I’m standing at the side of a mountain road. I’m soaked through to my lacy white underwear. The wheel has fallen off the hired Rolls Royce. We are now hitching a lift.
My father doesn’t have to say anything. There hasn’t been a car along the road for five minutes. I have to stop laughing and pretend that I understand our predicament. If I’m old enough to be getting married today I’m old enough to know that there are two hundred and fifty people in a church three miles away waiting for a bride to get the proceedings underway. They are already amazed at being asked to change everything at the last minute this week when we found out the church was double booked. I’ve no idea if the pianist I found that morning to replace the one with tonsillitis has even turned up. Yes I should really stop laughing.
Salvation arrives. At the church, I wave goodbye to the nice man in the filthy, battered up car, who kindly squashed me into the back of his two door. I get ready to walk up the aisle forty-five minutes behind schedule. The bridesmaids are behind me. My twin brothers are behind them carrying a velvet cushion, each balancing a wedding ring. The music begins. I’m just inside the door when there’s a commotion behind. ‘Oh my God,’ says my sister. Lorcan has tripped over the step on the way into the church sending his cushion followed by the ring into oblivion.
We back out again and I’m down on all fours with the bridesmaids in the rain, feeling around for the ring in the puddles. My father is going to explode. When he passes by my brother he clips him across the ear.
‘Behave yourself, for God’s sake!’
We begin the trek up the aisle once more. I can hear poor Lorcan sobbing behind me. My dad tells me to stop laughing.
‘It’s not funny! Look at the state of you!’
I do stop laughing when I look around the flowerless church and wonder what happened to all my lovely lilies. Neil turns around at the top near the altar and raises an eyebrow. The last thing he said to me when he saw me yesterday was I’m sure you’ll be an absolute vision tomorrow.
I certainly am. My hair is stuck to my head. My dress is mucky now as well as wet. God knows what my make-up is like. The photographer will have his work cut out for him trying to get a good shot of the bride. But I can’t see the photographer. When we finally reach the hotel he will greet us with an apology for having been to three different churches and not being able to find ours.
‘You might want to go to the little girl’s room with the bridesmaids,’ he says ‘and do yourself up a bit.’ I do. It takes ages. Make-up. Mop the dress. Clean the shoes. Re-do the hair. When I come back out my new husband is grinning from ear to ear.
‘Have you been wearing that cravat inside out all afternoon?’ I ask him.
The day just keeps getting funnier. The hotel has seated three hundred and twenty guests and thirty people are hopping from foot to foot wondering should they just go home. We squash them around the tables. Great-granny starts a riot when they try to put her sitting beside someone she hasn’t spoken to in years. We can’t find the hotel that we reserved for our wedding night. The apartment we booked for our honeymoon is still being built when we get to Cyprus.
We open the letter from my great-granny welcoming Neil to the family. She tells us that marriage is like a beautiful rose. It looks lovely and smells wonderful but all this withers and in the end all you’re left with is the painful thorns. Thanks granny.
When we get back home we open the envelope that holds our marriage certificate. At least we are legally married. But hang on. We’re not. According to this piece of paper, dated first of April, nineteen eighty-nine, I am married to my father in law. And the man who I thought was my new husband is written as father of the groom.
‘So all this is wrong,’ Neil says. ‘We could back out now if you like,’ he smiles.
Twenty two Aprils later we’re still laughing.