Leg of Lamb
I was most impressed by the way the Manor staff brought out everyone’s main course at once. I’m not sure what size oven they’ve got, but they managed to produce 65-ish sizable legs of lamb all at the same time.
The food was the main reason we chose this place. We wanted to make sure people were well fed, as it’s so common to find yourself with a cheesey canapé trying to last you for the whole day.
The main wedding meal is called the Wedding Breakfast. This is ridiculous.
After the lamb was done, and after we’d popped out for a quick breather, we went from table to table to have some of those awkward half-chats you have. It’s fun: no-one is allowed to say “what were you thinking, putting me with these nutters?”. But I hope everyone was well placed. There were certainly no obvious fighting.
We’d spent a long time trying to sit people together. You write everyone’s name on a scrap of paper, then place them on a tabletop, and try to group them together. Where you have gaps, you stick babies, and where there are not enough babies, you have space for people to see and the room to breathe. And once you’ve got it all sorted, someone will drop out and you have to start again.
We were happy with the result though, and to my deep satisfaction, we managed to get, mostly through chance than design, a table that went “Jamie, Amy, Jamie, Jennie, Jamie, Nicola and Andrew”. Not sure what the last two were doing there, but I bet they had fun introducing each other.
Andrew was lucky. For three weeks beforehand he’d been sitting with our auntie as punishment for not bringing a girlfriend, and escaped in the final rearrangement. (Rhona was lucky too – she escaped sitting next to a computer geek).
Having visited half the tables, dessert suddenly arrived, and needed eating. I remember we were given a choice of champagne syllabub, lemon cheesecake or chocolate cake. The chocolate was going to be avoided as too obvious, but was just too good to lose. Lots of people who would normally make excuses, had that dessert.
Cutting the cake
Once all traces of the dessert were gone, Keith came over with the microphone, ready to ask everyone to come into the main room to watch us cut the cake. Naturally, I took this task on myself. My wedding, my microphone, remember.
It was much harder calling people to order than I expected. I think I actually said, “oi. shut up at the back!”. I’ll never be a schoolteacher.
Our photographer, keen as ever to stay out of our way, got his photo taken before everyone else came out. CLICK. One snap. Done.
We were at a bit of a loss. At Bernard’s wedding the photographer had been there for hours with the cake shot. I expected more somehow.
So we posed with the cake. Do we cut the top or the bottom? (Hint for those about to do this: This would be a good thing to work out beforehand). We cut, we did it. People took photos. We stood nervously – not sure what to do next.
I went to ask the photographer if he needed anything else. nono, he says.
So, the moment that everyone had been waiting for. As they took the cake away to be cut, we prepared for the Polonaise.
The Polonaise is probably the easiest dance in the world. It goes like this. As though walking: Step. Step. Long step. Repeat.
It is a dance that has a specific rhythm, and is well-known. It was danced by royalty in the middle ages in Poland, and across the continent.
It is a group dance. You dance in pairs.
We had planned to practise the Polonaise the evening before. Agnieszka had explained the principles to me, but I’d never done it as a group before, and yet it was my job to lead the dance. This was a little worrying.
Getting married is full of moments like this. You just get through them one at a time. The suit. The vows. The photos. The speech. The cake. The dance. And so on. As you do each one, a little load comes off, and you start to worry about the next one.
I took the microphone and attempted to explain the dance. Agnieszka and Shiff were going through the motions as I explained. Agnieszka demonstrated the wonderful decorations that one could do to embellish the dance. Everyone smiled. I wanted another couple to walk behind them to demonstrate better. So I asked if someone could line up behind them. The entire room did so.
It was amazing. Instead of four people, we had crocodile rows going to the back of the room, curving round, and coming halfway back up the room. My first thought was to say “nonono, let’s just start with 6”. But then I decided to just let it play out. I’m glad I did.
I took my place at the front with my new wife, and we started. The band had learnt the tune and were ready. We began, and led off. As we get to the front of the room, we turn off and head towards the back. When we got to the back of the room, we made an arch, and the next couple went under. They then made an arch, and the next couple went through both. Soon we had a room full of arches, so we led off again, going through the arches, and around the room.
It got brilliantly chaotic. As there were more people than there was length of the room, then people were turning off here and there, creating arches, then setting off again. We went around and around, laughing all the way, and no-one knew what was going on. Eventually, we gave the nod to Pete, who wrapped up the music (which I think was ending anyway), and everyone finished and applauded.
As the room cleared away, I took the microphone again, and thanked everyone for their efforts: “I think that was exactly how it was done by royalty in the middle ages”. The microphone went back to the singer, and we were ready for the First Dance.
Ok, so you’re thinking that this isn’t the first dance, it’s the second dance. This is really not the point, and you’ll never be good marriage material. This is the First Dance of the married couple. Together and alone.
And it is also what is, to many the scariest moment, because you have to dance in front of all your mates. To this end, couples often have a dance routine organised, but we were agreed that this is dafter than calling your dinner “breakfast”.
You know what? It was easy. The band were awesome, the floor was smooth (my new shoes slid nicely), and there’s nothing quite like dancing with the most beautiful woman in the world in front of everyone you know.
So much so that we just carried right on into the second song.
We’d practised dancing before, with a few tango lessons (which are great). But I’d never danced with anyone in a wedding dress before. You have to go backwards all the time, instead of forwards, because when you do that you just tread on her dress. It’s a different ball game (an analogy probably very rarely used by dancers).
The band carried on playing as we retired from the floor, and others took our place. They played a mixture of jazz tunes, and were really amazing. If anyone is ever getting married, they need to speak to my cousin Pete. He was the most reassured and confident person I spoke to before the wedding. We sent him new songs to learn, which he did perfectly. He got us a band together exactly to our specifications, and it sounded great. Even just standing outside (the rain had cleared), and listening to it echo around, was like a dream. It was exactly right.
There were now people everywhere. The smokers and chatters were outside, the dancers were in the main room, the eaters were clearing away the cake and extra nibbles in the oak room. The sitters and gossips were in the blue room on sofas.
We had a free bar, but our wedding was never about drinking alcohol. The tab wasn’t close to finished by the end of the night. Howard came and asked me if we wanted to include spirits on the tab, and I decided against – no depressing rounds of sambuca or vodka for us.
We’ve been to weddings where the noise from the DJ is impenetrable. You have to drink 12 pints before you can move across the room without vibrating to the noise. We were keen for this not to happen.
At nine, the band finished, and we set up for the disco. I detest professional DJs with a passion, so we’d rented some kit from the unlikeliest of streets in the heart of Walthamstow village. We had disco lights and big speakers, with a decent amp. It was great stuff, running off Agnieszka’s Mac. And she chose the songs well, keeping everyone happy for hours.
(The bloke in the shop couldn’t really believe I didn’t want a CD player, but seriously who buys CDs these days? I won’t have them in the house.)
As Agnieszka performed for the dance floor, I went through to the Blue Room to chat and eat cake. It was a long day, and I don’t have the strongest of legs. It was good to chat to people.
To the games room
At midnight (or shortly thereafter), the manor closed down. We had to move on, though most people went to bed. The last of us (Bernard & Louise, Howard, Kevin and Beata, Agnieszka2 & her husband, and Alice) went on to the Games Room, playing snooker, pool and air hockey for another hour or two, sipping beer from tins. It was a nice way to wind down at the end of the day.
And indeed on to the honeymoon, and the rest of our lives. Maybe I’ll write up the honeymoon in Hawaii. What do you think?
We’d like to thank everyone involved in making our wedding fantastic. Everyone who came, everyone who helped out, everyone who danced, everyone who sang (I’ve forgotten about singing Sto Lat at dinner!), everyone who was there for us. To the driver, the waiters, the chef and the cooks, to the bar staff, the security staff, and that funny woman on reception. To the Best Men and Maid of Honour. To my mum who made the wedding cake, to Agnieszka’s mum who helped her get ready. To both our families for supporting us all the way. We thank you.