mum, Claire had presents distributed to all the people who had aided and abetted her wedding fantasies and helped produce such a beautiful day. From the friend who had individually made all of the bespoke stationery to the poor ladies who had been prone to discussions about exactly how many slices of cucumber should go into a finger sandwich, Claire ensured that everybody had been acknowledged.
There was hardly a dry eye in the house as Claire finished with a toast to absent friends and family and returned to her seat with hugs and kisses raining down on her from Callum and her parents.
Wes began his speech by explaining that of the five groomsmen present, Callum had asked him to do the best man speech, which he could only attribute to the fact that Callum thought he didn’t have any dirt on him. The pregnant pause that followed caused nervous and enthusiastic laughter from the groom and guests respectively.
Charting the course of their friendship from days in the WH Smith stock room and beyond, Wes playfully painted a picture not only of Callum in his younger years, but also of the type of honest friendships he forged. Despite their differences in musical taste and talking speeds, they managed to find some common ground on which to tread the path of life that brought them up to the current day.
Even though this was Wes’ first attempt at a best man’s speech, he jibed, ridiculed and praised his friend in perfectly equal measures whilst also eliciting more than his fair share of laughs from the doting crowd. If anything about Callum and Claire’s wedding was indicative of the way that their friends had become part of their extended family, this best man’s speech was it.
Referencing obscure toasts that a group of drunken young men had made on a night long ago, Wes and the groomsmen worked their way through from toasts to random beards until they finally ended up toasting the new Mr and Mrs Johnstone to hoots of approval from the rest of the room.
Capitalising on the goodwill in the room, Claire and Callum climbed the steep wooden steps to the stage and positioned themselves for some serious cake cutting. Serendipitously, ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ began to ring out from the jukebox as the newlyweds laughingly sliced through layers of icing and rich fruit cake.
Cake-toppers in the form of Mickey and Minnie Mouse stood lovingly beneath sugar bunting on the top tier of the cake. On the bottom two layers were tiny tea party paraphernalia crafted out of icing by the mother of the bride and hand-painted by her aunt, whilst a secondary cake boasted little guinea pig figures, all referencing not only Callum & Claire’s wedding day but also their other loves. Behind the cakes, a vintage frame offered a ‘Wedding Cake Recipe’ poem, including a pound of sweet temper and a pint of rippling laughter.
An enthusiastic group of amateur photographers formed beneath them and as the knife slid through the cake a blizzard of flashes lit up the front of the room. Those seated at the top table slid and shuffled out of the way in order to avoid having the tops of their heads blighting the bottom of everyone’s pictures.
As the assembled guests downed their napkins and headed outside, the father of the bride stood sentinel by the doorway, checking up on everyone as they exited and seeking reassurance that they’d enjoyed themselves and heard all the speeches.
Stumbling out into the evening sunlight, guests felt weary with the exertions of consuming vast amounts of tea whilst riding an emotional rollercoaster through the speeches. The fresh air was laced with the smell of a hog roasting gently in the corner of the garden, confusing the senses into believing they could still be hungry.
Claire and Callum circulated amongst groups of guests with arms wrapped around each other’s waists. With a drink in each hand, Laura and Gemma held court as they assembled garden furniture in the garden and chatted gleefully to friends.
As the bride who had thought of everything, the entertainments that Claire had designed began to be utilised as kids set up skittles on the front lawn, whilst friends from Manchester distributed cool white and pink badges to each other, trying to find the most appropriate person for slogans such as “the bouquet is mine” and “best man rocks”.
The sound of tentative piano drifted from inside the main house as novice young players practised scales and half-remembered tunes. Melodies would sail out into the evening air, interrupted occasionally by slipped chords and missed notes.
Sounds melded together to create a symphony within the house with people in every room; groomsmen challenged each other to games of pool, groups chatted around the kitchen table, footsteps scuttled up and down the wooden hallway, cutlery chinked as it was washed up in the sink, ladies laughed over the clink of cups and glasses and Claire’s mum gave guided tours of the house to friends and family keen to explore.
The smell of freshly cut flowers mingled with musty old books amongst the well-used and grooved furniture throughout the house. An original foot operated sewing machine sat at the top of the stairs, placed bizarrely adjacent to a large wooden trunk and a huge Chinese calendar.
In the drawing room, Ewan found himself lost in the sound of the piano as he pressed gently at its keys, playing the softest melodies from his memory. Although sitting solitarily at the piano, the sounds he created enveloped everyone in the house in a sleepy, relaxed atmosphere.
Up secret stairs and down winding hallways, every nook and cranny had a new surprise. An ornately carved post tray and vintage bureau sat patiently in the hallway next to a heavy-duty old-fashioned doorbell and elaborate coat hooks.
The sound of piano soon turned into the gently plucked strains of a guitar as Ewan created a soundtrack to the evening, oblivious to the excited chatter in adjacent rooms or the curious faces peeping around the doorway to see who the talented musician was.
Outside, insatiable children moved from skittles to tennis before abandoning all organised games and running off in favour of a swing hanging from an ancient tree. The sweet scent of sugar that dripped through their veins was soon melded with the smell of meat wafting through the estate.
The smell of the hog roast escaped into the garden every time the chef opened the metal lid to check on progress. A dozen heads or more swivelled to the source of the aroma each and every time it emanated, until eventually the chef took pity and handed out some pristinely cooked crackling to the salivating expectations of waiting men.
Callum’s hand rested naturally in the crook of Claire’s back, his thumb gently brushing the satin of his dress whilst they chatted casually to the circle of relatives surrounding them.
An army of industrious young men became increasingly dishevelled and red in the face with each table that they removed from the barn and each trip to the kitchen with trays stacked high with dirty plates.
The jukebox skipped between selected favourite tunes as the group of friends whistled, bopped and screeched along to the music. With increasingly weary, drunk and sweaty expressions, they tidied up unquestioningly around the groups of chattering guests who all watched with avid interest but failed to offer to help.
Ladies gradually slipped out of heels and into flat shoes, including Claire who has secured her something blue in the form of dainty pale blue ballet pumps with matching ribbon ties.
Through the open doors of the barn, the room gradually became a vast space and in reward for their hard work, the groomsmen found themselves in the middle of the floor, bopping to obscure rock songs as they squeaked and mumbled along to the words. Gradually their dance became part of the tidying process too, as they grabbed brooms and swept the wooden floor in time to the music, whilst dustpan and brushes became acceptable percussive accompaniment.
As the sun dipped behind the surrounding trees and buildings, girls found themselves ensconced in sofas in deep and meaningful conversations whilst chaps changed out of kilts and into jeans. Guests meandered through the house, looking through books on shelves and laughing with surprise to find themselves coming through a door back to where they started.
Despite the magnitude of the day and the multitude of details that Claire had been responsible for overseeing, she still remembered to give a birthday present to a friend on her own wedding day. Looking at her with awe, a congregated group of friends wondered how she managed to coordinate such a wonderland.
With the youngest members of the guests surrounding him, Callum handed out cameras and notepads along with special press passes on Disney lanyards. With these accessories, he explained, they were to interview and interrogate guests in order to compile a report of their memories about the wedding. Needing little more encouragement, the kids shot off in multiple directions, keen to get started on their new task.
As Laura appeared from within the main house with a bucket full of flip-flops for girls with aching feet, the barn gradually began to fill with more bodies. The majority of furniture had been removed, but 2 tables remained at the end of the room, on which the post-box now stood.
Along the edge of the stage, the table names lined up like a display of coats of arms as Excalibur, Tintagel, Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere and Camelot all stood guard at the front of the stage. In contrast, the 20th century jukebox stood next to them, flashing through a rainbow of colours as bass rippled through the wooden floorboards of the barn.
As more hipsters began to gather round the jukebox, ties started to go missing as top buttons popped open. Girls threw off their heels and rifled through dozens of pairs of flip flops to find their own size whilst worrying that their diminished height might cause them to trip over their dresses.
Junior journalists bobbed and weaved their way through elder crowds. A lone photojournalist set about photographing all the details of the day and arranging photo shoots with the bridesmaids, whilst another intrepid interviewer probed her subjects with questions such as, “What was your favourite part of the day?” and “Did you like the drinks on offer?”
Around the grounds of Pyworthy, the scattered debris of empty bottles and knocked over glasses mingled with discarded cake wrappers and abandoned ball games. The quirky banners shouting Hooray! from the ceremony found their way into herbaceous borders and tucked into strings of bunting as family members drifted back towards the barn with the lure of pork baps, beer and boogying.
Despite the warm stone tones of the buildings and the brightly reflected sunset in glimmering windows, the evening sun was cool enough to make girls shiver. With a lack of pashminas or cardigans, girls huddled inside the doorway of the barn, spectating on the sport outside.
Oblivious to the tricks being played on him, Callum happily chatted away unaware of the tiny heart shaped pegs attached to the back of his kilt, that had been stealthily added to his outfit over the course of about half an hour. With faces struggling to stay sombre, the groomsmen and their girls watched as he walked about the garden sporting the pegs that had previously affixed place names to the table plan.
When an uncle finally spilled the beans that Callum had something attached to him, his suspicious eyes glanced over at his now giggling group of friends who were all quick to blame everyone else but themselves, but especially point the finger of blame at Phil.
Making their way across a lawn strewn with dried confetti petals, the remainder of the wedding party packed themselves into the barn in preparation for the first dance. The twinkle of the fairy lights was enhanced in the dimness of the barn once the sun had moved overhead and disappeared for the day.
As elderly relatives and shy wallflowers took seats around the perimeter of the room, the barn took on the atmosphere of a school hall, with the energetic cool kids taking centre stage in the middle of the room.
Whilst Callum fiddled with the jukebox, scanning through tracks to find the correct song, a little girl refused to listen to her father trying to persuade her she didn’t want to miss the first dance as she dragged him out of the room.
Claire arrived in a little crocheted knit cardigan and without her veil, whilst Laura and Gemma had changed into short party dresses in the same colour as their original gowns.
Finally, Jon announced the first dance as Callum led Claire into the middle of the room. Powerful strumming that could only belong to Oasis filled the room as the couple swung around to the strains of “Songbird.” As they twirled one another back and forth, Callum was uninhibited in introducing some more traditional ceilidh moves alongside the romantic shuffle.
“She’s not anyone…” floated through the air as they danced back and forth, eyes locked on each other, fingers interlinked, basking in the whoops of friends and family. As the song drew to a close, Callum masterfully leaned Claire backwards over his arm and sealed their first dance with a loving kiss.
No sooner had the applause died down than Beyoncé invited all the single ladies to the floor. In addition to the single ladies, groomsmen, mums, aunties and dads with daughters all filled the dance floor, waving their hands in the air and singing along at the tops of their voices.
The wooden floor bounced beneath the movement of so many pairs of feet stamping, twirling and trotting their way through dance moves. At the back of the room a group of men refusing to succumb observed from behind the safety barrier of tables.
As the songs segued from modern pop to classic soul and toured their way through decades of popular tunes, almost every pair of feet found their way on to the dance floor. Callum escorted his mother on to the floor whilst Claire span round in her father’s arms; little girls demanded to dance with weary parents; loved up couples smooched their way across the floor with bodies pressed up against each other; experienced hipsters jived and jitterbugged their way through the crowds to music they had listened to in their own youth.
Big smiles plastered the faces of the youngest dancer and the most experienced jiver in the room. By the time that the air filled with the sound of the Black Eyed Peas, even the largest and most reticent men found themselves jumping around the room with tiny little girls. In the centre of it all, Callum held Claire tight in his embrace, lost in the music and the wonder of her love as those whom they loved most dearly danced around them. Tonight was indeed going to be a good, good night.