(*After The Ball by Charles K Harris)wedding and a half.
Despite my careful planning the journey into Sydney's mysterious Sutherland Shire - mysterious for those of us who live outside it - was not without incident. We reached the boundaries of the Shire without difficulty but once within the region a foreboding overcame me as I began to notice that the street names did not accord with my planning notes. It took me several minutes before I realised that my planning was based on a misreading of the street directory. I had read the directory as though I was entering the Shire via Tom Ugly's Bridge when in fact I had crossed over on the Captain Cook Bridge. Ooops!
How to get from the western half to the eastern half where we needed to be in less than half an hour was the problem. Somehow we managed the feat through a combination of Ae's hair raising navigation and my sense of intuition which was basically to turn left whenever she said 'right' and right when she said 'left'. That we managed to arrive at the church with five minutes to spare was a testament to the light Easter Saturday traffic and my cautious allocation of travel time.
I need not have panicked however as the bride was twenty-five minutes late and we ended up with half an hour to spare before the ceremony's commencement.
The church was a modest looking building - almost like a scout hut - set back from a quiet residential street. For one moment I thought we had arrived at a youth camp. Young casually dressed people mingled around an assortment of vehicles that would have gladdened 'Fonzie's' heart.
Inside the Church I noticed what I imagined was the Groom's supporters adjusting their Boutonnieres. The youngest looking of the 'groomsmen' in fact turned out to be the presiding Minister, a good looking young man who giggled a lot and called the Groom by the most casual of nicknames throughout the ceremony. Needless to say, the ceremony picked up on the casual atmosphere and was embellished by a rock band and a quartet of singers who sounded like they were first round eliminated refugees from the Hillsong mega-church.
I (and my group of friends) felt ancient and embarrassingly overdressed amongst this young lot. The congregant sitting to my right wearing blue jeans and an open necked white shirt which appeared snatched that morning straight from the laundry basket was typical of the majority dress code.
Despite the (to us) very modern service - where was the Altar? - there a was a considerable amount of old fashioned submission too. I lost count of the number of times the Bride promised 'to submit' to her husband. At one point I was alarmed to ponder whether the Bride would be expected to demonstrate her 'submission' there and then. Thankfully that was not required.
The tail end of the ceremony was nearly drowned out by the sound of Fonzie's vehicles outside the Church warming up in anticipation of whisking the bridal party away. At ceremony's end, the Church kindly laid out tables of potato crisps, jelly babies and canned soft drinks in the surrounding grounds where we chatted in disappearing sunshine followed by spitting rain as sunset drew close. By the start of the reception, at a beachside restaurant some kilometres away, spitting rain had given way to heavy showers and the guests, casually and formally dressed alike, arrived bedraggled and drenched.
The casual and friendly tone of the service continued into the reception. The table allocations had been well thought through and we found ourselves seated with like minded, and like dressed guests. We gossiped like old friends, which is what we are and reminisced about our forty years' long friendships. From where we sat all the speeches were inuadible but evidently hilarious to judge by the gales of laughter from those seated within hearing of what was said.
Ae enjoyed the reception and especially the wine - too much so I'd say - as she engaged in a forty-five minutes long one person debate about the existence of heaven whilst I drove us silently home through the pouring rain. Clearly the giggling, youthful Evangelical Minister had won Ae over completely.
Oh, and in case you are in doubt, I had a wonderful time.