England: Day 7 (Wedding Day)

Today was the event that was the catalyst for this whole trip: [Chris->] and [Becky->] were successfully wed!

The day started out pretty calmly. [Kathy->], [Dad McMains->], [Lana->], [Meara->], and [Mom McMains->] all buzzed into Bath to see the ancient Roman Baths (built about 30 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, by best estimates) and the Bath Abbey, while I hung back with several of the kids to allow them to catch up on sleep (and peculiar English cartoons) while I worked on my best man speech, to which I had theretofore devoted lamentably little time. After a fairly leisurely couple hours, I took the kids for a stroll from the dormitory at the University of Bath where we were staying around campus. They tormented ducks and picked flowers while I perused the tome Chris had given me the previous night as a token of gratitude for assuming Best Man duties: The Earth from the Air, an astonishing (and astonishingly heavy) photo book with several hundred pages of gorgeous images by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

After a bit of fresh air, we all returned to the dormitory to rendezvous with the rest of our group. Dad and I thought we could manage to get back to the chapel with a minimum of fuss, but our ids temporarily overpowered our egos, and we found ourselves a third of the way back to the Pub we’d visited the previous night before we realized we were headed the wrong direction. Fortunately, we were only ten minutes late, and no harm was done. Chris and I quickly dressed for the event and assumed our position in the front row of the church. As is to be expected with any production that involves the family McMains, things got off to a late start — evidently this time because Mom’s shoes had been locked in someone’s car. But eventually things lurched into motion, and we were treated to one of the most enjoyable weddings I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.

Chris and Becky had carefully reviewed both English and American wedding customs and chose their favorites from each — only appropriate, as they had two clergymen presiding, one from each side of the pond, both of whom were special friends of the couple. Hymns, reinforced with a powerful pipe organ, intermingled with prayers and scripture readings by friends and family members as well as some well-considered words from the pastors. All culminated in the kissing of the bride, followed by the signing of the registry. In England, this is evidently done as the last bit of the service proper, and is every bit as exciting as you’d expect watching four people take turns signing documents to be. To liven things up a bit, the organist began to get a bit feisty at this point, and started into several heavily ornamented Sinatra tunes.

Immediately after the service, we had a long photo session, which was interrupted by the arrival of a troupe of five sword dancers who cavorted merrily about the parking lot. After the photos were concluded, they laid hold of me and Chris (they asked him if he was game for it — I was summarily volunteered) and had us dance along with them. While they claimed we were doing a fertility dance, it seemed the sort of thing that, if not done carefully, could have exactly the opposite effect.

From there we proceeded to the reception. After a wonderful meal, the couple cut the cake, and the speeches began. Becky’s brother Bill did the first — an exhaustively researched litany of embarrassing facts and vignettes from Becky’s early life which had everybody in stitches. Mine was next, and in spite of my lack of props, it seemed well-received. Chris wrapped up the speeches with a lovely bit about “finding a person who is in love with the universe in the same way you are” which moistened more than one eye.

The capstone on the affair was the Barn Dance, which worked very similarly to Square Dancing in America. (If you’ve even seen a video version of a Jane Austin novel, you’ve probably got a good idea of what these look like.) While everyone was a bit clumsy at first, it soon became a great deal of fun as we became accustomed to the various moves and dances. The band was even thoughtful enough to play “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” which was greeted by a resounding “Yeee-haw!” from one corner of the room. Finally, Chris and Becky took their last dance and whirled their way out of the room, into a car, and off into the night to start their honeymoon. We then whirled our way back to the University and into an exhausted, but happy, slumber.

Update: Nat has posted a collection of photos from the blessed event here.