We were, of course, late. We started off with plenty of time, time enough to think putting the kettle on and percolating a pot was a good idea. In hindsight, it most obviously wasn’t, not least because I take an hour to drink a hot beverage and one cupped between hands instantly leads to a certain type of involved conversation during which time sort of collapses and disappears. Running out of the house, heels clip clopping on the drive way, we had the getaway vehicle in sight. But as we waited for the traffic to thin, a car bearing an old friend pulled up and the window came down. It had, of course, been a matter of years since we had last spoken, so ten happy minutes were spent skimming over and condensing life’s happenings, road-side. Eventually, with well wishes firmly conferred, we made a break for it and darted across the road. Sliding into the car and kicking off my heels – I have never been able to drive in them with any great skill – Dee said, ‘we’ve got twenty minutes.’ I put my stockinged foot down.
There wasn’t any traffic and we found where we had to be in remarkably good time. As the minutes ticked by, we stalked, unsuccessfully, an elderly couple for their park, before finding one on an adjacent street. Then it was a brisk walk which broke into a brief jog and returned to a brisk walk when shoes pinched and hemlines rose. We were certain we hadn’t made it. Waiting for the little green man to flash, we made a quick contingency plan. ‘We’ll just wait and slip in the back!’ Cresting the hill, we said, ‘it has to have started by now, we might just have to miss it.’ But then, as we teetered down the slope towards the big brick building we were bound for, there she was.
Radiant in white, waiting to make her entrance, flanked by her mother, sister and two nieces. She saw us coming down the hill and waved, told us not to worry. We minced closer, apologetically, telling her she looked beautiful because she really, absolutely, hand on heart, heart in throat, did. And we made it, after hovering with the bridal party out the back and making small talk long the lines of ‘beautiful flowers’ and ‘you look just wonderful’ as the bride tried not to cry and the bridesmaid said, as only big sisters can, ‘oh come on Joanne, don’t cry.’ We crept down the aisle as heads turned, expecting a vision in white and instead getting two apologetic twenty-something year olds in high heels and a lot of hairspray. We sat on the wrong side because the music was beginning to swell in an urgent manner and in fear of being in the aisle when the bride was, we slid into the nearest pew which happened to be on the groom’s side. But we made it. We watched an old friend in a beautiful dress marry her great love.
It was another moment in time that stitched together stories and souls, gently forced thought and made space for understanding. We get those moments, in life, and they are so often brought on by a ritual that steadies us in a context, that lets us, on whatever level we can, comprehend the big things – birth, time, love, loss. We need those rituals, as much as we change and subvert them, as much as we think we don’t. We do. We can make them ours, we can make them as unrecognisable, as ‘us’ as we want – and we do, which is great – but we need them. They give us a blueprint, they give us something to hold on to. Something to celebrate. Something to share. At the very least they make us stop and think about the big things.
And on Sunday, that big thing was one of the biggest of them all; love.