So we totally got married!
Anecdotes and some pictures follow, but for the full sets…
Click here to see photos from the UK wedding at Highfield Park, Hampshire, or click here to order photos from Photobox.
Click here to see photos from the Malaysian celebrations .
Click here to see photos from our honeymoon in Borneo.
Here we go…
It’s been the most miraculous few weeks. Here’s Armand’s recounting.
Friday, 9 October 2009
Made it out to Old Basing as preparations for the wedding reached their final stages. Months of managing suppliers, building ever growing Google Docs, elaborate budgeting and all the rest of it were coming to a head. Amanda and I made a trip or two out to the venue to deliver final bits and pieces (favours, seating plans, photo montages etc) before retiring back to Whytegates for tea and cake with the Danes ahead of the wedding rehearsal at St Mary’s with Father Andrew. 5pm neared… and my family had gotten stuck in traffic, sadly not making it for the rehearsal… but this was mostly logistics in any event, and was followed by drinks at Whytegates (Amanda’s family home) and then dinner at Barton’s Mill with my family and best men as Amanda dinnered with the Danes and her family at another village pub, the Bolton Arms. Whilst there was absolutely nothing stressful about the evening – lots of smiles and happiness and anticipation – there was no doubt some day-before nerves going on. Was great to have a quiet drink with Damo and Matt, Sheila, Dave, Arvind & Simran and some of the Danes from Amanda’s family (Jokke, Thomas, Matilde) before collapsing around midnight.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Started early for me. 6am, up and excited (and a little anxious, I guess!) ahead of the big day. Tried to get a bit more sleep but finally gave up at 7am and went for a (slightly treacherous) run – there were few paths marked out so was just jogging randomly cross country, trying to not let my ankles give way in random rabbit holes!
This was followed by breakfast with the family and final preparations for the day, which included a careful shave, less careful shirt ironing (I’m really not good at this), and much helium balloon inflating. Richard helped us prep the cars with purple ribbon, James taught me how to tie balloons to ribbon (something I’d never before managed) and Sarah arrived to help weight them in clumps around the room. James and I hooked the Wii up and prepped the games room as the venue finalised the table arrangements. I didn’t stop moving, even when there was little need for it – as you’d expect nervous energy kept everything moving quickly. Lunch was skipped (after a substantial breakfast, it wasn’t really needed) and we headed to the church an hour ahead of time. James and Richard ushed like kings, and Robin, Sheila, Arvind and Damo and Matt arrived to back them up closer to the kick off time.
Greeting everyone was amazing; the excitement (mostly mine, but a lot shared by our loved ones) was palpable and the atmosphere electric. Around 2.50pm, I headed into the church to stand at my mark and anticipate Amanda’s arrival. Standing in front of the congregation of close friends and family was exhilarating; wonderful to see everyone and amazing to have such an event for us witnessed by them all.
Just before 3pm Father Andrew arrived, letting me know that I was lucky to have both a bride and him (he’d got the time wrong in his diary and was planning on being there an hour late until his wife spotted the collection of people around the church!!)… and the service started. Amanda walked in and the grin and excitement that had been present in some form all day suddenly had a focal point. No doubt every husband would say this of his wife, but I was utterly floored by her elegance and beauty as she walked up the aisle with her brother, perfect in every way. I’d somehow avoided any nerves to this point but started to get slightly anxious here, until James gave me her hand – at which point I noticed her nerves and I took a decision to be strong for this woman who would be my wife, smiled and held her hand firmly and calmly and with immense pride and joy. A feeling that will no doubt remain with me for the rest of my life. I had only a vague impression of the rest of the congregation (much as I love my friends and family, my attention was elsewhere for those minutes) but I’m told that the look on my face gave a very clear sense of exactly how happy and excited I was at what was about to happen.
The readings were delivered by Sheila and Luke. Sheila read ‘Today‘ (penultimate poem on that site) – an anonymous poem that captures much of the essence of how close Amanda and I feel to each other, and the happiness we feel at coming together. The bible reading by Luke was 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 – which talks of the power of love. Father Andrew’s sermon talked to the impact he felt from the presence of our friends and family, and of the evident love we had for each other before he conducted the service and we exchanged rings. Amanda had arranged with Marion and Pob that they would perform ‘A Whole New World‘, from Aladdin, listed in the programme as ‘Panis Angelicus‘ — a very different tune! A lovely surprise, a song Amanda and I both love. Our mums witnessed our signatures… and that was it! We were totally married.
The grins did not fade for a moment as we processed out of the church for a photo session with our excellent photographer and family and friends, which Robin facilitated with discreet shouting as we posed in the late-summer sunshine that had graced the afternoon. The four bridesmaids flanked Amanda, decked out in beautiful handmade dresses painstakingly crafted for the occasion by Moster and Hanne (with the input of the girls, naturally!).
The drive over (capably handled by Richard in his new Mazda 6 after I gave up the plan to drive us in Tomlins’ Aston — too risky given the heady mood!) was a tizz of emotions – Richard providing a great counterpoint to Amanda and my exhilirated excitement with the wisdom of one who has been through the exact same set of feelings the year before.
Late summer sun graced us as we drew up to Highfield Park and our Pimms was taken on the lawn as the guests arrived at the venue. Our very capable photographer took a bunch of spectacular photos in the beautiful late summer sunshine as we chatted to friends, still grinning inanely and totally exhilarated.
Eventually, Amanda threw the bouquet, caught by her chief bridesmaid, the lovely Matilde (only 15, but clearly setting ambitions!) even as friends of ours more of age of potential marriage shied away from the potential catch!
Our harpist provided a lovely wave of background music as we chatted and photographs were taken.
Damian struck the gavel and we found our seats for dinner. We’d named the tables after different types of jam and had a lovely seating plan put together (photo, link). We did our best to make our rounds of the tables, even as our guests tried to guess our combined weight in a bid to win the jam in our menu-card quiz (I was lifted and inspected by many – my recent weightloss making it harder to gauge my status!).
The speeches were… spectacular. James welcomed me graciously into the family and explained the excitement they felt at having us come together, as a couple and into their family. The Danish family, led by Moster and Annie, delivered a moving speech and a spectacular song written especially for the occasion. Damian spoke emotionally of the friendship we’ve shared, paraphrasing Iggy Pop. After dessert, I made my efforts at speechifying, with the relatively straightforward job of thanking people and telling of the greatness of my wife. Matt followed me, telling of my smoothness and keeping me perfectly on edge whilst delivering a moving tribute and never exceeding the bounds of propriety. Arvind’s spectacular closing speech took us to 10.15, using Superman as a metaphor for me, and drawing entertaining and profound insights into my relationship with Amanda. I, for one, was rapt, and I know a number of the audience were in stark disbelief that we’d held everyone’s interest as late as we had!
No time to regain composure; we quickly totted up the quiz scores (slightly accurately) and awarded the jam, cut the beautiful cake that Rosemary had crafted for us (photo) – I genuinely thought the flowers were real until closer inspection revealed the detailed sugarwork Rosemary had put in!
…and then a dash to the dance floor where my friend Ben (of Urusen) had set up for us to perform Impossibly together, a song which has always spoken to me — Ben originally wrote it as he failed to court a girl he had a crush on at school. For me, it expresses the impact meeting Amanda had on me – stirring a longing I didn’t know I had, and a complete lack of knowledge as to what to do about it. Until eventually… Anyway, I sang through to the first chorus with Ben and then put the guitar away and danced with my wife. It was magical.
More dancing, an electric lightshow and capable DJ-ing followed, before sparklers came out and the delicious cake and some needed late night salty food. Following a quick repeat performance of Impossibly, Amanda and I snuck off, confident we’d get the chance to bid our farewells at the breakfast the following day… and just like that, the wedding day was over! Exhilirated, excited, thrilled to have my wife by my side. A lovely way to round off a perfect day.
The day after kicked off with a full cooked breakfast (my diet went on hold from this point till the end of the honeymoon…), after which we bid farewell to all and headed over to Whytegates for a download with Amanda’s family and to open a few gifts. Still happy, I made use of my freshly acquired driving license to get Amanda home to London, where we repeated the process with my family and finalised packing ahead of…
…the flight to Malaysia. Long, made marginally more comfortable as SIA’s A380 is significantly more comfortable than the aging 747s in use by MAS an others. My eBook reader continued to prove useful as sleep evaded me for most of the flight (Amanda too, daytime flights are a pest), but we happily deconstructed the wedding further and continued grinning, in between watching silly films (Ice Age 3 – bad, Angels and Demons – better than expected, The Hangover – not as good as they hype). Eventually home, by which point it was…
We were immediately greeted by tonnes of excited family. Aunts and cousins had arrived at the house and my Dad proudly gave us a tour of the garden Aunty Narindar had sculpted (amongst a dozen other bits of home improvement my parents had commissions in anticipation of the nuptials). Whilst family catching up was happening, we downloaded Chris’ spectacular photos from the UK wedding and arranged to have some prints made (thanks to Sheila), whilst Aunty Sharm helped parents grapple with the seating plan and Ashvina made name cards and sorted out photo montages (that Lilt had done so ably for us in the UK). We also met Jovita, the tireless wedding planner that had been supporting my parents with every step of the process. Eventually, we headed over to our hotel (and the venue for the wedding) after borrowing Mum’s care and driving ourselves back, and collapsed.
We woke early and sorted ourselves out ahead of the big KL day of the wedding – proceedings started as soon as we arranged for our luggage to be moved to the new room (we were provided a suite for the night of the Malaysian reception!) and made our way home. We were greeted by a host of unusually punctual family, and there was much hugging and further grinning. My parents had arranged for Father Michael Raymond to oversee a blessing, and my cousin Shayna had got her friends Steven & I-Ping to be our photographers. James had flown over the day before as well and so was rushing around meeting everyone, representing all of Amanda’s family. My mother read the same passage from Corinthians here, and the service was brief but perfectly formed – Father Michael had a confident and reassuring tone and was surprisingly on the money with his assessment of us despite only having met us some 15 minutes before conducting the service.
After some champagne, photos and toasts, were were off to Kanna’s curry house, our local banana leaf restaraunt for a roti canai breakfast, one of my favourite things and a lovely informal way to spend the morning with the family who had attended the blessing.
After that – siesta was on the agenda, but I used much of the time revising my speech for an audience that knew us on the whole slightly less well than the UK crowd before a trip back to the hotel and prep once again for the evening.
On arrival at the ballroom in the evening, we were immediately whisked off for some incredibly cheesey but quite good posed photographs before we welcomed people for a couple of hours. The photo montages Ashivna had assembled following Ivan, Geeta & the rest of the family’s tireless scanning, incorporating photos of Amanda’s friends and family too, were on proud display in reception, as well as the prints of Chris’s and Onkel’s photos from London, and my cousins Geets and Shayna helped people give gifts and find their tables.
The meal was special here again. Where in the UK we had a traditional Beef Wellington, in Malaysia I was keen to avoid the traditional 8 course Chinese banquet and we’d selected instead an inspired Indian fusion menu. Of course, as in England, little time for eating as we rotated around the tables for food – we’d named the tables after signficant places to us for this reception – so we had talking points even when we didn’t know the tables quite so well. Of course my family were strategically placed around the room and acting as spectacular hosts.
The speeches came around again; my Dad delivered the perfect host’s welcome, James expressed his happiness for Amanda and myself and delivered a welcome to his family and the best wishes of all the Browns in England and the Danish family. Sheila delivered a moving tribute, having been promoted to “best man” for this leg of the wedding before I delivered my expanded tribute to Amanda. All the while, Arvind ably MC-ed and we seemed to hold the attention of the room well, despite concerns that the KL attention span would not match the UKs…
After this, we cut the cake – Aunty Ann had organised it and it was pretty impressive – an exact replica of the picture we’d sent suggesting it should look “a bit like this”! Shortly after, the first dance (I didn’t play it this time but did introduce Impossibly again), and then everyone was ready for dancing. There were many personalities on, from Shayna and her determination to party, Leslie and his incredible energy, Uncle Naidu and his trademark moves — he even got James sampling some traditional Indian dance! And of course I chipped in with my standard ‘big fish, little fish’ school of dance moves and low-altitude dancing. Many people left relatively soon after the dancing began; after all it was a big night for a Wednesday and many had travelled some considerable distance (Singapore, Penang, Ipoh, Ampang etc) to be there. Eventually, the night wound down with Arvind and James (and Shayna and Leslie and others) leading further dancing in KL whilst Amanda and I collapsed, properly tired…
15th October 2009 – 25th October
And just like that, it was all over. Months of planning… you’d think it’d be an anticlimax, but it really, really wasn’t. We were (are!) just completely over the moon, happy, loved and in love, having had an amazing celebration with the most amazing friends and family.
The next few days were as perfect as the wedding celebrations; a day’s shopping and relaxing in KL, four nights in Kota Kinabalu including trips to Manukan and Mamutik islands (we were on a boat! twice!), a night in Sandakan including a comedy heritage walk, a night in Sepilok and some spectacular Orang-Utans, 2 nights at the amazing Sipadan-Kapalai dive resort where we had a honeymoon chalet and were greeted with bougavillea arranged into hearts on the bed, snorkelled with millions of fish, and had sea-turtles swim by to bid us good night each evening.
The main ‘event’ outside us having a spectacular time was Sheila’s announcement of her engagement to Dave!! Needless to say, we’re ecstatic about this (although we’re also happy its not us that are the organisers of their shindig next year!). Dave’s a great guy and look forward to having him as a brother-in-law.
A big thank you to everyone for the parts they played in making our celebration so special. It’s a day that will stay with us forever.