So we got back in our car, and started driving towards the Manor. We were married, cruising in the back of a Bentley, and we knew everyone would be waiting for us with a glass of champagne. It was a great feeling.
Our photographer had set off at the same time, but we decided not to hold up and wait for him to be there first – it was our day, and we’d been told to enjoy it – so we just drove. About 10mins before we got there, I gave my best men a call. About two minutes before, I called again, and told him to get people moving outside. It wasn’t actually raining, but it was close. I heard him shouting “they’re really coming this time”.
During this time, everyone had arrived at the Manor. They’d been given a glass of champagne, and were able to see what had been set up. We’d spent a busy weekend at work two weeks beforehand printing some big posters. One was the order of the day, what happened when; another was the seating plan. Later, on the way in to dinner, not a single person checked which table they were at. Our tables were named after famous Poles with complicated names, and the plan had a short description of each person. We also had a poster describing the Polonaise, our first dance, which everyone would be invited to join.
We turned into the main gate at Bradenham to arrive up the main drive. Everyone was standing on the steps waiting for us. We stopped at the top, and we got out. It was a great feeling. We then walked, slowly, up the steps as everyone threw confetti. It was like a snowstorm! We’d bought so much in preparation, and it all managed to get thrown. We turned and smiled at everyone, then headed inside.
Keith, our wonderfully organised chief of events at Bradenham, handed us a glass each, and welcomed us in. There was no-one inside of course, so we turned back and headed out to meet everyone. We split up, and went to chat for 5 minutes until the photographer arrived.
Once he did, then we had photos to take. We started with the photos with the car. Agnieszka had trouble smiling to order, as nerves had the better of her, so we got some help from Sonia, who quickly reduced Agnieszka to tears of laughter.
Enough of the car then, and we popped a quick canapé in our mouths before going for photos around the grounds while the guests amused themselves. It was tricky to do the photos, as it was a bit cold and a bit wet. Umbrellas came and went all the time. However, you cannot see this in the photos. Even with the umbrellas, it looked like a fine day.
We headed back up for the group photos. And now a short word of advice for attendees. If it is raining, and the bride is standing out in the cold, do not dally. Do not presume that you are unimportant, not necessary. If the groom is shouting at his Best Men to get back inside to get your arse outside, then do not finish your drink. The time for action is now. Get outside. Get in the frame.
Photos taken (again they look great), we could finally relax for a bit. Well, for about five minutes of course, because it was nearly time for dinner.
The Bread and the Salt
It was important to both of us to have some Polish elements throughout the day. While I’m only a quarter Polish, giving me little but a couple of funny names, this heritage is important to me, and I’m sure helped me find my wife.
The ceremony of the bread and salt is an old tradition that Agnieszka found. Upon entering dinner, we are to be met by our parents, who offer Agnieszka a choice: the bread, the salt, or her husband. She would answer: “the bread and the salt, and my husband to bring them home”. We then eat a little of both, and go in.
Our slight variation had us met by our mothers, who held a beautiful bread commissioned especially for the occasion. They welcomed us, and offered us bread and salt. The bread was good, the salt was very salty. 🙂
We then let everyone in to dinner, so that we could come in last. Once everyone was settled, Keith announced us, and we walked in to applause. We toured the top table, and sat down.
Our top table had been arranged differently from usual, at our request. I am not a fan of a quiz-panel top table, having been on one before – it’s unsociable and uncomfortable. Instead, our table was the other way round. We both sat at the head, and left the bottom empty. Our family were on both sides, so we could all talk, and yet also see everyone.
We started with soup. The tomato soup was perfect for a cold day, and Bradenham were wonderful at making sure everyone’s food arrived at the same time. We ate our soup, and sipped our wine. There was a tense moment for us all before the speeches, which we’d planned to have between courses. Eventually the toasting champagne arrived, the soup was removed, and the microphone arrived. I resisted attempts to announce me again – it’s my wedding and I’d rather run the show.
As Agnieszka’s father had died some years before, she’s asked her Uncle and Godfather to take his place and give her away. Unfortunately, he was too ill to attend (and later passed away), so his son, Simon, Agnieszka’s cousin, had been invited to step in. He had done so, very well, but we thought throwing a speech at him too was a bit much, so in the event I was the first to speak.
I stood up.
Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for coming, especially those who live far away, or that we do not see as often as we’d like.
Someone could not be here: Agnieszka’s Godfather and Uncle – Janek. We wish him well.
I’d like to welcome myself, on his behalf, to the family. Many thanks to Simon for stepping up admirably.
We’d like to thank our Parents who have helped us, particularly during the early days when we were both living with them. When I first met Agnieszka, she didn’t want to tell me who her “flatmate” was – it took three months to find out.
Both our parents have helped us get established in our new house, and made sure things got to this conclusion as smoothly as possible. And for that, we’d like to thank them.
So please, BE UPSTANDING, RAISE YOUR GLASS, and REPEAT AFTER ME: “To Piotr, Jinny and Violetta.”
I’d now like to recount one of my favorite stories: how we met.
I was travelling home late one night, boarding the Northern line. I sat down next to this rather attractive someone next to me. I knew I had to find a way to introduce myself – but how to do this on the underground? And I had just three stops to make it happen.
We all know the rules of the underground: face ahead, no eye contact, no talking.
And here I broke the rules. As regular travellers know, the Northern lines stops regularly in between stations to let the aliens board their secret stops.
When this happens, everyone follows the same behaviour: look front, look back. I’ve no idea what we expect to see, but it’s what we do.
I took advantage of this to catch her eye. And it was a beautiful eye. So far, so good. 🙂
The next thing we all do is to read our neighbours book. In fact, I’ve often catch myself trying to read the headline opposite, when I’m holding the same paper. Weird.
So I start reading her book. I forget what it was about. Something to do with maidens and dragons…
She caught me, I apologised, and we started chatting.
The rest is history. And of course, our future.
So please, BE UPSTANDING, RAISE YOUR GLASS, and JOIN ME IN A TOAST: “To the Northern Line!”
There are some others here, some of whom will be talking to you shortly. They need little introduction to most of you, but made our lives easier today, and the stag/hen parties memorable. Sonia, our Maid of Honour, or Chief Bridesmaid, and Howard and Bernard, my brothers and also my best men.
So for one more time, JOIN ME IN A TOAST: “To Howard, Bernard and Sonia!”
Finally, I’d like to introduce you to someone who means the world to me: my new wife, Mrs Kufluk.
She is beautiful and blonde, and has taught me loads,
She has changed my life in so many ways, and shown me what it’s all about.
I’m not going to get soppy, I’m just going to say I love you, Misiu.
And I’m really glad I caught that train.
So everyone, please join me in a toast: “To the new Mrs Kufluk!”
and now for a few words from my best men, who’ve promised to do the entire speech in Pirate!
H: Good evening ladies and Gentlemen, and thank you Kenneth for that kind introduction, which you may come to regret shortly.
B: Good evening ladies and Gentlemen, I’m Bernard, Kenneth’s older brother, and I’m the senior best man.
H: Senior? Hmmm. Hello everyone, I’m Howard, Kenneth little brother, and I’m the BEST best man. Kenneth couldn’t find a best man, so he settled for two average ones instead. (K: rubbish!) But we’re not here to talk about us!
B: As I think you’ll have worked out by now, Kenneth is the middle brother, and a little research brought to light that this is something he shares with none other than Bill Gates – yes that’s right, and if you’d invested in his companies when he was Kenneth’s age you’d be a millionaire by now…
H: So lets talk about goldfish.
B: When he was very small Kenneth wanted to have a goldfish as a pet. We would go to the pet shop and buy a brand new goldfish, and Kenneth would take it home, very excited, and explain to the goldfish how they were going to be best friends, and all the fun and adventures they were going to have together. And that night the goldfish would swim round and round his bowl, thinking about his new life… The next day we would find the goldfish, lying dead on the floor, having made one last finding nemo-style bid for freedom. So, we would go back the shop next week, and try again.
H: After several years of this, Kenneth decided to keep water-snails instead.
B: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a water-snail try to escape… (slowly…)
B: At university Kenneth spent some time picking the nicest possible area to live in, and was subsequently burgled four times. His landlord did his best to dissuade the criminals by fitting a burglar alarm to the house, but shortly afterwards they came back and stole that as well.
H: As many of you will know, Kenneth is a keen traveller. He’s been to many of the most exotic places in the world… South America,
H: But as children we travelled by car, the three of us packed into the back of our parents car, for many long journeys across the UK. Laughing, singing, the stuff golden childhood memories are made of…
B: Because of this, Kenneth now has an extreme phobia of travelling by car. He”ll do almost anything to avoid it. When he was on holiday in New Zealand, he decided to ride his bicycle across the bridge between the islands. A nice ride he thought. Trouble is the road-signs are different colours out there. A green background doesn’t mean a nice country road… it means a motorway. There’s Kenneth pedalling flat out with lorries thundering past. After a short time he realised he’d made a mistake. He started to wonder how he was going to get out of it. Then he saw the blue flashing lights of the police.
Rather than helping out, the police give him a through dressing down and forbid him to cycle back the way he came, leaving him stranded on the wrong side of the bridge…
H: After he was released from custody, he decided to go to Vietnam. Vietnam, a beautiful country. As the cycling hadn’t gone too well, he decided to try a nice boat trip. Ahhh, floating along, what could possibly go wrong with that?
< B: ——– Hold up picture of burning boat ———–>.
H: So, barbecue on a boat, not a good idea.
H: Kenneth decided to travel back first class…
< B: ——– show picture of parachuting / skydiving ———>
H: Kenneth has tried many different ways of travelling… canoeing, windsurfing, paragliding… But his favourite form of transport has not been the bicycle, the train, the canoe, the electric skateboard, or any sane form of transport known to man… no, his favourite way to travel has been… the unicycle. While many people would think this bizarre enough, Kenneth is not a man for half measures. No, he decided to play hockey on it as well. Each week Kenneth could be seen, taking his unicycle and hockey stick on the underground to practice. Good thing you didn’t have them that night on the Northern line…
B: Believe it or not Kenneth even represented Great Britain at the World Unicycle hockey championships in Japan … where he came fifth. The most obscure sport in the world, and still we can’t win at it….
H: So Kenneth returned from Japan, a failure. Indeed, Kenneth’s life over the last couple of years has been a catalogue of underachievement. Whilst working a full-time job he has completed an astrophysics degree, got married, bought a house and run the London marathon, yet has not invented anti-gravity boots or a time machine!
B: It’s just not good enough Kenneth. Now comes the part which all grooms fear, where we talk about Kenneth’s old relationships. Kenneth first fell in love when he was just 5 years old. She was attractive,
H: shiny –
H: but she took ages to load.
B: yes, she was a ZX81. Despite her 16K extra RAM, barely six months into their relationship, Kenneth began flirting with an Amstrad. A CPC6128, with a disc-drive . The poor Sinclair was left all alone, destined to become a door stop.
B: The Amstrad CPC relationship lasted much longer, though eventually Kenneth’s head was turned by a younger model, an Amstrad PC1512. And now, after many years of playing the field, bouncing from relationship to relationship, he seems to have at last settled down, with a personal organiser. A word of warning for the bride – keen an eye on those Apple Mac’s.
H: Some messsages: I have a telegram here for Kenneth from the manger of Barclays Bank in Walthamstow, who sends his deepest apologies but he sadly can’t be with you today… but will definitely be seeing you after the honeymoon.
B: Kenneth, today should rightly be the happiest day of your life, and it will continue to be a date that you will both cherish and celebrate as each year passes. And the secret to ensuring that you always remember this date as your special anniversary… is to forget it just once.
H: So, how can we sum Kenneth up?
B: Goldfish killer…
H: International traffic code violator…
H: Mono-wheeled lunatic…
B: Computer genius…
H: The best brother anyone could ask for. And Agnieszka, we’d like to say welcome to our family. You look wonderful today. It’s been a pleasure to see the joy you’ve bought Kenneth, although we still don’t know what you see in him.
B: Before we toast the bride and groom, I’d like to thank you for being a wonderful audience – and you can feel proud, because we’ very hard to please.
H: Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and charge your glasses.
B + H: The Happy Couple! (applause, laughter, rejoicing, hey nonny nonny etc)
We’ve got some wonderful photos of speech giving, and people laughing.
My father has always been very keen on very clear toast directions. Too many times have we been to weddings where we don’t know what to say when, and everybody has that awkward, are we standing or not, thing. Apparently this kind of uncomfortableness is a fine English trait, but I happen to agree with my Dad that toasts should be confident. They should be something we’re good at. That’s why my speech had very clear direction in it. And why I was able to completely misdirect everyone with the “northern line” toast, which got a double-take out of the whole room.
My Best Mens’ speech was brilliant. None of us wanted a put-down speech, and we knew the formulaic speeches wouldn’t fit. I think it was genius, and particularly like the computer/girlfriend part. Please feel free to steal for your next event.
After the speeches, we sat down, were congratulated, and the main course arrived. A large leg of lamb. And it was awesome.
To be continued