I’m delighted to introduce Kirsty’s Scottish-Church-Beach-Wedding-With-Ice-Cream-Cones today, shot by one of my best ladies on the internet (Cara) and her excellent husband (Nye) of Lillian and Leonard Wedding Photography. It’s wonderful not just for all of the aforementioned reasons (Beach! Edinburgh! Ice cream cones! Cara & Nye’s pictures!) but because Kirsty is both hilarious and wise. Her story is of navigating through somewhat mismatched faith backgrounds, to finding the ceremony to be tremendously moving and important, to a party filled with laughter and tears and pretty decorations. Well. That’s every reason I write about weddings all rolled up into a happy ball. So with that, I bring you the lady herself:
In many ways, wedding planning was made for me. It combines so many of my favourite things: beautiful dresses, pretty paper, gorgeous flowers, candles, ribbons, shoes, photography, cake… I’ve always been quite creative and crafty and couldn’t wait to stamp our style all over everything. On top of that, I’m a compulsive list-maker and organiser and I love to be in charge of a project. So when Fin and I got engaged and wedding planning officially commenced, it was a case of, “stand back, ladies and gentlemen; I’ve got this. I was BORN for this. Time to make a list.”
As the planning wore on and tasks were ticked off The List with a satisfied flourish, I heard tales of brides breaking down in tears, and rolled my eyes. For goodness’ sake, what are they crying for? It’s only a wedding. It’s not the end of the world. Clearly those brides are not as organised/creative/visionary as I am, I can’t believe they have let themselves become so worked up. Oh, how I laughed.
That is, until I cried.
The first time I cried it was not, unsuprisingly, because I couldn’t find suitable fabric for our DIY table runners or just the right shade of ribbon to decorate the cake my mum made (although, I won’t lie, both of those things were supremely irritating at the time). It was over the hard part, the part that really mattered: the ceremony.
My husband is a good, solid Scottish Presbyterian; his father is a minister and the Church has always been a big part of Fin’s life. I, on the other hand, am the daughter of a staunchly atheist mother and a father who goes to church once or twice a year because he likes the music, with the result that I am fairly ambivalent towards religion but have a soft spot for a good hymn.We decided to get married in the local church in the town where I grew up – partly for convenience, partly because a religious ceremony meant a lot to Fin and it didn’t mean a lot to me not to have a religious ceremony, and partly because, hey, it couldn’t hurt to have the Big Guy’s blessing just in case – and asked Fin’s dad to perform the ministerial duties. I think from that point, subconsciously, I began to see the ceremony as “his” part of the day, and the reception as “my” part of the day.
I was very vocal about and confident in our choices for every other aspect of the wedding, and was busily crafting away like nobody’s business, but when it came to the ceremony I felt somehow unable to participate – as if, because I didn’t have faith, I wasn’t qualified to express an opinion. Whenever, say, his mum would make an off-hand remark about certain hymns being inappropriate for a wedding, or a church friend would comment on a particular Bible reading being overused, I would nod in mute agreement and then spend the next week searching desperately on the internet for something more acceptable. I should make it clear that none if this really came from Fin or his family; rather, it came from my own need to always be in control, and my self-conscious fear of doing The Wrong Thing in a world I simply wasn’t raised to know much about.
I can’t remember what finally caused the meltdown. Was it when Fin’s dad sent me an order of ceremony filled with scripture readings, prayers, blessings, benedictions, things I didn’t understand and which I feared would alienate me and my non-religious family and friends? Was it when I left a meeting with the organist having been told that my beloved choice of entrance music was more suited to funerals and finding myself agreeing to use a piece of music I had never so much as heard before? Was it reading over and over again tales of happy couples who created meaningful, personal ceremonies that reflected their beliefs, when for us there was no such thing as *our* beliefs?
Whatever it was, it came on me suddenly, unexpectedly, and in one moment all my fears and inadequacies came flooding out in ugly, rasping sobs. How embarrassing – I had become one of those brides, the weepy brides. Fin soothed me, patted my back, wiped my nose and helped me to see that the ceremony could still be meaningful to both of us. We might not share a faith, but we did share a belief in the significance of the commitment we were making.
We ended up choosing simple vows with few overt religious references, found hymns we both liked, a Bible reading I could really get behind and a secular reading for my brother, and picked a beautiful Edith Piaf song that I love for my friend to sing. I reluctantly admitted that perhaps my original entrance music had been a touch funereal, and we moved on. But things had subtly changed; I had thought I could handle this wedding thing by controlling every aspect of it, thought it would be a breeze – but I couldn’t, and it wasn’t.
The second time I cried was the night before the wedding. The week running up to the wedding was exhausting. Family flew in from all over the globe and I spent the week alternating between the city where we live and the town where my parents live; one night here, next night there, trying to fit in time with everybody and neglecting to take any time to reflect on what we were about to do (well, I mean, reflection time wasn’t on The List).
The night before the wedding, after a long and tiring day of rehearsing, setting up decorations, snipping and trimming flowers until my hands were literally bleeding, and entertaining all of the guests who were in town, I went to bed, exhausted and alone, in my childhood home. Pow! Out of nowhere, I was hit by a sudden sadness, which I recognise now was probably partly born out of sheer bone-weariness, but which was no less real for that.
I wasn’t sad about getting married – I couldn’t wait! – but with every new beginning comes an ending. I had been so busy looking forward and focusing on this one day and the future it would bring, I had never thought about what we would be leaving behind. Fin and I were together for eight years before we got married, some of the happiest years of my life, and the realisation suddenly hit me that that was over, and he (rather obviously) wouldn’t be my boyfriend any more. Stupid as it sounds, I let myself cry for a little while and mourned the chapter of our story that had come to an end, even as I excitedly anticipated the new one that was about to begin.
Then came the wedding itself, and it was joyful. The outpouring of love, not just from our families and guests but from the whole community (the wonderful staff at our venue who worked until 1am to get everything ready; the scores of local people who waited outside the church to see me arrive; the lovely lady who gave us a free ice cream cone), was unexpected and humbling. But my very favourite part of the whole crazy day? The ceremony.
The dreaded ceremony, which I had worried would be so uncomfortable and so un-me, was the most soulful, powerful and, frankly, fun 45 minutes of my life. It was the one part of the day where I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and because of this – not despite it – it was the best part.
I didn’t even hear the entrance music, so focused was I on Fin’s smiling face at the end of the aisle. We grasped our sweaty palms together and whispered over our programmes to each other as our dearest people in the world launched enthusiastically into the hymns. The service given by Fin’s dad was funny, moving, personal, and his voice was full of pride as he led us in our vows.
I will never forget the feeling of looking into Fin’s eyes and making those promises to each other. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t written the vows ourselves, or that we were getting married in a church I had only attended a handful of times; the words were no less true. As Fin’s dad anointed my forehead in blessing of our marriage, I sensed the warmth and sheer joy radiating from everyone around us, and I did feel blessed.
Afterwards, countless people told me, “It was just so Kirsty and Fin.” And the truth is, it was. (Also, I didn’t cry once. Fin was teary enough for both of us.)
Then we had a party. It was amazing.
The handmade decorations looked beautiful, even if I say so myself.
Plenty of things weren’t exactly how I had planned them to be, and I wish I could say that I didn’t even notice, but the odd emotional meltdown isn’t enough to wipe out a lifetime of conrol-freakery overnight.
However, in the end, it was the parts I couldn’t have planned for that were the best. The dancing, the singing, people speaking lovely, loving words and toasting us with smiles in their eyes.
And, so far, having a husband is even better than having a boyfriend. Overall, I call that a success.