Friday, September 14, 2012

Past perfect - anniversary

It's our wedding anniversary today.  Twenty one years since we stood in the doorway of the Brynmawr Chapel at Betws y Coed, rain lashing the porch and the wind sending ladies' hats skyward. There wasn't a chink of sunlight all morning - we have no outdoor photographs - and yet it was perfect in its way.

Friends still talk of our wedding - for many years some actually asked to see the video! The highlight was Mrs Morgan (on the organ) who was stone deaf, wore a knitted bobble hat and played All Things Bright And Beautiful as the congregation sang Lord of all Hopefulness

Then there was the party who arrived late and got changed in the back pews. And a couple from Conwy who 
arrived by tandem - another did the same but rode from Northumberland. The minister forgot his lines and missed a page of the ceremony - and to cap it all, one of the bridesmaids was our dog!

If all this sounds wacky, it would give a slightly wrong impression. In many ways, it was quite a traditional wedding - but the delight of the day was the way it was so relaxed. The hymns were off-key, the weather was foul, some people were late - but no matter, it was wonderful.

I've often pondered about weddings since - not just at the expense, but the amount of time and effort invested in seeking a putative 'perfection' - as if one little hiccup will ruin the day, be an omen of disaster. Some cultures invest extraordinary amounts - I attended a Hindu wedding last year which had, quite literally, over a thousand guests, the celebrations extending to days. It was an amazing experience, and I don't want to criticise (I was delighted to go) but I was struck by the contrast to our own,  and wondered if we had missed out?

I don't think so. We hired Cobdens Hotel in Capel Curig for the weekend, putting up friends and family and asking others to make the trip rather than buy presents. After the ceremony, we served Cawl y Caws (soup and cheese),  before taking a walk (and getting drenched) in the mountains - in the evening we had a traditional banquet. I remember my father in law foisting drinks on the guests and fretting the whole affair hadn't cost enough! 

In fact, it cost about two thousand pounds - cheap even then, but more than I was comfortable accepting as a gift. The next morning we walked with friends and family to Cwm Idwal, before they departed: my family to the North, Jane's to the South; none of them lived in Snowdonia. That was why we had chosen it - and because we loved it too.  

I listened the other day to a reading on Radio 4 in which the narrator claimed our experience of time hastens exponentially as we age - that our first twenty years feel twice as long as the second, the next twenty, quicker still. I sense there's some truth in that - but it misses the point about happiness. Time goes more slowly when we are malcontent. 

Twenty one years - is it really that long? Of course, we row occasionally, we've had our ups and downs and countless other hackneyed descriptions of married life. But I never regret that day, not for a second - it made us who we are, as surely as our childhoods and our children.  It was, I know for sure, amongst the best that's happened to me. 

Happy anniversary Jane - I love you dearly.


  1. A delightful blog-post. You manage to paint a picture of a wedding and a marriage in just a few short paragraphs so that I almost feel I was there, and I feel as if I know you and your wife like an old friend. I often find myself writing "a thoroughly enjoyable post" in comment boxes - but this time I really mean it.

  2. It all sounds just lovely. We eloped, so no big "do" and no great expense, which we have never regretted.
    Happy Anniversary to you both and Many happy returns of the day!

  3. Hello Mark:
    What a beautifully painted portrait of a marriage. We do find the outrageous sums of money spent by some people on weddings these days to be obscene. And, as you say, it seemingly only takes a small blip in the proceedings to reduce everyone involved to tears of disappointment.

    Yours sounds to have been a delightful day and is obviously as clear in your mind today as it was so many years ago. Being friends as well as husband and wife in marriage is, we think, the key to it all. We wish you and Jane many, many more years of happiness and wedded bliss!!

  4. Talk about laugh... a delightful picture of your wedding day from the description. We had our 35th anniversary last week, and like you, we have had our fair share of ups and downs, more than our fair share to be honest, but because in some ways we are opposites, have got through it all and are actually stronger, closer now than when we first married, and because of the brickbats life has thrown at us. He is calm, patient, polite always, never shouts or swears, gets things done quietly and smoothly and is charming to people so that they do what he asks of them. I, on the other hand, a short feisty redhead, am the opposite. I get things done too, but not quietly or calmly, and often with the use of strong language when my patience runs out!
    And this being my second marriage, my first ended suddenly after a few years when my young husband collapsed and died, we did it quietly and on a shoestring. Just me and him, a best man, his parents and brother and his wife (who both said this would never last, yet were divorced within a decade themselves!), a registry office, fish and chips for lunch, with champers. That was it. A small party in the evening for a dozen close friends, who provided all the food and drink. I cannot understand the grotesque amounts spent on 'the big day' by some couples today. Am I getting old, out of touch, or just a grumpy old woman?

  5. A really delightful and wonderfully-written post, Mark, so full of affectionate and telling detail. It rained all day 44 years ago when DH and I got married in the smallest and quietest of ceremonies, but th weather didn't dent our happiness either.

    As someone with long professional experience of weddings, I found that the sheer joy of the event often seemed to be in inverse proportion to the amount of money and effort put into it. Big and expensive can equal enormous stress and the expectation that nothing could possibly go wrong. Simple, individual and relaxed is often so much more memorable.

  6. Oops, meant to add, a very happy anniversary to you both and here's to so many more.

  7. A Very Happy Anniversary to you both. Your description of your wedding day was precious to read, and as I have been to Betws y Coed, I felt a guest. Thank you for sharing your wonderful day in words.

    1. and, I drove right past the church, on the way to Swallow Falls. Will never forget a little bird going right under the fast moving water feeding. I expect you know what it's named but I think it is a dipper

  8. You're a lucky man...and luckily you know it.

    A wonderful description of the wedding, too.

    Fussy expensive weddings are like Wellington's description of French plans....all very showy but if one thing goes wrong it all does. Yours was much more Wellingtonian in style...knot the pieces of rope together and the whole thing carries on.

    I know which I prefer.

  9. Wishing you both a very happy anniversary!

  10. Well done and many congrats on another year of marriage all done and dusted.

    The Husband and I got hitched in 2003, in our mid-forties. It was second time around for both of us and we tried so hard at first to make it a small affair - to try to ensure it would be we arranged to do it in the deeepest depths of mid-Wales near our second home, dozens if not hundreds of miles from where most of our friends and families live. But they had other ideas. So many wanted to come, almost all of them booking into hotels and B&Bs for the entire weekend. In the end we had 90 guests in the day time and another ten or more local neighbours as well in the evening and it was a very, very lovely day in every way, but it was never our aim that it should be "perfect". What we wanted, and got, was "memorable".

    I think it is rash to do as many couples do and focus so much effort and money on the wedding and perhaps forget in the process that there is this awkward little thing called a marriage to follow. If we are equal parts lucky and level-headed we maybe get the best of both; a richly remarkable big day followed by a successful and lasting partnership. Seems to me you and Jane have pulled off the double!

  11. Belated congratulations on your anniversary! Beautiful post.

  12. I loved this post. Susannah is right - it is beautiful.

    R and I married in 1990. It was a similar event. Quirky in its tradition. Organised in 6 weeks. Shotgun style. Me, pregnant and - thanks to the sales - wearing an outfit that cost all of £50 (and that included shoes and hat and flowers!). R wearing cowboy shoes and a suit that had cost a good portion of a timely inheritance! Three venues. A ceilidh and a disco and a dance band. Too many turning up at the hall - and spilling into the bar downstairs.

    Ah. Bliss.

    Thanks for sharing and for triggering such memories!


  13. Fabulous post Mark! I think people get too hung up on all the pomp and ceremony and forget what it is actually all about...two people making a commitment to each other...that's the bit that's important...the rest is just fluff!

    We had a non-traditional wedding. Tom was my Matron of honour and after the ceremony we went for a curry...each table was asked what kind of food they liked and then a selection was made, put in the middle and everyone helped themselves. It was very informal and just what we wanted :-)

    Happy Anniversary to you and Jane.

    C x