Friday July 20th was a great family day – the wedding day of Sarah (my eldest daughter) to Paul.
Sarah told Paul about Andrea a few months ago. She told me they were having a conversation about little known things about each others families. She had wanted to tell Paul for a while, but the opportunity hadn’t arisen. So this seemed like an opportunity. She opened a page of this blog and said … that’s my dad.
Sarah said that she thinks Paul didn’t think she could tell him anything that was surprising. But he was … well … surprised. I don’t know if Paul will ever want to meet Andrea … that’s up to him completely … but it’s good that he knows that Andrea exists and that he isn’t totally mind blown by the concept.
Sarah and my wife Sally had done pretty much all of the organising of wedding things with a lot of help from friends and family and even some from myself and Paul.
And, just as it should have been, it was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. Pretty much every moment went smoothly, and even the weather took a turn for the better.
In amongst all of the regular things that happen during the run-up to the occasion and on the day itself, there were a few not-quite-so regular things happened.
Tatyana, one of Sarah’s closest friends, and also a great family friend and a bridesmaid was staying with us.
She volunteers to take care of the camera and take pictures over the coming few days.
Thursday morning we ferry things from home to the venue of the wedding reception. It’s at Beaumont in Old Windsor.
Beaumont is now a hotel, conference centre and venue for events such as wedding receptions. In the not-too-distant past it was a venue for IT (Information Technology)training courses courses and I spent about 21 years of my working life there teaching things ranging from COBOL in the late seventies and early eighties through to database management and XML in the early part of the 21st century, so the place.
Before being an IT training college the building was a school run by the Jesuits.
In the days of IT training, the school chapel housed mainframe computers and had false floors and ceilings hiding the architectural beauty of the building. These days, the interior chapel building is visible again and used for events such as wedding receptions.
On arrival we moved things to Tudor 2ready for the staff there to put onto tables in the chapel the next morning.
Flower vases are unpacked and candles assembled.
The candles have a mind of their own. However carefully and firmly we press them into the adhesive in the candelabra, they insist on leaning over at all kinds of crazy angles as soon as you turn your back on them.
Jars are filled with sweets (candy) and boxes of cigars are set out. Little blackboards are decorated … one for the sweets and one for cigars.
A photograph of each guest is attached to a small stand.
Paul and his mum and dad arrive, having driven down from the north west of England.
A little later we head for Windsor and a rehearsal for the service at Windsor parish church and meet up with bridesmaids, ushers, best man and priest.
The rehearsal goes smoothly.
Sarah and two of the three bridesmaids head off for a session of nail polishing at a nearby salon. Sally and I head off to help ferry the wedding cake from a friends house to the reception venue.
Later in the afternoon, Sally decides she’d like to wear some nail polish, though she doesn’t usually. We’d already talked about this possibility a while back and since Andrea has the largest selection of polishes in the household, I’m asked to provide the polish and to do the painting.
My own recommendation was red … I like the colour, it applies easily and seems to dry faster than a lot of other colours.
Sally’s preference was something more dark pink than red. So in the end Rimmel Pure Sin was the selection. Two coats.
Tatyana has some really nice shiny, sparkly red nail polish. Somehow or other I’m asked if I could paint her nails as well. So, with a certain amount of trepidation on my part, it’s two coats of red for Tatyana. So far as we know, Tatyana doesn’t know about Andrea … only that I have unusual expertise in nail polish.
On the morning of the wedding people arrive to do makeup for Sarah, and also her hair.
The makeup lady has even more makeup brushes than me.
Just hair for Sally, Katie and Tatyana.
The doorbell sounds. It must be the photographer.
But no … a man to replace a cracked window. This is a bit of a surprise and I explain it’s not a very convenient moment. Sally chats with him a while and in he comes and gets the job done without any hassle and in a very short time.
A glass of champagne and strawberries.
Sally asks what eye shadow I have … and so one of my biggest jobs for the morning include applying shadow and mascara to Sally’s eyes. And then helping finish off applying shadow to Tatyana’s.
sally blinks a lot when having mascara applied … so I’m glad that I have plenty of cotton wool buds.
We come to an amicable agreement not to even attempt doing the lower lashes.
Katie and Tatyana also borrow some of makeup brushes and Tatyana borrows my eyelash curlers.
Sally’s nails needed a third coat.
It was a little surreal. My guess is that most father’s of the bride don’t spend quite so much of their time painting the ladies nails and eyes.
I have to say, though, that it was great fun to do. Much more enjoyable than the earlier job that I’d been given of cutting the grass on the front lawn.
The photographer arrives and begins snapping things.
Katie helps Sarah into the dress.
The car arrives.
The bridesmaids get into the taxi and head for the church.
Sarah and I relax in the back of the car. We wait a few minutes and the driver sets off.
A few people wave as we pass them and in almost no time there we are, walking down the church aisle.
Hymns, a short message on selfless love, readings, songs, rings, registry signing, vows and there they are … Mr and Mrs and a chance to begin to say hello to everyone.
A short walk and then some photographs near Windsor Castle.
Then to the reception.
Drinks. Canapés. Photographs. Chats.
Introductions. Speeches. Food and wine.
Coffee. Cheese. Dancing and chatting.
The candles have survived.
And Katie enjoys the sweets.
The chapel windows are enchanting and change as the lighting changes.
Part way through the evening Sally says that she hopes that I don’t mind, but that she mentioned the Andrea part of me to a close friend of ours, Rose.
Rose and her husband Brian are amongst our very closest friends. We’ve known them for more than all of our married lives. Rose and Brian introduced Sally and I to each other.
When Sally first found out about Andrea, I said that she was free to tell anyone that she wanted to, and so no, I didn’t mind.
We’d actually been thinking about telling both Rose and Brian for a long time.
The challenge, though, as ever, is never being sure how people will react. Of not wanting to risk a deep and dear friendship.
Sally says that Rose was surprised.
Later in the evening, talking with Brian I mention that I’m a transvestite.
He’s surprised. But I don’t think appalled.
We talk quite a bit about things.
It’s not an easy thing. But as always, being able to talk about things is one more little burden in life less to carry.
Our friendship remains.
For Brian, I understand that there are challenges in all of this. His Christian faith will, I think make it challenging.
We talked about this a little.
I shared some of the things that I find difficult with some aspects of Christian beliefs in some, though not all, parts of the Christian Church.
Things like the idea that maybe almost everyone that ever lived could be destined for an eternity in hell.
The view that gender is a fixed thing … male or female … with no shades of both and no transition between the two.
The subjective way that everyone interprets the Bible.
The way that same sex relationships are viewed to be wrong. Even where people love each other in a deeper and more genuine way than do some heterosexual couples.
That maybe it’s ok to be gay or lesbian and have a partner so long as there is no sex.
That it’s often ok for women to talk in church these days even though once it wasn’t.
The possibility that one day it will be possible for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to be honest about themselves in church without people in the Church feeling that such people need to be healed from some kind of an abomination.
We talk a little about what my gender means to me. About The Listening Project interview that I’d done with Katie.
Brian mentions that at one time a transgendered person came along to a church home-group that he led and also along to their church.
It was nice to know that that could happen.
Although, there was a sense that the hope of the people at the church was that the person would be healed from a whole series of hurts that they had experienced in life and also from their gender dysphoria.
I mention Brian McLaren and the book A New Kind of Christianity.
I’m glad that there’s been an opportunity to share all of this. Maybe there is something about weddings … this is the second family wedding where I’ve found myself in a similar kind of conversation.
Later in the evening I sit outside with my brothers and we discover the doors have been locked, so we walk back to the main reception to get in and then chat a while with a group of guys that are there for a wedding the next day. And then it’s time to sleep.
Saturday and we meet people at breakfast and say hello to the newly weds.
Back home we prepare for a barbecue. It’s great to see people from our families again for a few more hours.
As the day progresses we say g’bye as people leave.
My brother Pete and his wife Mary, his son and his son’s wife (Paul and Jenni) spend the night so it’s great to see a bit more of them.
A wonderful, wonderful few days.