The Year of the Wedding: Part Two

Reading time: 5-7 minutes
Recommended accompaniment(s): A large gin and tonic, served with a slice of cucumber and an environmentally-friendly straw

[Catch up on Part One]

Since my last linguistic foray into the ever-embarrassing world of British hen dos, I have attended two more weddings and one more hen. So that’s now three out of three hen dos complete, and two out of six weddings yet to come (not that I’m counting). I have also, already, got three weddings firmly in the diary for next year, one of which I have been asked to be bridesmaid – totally unexpected and totes emosh (another blog post in itself quite frankly). But before I commence my future bridesmaid taskettes, I must – as promised in Part One – divulge my second wedding-related misfortune of 2019.

Having been asked back in 2017 to be bridesmaid to my lovely friend Sophie, I had been waiting for the big day to come around like a child (or myself) waiting for Christmas. Then one sunny Saturday in June the day was finally here. Woohoo! The morning spent getting ready seemed to go very smoothly indeed. In many ways I was the model ’maid. I was first to arrive for hair and makeup; I came armed with fizz; I volunteered my painting services to the bride’s naked toes. I did have to de-top as soon as I arrived – as I came dressed in a white over-the-head strappy that would have wreaked havoc if taken off post-makeup application – much to the in-room photographer’s alarm, but, in all honesty, he was much more interested in catching the kilt-clad groom in a gust of wind, if you know what I mean, so I don’t think it caused too much of a ruckus. And anyway, as soon as we were all present we were given goodie bags by the bride, containing a fortuitous dressing gown that covered up my bra, restored my modesty and, hopefully, improved all future photographs.

With my hair and makeup completed early on, I had a good few hours to gossip, giggle and guzzle multiple glasses of champagne. It’s a hard life being a bridesmaid, let me tell you. Sophie, bless her, didn’t want to drink because of her nerves, but when a large gin and tonic arrived to our room from a mystery admirer (please Lord let it be from the groom), she couldn’t resist but take a long, lengthy, gulp. As she put down the glass and declared that first sip sound of ‘ahh,’ I asked her if she would like me to add any of the tonic water, by its side. Her eyes grew wide, her complexion rosy, she looked down at the neat gin she had just, moments before, necked. She laughed. We all laughed. Then I poured the entirety of the Fever Tree bottle into her glass. Responsible bridesmaid? Tick.

As the morning came to a close the ceremony drew ever nearer. We were made up, our hair was perfectly preened, and all we had left to do was get into our dresses. And this was stressing me out. Having tried on the dress maybe three times prior to the wedding, I, and everyone else, had become acquainted with the villainous zip. It was tough; it was sticky; it certainly didn’t respond well to human hands. It was, let’s just say, a wee bit problematic. So I was keen to get into it as early on as possible, to give myself the longest possible time with which to ease and entertain the zip up. Everyone else, it seems, was on a wavelength much more ‘chill’. I tried to meet them there, for as long as I possibly could, but after fifteen minutes of pacing and checking the time, I opened the wardrobe and pulled out my floor-length frock. This was it. This was the moment. I was going to put the ruddy thing on.

The other bridesmaids joined me in the bathroom. Getting dressed was most certainly a three-man job. I first attempted to get in feet first – to save the hair and face – but posteriorly this was not a feasible option. So we abandoned ship and went in over the head. For some reason I held my breath and shut my eyes while positioned like a stationary rocket, to try to slide in more easily. As I opened my eyes, and took in some air, the dress was on and my hair was untouched. First hurdle: flawlessly complete. The second and final challenge was to do the bloody thing up. This is the moment we had all been dreading. And it quickly steamrolled into a nightmare we could never have dreamt up.

I held my arms up in the air while Claire pulled the sides of the dress together and Sarah, simultaneously, pulled down on the material below the zip and tugged up the fastening itself. This needed serious concentration and teamwork. The zip began its ascent armpit-bound, in a not-too-turbulent transition. Sarah expertly manoeuvred over the join in the fabric – the danger zone, if you will – with ease and grace. Our tensions subsided; we were on the home straight. 

Then, about two inches below the finish line, the zip decided veer off course. It became caught in the fabric; its journey to the summit suspended. The tension in the room returned. We decided the best course of action was to retrace our steps, a couple of centimetres or so, to disentangle the fabric, and then resume our valiant climb. We went down, but this only pulled in more fabric. We went back up, and even more became entrapped. And then, very unaccommodatingly, the zip decided he’d had enough. This up- and down-motion had tired him out; he was not, with all his might, going to move any more.

Tension transitioned to panic. The Mother of the Bride was called into the room. An emergency was announced. 

With just fifteen minutes to go until show time, the other bridesmaids, mother, and bride needed to get dressed too, so I was passed on to the unsuspecting hair and makeup artists. Greeted with an increasingly sweaty armpit it didn’t take them long to assess the situation. We had hairpins, tweezers, and all manner of appliances to try to prise the zip free, albeit to no avail. The scissors came out, as a last solution, but no amount of interior trimming had any impact whatsoever; it was stuck, I was stuck, but the show had to go on.

A safety pin became the next fixation, in order to join the flap at the top. Alas, of course, one was nowhere to be found. With my arm by my side one would never have known the mishap, so this is how I was to spend the duration of the day. This was actually surprisingly easy, and only required a slight toning down of my dancing to YMCA, Mr Brightside, and (hen do favourite) I Predict A Riot.

As midnight struck the dance floor emptied and we headed back to our rooms. I tasked my boyfriend with the mission of getting me out of my dress. He trained as an engineer, after all, and so would make light work of the unmovable fastening. Twenty minutes later, with tweezers, eyelash curlers, and anything else remotely tool-like from my makeup bag scattered around us like a pair of beauty junkies, we headed down to reception to find something stronger. Not whisky, unfortunately, but that might have made the whole fiasco a little less painful.

The night-hours receptionist was really rather handy. He got for us scissors, pliers, and, in fact, a fully-fitted-out tool box. Gijs started with the pliers, aiming to bend the metal slider cleanly off the troublesome teeth. If anything this held its grip tighter. Then came the scissors: he was going to have to hack. He started off tentative, not wanting to harm me and only minimally disfigure the dress. This tactic, though admirable, was not getting me any closer to freedom.

Opportunely, fellow bridesmaid Sarah entered reception from the bar. She saw the scissors in Gijs’ hand; his pained, nervous expression; and took matters into her own hands. Literally. (After all, she did used to be a hairdresser.) After a few savage snips the zip was cut loose; the fastening released; Django was finally unchained. The dress, on the other hand, was ruined. 

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The Year of The Wedding: Part One

It’s official. The invites are in. The RSVPs have been returned. The outfits have been planned. I have reached the age in which everyone I know (only partially exaggerated) is getting married. And this age in question is twenty-seven. I have come to the conclusion that the number twenty-seven is in some way symbolic in the matrimonial occasion, and that, having achieved this number of candles on the cake, my year was always destined to be ruled by hen parties, marriage ceremonies and hideous amounts of Prosecco.

My sister got married four days after her twenty-seventh birthday. There’s that rom-com starring Katherine Heigl as a perennial bridesmaid, 27 Dresses. The number twenty-seven is a perfect cube: 3(3 x 3 x 3) – isn’t that harmonious? And the very first result search when Googling ‘number twenty seven’ is Number 27 Floral Design: A natural, unstructured approach to styling flowers for weddings. Spooky.

We may be two-thirds of our way through 2019 (yikes), but I count my progression differently: I am two-thirds of my way through 2019’s hen dos (of which I am attending three), but only one-third of my way through 2019’s weddings (of which there, for me, are six). (And guess what happens if you deduct one from the number of hen dos and add it instead to the number of weddings…?) So all in all I am thoroughly immersed in my wedding-heavy twenty-seventh year. And so far it’s been rather entertaining.

As you can imagine the hen dos often bring out the biggest laughs, and the hilarity has been heightened thus far due to the addition of mothers, aunties and honorary both on the guest lists. This adds a whole ’nother dimension to the traditional bride-to-be send offs, especially combined with the exploitation of penis straws, Prosecco Pong, and a penniless student moonlighting as a rather excitable nude life model. The inebriated shrieks by the over fifties of “drink the willy” will forever be etched on my memory, as will the image of a blindfolded soon-to-be aunt-in-law cupping her way to a concealed ball of Sellotape (which, much to her dismay, was hidden behind the ear – not a more southerly part – of the very naked life model).

Of the four events I have attended this year so far I have only experienced two embarrassing situations, which is somewhat of a relief and in many ways a bloody miracle. If one hadn’t already grasped, embarrassing myself in public has become something of a recurring problem, so I am mightily thankful that half of the occasions to date have gone by without so much of a hitch (in both senses of the word, come to think of it).

First up was the travel sickness. If you have not yet read, or have somehow forgotten, about my less-than-savoury experience on a coach ride from Nice to Lyon back in summer 2017, I suggest you refresh your memory with a quick glance over previous post Did She Get On The Plane? (and pay particular attention to paragraph two). This provides both a foundation of understanding for my sensitivity to travel, as well as a much worse example that may invoke – of the coming story – a better view of me. 

The main problem at this hen do (the first of three) was that we had to take a coach from our lovely rental house in Eggleton (between Hereford and the Malvern Hills) to go on a boozy night out in Cheltenham. This coach ride took one hour each way, which is approximately fifty-five minutes more than I’d like to be spending on a coach, on winding roads, on even a tee-total weekend. An added annoyance was the fact that I, for some unsubstantiated reason, thought that this journey was going to take half an hour; a still unenjoyable but certainly less nauseating travel time. When, on our way to the city, the half-hour mark passed, I was left with an uncertain road ahead, and at the same time was being passed more than enough unidentified alcoholic concoctions in dinky plastic cups. I chose to hold onto mine, at a distance of about twenty centimetres from my nose, to reduce any potent wafts coming my way, and as an attempt at damage limitation for my outfit were the coach to mount another speed bump at breakneck pace. We eventually made it to Cheltenham city centre and I disembarked the vehicle with an even paler than normal complexion. As all good hens would, I gave my untouched drink to the pregnant bridesmaid and hoped she would get rid of it for me. (I think the great aunt finished it off pretty swiftly.) Part One of the coach ride had been completed, sans any sicky situations. We now had seven hours of drinking to endure, before being collected by our driver who was to deposit us back at home, safe and sound.

Following a cocktail masterclass, three-course dinner and numerous dance-floor position changes, we filed back onto the coach – now a different, slightly less robust, model – and began our north-westerly descent. With foresight I chose to sit at the front, and was grateful to be joined by fellow hen Claire. She soon fell fast asleep and I fixated my focus on the digital clock directly ahead. On departure it read 01:25. I knew I just had to survive until 02:25. Spoiler alert: I did not make it.

I decided to count down in chunks of five minutes. One-minute chunks seemed far too overwhelming and slow; twelve lots of five seemed much more manageable an exercise. 01:30 eventually arrived, mocking my desperation in its green fluorescent light. 01:35 took even longer to appear, but its presence marked the accomplishment of one-sixth of the torturous trek. 01:40, 01:45 and 01:50, too, came and went, as did 01:55, but that was somewhat of a blur. 01:57 was an important moment as that was the point in which I knew it was going to happen. You see, I’ve become very sensitive to the individual pre-vomit signals, now, so I know which sensations are false alarms and which ones mean business. And at 01:57, ladies and gentlemen, the fizzing in my salivary glands meant business. 

Turning to my right to face Claire I realised that she was still very much asleep. I nudged her with my elbow and made strange noises from my tightly shut mouth. My memory is of something resounding, “muregh eerugh.” She slowly awakened and smiled sweetly towards me. “Hey, how’s it going?” she asked, wiping the sleep away from her mascara-encrusted eye. I didn’t want to risk opening my mouth so widened my eyes and stared demonically at her, which I felt unequivocally expressed, “I’m going to be sick. Like, right now this second. Please help me.” Perhaps my days of amateur dramatics were behind me; she didn’t have the foggiest what on earth was going on. With no other option I risked opening my mouth, for the shortest period possible. “Sick bag! Sick bag!” She quickly understood. Leaning to the driver she asked if he had a sick bag. “No,” came the accommodating reply. I widened my eyes once more, this time not as any sort of communication but in pure, unfiltered terror. If I did not get off this bus now it was going to get very messy indeed. I managed “I need to get off,” and Claire dutifully instructed the driver. Performing a near-emergency stop (I’m glad he understood the gravity of the situation), I was practically flung to a standing position ahead of the door, and squeezed through the gap as soon as it was open enough to allow me to. In all the panic I didn’t think to move away from the open door of the coach, and proceeded to throw up, three times, five feet away from the disconcerted driver, and unflatteringly illuminated by the coach’s interior strip lighting.

As the ailment began to subside the lovely pregnant bridesmaid came to see if I was ok. “Can I get you anything?” she asked tentatively. “Water?” She went back on board to investigate, and reappeared with her hands full. Alas water had not been brought onto the Hen Do Express, but a pocket tissue did help to clean me up and bide me a little time before facing the other hens. I politely declined the pre-mixed vodka and lemonade. Getting back onto the coach was really rather embarrassing. I made it very clear, for the remainder of the journey and the party itself, that it was travel sickness – not drink related – and that I was really a very mature and sensible young lady. They all nodded in agreement the following morning as I handed out penis straws for our morning cup of tea. Gratefully last night’s shenanigans were never spoken of again.

And as for the second misfortune… I think I’ll save that one for next time.

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