Join Country Life’s Annunciata Walton from engagement through to ‘I do’, as she tracks the highs and lows of planning a rural wedding up north (from London)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bride in possession of a ring must be in want of a Catholic priest to tell her how it’s done.
I’m trying to prepare for marriage the traditional way. I really am. But certain members of the clergy would rather I remain in ignorance or their worldly wisdom. Over the past few months, two local churches have been playing a game of catch—and I am the frisbee. There is an all out squabble over whose diocese we live in. And I should make it plain that they are not fighting for us. Not at all. Neither of them wants us.
It appears that we inhabit the Black Hole of Battersea, a 50 metre square patch where people like me roam, godlessly, without creed or Christmas carol. Unwittingly, we have been lost sheep. Next time my mother casts a withering eye in my direction and mutters ‘living in sin’, I’ll shout ‘It’s not our fault! Blame the postcode!’. I bounce from church to church, trying my persuasion, feeling more and more like a ping-pong ball.
‘You’ll have to talk to someone else.’
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‘Monsignor, have you any room for two more?’
We are now in the Christmas season—I know we are because the John Lewis advert has dropped—and just as I consider wearing a blue shawl and accessorising with a donkey and a Bethlehem belly, one of them finally caves and agrees to take us in. Praise be!
During a trip up north I tell my mother how a meeting with a very lovely monk, friend of Jamie’s father, who has agreed to marry us, has restored my faith in the long-skirted, incense-toting tribe. He has asked for our dates of birth and I’m enormously touched to hear that, every year on our birthdays, he will pray for us, as he does for all those he marries.
My mother makes no comment, but nods knowingly. We are interrupted by my father striding into the room wearing his ‘squash outfit’—shorts and Aertex. He is clutching a racquet-shaped sports bag and his knees and elbows are generously wrapped in the sort of draperies that wouldn’t look out of place in a Biblical or ancient Egyptian tomb, highlighting his long, spindly legs and arms. ‘Paul,’ she exclaims, despairingly, ‘you look like the War Horse!’
After being mocked for a few minutes, my father trots off to his squash game and I continue the tale of technicalities, moving on to my trip to Wandsworth Town Hall to ‘declare our intent to marry’. We were eyed suspiciously, separated and individually quizzed. Jamie couldn’t remember my birthday, which made it all a lot worse.
‘Then, they asked us if we were related,’ I say, expecting laughter.
My mother looks at the groom through her spectacles, assessing his features as he innocuously sips coffee and reads the paper at the far corner of the kitchen table, then shakes her head. ‘I don’t think so, darling—not one of us.’
Worryingly, my spindly-limbed father has had An Idea (I hate it when they do that). He has been to a wedding at which the bride danced her first dance with her father, then the groom. He has realised that he could wangle another moment in the spotlight.
‘We should do a foxtrot,’ he says, to my horror.
‘Or a quickstep.’ As though that’s any better.
I’m thinking about the squash outfit and what it would be like to foxtrot with the War Horse. Uncomfortable. He’ll step on my feet with his hoofs. Is it weird to give me away twice? What’s a foxtrot anyway? All reasonable thoughts. My brothers are planning how to mock me already, and they haven’t even heard the news.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ he says a few weeks later, ominously. ‘About the dance.’
‘Yes…?’ I am encouraged. Perhaps my mother has talked some sense into him.
‘I think it should be a waltz.’
‘Horses can’t waltz!’ I refrain from saying. Nor can their daughters. Everyone knows that.
To be continued…
Look out for the next instalment as Annie plans her English country wedding, delving into a world of dress-shopping, venues, flowers, bridesmaids, intensive decision-making, cake-eating, wine-tasting and much, much more.