Maybe you already know this, but I’m the last person I thought would ever get married. Not because I’m not the settling down type or anything – far from it – but because I simply don’t believe in the institution. But those are my personal prejudices talking – prejudice against religion and society. Being told “this is how things are supposed to be done” has never sat well with me, and the more I thought about the origins of marriage and what means, the less I liked it.
But it is a truth of any long term relationship that each partner should do whatever they can to help the dreams of the other. To do otherwise is selfish, and is hardly a sign of a healthy coupling. Gillian has always supported me in my dreams, and this is one of hers. Who am I to say no? Just understand that for me it was akin to having to change religion (metaphorically speaking, as it was a civil ceremony) for the woman I love, since it prompted in me a similar crisis of belief.
Gillian and I have known each other for ten years and have lived together for eight. I know this because I moved in with her shortly before crossing Canada on my bike, which I did in the summer of 2000, I had moved to B.C. the year before that, and the year before that we had been corresponding over the Internet while I lived in Toronto. I remember writing to her around the time that I was subjecting my body to medical drug trials for extra rent money, and around that time I wrote an essay for her about what I saw as the stupidity of Hollywood romances – the Romeo and Juliet syndrome of confusing lust for love.
Ten years later and there is certainly no confusing my feelings for Gillian. She’s my best friend, trusted confidant, and, well, the rest is none of your damn business. When I proposed to her on July 7 last year (07/07/07) it wasn’t so much about getting married soon (I had planned on that still being years off when I became a rich and famous novelist… HA!) as it was letting Gillian know exactly how I felt about her, and how committed I was to staying with her as long as she would have me.
I’ve written about our engagement day elsewhere, but I should confess something now – it was largely improv. The ONLY thing I planned was getting her the silver elvish love ring, almost everything else I made up the day before I gave it to her. I figured the opening trial of the Tour de France would be a nice picnic spot, but before we left I figured throwing in a nice dinner and a show would make the day even more special. The fact that Lord of the Rings was playing was just good luck, and the proposing to her on the stage was arranged at the very last minute with a sympathetic usher. The day went without a hitch, but almost all of it I made up as I went along.
The wedding day, on the other hand, was all planned by Gillian. I intentionally kept myself out of the loop as much as possible. It’s for the best, believe me. If I had my way I’d have gone down the aisle to the victory parade music of Star Wars dressed as Han Solo, only to have the record scratch and stop as I said out loud “hey, wait, this isn’t the science fiction convention” and put on a proper jacket and tie, then continue with the proper music. My idea for the wedding cake would have been to have the bride and groom back to back, the bride armed with two pistols and the groom with a shotgun, both fending off a horde of zombies crawling on and out of the cake on all sides. You don’t want to know who I’d have perform the ceremony.
Yeah, it’s for the best I didn’t plan the wedding. But I do wish I had been able to find the wedding toppers.
Gillian’s wedding was small, simple, but with style and class, and I thank God that she isn’t the type to go for big budget traditional church weddings. I never would have survived that. I’m serious. That would have ruined me psychologically, I think. Of course, it could be worse. A friend at work told me about a traditional Greek wedding she went to. THREE THOUSAND GUESTS at the reception. And the bride and groom had to greet each and every one individually. At five seconds per greeting that comes out to FOUR HOURS. And the way they keep track of wedding gifts and stuff… I’m surprised they didn’t hire a special accountant.
Our wedding only had twenty people in total. In a way it’s a good thing it wasn’t in Canada. If it had I’m sure Gillian’s guest list would have been bigger than mine, and then I would have been obliged to add more to balance things out and she would have noticed that I invited a second cousin and then she’d feel obliged to invite all her second cousins and the next thing you know it’s a wedding guest list arms race that can only end in Mutually Assured Disaster. So while we both wished more people could have come, at least this kept the numbers manageable.
As I mentioned before, it was a civil ceremony, held in a classy – and bloody exp
ensive – hotel called Sketchley Grange. No, seriously, a room there costs about 150 pounds a night. The night before the wedding Gill and I stayed at a place called The Red Cow for 30.
For those who are superstitious, Gill and I saw each other before the wedding. Given the fact that my grandma had seen my grandpa before their wedding and they were happily married for over 60 years (grandpa died just before Easter) I would much rather follow their example than tradition.
There was a bit of concern that not everybody would show up. Sketchley Grange is not the easiest place to find, and the roads were under construction in some areas with inconvenient detours making things even more confusing. But in the end almost everyone arrived (though a couple were a bit late). Let’s see if I get this right… in no particular order there was (on my side of the family) my brother Wyatt and his girlfriend Jen, Grandma Edna, Aunt Alex, Uncle Nick (his wife couldn’t make it), Uncle Tim (with his gal Sue). On Gillian’s side was her parents Charles and Diana, Charles’s cousin Jean and her husband Ian, Gillian’s cousin Johnathan and his wife Nicky, and long time friend of the family Vincent. Our mutual friends Manny, Yutong and Richard were also there.
Let’s see… 17… 18… 19… one absentee. Yep, that’s everyone.
I’ve never been a suit and tie guy, but obviously if I’m going to help make this a special day for Gill my usual photographer’s vest just isn’t going to cut it. I had wanted to go for black suit, tie AND shirt, but my brother eventually talked me out of it, and I went for the more traditional (boring) white shirt.
Well, at least it was a clip-on tie. I hold it as a point of pride that I still have no clue whatsoever how to do up a tie. I’ll be damned if I willingly wear a noose around my neck. Not that anybody noticed, mind you, nor did they notice that my shoes weren’t proper dress shoes but nicely polished walking shoes (I didn’t even know till Wyatt pointed it out to me).
The ceremony took place in a nice little room with large window doors that opened onto the garden in the back. This room would later double for the reception, tables brought in and chairs rearranged for lunch and whatnot.
It was a perfect day, sunny but not too hot, with enough clouds to give the sky character.
Wyatt was the Best Man and Manny and Yutong were the witnesses, so they all sat up front, with Manny and Yutong off to the side. I was already standing in my position as everyone took their seats, starting to feel nervous (not because of getting married, but wondering if something would go wrong). Gillian and her father were outside the door. Gillian was dressed in a nice white skirt with a green top, and she had her hair done up fancy for the first time I can ever recall. For my part I had paid for my first haircut in over fifteen years. Up till now I had always cut my own hair, but for a wedding I don’t think a buzz cut would do the job. She also wore makeup which she almost never does. No, I did not wear makeup.
She came down the aisle to the smooth relaxing sounds of Enya. Hold on, that sounds like an easy listening radio station. But it was Enya that played as she walked down the aisle, it was a CD we picked up in Japan, and wagers were made as to whether or not she’d trip. She did not. In fact she didn’t trip or stumble once the entire day (for those who don’t know, Gillian has a muscle condition in which skinned knees are pretty much a fact of life, so this was a huge relief).
During the ceremony I couldn’t resist mugging for the camera just a little bit, so that when the woman performing the ceremony asked if anyone knew of any lawful reason for us not to be wed, I spun around and shot an evil glare at the audience. This elicited the requisite chuckle from everyone.
I managed to embarrass my brother when he was asked to present the rings, since he was in charge of the ring bearers – or should I say, ring bears. Wyatt had to hold Mossfoot and Violet who wore our rings, and we took them off as we exchanged them. The rings were, of course, gold versions of the silver elvish love ring I had given Gillian for our engagement (Mossfoot and Violet now wear our silver engagement rings).
The ceremony itself was traditional. Vows were exchanged as were kisses, signing of the register, getting the license, and so on. Turns out Gillian’s last name is not changed to Chinn but will remain Burns unless she gets it legally changed. That’s fine with me, I don’t think Gillian Chinn sounds right, and Chinn-Burns or Burns-Chinn is just asking to be made fun of. Of course if we ever have a baby girl I’m tempted to use the mixed last name and name her Mai… Mai Chinn-Burns. Poor kid would never stand a chance.
There were drinks in the bar, but seeing as Gillian and I don’t drink, there wasn’t much for us to do but mingle. It was such a nice day we went outside to the garden for the photographs… after I got off the jungle gym I noticed and made a bee line for.
The photography went on longer than anyone was truly comfortable with, but there was always just one more shot someone wanted to take first. When it was over we went back inside for a great wedding lunch and dessert.
After forcing Wyatt to carry two stuffed teddy bears with him during the wedding, he managed to get me back rather nicely during the Best Man speech, where he revealed to the world how when I was a kid I had great plans for our adventure club to have a mountain lair that we’d all be based in, and we’d all have jetpacks made for two so our wives could fly with us. Apparently I was the first of us to think about getting married, though from the sounds of it I must have seen them more as an accessory. I mean, why wouldn’t they have their own jet packs? Maybe they would be too busy operating the laser turret… (note to self, install laser turret in upgraded jet pack designs).
The wedding cake was not your standard multi-tiered variety. For one thing even a small one is for WAY too many people. More importantly, I’m a chocolate man. So we had a nice fancy chocolate square cake without multiple levels. Mossfoot and Violet were at this point positioned paw-in-paw in front of the cake so they were KINDA like the wedding toppers.
Shortly after the cake was served Gillian and I had to get ready to leave. The room was only booked until 4pm. Almost everyone else went back to the Red Cow to continue the reception there over drinks and give them all a chance to catch up, which was what I was hoping for. But Gillian and I were starting straight away on our honeymoon. We had booked passage to Amsterdam on an overnight ferry, staying in the Captain’s cabin (well, that’s what they call it, it’s just the most expensive room is all). A very nice room and very nice experience.
There isn’t much to say in terms of details about the honeymoon. I’ve been to Amsterdam before, and it was lovely again this time… well, for the first two days. After that it turned gray and rainy. We shared an apartment with Wyatt and Jen (who arrived shortly before the rain) right by the canals. Very nice. Gillian managed to go the entire honeymoon over uneven cobblestone streets without a single fall (she was as shocked as any of us).
The only real hiccup that happened at all was when we were about to leave. Wyatt said that I tend to whine and complain too much when writing about my travels, which I take to mean that he doesn’t really believe I have THAT much bad luck when traveling.
Of course, once he and Jen left for Paris, my old luck returned. The storage lockers where we had put our bags for the day for safe keeping were sealed off by police. Nobody was allowed inside. They were very polite and apologetic of course, but there was no possible way for us to get our luggage until the police gave the all clear.
Fortunately I had planned on leaving for the ferry several hours early so Gillian and I could enjoy the boat a bit more this time, maybe catch a movie on board it. Now all we could do was sit on the cold station floor and wait.
The minutes passed. Then the hours. It went on so long staff went around with coupons for free coffee. Nobody had any idea how long it would be before we could get inside, or IF we could get inside. Was it a bomb scare? Was it drugs? Had someone been attacked? Nobody was talking. If we had to leave without our luggage nobody could tell us if we could have it forwarded to London, either.
Finally the gate lifted and we were allowed in. But almost as soon as I got through the gate a warning alarm sounded. Rather than turning back, I ran for the locker thinking “Screw you! I’m getting my bag first!” But it was some kind of false alarm and nobody else paid it any attention, either.
We made it to the ferry on time. Barely. Had we missed the train we caught it was very unlikely we would have made the departure time. But the important thing is we did make it, and that despite this minor setback we had a great honeymoon as well as a great wedding.