Wedding: The Mark Jones Guest Post.

One of my groomsmen and closest friend Mark Jones has kindly allowed me to ‘borrow’ his blog post on my wedding and add to the wedding selection that’s already on this site. Perhaps it’s over the top, but Mark’s a bit of a living legend, and I love having another take on the day. Here’s what he had to say:

I’m sure that everyone who was there agrees, the newly wed Mr and Mrs Hendicott’s wedding far surpassed the royal wedding and left everyone present thoroughly entertained and immersed in their happiness. With all of the different variables that could have gone wrong, this is no mean achievement and will certainly be the event of 2011 for the vast majority of those in attendance.  However, it could all have been so different…

On Sunday (22nd), mount Grimsvotn erupted, leaving those contemplating traveling to or around the UK in limbo about whether there would be wholesale flight delays and cancellations like last year.  As people were coming to celebrate James and Helena’s wedding from America, Iceland, Vietnam and all regions of Britain, anxiety and worry was hardly the perfect start to the week.  In fact, the potential damage of the natural disaster would have deprived the wedding of about 75% of the guests, including the groom’s family, his bestman and groomsmen and the maid of honour.  With all the arrangements made, paid for and set in stone, prayer and positive thoughts about favourable winds were the only option.  Fortunately destiny was to be on their side so everyone made it across to the land of leprechauns for their transformation from two free spirits to one.

The Day Before

As one of James’ closest friends, I was privileged to be invited to the wedding as a groomsman alongside his brother Thomas and his best man Dickon.  That being so, I arrived the day before (Thursday 26th) the happy day to try on the rather dapper attire J had selected to check it fit snugly, print and laminate the table placement lists and buy a few minute bits and bobs.  I was also lucky enough to see Helena before departed west and witness the final pre-wedding conversation of J saying ”Don’t be too late” with the reply coming ”Don’t worry, I won’t”.  Although James apologised for it being a little hectic, I think he was overstating the amount of things we had to do.  This was probably due to nerves (or anxious anticipation) as he wanted to give his (then) fiancee the perfect ceremony and reception they had dreamed of.

Later that evening, Dickon and Sophie (recently engaged) arrived in Dublin airport at about 6pm.  Greeted by J, they swiftly went to the hire car place to pick up the rental.  As bestman, Dickon was also given the responsibility as the groom’s driver for the wedding.  Unfortunately, however, his picture drivers license had expired, leaving affairs in a bit of a pickle.  Luckily behind every great man (not meaning to talk Dickon up) there is a great lady and true to this expression, Sophie stepped up, filed the appropriate paperwork and she found herself promoted to chauffeur, a job she fulfilled with the minimum of fuss.  By this point I was flat out on the sofa, catching up on some well earned rest after having only had 5 hours sleep in 60 hours (that’s what flying to Ireland from Vietnam does!) and being led around Dublin all like a sheep following its shepherd!

It must have been at about 6:30 that I was woken to the glorious smell of Indian food!  Wonderful western size portions of various curries, rice and naan breads were the perfect way to disturb my slumber!  The four of us tucked in and demolished as much spicy delights as we could manage before heading into town to see Roddy Woomble (better known as the lead singer of Idleworld, a popular indy band).  Before we left, James warned us that Dublin taxi drivers were notoriously rude and unpleasant. However, much to our amusement, the 2 drivers we had gave him some fantastic marriage advice, banter and wished him the best of luck for the big day!  I’m not sure if he felt the egg on his face, but I certainly enjoyed the irony of things!  The common message which was given was ‘Happy wife, happy life’ resonated and from personal experience, I’d have to agree.

Now you might think that going to a gig before your big day is a questionable decision but the significance of the event will become evident later.  Besides, I hadn’t been to a gig for about 3 years as decent live music can seldom be found in Vietnam.  Anyways, we met up with some of J’s friends from university, had a few pints of guinness, tapped our feet and nodded our head to Roddy’s wonderful voice and shared good times.  It wasn’t a late night but I think it certainly took the edge off what might have been a particular nerve racking evening for the groom.  After the show, James had a few words with Mr Woomble (who he’d interviewed only a week earlier), we went home, watched an episode of South Park (very cultured!) and had a wee dram before hitting the sack.  When we opened our eyes, the wedding day had begun!

The Wedding Day – Friday, May 27th

Far from the frenzied pandemonium I was expecting, the atmosphere in the house (at least in my humble opinion) was chilled and relaxed with anxious excitement.  We all woke up in plenty of time, got our bits together and loaded up the car.  We’d allowed ourselves 4 hours to make the journey from the centre of Dublin to Collooney, country Sligo, which is about a 230km drive, and it wasn’t long before the banter started!  I commented on J’s becoming a man after performing his congenial obligation (perhaps the wrong choice of word but I’m sticking to it) to which he responded ”Mark, it’s not like I’m losing my virginity” which bought laughter so explosive that I swear the car shook!  That being so, I indicated to Dickon that he crack open bottle of malt he’d sneaked into the car and the wedding day had well and truly taken off!

The journey down was light hearted, fun and James appeared nerve free to me.  Butterflies might well have been doing somersaults in his stomach; however, if they were, he hid it remarkably well.  About halfway, we stopped at a small village called Longford, which was about 90km from the castle.  Sophie parked up and we found a small cafe.  We all had a decent breakfast although I think I won in the gluttony stakes with 2 cakes and a BLT sandwich plus, of course, copious amounts of tea!  At this point we met our first surprise.  J was called by his parents who informed us they were literally 5 minutes away so we were soon joined by them!  In my mind, it somehow seemed to fit the day and was a positive omen of what was to come, especially as guests meeting problems on the journey was one of the primary concerns.

After our pit stop, we made our way to the castle.  To say it’s the perfect location for ones big day is a little bit of an understatement!  The venue was just fantastic!  The long, windy road in promised a spectacular building and we weren’t to be disappointed.  By this time it was about midday and with the ceremony due to begin at 13:30, we had ample time, but not as much as we thought, to shower and figure out how to wear a cravette.  I voiced concerns about how to put on cuff-links but no one else seemed to think that would be a problem!  Regardless, we agreed to meet in the bridal suite at 13:00, fully suited and booted before the vows were to be taken.

At 13:30, all looking rather dapper, apart from James of course :-p, the obligatory pre-wedding bottle of champagne was cracked open and as champagne flutes were neither present nor appropriate, we passed the bottle around, finishing about half of it. J also chose this moment to give Dickon, Thomas and myself some small gifts to thank us (I’m still not sure what for?!!) which I’m sure we were all touched by.  With 15 minutes to go, we thought it best if we went down stairs to mingle and direct the guests, who had started to gather in the lobby, to the chapel in anticipation for the bride’s arrival.  With about 5 minutes to go, we left J to go downstairs to await the arrival of Helena, her mother and the bridesmaids.

”Don’t be too late” with the reply coming ”Don’t worry, I won’t”

Anyone who knows anything about British weddings knows that it’s customary for the bride to arrive late.  10/15 minutes would probably be about normal.  As someone who’s usually pretty punctual and abhors tardiness, it would drive me mad, but fortunately I wasn’t the one waiting.  We weren’t really expecting the bridal party to arrive until 13:40 and we were enjoying speculating about how James was feeling.  We figured he’d be getting a little anxious but he were kinda enjoying it.  At about 13:45 the mood had somewhat changed and a little panic had started to set in.  Whilst we knew the girls were on the way, the registrar had informed us she had another wedding and threatened to leave if they didn’t arrive within 15 minutes.  We decided that one of us should go upstairs to check on J, so I quickly popped my head round, he looked expectedly at me and I shook my head.  It was at that moment I realised we’d probably called it wrong as although I’m sure he was fine to that point, the eye contact made might have cranked up the nerves a touch.

Now, I’m not sure how much J knew about the registrar’s circumstances, but I’m sure Helena was completely oblivious to it and the time continued to pass.  At about 13:50 we were all getting edgy.  We couldn’t speak to James, but we were sure his nerves must have been starting to fray because to be honest, I was starting to fret.  The registrar was impatiently pacing at the top of the staircase above us and again came down, this time to give us a 5 minute deadline.  At this point, we felt pretty helpless.  We considered what we would do if she left and even enquired as to what time she could come back.  All jokes of Dickon pretending to lose the rings we forgotten about and we just looked into the distance.  We saw a couple of cars pull up but they were to be late comers but one positive was the photographer and camera crew had arrived.

Several more anxious minutes passed but just in time, the bridal car appeared, pulled up and an amazing sight instantly calmed the situation.  Helena stepped out of the car and looked stunning, relaxed and totally ready to marry my best friend.  Her bridesmaids, also looking fantastic, mother and brother who was about to give her away quickly assembled, ascended the stairs and briefly paused before we heard music I’m sure James was relieved to hear and will never forget.

The ceremony

For me, the walk down the aisle, the music and filing to either groom/brides side was all a blur.  I was so anxious that the registrar stay and that the ceremony could actually take place to really take anything in.  We barely had time to introduce ourselves to the bridesmaids or figure out the order in which we’d enter.  The aisle was very narrow, making in pretty difficult for two people to walk down it side by side, but this only added to the intimacy of the occasion.  The chapel held about 90 people, made up of close friends and family of either side, and all eyes instantly focused at the back of the room as soon as ‘Here comes the Bride’ resounded by guitar and saxophone, in a uniquely fitting tone for what was to follow.

What came next brought tears to the eye.  It was moving, fitting and the personalities of James and Helena came to the fore in what was a simple yet compelling ceremony.  The songs ‘The Time of Your Life’ (Green Day) and ‘Better Together’ (Jack Johnson) and musician, Mark Baker who J had met in Korea, were a perfect match, unique yet totally appropriate.  The readings about a kiss and holding up a ceiling powerful in their meaning.  The vows, simple, traditional.  The lighting of the candles, first by the couples’ mothers and then by the couple themselves, was an overwhelming symbol of unity.  I must admit to being blown away by the whole event.  Even the registrar managed a smile by the end of the ceremony!

The Pictures

From here, things relaxed into a celebration of the love between J and his new bride.  James and Helena caught everyone on the hop at the end of the ceremony by pretty much sprinting down the aisle and into the lobby where drinks were served.  The groomsmen and bridesmaids followed them out at a more leisurely pace before the chapel emptied.  True to form, we went upstairs, rescued the champagne and once that was drained, we made our way to the bar before the photographs started.  Of course, we had to wait for the bridesmaids, but we enjoyed messing around taking some random shots for our debut album cover if we decide to become a boy band!  This part of the day didn’t take too long, probably as James Goulden the photographer, knew exactly what he wanted and not before long we were in the dining hall for the banquet!

Dinner and the Speeches

As a man who likes his tucker, I can honestly say that I’ve never been so well fed in terms of both quality and quantity of food!  The feast was quite simply mouthwatering.  To start I had duck pate followed by a thick vegetable soup.  The main course was perhaps the most exquisite food I’ve ever tasted, Guinea foul! It was beautiful.  The meat was soft and tender accompanied with perfectly cooked vegetables and a rich sauce.  If that wasn’t enough, the trio of deserts (apple tart, profiteroles and cheese cake) simply melted in the mouth.  I could go on for hours about the food, but since I’ve already done that about the previous parts of the wedding I’ll keep it brief.  It was divine.  So much so that James jokingly commented: ‘I’ve spent a fortune on this food, and you know what, I’m glad’.

By now, it must have been about 7:30 pm and it was speeches time.  Of course, James and Helena had also put a twist of this section by holding a short open mic session where anyone could speak (which of course I took advantage of) once the main speeches had been completed.  To start Dickon’s speech had everyone in stitches!  It was witty, incite-full, down right funny yet was unpinned with sincerity and obvious joy for his closest of friends.  Highlights of his speech included ‘some of us have grown up from our juvenile times going to gigs and getting drunk’ (referring to himself), looks at James, ‘and some of us clearly haven’t’ and the introduction of speech was a voice over of the A-team theme song which I’ll try to make available later.

Dickon’s 10 minute masterpiece was followed by Sean (Helena’s brother) giving some short, sweet but heartfelt sentiments and then by Fiona (a close friend of the bride) who revealed Helena’s pet name of ‘Cuddles’ for J.  Finally, it was time for James to step up.  He had confided to me that this, along with the first dance, was the part of the wedding he was most anxious about.  He started by saying ‘Sorry, I’m quite overwhelmed by all this’ to which Thomas replied ‘Awww Cuddles’ – Classic!  I have to apologise to J as I don’t actually remember anything about what he said but I’m sure he was just relieved to get through it!  One point of note was that at this point we distributed Soju and Kimchi to the 7 tables as they had met in South Korea and seemed like a perfect token to reflect this.  The Soju was well received, the Kimchi less so!!!

The first dance

After dinner, things progressed quickly.  Drinks were consumed, conversations lit up, the cake was cut and it was soon time for the first dance.  Time had lost all meaning at this point, owing to either the magnitude of the occasion or by jet jag.  I don’t think I’ll ever know which!  As I’ve said throughout, the wedding was littered with little quirks or their personalities and this was to be no exception!  I think only 3 people in the room know what the song would be, James, Helena and me.  ‘You held the world in your arms tonight’ by Idleworld.  Earlier I’d written that the gig the night before would have great significance later….this is why.  The encore song the previous evening was none other than the first dance song.  Coincidence, maybe.  Destiny/Fate, I’d say so.  Fitting?  Definitely.

Seeing Helena head bang to the intro was classic!  Seeing their beaming smiles was warming and seeing the bride bouncing around while J was leaden footed was mildly entertaining!  But all joking aside, it was again in keeping with what had happened before and I’m sure he was (again!!) relieved when at the second chorus they were joined by the groomsmen and bridesmaids!

The conclusion – For me anyway

After the first dance, a local band ‘Sounds of System Breakdown’ played a fantastic set of electro-rock and most of those in attendance had a dance at some point.  The atmosphere was electric and happiness abounded.  I honestly think I spoke to everyone at some point during the night and everyone was in great spirits with huge smiles on their faces.  It was the intention to light some lanterns and let them drift away in the wind but everyone was having such a great time on the dance floor and at the bar it probably would’ve been a touch of over kill so the idea was abandoned.  At about midnight, I was exhausted and once Vodka Redbull couldn’t keep me awake, I retired upstairs with the party in full swing.  I have no idea when the party ended but I do know that James managed to split his trousers!  Good work fella!

And that’s the wrap really.  It really was a splendid day and I’m running out of adjectives to describe it.  I’m thrilled for James and Helena.  The day had everything.  There was tension, beauty, love, humour and they were surrounded by friends and family.  James dreamed of the perfect wedding and he got pretty close!  I can only wish them all the best for their future as husband and wife and if the wedding is anything to go by, they have the most solid of foundations from which to build from!  

Good luck Mr and Mrs Hendicott!

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