This Side of the Pond – Sept. 28

By Sarah Pridgeon

Weddings are on my mind this week on the occasion of our seventh anniversary and the wonderful news from back home that my bridesmaid is getting hitched herself. It’s not for a couple of years yet, so I’ll be saving my pennies to make it over in time. I’d like to repay her at least in this small way for being such a trooper in the lead-up to my nuptials.

My two lovely bridesmaids, you see, had to travel 5000 miles for the honor of following me up the aisle after barely having the time to try on their dresses. It would be a lot to ask of anyone, but even more so when you’re accepting that task from someone frazzled, panicked and not at all sure what they’re doing. On the other hand, that’s not too different from my usual state, so perhaps they didn’t notice.

It wasn’t entirely my fault, in fairness. Not many people choose the challenge of arranging a wedding ceremony and reception halfway across the world and the brave souls who do generally make sure to have an intimate knowledge of their chosen setting. I did not have this, seven years ago, when I’d spent a combined total of one month within Crook County’s borders.

There wasn’t much choice but to go about things in the most difficult manner imaginable thanks to the strict laws in place for those of us wishing to marry across borders. I was given three months to put a ring on it once I entered the country on my temporary visa.

Thanks to the necessary timing of waiting for my contract to run out at work and not wanting to twiddle our thumbs for all those long winter months until the snow melted, not to mention that my father is a wedding photographer and only had a few weekends left without bookings, that left only one possible date: September 25, about two weeks after I arrived.

Thank heavens, then, for the unfailing support of my loved ones on both sides of the ocean. A mother-in-law who steadfastly worked her way through the list; a father-in-law who kept the back yard pristine even as fall began to take hold; an aunt-in-law who single-handedly fashioned every floral arrangement including the bower (on the strength of my instruction that, “I like red and Princess Diana had a really nice bouquet”); a father who agreed to find a way to take the photographs while still walking me down the aisle; a mother who orchestrated most of the day’s design and found me the perfect dress; friends who took it upon themselves to fill the gaps in my preparations; the Pridgeon clan that descended the day before the wedding to transform the venue in a matter of hours.

Trouble was, some of the features I wanted to include in my wedding were going to need to travel with me. There wasn’t time, for instance, to have my dress fitted and adjusted in the two weeks after I landed on these shores and the mere idea of mailing it gave me palpitations.

You may recall, when my parents visited at Christmas, that I mentioned my mother’s unnatural packing skills. She could likely fit the contents of my entire apartment into one box, if she had a mind to.

I made use of this talent by assigning her the duty of transporting my dress, which she achieved – to the horror of the customs agent who decided to check her suitcase – by packing it into her hand luggage. Incidentally, I also asked my mum to provide an English snack just after the ceremony, to keep our guests amused while the photographs were taken. I hadn’t realized quite how soon after we would be heading for the actual wedding breakfast, but that’s another story.

She agreed to bake Victoria sponge cakes and scones, but became concerned that she wouldn’t be able to find the right ingredients on these shores. It didn’t occur to her that flour is a universal staple.

And so, because of course she did, my mother packed two large bags of flour in her suitcase – and got away with it. Somehow, and for the life of me I will never work this out, she smuggled two bricks of white powder past the TSA agents in three different airports and not a word was said in reproach.

For a time, I thought that the least helpful person on the guest list was my husband-to-be – a thought that’s crossed the mind of many a bride, I know. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in the preparations or unwilling to do anything that was asked of him. No, it was that he wouldn’t answer what I assumed to be the simplest of questions.

I wanted to know if we would be able to host the wedding outside or whether we would be better to seek the shelter of a church. Would it be still be warm on September 25? I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he replied. Well ok, I tried, will it be snowing? “I don’t know,” he said again. I tried a few more tacks, asking him if it would be warm enough for the guests or whether there might be rain, but every time he told me he couldn’t give me an answer.

Frustrated and confused, I took a gamble and planned for an outdoor weather. It was a good decision, as the weather was glorious that fall and our nuptials were blessed by sunshine and warmth.

But I still couldn’t work out why he’d stonewalled my questioning for so long – there wasn’t the slightest sign of snow, so why couldn’t he have just told me the weather would be fine?

It’s only now, gazing out at a sky that’s flipped from blue to grey to white and back again for the last few weeks and in no way resembles the sky at this time last year or the year before, that the penny has finally dropped. And so, while I muse upon my gratitude for all the help I had from too many people to mention, I should probably thank my beloved husband for resisting the temptation to change his mind.