Wedding Report: Helen & Paul, Part Two
11 Tuesday Sep 2012
Catch up on Part One of Helen & Paul’s wedding report…
As Gerry passed his daughter’s hand over to the man she was about to marry, Helen and Paul could not contain the giggles bubbling up between them. The registrar invited everyone to be seated and placed Helen’s teardrop bouquet on the table in front of them.
Self-conscious titters escaped the spectators standing at the back of the room when asked whether they wanted to fill any of the empty seats at the front of the room but no one came forward, so the registrar continued with her introduction to Paul and Helen’s assembled friends and family.
“You’re here to witness their joining in matrimony,” she told the audience. “The vows that Paul and Helen are about to make are solemn and binding. You’re here as friends, relatives and witnesses to share in their happiness, wish them well and make it a happy day.”
A celebratory squeal from one of the babies in the room seemed to endorse the registrar’s words, punctuating the spirit of support from even the youngest member of the congregation.
The registrar, as is the legal custom, proceeded to ask that anyone who knew of any lawful reason why Helen and Paul shouldn’t be married to declare it. Aside from the nervous giggles of the bride and groom and a low cough somewhere in the back, the room remained silent and the registrar happily asked Jo to come forward with the first reading.
Having had Harriet snuggled up on her lap, Jo had to first deposit her with her aunty Claire before facing the room in her long rose coloured gown and putting her glasses on.
“Some say I can fly on the wind, yet I haven’t any wings,” she began. “Some have found me floating on the open sea, yet I cannot swim. Some have felt my warmth on cold nights, yet I have no flame. And though you cannot see me, I lie between two lovers at the hearth of fireplaces.”
Paul and Helen looked up at their friend as she spoke, their eyes fixed on her face as her soft yet confident voice filled the room. Helen’s hand rested on Paul’s knee, his own fingers covering hers as she sat on the edge of her chair, savouring every passing second.
“I am the twinkle in your child’s eyes. I am hidden in the lines of your mother’s face,” Jo continued. “I am your father’s shield as he guards your home. And yet… Some say I am stronger than steel, yet I am as fragile as a tear.”
Harriet’s restlessness soon became apparent as she squirmed in her place and fought to get to the floor. The view of her grandparents across the aisle making faces quickly distracted her and she calmed once more as Jo persevered.
“And though you cannot hear me, I dance on the laughter of children. I am woven into the whispers of passion. I am in the blessings of Grandmothers. I embrace the cries of newborn babies.”
Harriet did not remain captivated for long and, in her tiny puff of tulle dress, she toddled past her parents and down the aisle, settling herself happily in the shadow of their chairs and gazing up at all the unfamiliar faces in the room.
“And though you cannot touch me, I am the gentle hand of the kind,” read Jo, coming to the conclusion of her passage. “I am the fingertips that caress your cheek at night. I am the hug of a child. I am love.”
She removed her glasses and revelled in the applause and encouraging murmur that Harriet emitted from her new perch. Paul and Helen glanced over their shoulders at their daughter, smiling down at her obliviousness and beauty in the middle of the aisle.
The registrar asked the betrothed pair to stand and face each other in order to make their declarations and both automatically dropped their hands in front of one another. In strong voices they confirmed their full names and listened to the registrar’s definition of marriage as the union of one man with one woman, entered into voluntarily for life, forsaking all others.
Helen chortled at the sound of Paul’s quiet voice stumbling over the words he recited declaring that he was free to marry her and the sound tinkled into Paul’s ears, eliciting a smile from him. In contrast, Helen’s voice conveyed entirely her confidence and her certainty as she repeated the prescribed words that would unite her with Paul forever.
As the registrar asked everybody else in the room to be upstanding and for the witnesses to come forward, Harriet wandered back down the aisle to see what all the commotion was about. Her parents waved down at her and she looked curiously up at them, perhaps wondering why Mummy and Daddy looked like they were in a fairytale.
Oscar made absolutely no concessions for the registrar’s amiable tone as he illustrated quite clearly that the rings were precisely where they were supposed to be, on his cushion, when asked if he could bring them forward.
The moment in which the registrar began to say the vows that Paul and Helen would in turn repeat to make their marriage seemed to swell around the couple in a magnetic force. Helen looked up at Paul, emotions dancing across her face as she looked into his earnest eyes and heard him begin to say that he would take her to be his wedded wife, to love, honour and cherish her.
The tears brimming in her eyes were soon cascading down her cheeks. Jiggling her hands in his own to bolster and fortify her, Paul smiled reassuringly at his beautiful bride, the poignancy of the moment enveloping both of their hearts. A deep breath helped Helen to vow to be true to Paul, in sickness and health, in times of trouble and times of joy, for the rest of their days together.
Explaining that the rings they were about to give and receive were symbolic of their marriage, with no beginning or end as an outward symbol of their love to the world, the registrar turned to Oscar. With unprecedented chivalry, the ring bearer dropped down on to one knee and held the cushion aloft to the bride and groom in a hugely magnanimous gesture.
Paul, Helen, Oscar’s family and the rest of the onlookers all laughed in surprise. Harriet seized the opportunity of hilarity to make her way over to the keyboard and acquaint herself with Hannah, the singer, whilst her father carefully untied a slender ring from its cushion and slipped it easily over her mother’s finger.
“I give you this ring as a token of our marriage and a symbol of our love,” Paul said, holding the delicate metal in place. “I promise to give you the best of myself and ask no more in return.”
Helen turned to Oscar on bended knee and struggled to untie the weightier ring from its secure position. Eventually it came loose and turning to the love of her life she said, “I promise to care for you with love and patience, to love and support you always” as she slid the ring along his outstretched finger. Her voice wavered with adrenaline and emotion but the smile on her face suggested that she was having the absolute time of her life.
With their fingers newly adorned with jewellery and their vows now made, the registrar invited everybody to resume their seats for the second reading of the day. Sara, Claire, Leanne and Ruth all made their way to the front of the room and stood side by side in an array of colourful outfits that defied the abysmal weather outside the window behind them.
In a customized version of a popular Edward Monkton poem, the Irish sisters began reading ‘The Quiet Dinosaur’ in bright, chirpy voices. Helen’s head turned to watch Paul as he listened to the reading, the smile on her lips breaking out into a grin as he recognized very obvious references to their lives together.
Harriet watched the line up of ladies in shades of lemon and peach, neon stripes and chic black dresses as they read. Occasionally her little arms would fly up and down, her tiny fists smashing against the muted keys of the piano in a joyful discovery.
Taking it in turns to read different passages of the poem, the final reader found herself with a lump in her throat as she reached the end of the passage and declared, “That, my friends, is how it is with love. Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together. For the sun is warm. And the world is a beautiful place.”
Applause rippled through the room and as the girls filed past the newlyweds back to their seats, they all planted a kiss on Helen’s cheek as she clapped in appreciation for them.
“I bet you thought that’d be an easy reading,” quipped the registrar, noticing the smattering of hankies dabbing eyes around the room. “I can assure you Monkton never makes it easy.”
With that, the registrar asked the bride and groom to be upstanding once more. Through the giving and receiving of rings and the vows that they had made, she announced that it gave her great pleasure to declare that Paul and Helen were now husband and wife.
Their fingers were intertwined between them as the newlyweds leant in and secured their marriage with a single, prolonged kiss. Loud cheers of approval punctuated the happy applause pouring into their ears, enhancing the moment and filling their first kiss with joy. Helen’s left hand flew to Paul’s cheek, cradling his face against her own in the union of their lips.
Pulling away, Helen wiped away the remnants of tears on her cheeks. Paul looked over at her as though seeing her in a daze as the registrar invited them to take a seat for the signing of the register.
With Harriet having abandoned her new friend, Hannah was able to fill the room with her sweet voice over the gentle melody of Don McLean’s ‘And I Love You So.’ Even as quiet conversations broke out throughout the room, sniffles could be heard as people dabbed at their eyes and fought to reign in their emotions.
At the front of the room, Helen and Paul chatted giddily together before turning their attention to those on the front row. All of their parents sat on one side of the aisle whilst the rest of the bridal party occupied the front of the opposite side, happily indulging in banter with the newlywed couple.
Spencer and Claire added their signatures to the formal document, witnessing the marriage that had just taken place, before posing for photos alongside Helen and Paul. Popping Harriet on to Paul’s lap did little to persuade her that she wanted to be part of the photo, throwing her arms up in protest even as her parents smiled and laughed for posterity.
The romantic music continued to serenade the guests as they looked on and infused the atmosphere of love in the room. A makeshift crèche had been formed at the back of the room with dads jiggling babies and rocking buggies to try and soothe their restless offspring. Guests held conversations under their breath about how stunningly beautiful Helen was and how happy and content Paul looked.
Helen’s emotions still raged inside her and her mum helpfully came to the rescue with a tissue for her teary daughter. Paul’s thumb traced a soothing pattern on his wife’s hand as she chatted and laughed with her mother, waiting for the registrars to complete their paperwork.
At last the formalities were complete and, handing Helen back her bouquet, the registrar positioned the couple back in the centre of the room. As she sat looking out at their family and friends, Helen radiated an unquenchable joy and serene beauty as she beamed at her audience. The music faded away and an awed applause filled the room.
It was, said the registrar, customary in this country to give the marriage certificate to the bride and with that she only had one final thing to do and that was to congratulate them.
“I hope you have a long and happy marriage,” she told them before leading the applause for the new Mr and Mrs Messer as they exited the room with enormous smiles gracing their faces.
As they walked, those guests on the aisle bestowed kisses on Helen’s cheek whilst Paul received hearty pats on the back and loose handshakes. The rebel rousers on the back rows cheered loudly and uninhibitedly, provoking laughter from Paul and Helen as they passed by and disappeared out of the room.
With matching smiles of jubilation, the bridal party filed out in a similar fashion to how they had entered. Oscar managed to find the strength to wave for the waiting cameras of his relatives as he passed by.
Continue reading Part Three…
Images courtesy of Rachel Jones Photography