One by one they fell, the truisms about weddings that you thought were old tosh but turned out to be true. And on Thursday night last week I felt, quite literally, the curse of groom’s nerves. We had the rehearsal in the church, which went ok, and I’d gone out with my parents, brother and sisters for one last pre-marriage supper together. But I ate virtually nothing, and when I got home I slept fitfully and only then for a few hours.
Before, when I had heard about husbands-to-be getting nervous, I had been slightly sniffy: how can you be nervous if you are sure? How wrong I was. I was terrified. Why, I asked myself? It couldn’t be the speech – I knew what I wanted to say and was ready to say it. I was fairly sure I would get the vows right – in any event, you only have to repeat what the priest says to you under his breath. And it wasn’t as if I have to get the dress right…
The reason is, I suppose, partly this: it is an enormous day. You are going to pledge yourself to someone forever. It is a life-defining moment, one that changes the course of everything, and almost everyone who matters to you – family, friends, the people who have made a difference – they are all there to see you through it.
But then, when Sarah stepped beside me before the altar, all those nerves evaporated – and then I understood really what they had been about: in making that decision, you are making it together – and in those solitary hours before the wedding you are very much alone. Reunited as a team, about to make your vows, that isolation vanishes.
It is such a huge journey from the moment I met Sarah, just over eighteen months ago, at a big party on a sunny late summer’s morning. A friend had told me she was going and I bumped into her as soon as I arrived. Such a huge journey, yet one that I had not doubted from pretty much the beginning, although she made me work hard to win her over. I proposed to her on top of a little hill in Suffolk in December, and last Friday was the culmination of the huge amount of work and preparation she and I, and our two families, have put in since.
We picked London – midway between Suffolk and Hampshire, where Sarah’s from – and decided on an old-fashioned afternoon affair, with a stand-up reception after the service, which was quiet and serene. My brother was my best man, Sarah’s sister read one reading, my sister another, and the priest was my chaplain from school. Sarah’s bridesmaids were her other sister, my other sister, and my two godchildren plus a little godchild sibling to help out. Music is important to both of us, and we had great pleasure in picking tunes and pieces that we loved. So it was intensely personal, supported by our closest family, with the people who mean most to us bearing witness. And then the reception, which was full of joy, with brilliant speeches by my new father-in-law and my brother, who embarrassed me only a bit. We took a turn round London in the back of a vintage taxi before the loveliest informal supper with family and very close friends.
We are both still on a massive high. And what I’ve learned is that another thing people say about weddings, another truism I have always distrusted, turned out to be completely true: it really was the best day of my life.