Wedding Report: Helen & Paul, Part One
10 Monday Sep 2012
You didn’t need to look at a weather forecast to realise that this would not be a day on which Pimms would be enjoyed on a terrace bathed in sunshine. Cars made their way around winding country lanes flooded with miniature lakes as the rain bounced unrelentingly off bonnets and windscreens in front of them.
Umbrellas in all shapes and sizes, colours and patterns, popped up above opened car doors as passengers swiftly alighted vehicles and made their way towards the Victorian Hampton Manor beneath dripping branches and pendulous clouds. Foreheads wrinkled in disgruntlement as feet kicked up oceans of spray in their haste to get from the car park to the warm, inviting light of the hotel.
Paul and his groomsmen, clad in navy blue morning suits with a paler blue cravat beneath their cream waistcoats, posed in the arched porch for portraits whilst the photographer allowed raindrops to cascade down her back in order to get the shot. The entire group shuffled out of the way to allow newly arriving guests dry passage through to the warmth of the hotel lobby.
An inviting orange glow from contemporary chandeliers added a certain cordiality to the chicly decorated surroundings. Plum coloured furniture and carpets amidst baroque green papered walls sang of unabated glamour in the Manor’s reincarnation. Guests who had been locals to the area for years exclaimed at its splendour, astonished that they had never even known that the building was there, let alone such an opulent boutique hotel.
The hugs and kisses of warm greetings signified the close familial relationships and lifelong friendships prevalent amongst the arriving guests for Helen and Paul’s wedding. Someone cornered Gerry, asked how he was feeling, asked if he’d had chance to see the bride yet.
“I have, I have,” the father of the bride assured them. “I’ve got to go back up to the room now, actually. She looks stunning, absolutely stunning. I can’t quite control myself!”
Paul strolled casually through the lobby with his little girl in his arms. Harriet murmured away in his ear, pointing to random objects and people, knowing that she had her father’s full attention. Whatever nerves he may have felt were offset by the twinkle in his eye, a knowing glimmer that this day was going to be brilliant. Around him, the friends and family who had ventured out in the pouring rain procured bottles of beer and tall glasses of gin and tonic as they caught up with one another and settled into the plush surroundings.
Amidst the jewel-toned décor of the hotel lobby, an array of brightly coloured outfits belied the decidedly autumnal day outside. Various shades of coral, magenta and fuchsia stood alongside neutral tones of rose and cream. Apart from the respective mothers of the bride and groom, a distinct lack of hats made way for a more prevalent trend for colourful floral hair accessories.
Even the dark suits of men found themselves jazzed up with pink and purple shirts in stripes and checks. Raindrops sat proudly on the structured shoulders of gentlemen ducking inside from a trek across the car park, a cascade of dark drops evident down their backs.
The registrar poked her head out into the gathering and, spotting Paul, beckoned him through for his pre-ceremony interview. Depositing his daughter in the nearest waiting arms, the groom disappeared through a doorway leaving behind him a group of awed friend all remarking on how calm he appeared to be.
Babies took their feeds in advance of the ceremony, enjoying being rocked in their parents’ arms until another amongst their number started to cry, setting off a chain reaction of wailing infants. Men with cameras round their necks held on to their wives’ handbags to allow them to tickle babies’ cheeks and coo at them.
A breeze flew in from the open porch door as the ushers waited on standby to lend assistance to the maligned chanteuse speeding up to the front door of the gothic building in a recovery vehicle. Together, the team of groomsmen unloaded her keyboard, her speakers and her amp equipment as she hurried through the lobby, her long black satin gown visible beneath her heavy winter coat.
With the last piece of the puzzle now in place as Hannah set up her equipment in the ceremony room, the groomsmen formed a guard of honour outside the room through which guests began to file. A certain frisson of excitement filled the lobby as the doors opened and guests hurriedly downed their drinks and packed children into prams.
Fulfilling their roles, the ushers dutifully informed guests that the front rows remained reserved for the bridal party, leaving a group of people without seats standing at the back. After an emergency meeting in the hallway to try and procure some more seats, the girls in question informed the groomsmen they didn’t mind standing, as they would then be able to take their shoes off.
The room gradually began to fill; gentle chatter admiring the beautiful floral displays of vintage pink roses accompanied by blue and purple blooms on the ornate oak fireplace audible over the soft strains of piano.
Four contemporary chandeliers glowed overhead, suspended from the exquisitely restored plaster ceiling. Had the sun been shining, it would have cast long shafts of coloured light through the stained glass windows looking out onto the manicured gardens beyond, but instead a veil of rain obscured the view of the countryside.
The guests waited patiently, fanning themselves with the simple silver orders of service that they had discovered waiting on their chairs, taking photos of one another across the aisle and listening to the mumbling squeals of the babies lined up in their cots at the back of the room.
As the registrars arrived and made their way along the aisle, the cheerful laughter in the room subsided into a more solemn hush. Running through a few rules regarding photography and phones, the registrar finished her introduction with the request that everyone be upstanding for the procession of the bridal party.
Hearty notes from the piano filled the room as heads turned to see who would come through the door first. A few comedians wolf-whistled at the sight of Paul in his morning suit, leading the grand procession but these gave way to gentle coos as he carried Harriet in his arms, the picture of paternal pride. Her bright blue eyes – the spitting image of her father’s beneath her pretty long lashes – remained attentive to everything and everybody, surveying the raft of faces looking adoringly at her.
Reaching the head of the aisle, Paul and Harriet turned to watch the rest of the waiting wedding party make their entrance. His best man, Spencer, escorted the mother of the groom in her pink dress and cream hat and jacket to her seat, followed by the unrelentingly cute vision of Oscar the ring bearer carefully carrying his cushion with his sister, Edith the angelic flower girl, by his side.
The mother of the bride and stepfather Neil came next, huge smiles etched across their faces as they drank in the sight of Paul and Harriet waiting for them. Following them, the ushers escorted the bridesmaids in their pale blue chiffon Grecian dresses into the ceremony room as the music built to a crescendo.
The first glimpse of Helen in her glittering Jenny Packham dress and bejewelled headdress provoked gasps and sighs of admiration from the onlookers at the back of the room. With her arm looped loosely through that of her grinning father, Helen made the short trip along the aisle with gracious, excited smiles and happy, open-mouthed giggles at the sight of her daughter and fiancé awaiting her arrival.
Continue to Part Two of Helen & Paul’s wedding report.
Images courtesy of Rachel Jones Photography