Someone once told me that if you look back on a defining moment and it still brings emotion, it was, and is, the real deal. Life is full of those moments; birth, coming of age, first love, first sex, your first child and if you're a #girlikeus, transition. Marriage is one of those too. At birth we are intensely bombarded with sensations we never remember. In giving birth we are forever changed, creating new life and accepting the responsibility it brings. Marriage creates something new too. The transition from 'before' to 'after' in all these events creates watershed divisions, changing us for ever and determining our next steps.
No wonder that as girls growing up, we dream of what marriage might bring. As a teen, we dream of white weddings and happy ever afters. At least I did. I had been to enough weddings as a child to be captivated by the whole process; the romance and the fairytale wonder. The stories you read growing up are interlaced and woven with this golden thread. Indeed, so many fairytales end with the girl marrying her Prince and becoming a Princess. The Big White Wedding becomes a star on the horizon, something we long for, something we get to if we're especially lucky.
As a girl, I always envied any friend who got chosen to be a flower girl, or even, a bridesmaid. A pretty dress and a supporting role in the proceedings, a posy of flowers and a photographic smile...was I just being shallow? If they mistakenly class you as a boy at birth, these things take on a different perspective. There will never be any of those, never, not in a million years, not in a million tears. Not only will you never be a bridesmaid, you won't be a bride either. This isn't a matter of being left on the shelf...you're just the wrong gender entirely. End of dreams, end of hopes. Put those wedding dress designs in the bin girl, because you're a boy. Suck it up. Even fairytale magic can't fix that one. There was never going to be a Cinderella ending. The average Fairy Godmother would fall about laughing at the very idea.
Two days ago, walking down Oldham Street, Manchester with my husband, I popped into Smart City Tailors. I needed a quote to have my wedding dress cleaned. I marvel that this short paragraph still belongs to the same life, so much has changed.
I've never actually blogged about my wedding day. Some have asked, but in the heady whirl following my marriage there wasn't much time. Let's do it now. Was it all my childhood dreams had hoped for? I'd like to unpick that and decide.
Every girl's wedding is different, each bride has her own perspective. Mine was one of lying awake, sharing a room with Sharon, one of my bridesmaids and desperately missing the man I was about to marry. I had planned the day to come for eight months and, in a way, for a whole lifetime. Every last thing was sorted. I hadn't expected to be sleepless the night before!
I think all brides have a whirlwind morning, mine was no different: Breakfast made especially and brought to my room, Josie, my stylist rushing in late to put my hair in pretty curls. I took ages doing my own makeup. There were visits from my bridesmaids, friends and the photographer. I remember the Best Man checking I was okay and fetching sandwiches I couldn't eat; flowers arriving and looking more beautiful than I had ever imagined; being tightly laced into my dress by two of my bridesmaids, Julie and Karen. There were quieter times and frenetic ones, frenzied even, when the dress lacing took scarily long. The things which stand out however were the touching and the humorous: the moment my bridesmaids presented a beautiful necklace to me; the quiet time with my cousin Geoff as he took tasteful boudoir shots; practising walking in the corridor with my chief bridesmaid Gillian, trying not to trip on the hem of my dress.
All Brides have these experiences I suspect but their thoughts and emotions are unique. I kept trying to comprehend the impossible was about to happen. I couldn't help pondering the improbability of it all and the possibility I might never have made it. Those of you who have read this blog will know the low moments, moments when the lights went out, the suicidal thoughts, the despair and almost giving up. I was painfully aware too of how much I missed my husband to be. Feeling tearfully separated from your man on your wedding morning is there to ensure one thing; how desperately you love him. Having that magnetic longing to make one life of two is what your wedding symbolises. I had no idea though how intensely emotional that separation could feel.
For that reason alone, standing at the entrance of the wedding suite, linked in my cousin's arm, was a defining moment, one of acute, intense longing. When I heard the first strain's of Craig Armstrong's Portuguese Love theme, I began to shed tears. As I walked up the aisle the music gathered momentum. Two minutes in, the music reaches a crescendo then relaxes into quiet happiness. It was the moment we met again, met with everyone's gaze upon us. As I reached my bridegroom and looked in his eyes I saw his emotion too and incredible relief. He was crying just like me. Defining moments came thick and fast right then. I came to realise high emotion is distilled from them.
So many words are spoken as you give yourself to the man you love. My husband generally has problems shutting me up (usually by forcibly kissing me). This time I had to wait for my kiss. There are the legally required words first but to me those below were some of the most important I had to say:
"There was darkness for a long time and then there was light, and that light was you. Your love has given me wings, and our journey begins today. I pledge before this assembled company to be your wife from this day forward. Let us make of our lives one life. I want you for today, tomorrow and forever."
For those of you who are #girlslikeus, you will have known that darkness too and the despair that accompanies it. If there is a lesson here, it is never to give up hope. One day, it will, get better, trust me.
Walking out of the ceremony room to Craig Armstrong's PM's Love Theme, felt the most affirming moment ever. It was WITH my new husband, as HIS wife. No Mrs Jane Williams has ever felt the carpet so cushiony soft beneath her feet.
And yes, to answer my own question, It was all my childhood dreams had wished for; that and much much more.
Like our married life, this was the beginning of a joyful journey and the start of a wonderful day. There is more to share with you; precious moments that serve as latches for thoughts and emotions. If you wish, come back and read about them them in my next blogpost.
Huggs, Jane xx
Note: For those of you who weren't there, the music mentioned is all from the film: 'Love Actually', the dress was by D'Arcy Scott and you can see the shared photos of the wedding here at: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/B0S5VaUrglwaz