Wedding Report: Gemma & Chris, Part One
16 Monday Jul 2012
Their wedding guests flooded out of the marquee and followed them through the archway of the walled garden before congregating in the courtyard. Hugs and kisses were exchanged as Chris and Gemma attempted to clamber gracefully into their stretched mini.
“I don’t want to go!” wailed the new Mrs Jones with a smile splashed across her face. “It’s gone too quickly!”
As the newlyweds disappeared down the driveway, craning over their shoulders to see the enthusiastically waving crowd behind them, it felt like only moments ago that these two had been rounding the corner in the same stretched mini that they had arrived together in earlier in the afternoon in characteristically quirky style.
It had been an overcast day with tremendous black clouds loitering menacingly at the edge of the estate, apparently only held back by the hills surrounding Brobury. At the heart of the grounds however, thick grey clouds peeled back to reveal encouraging glimpses of sunshine bursting occasionally through the clouds.
Chris and Gemma could probably have heard their guests arriving in the courtyard prior to making their own spectacular entrance. Clusters of people stood around a caravan, painted in calming teal shades and decked out in chintzy floral soft furnishings. Stacks of worn leather suitcases rose up to the side of the caravan, concealing a stereo pumping out popular tunes from the early part of the 20th century.
A small white wrought iron round table and matching chairs painted a picture of an ideal British summer afternoon as glasses of fruity coloured Pimms were served from within the vintage caravan. A blackboard propped up on an easel heralded the nuptials of Gemma and Chris in a burst of chalk script.
Guests trickled along the tree-lined drive towards Brobury House and the growing party of Pimms-drinking wedding guests, guided by ushers in svelte suits and colourful socks. The sound of wheels on strollers crunching on the gravel and heels clicking past holiday cottages could be heard approaching the group.
New and old work colleagues, friends from long gone halcyon days and relations who had been consistent throughout the lives of the betrothed couple all gathered amidst the outbuildings of the imposing Victorian house. Each new addition to the group brought with them an injection of colour to the party, whether through multicoloured stilettos, bold prints on dresses, the spray of feminine fascinators or a jazzy tie.
Those ladies not brave enough to trust a mere wisp of a pashmina to protect them from the Great British weather sported heavy winter coats over far more summery outfits, creating a juxtaposition of practicality against style.
Buttonholes burst with flowers, the chaps sporting a single cream rose on their lapels whilst the ladies corsages also included a cluster of peach petals surrounding their roses.
The occasional stray guest wandered off to view the surrounding setting, marvelling at the exquisite greenhouses, the river flowing through the valley and the blanket of colours rising up in the fields of the hills surrounding the manor house. In addition to the vast array of fauna and flora, Brobury also sported a number of modern appendages, including bungalows from the 1960s and the apex of a glass roof poking up from behind a wall, which added a much more contemporary piece of architecture to the 19th century house.
Anna Hardy, photographer extraordinaire, shuffled between the guests, pointing her lens surreptitiously at a moment of intrigue, bouncing up on the tips of her toes to capture the exact right angle and frame a beautiful picture. Guests chattered on obliviously, often not aware of the camera resting mere inches from their shoulder.
A startled coo drew the attention of the crowd to some commotion happening out of view. The guests lined up across the courtyard, peering around one another to see the front of a spotless white mini appearing around the corner of the house. Exultant exclamations escaped lips as the car continued to snake across the gravel, not finishing where it normally ought to, but stretching back to the length of several minis.
Pink ribbons on the door handles of the car and a white floral display on the rear parcel shelf added to the unique purpose for this vehicle. Gasps of surprise and cheers of appreciation emanated from the group as Chris ducked his head and stepped out of the car, looking dashing in a grey suit with a pale pink tie.
Gemma followed behind him, oozing 1950s glamour as the wide circular skirt of her tea-length dress spilled out first, following dainty champagne coloured heels, before revealing the beautiful bride smiling out from beneath an exquisite birdcage veil. With one hand she steadied herself against the car door whilst the other held on to a burst of gorgeous blooms.
The two nearlyweds received the embraces of their loved ones as they adjusted to the sight of their friends and family applauding for them, looking on in expectation.
“Right,” came Gemma’s bright voice. “Pimms first I think!”
As the little white table began to fill up with empty glasses, Gemma and Chris gratefully received their first beverages. Gemma’s dress seemed to have a magnetic appeal to the ladies of the party, such was the clamour to compliment the subtly sparkling embellishments, emphatic sash around her waist and chic satin bolero covering her shoulders from the harshest chill of the afternoon.
Chatting and twirling on demand, the smile emblazoned across Gemma’s face never faltered for a moment, the bride revelling in every second in the spotlight. Occasionally she’d subconsciously slide her glasses back up the bridge of her nose and press her lips together to reinvigorate her perfect lipstick, before throwing her whole body back in the throes of laughter.
No sooner had Chris circumnavigated various groups, shaking hands and receiving backslapping good will, than he was back by Gemma’s side, the two drawn to one another through some invisible, unheard bond. Rubbing his thumb on the small of her back they exchanged a few words before calling their guests to them as they began to head out of the courtyard.
Leading the procession around the side of the house, Gemma and Chris indulged in relaxed chatter as they rounded the corners of bay windows and listened to their guests exclaiming over the picturesque panoramas on every side of the venue. The view of a modern conservatory, a marquee bedecked in bunting and a wall full of wisteria greeted the party as they passed by a gothic turret and emerged into the garden.
Steps led down to the river, the woods and further manicured parts of the garden yet to be discovered, but Chris and Gemma’s wedding party spread out across the patio and the lawn, drinking and chatting as the sun crept shyly out of view. Parents swaddled babies in blankets to keep them warm whilst ladies with bare legs and arms huddled together for warmth.
Hand in hand, Gemma and Chris meandered around the garden, chatting to each of their guests in turn, laughing gaily at their stories and talking at length about the decisions they had made for their wedding. The sound of the River Wye running busily past and unseen birds chirping from the depths of one of the stately surrounding trees accompanied the noise of human jubilation.
In the background, a lady in a pinny popped briskly in and out of the marquee, depositing plates full of sumptuous sweet treats and aligning bottles amidst boxes of china tea cups; a man fiddled with a microphone beneath the awning strung between the side of the conservatory and the marquee before reappearing a moment later in a tuxedo.
Inside the conservatory, rows of chairs covered in elegant white cloth and wrapped in pink ribbon sat empty, pointing towards an empty scene. The arrival of two middle-aged women with briefcases soon began to fill the space as the registrars set up their work and conversed with the photographer.
Pink balloons bouncing around bay trees at the entrance to the marquee and pastel printed bunting swinging across the front of the conservatory and parasols on the terrace added a pretty feminine atmosphere to the rich surroundings that provided a natural backdrop of deep greens, rich reds turning to brown, vibrant yellows and warm oranges.
As Gemma held her glass of Pimms in one hand and her collection of pink, peach and white flowers in the other, she found herself at a loss for hand gestures as she chatted with guests and opted instead for enthusiastic nodding to endorse the conversations she was having.
The first threats of rain sent umbrellas popping up into the air. On the patio, a gaggle of ladies who used to work with the groom all huddled beneath one umbrella, screeching at the singular droplets falling from the sky. One or two couples dived into the marquee, peering out into the garden. As soon as it had started, it stopped again, as though just testing the reflexes of the guests.
No matter where they went, amidst the paths lined with perfectly pruned box hedges, or whomever they talked to, Gemma and Chris remained side by side as they enjoyed the company of their guests. Even the slightest sliver of air between them seemed to be too much of a separation.
The decision to begin their drinks reception and mingle with the rest of their wedding party prior to their actual marriage leant a relaxed, intimate atmosphere to the rapidly approaching proceedings. By allowing themselves to indulge in the build-up, Chris and Gemma granted their guests the opportunity to feel more involved in the ceremony, making the formalities feel like more of a communal experience.
The doors to the conservatory flew open and the ushers began herding the small group indoors. Guests enthusiastically bounded up the few steps to the ceremony room, dashing towards the indoor warmth with fervour. Gemma slipped her hand through her father’s arm and as the two disappeared from sight, he could be heard checking that she was feeling ok whilst patting her hand reassuringly.
Forty people found their seats in no time at all, discovering pink and white striped paper bags containing confetti on their seats. The floor to ceiling glass flooded the room with the bright grey light of the afternoon as the registrars chatted to the groom and his best man.
Babies squealed as they bounced on parents’ laps, girls giggled in anticipation and the waves of chatter flowed freely as people noticed the bijou posies of pink flowers and photos of the betrothed couple sitting on the window ledges behind the registrars’ table. Behind the rows of spectators, top hats and moustaches on sticks waited cheekily to be utilised for comedic photos.
A door at the back of the room gave a glimpse into the regularly domestic life beyond, with washing up waiting on a drying rack to be put away in the kitchen of the main house. The debris of everyday life abandoned to give Chris and Gemma solitude for their celebration could be seen peering through the window.
Whilst everyone else peered out at the weeping willows and scenery beyond the garden, Chris stood at the front, tapping his hands against the sides of his legs, checking something in his inside pocket and rocking back and forth on his feet. Despite the leisurely precursor to the ceremony, he now seemed to be sprinkled with nerves as he waited for Gemma to regain her position next to his side.
Click here for Part Two of Gemma & Chris’ wedding report…