Sunday, 25 October 2015
For Better or Worse
My daughter, home from drama school for half-term, announced she was bored.
‘Fancy watching a DVD together?’ she asked.
‘Okay,’ I replied. ‘What shall we watch?’
Eleanor opened the drawer under the coffee table and peered within. Inside were a number of DVDs that have been languishing for years. When I say the Teletubbies are in there, you’ll realise just how many years I’m talking about. ‘Ooh,’ she grinned. ‘Your wedding DVD! Come on, Mum. Make us both a cup of tea and I’ll set it up.’
I was expecting the next hour to be spent companionably with my daughter as we sipped tea and smiled indulgently. Instead we alternated between crying a river and doubling over with laughter. The laughter came first.
‘Oh my goodness, the quality is tragic,’ Eleanor announced. On the screen, colours blurred and bled into each other.
‘This was state-of-the-art stuff back then,’ I protested. As you’ve probably gathered, I got married when cameras contained thirty-six exposure film and a mobile phone was just a mobile phone. Tell a lie, I do remember one wedding guest proudly holding a mobile phone that actually housed a camera with a ridiculously small amount of pixels.
‘Look this way, Debbie! Smile! Fantastic. Want to have a look? See here, this white blob with a smaller blob is you in your wedding dress holding your bouquet. Amazing, eh!’
‘Oh my goodness, so it is! Your camera phone is just…appalling.’
At least he wasn’t doing the wedding pics. There was a professional photographer for that, and also a professional videographer. The latter had a huge camera on his right shoulder. He was wearing a jacket which appeared to be weighted down with bricks. In fact they were battery packs.
The film continued to roll. The television screen was filled with various shots of Rowhill Grange, the glorious hotel where Mr V vowed to take me and my cooking for better or worse. Then the titles scrolled up.
Starring the bridesmaids…followed by two posed shots of my daughter and step-daughter. Eleanor, aged five, was thrilled to be wearing a princess dress and far more interested in whizzing round and round so the skirts spun out. Rianna, my step-daughter, grinned self-consciously into camera. She revealed a pair of newly-popped grown-up front teeth too big for her small face.
Co-starring the pageboy…followed by my son Robbie in the grip of nerves. His smile for the camera was like somebody in intense pain.
From our vantage point on the sofa, Eleanor and I slapped our thighs and chortled with laughter. The next title faded in and took our breath away.
We remember our dear friend, the best man… Eleanor and I burst into tears. My husband’s closest friend was to have been the best man. He died in a tragic accident weeks before our wedding. Nobody could take his place, but we’re pretty sure he came along and we raised a glass to him.
The camera panned to guests. My mother, tall and straight, wearing stilettoes and looking incredibly young. These days she’s eight inches shorter after bungled back surgery, walks on crutches and wears a caliper. Eleanor and I howled some more.
And finally, the arrival of the bride and groom – it was a second marriage for me so we arrived together. The tears turned to laughter again.
‘Oh cringe, Mum. Your hair!’ Yes, let’s not forget THAT hairstyle. I was born with curls and big hair. Without a doubt my finest decade was the eighties. Back then, women all over the land were perming their hair and fluffing it out. Not me. My hair did it all by itself. As I exited the limo, I was preceded by a billowing cloud of blonde curls so wide it was a wonder I could walk through doorways.
As the wedding unfolded, Eleanor burst into tears again. ‘I looked so carefree,’ she lamented. She’s had a few troubles recently, bless her.
All three children were undeniably cute. A part of me momentarily longed to return to that faraway time where the only thing our kids had worried about was where the next Barbie doll or Action Man was coming from. These days they have nervous breakdowns about spots, body shape or the dating game where inevitably somebody gets dumped. On the other hand, I don’t know how we got through those days juggling the jobs we had with small children and very little sleep. As I watched myself on the screen walking into the hotel followed by three beautifully turned out children, I marveled at what the camera hadn’t caught an hour earlier…a harassed woman helping two little girls into cream tights, frocks and ballet shoes, and a little boy needing assistance with his tie whilst the same harassed woman clock watched and wondered if it was possible to do full bridal make-up in four minutes and thirty-nine seconds before the limo arrived.
Eleanor and I laughed again as Mr V fluffed his vows. ‘I take thee to be my awful wedded wife…’
I’d booked a table magician to entertain throughout the wedding breakfast. The videographer had captured everybody’s requests for balloon poodles, balloon bicycles, balloon flowers and so on. It had also captured one guest who fancied himself as a bit of a wag.
‘And what would Sir like?’ asked the magician.
‘I’ll have a blow-up doll please.’
To use one of my daughter’s favourite words…CRINGE!
Following on were the speeches. I made one too. Trying to ignore the camera, I nervously thanked everybody for coming and turned to Mr V. ‘I’m delighted to be your husband and honoured you’re now my wife.’
By the time the DVD came to an end, Eleanor and I had trumpeted our way through half a box of tissues. When Mr V came home from work, he asked why we had bloodshot eyes.
‘We’ve been watching the wedding DVD,’ said Eleanor.
‘Put it on again,’ said my husband as he settled himself down on the sofa. ‘What’s that for?’ he asked as Eleanor placed the remaining tissues next to him.
‘You’ll need them.’
‘Don’t be daft,’ Mr V laughed.
He pulled the first tissue thirty seconds into the film. Which reminds me.
A man placed an advert in the classifieds: Wife wanted. The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing. You can have mine…