Wedding Report: Helen & Paul, Part Five
14 Friday Sep 2012
Catch up with previous parts of Helen & Paul’s wedding report…
People began to peel away from their tables, girls standing up and realising that they had left their shoes under their seats. Guests dispersed back out of the Mawson room or switched seats to chat to other people. The Romeo and Juliet table at the back of the room remained the most raucous of all, hooting with laughter and talking loudly over one another.
Paul and Helen moved around the room, squeezing people into tight loving hugs as they chatted with big smiles on their faces. In the hallway, a doting relative danced Harriet on his hip, keeping her entertained and following her every move as she toddled around the hotel on her own private exploration.
The sound of gentle guitar strumming emanated from the hallway and couples found themselves cosying up to one another. Arms snaked around the back of chairs, pulling partners closer in order to whisper secret messages in their ears. Girls perched in boyfriends’ laps, resting their weary, tipsy heads against supportive shoulders.
Helen and Paul made their way over to the four tiered baby blue cake in the corner of the room, decorated with bunches of fluffy blue hydrangea and the occasional dusky pink rose. Paul’s attempt to stage a natural pose around his wife resulted in much hilarity as his face contorted into comical expressions for the bank of onlookers and their parade of flashing cameras.
The silver blade remained wedged into the sponge where the newlyweds left it as the room dispersed to collect coffee and petit fours from a table beneath the staircase. Harriet weaved uncertainly through the encroaching crowds with an entourage behind her, as she led them in pursuit of her missing shoe, which no one had seen for some time.
There was just enough time for Sam to show off his groomsman gift in the form of a shiny new watch before Helen climbed the stairs and called for all the single ladies to gather round for her bouquet toss. A squawk of excitement squealed out of the collection of women gathering at the foot of the stairs, their partners remaining diplomatically distant round the edge of the room.
Helen turned her back to the waiting crowd, bent her knees slightly and catapulted her bouquet over her head. It flew up in a perfect arc and as its trajectory became apparent to the audience below, a massive gasp escaped as the flowers hit the enormous chandelier in the stairwell, bounced down and knocked over the candelabra holding the table plan.
Helen turned at the warning exclamation and watched her flowers obliterate the display beneath her with her hand over her mouth. Those nearest rushed to prevent any further catastrophes with lit candles, paper seating plans and wooden stairs as the bride sheepishly made her way back down the stairs amidst gales of laughter.
People clutched coffee cups and drinks glasses as they milled around the lobby and bar, soaking in the melodic sounds of the live guitarist. Overnight guests disappeared upstairs to stow things in their room or change their shoes. Gerry cut through the crowds with his sunglasses propped on his head, explaining to anyone that would listen that he had two pairs of reading glasses with him and he didn’t realise he’d put the tinted pair on to read.
A search for the groom in order to make the most of the clearing sunset with some portraits in the grounds of Hampton Manor resulted in the same handful of people walking through the same series of doors one after the other in their quest to find Paul. The man in question eventually emerged, having been greeting the newly arrived evening guests who were then introduced to Harriet by her proud parents.
The newlyweds slipped outside for a few shots in front of the Victorian building before the wind whipped up again and brought the drizzle back with it. Inside, the pile of cards waiting beside the guestbook grew ever taller with the increasing numbers of evening revellers.
Liam’s loosened cravat and unbuttoned collar spoke volumes about the commitment with which he had thrown himself into his groomsmen duties. Oscar, seemingly recovered from his earlier ill health, now paraded around with a fake moustache on that he had discovered in his goodie bag. Edith, delighted to welcome her cousin to the party, took her by the hand and demanded of passers-by, “I’m prettier than Ava, aren’t I?”
Faced with the prospect between favouring two equally adorable little girls, guests responded diplomatically, citing Edith as the prettier flower girl and Ava as the prettiest girl in a pink tutu. They, like their other miniature comrades, pushed through the forest of adult legs in their urgent pursuit of fun, oblivious to the conversations happening above their heads.
Impervious to the noise around her, Ruby, the other flower girl, climbed into her mother’s lap on a sofa outside the Nesfield room and fell fast asleep after her exertions throughout the day. Even as the doors reopened to the Mawson room, revealing a vast dance floor and flashing disco lights, she did not stir from her slumber.
Guests meandered slowly back into the room, the weariest members amongst them taking up residence at the two remaining tables as everyone else filed around the edge of the dance floor. Rachelle paused to help Helen remove her veil, readjusting pins in place of where it had sat as she rearranged stray tendrils of Helen’s golden hair.
Paul stood outside the edge of the room, smiling amiably at those who passed by him but also appearing to be psyching himself up for the task that lay ahead. Children who had been exerting their last bursts of energy playing in the garden were rounded up and brought inside. Their lack of inhibition sent them stepping on to the dance floor where their elder counterparts waited hesitantly around the perimeter.
As the DJ’s voice boomed over the speakers to announce the imminent first dance, toddlers in flashing trainers danced their way into the middle of the floor, forcing their designated adult to join in when collecting them. Edith and Ava preceded the bride and groom on to the dance floor with an exultant dance consisting primarily of jumping up and down.
At last, Paul and Helen made their way through the crowded room. Whistles and whoops welcomed them on to the dance floor and with a giggle and a little kiss the pair took their places. Their waiting audience suddenly realised that this was not to be an awkward slow shuffle customary for first dances as the pair parted and took up positions on disparate sides of the room.
This man, this shy, retiring man who, for so many years had hidden behind a keyboard under the weight of his shaggy hair, now stood masterfully in the middle of the dance floor by himself. In the corner behind him, his new wife’s eyes remained glued to his back as she tantalisingly raised the skirts of her dress and grinned inanely at what was about to happen.
Paul curled his lips into a snarl, puffed out his chest and drew his arms from across his waist to above his head. A fast paced flurry of Spanish notes rushed into the room, accompanied by a double stamp of Paul’s shiny shoes on the parquet flooring to introduce their paso doble. The crowd, quite literally, went wild.
Behind him, Helen watched as for the next three minutes Paul transformed himself into an all-knowing, self-possessed, powerful matador. The steps came easily to her, the Spanish sauciness oddly suited to her vintage-inspired, quintessentially English visage as she swayed on the spot, waiting for her cue.
Spinning across the dance floor, Helen twirled around her new husband with her chin held proudly in the air, the tops of her stockings visible beneath her elevated skirts. Her eyes locked on to his as she glanced invitingly over her shoulder and with cheeky, knowing looks on their faces they broke out into a re-enactment of a little routine from their favourite film, Toy Story 3.
With every move of their jive, every shape that they pulled, the crowd cheered vociferously. Helen and Paul basked in the attention, lapping up the adoration of their audience and putting their all into every single choreographed move. As the thunderous applause at the end of the song echoed between the silver baroque walls, the DJ welcomed everyone else on to the dance floor with ‘Pounding’ by The Doves and the newlyweds celebrated their success with a poignant kiss.
Paul leant momentarily against the wall to catch his breath, watching everyone else flood on to the dance floor around his glittering wife who was quite clearly in the mood for dancing. He rested his head back as he watched bridesmaids, drunken brothers and little girls all shimmy on to the floor, executing their finest moves and singing at the top of their lungs.
Helen danced across the floor, her head thrown back with glee as she held the delicate material of her dress between her fingers. Here, on a rainy Thursday in June, was a room absolutely filled with warmth and love. It could have been snowing outside and it still wouldn’t have dampened the radiating support and affection surrounding him, his wife and their daughter.
Eventually the lights would go out and the music would stop, but as he watched his friends and family celebrate his marriage, it was clear that this was a moment that would dance its way through their memories for many years to come.
All images courtesy of Rachel Jones Photography