Tuesday, 21 October 2014

For Now, For Always....

If the theme of 2012 was children, and the theme of 2013 was Disney, then the theme of my life in 2014 has most definitely been weddings.

Every single day that I took off from The Lion King in the seven months I was there was for either a hen weekend or a wedding. 

The Merchandise team would turn to me for information and opinions on weddings (something that I wrote at the beginning of the year that I struggled with, and am now an expert on), and would make me perform any wedding-related clues during particularly heated games of Heads Up. (If you've never played Heads Up cancel all plans for tonight and download it immediately. I feel I should point out that every game of Heads Up is a particularly heated game. At least if I'm playing it it is.) 

I had five weddings this year. Five. 

And four of them involved my absolute best friends in the entire world. 

One of those, I am mortified and devastated to admit, I missed. I was in Florida and in my extension and therefore unable to leave. 

That was the wedding of Jiminy Cricket and Rex. I introduced them in January 2006, and did that thing that you have to do for your friends when you're sixteen, of telling them they liked each other and giving them each other's MSN messenger addresses so that they could talk on there for a while, smile shyly when they passed each other in the corridors, and eventually go to Southend Pier to discuss their mutual love of John Mayer and Matchbox Twenty. 

In the weeks leading up to the wedding that it made me feel sick to miss, I started going to speak to various characters around the parks. (This is where I regret having a Disney alias for each friend. I mean the ACTUAL Disney characters in the parks now, make sense?) I told them that I was missing my best friends' wedding because I was in Florida, and their reactions were MAGICAL. Obviously. 

I asked them to hold a sign saying "Congratulations Dean and Becky" while I took photos, and hoped that they wouldn't be annoyed that I was taking up their time like that when there was an endless queue of excited children (of all ages) waiting to meet them. 

The Princesses squealed. Chip and Dale ran in circles. Duffy jumped up and down. Alice told the entire queue. Daisy ran to get Minnie so that they could pose together, despite the fact that they had separate lines of people waiting for them. The cast members working on the Where's Perry? attraction saw my sign and asked if they could pose for me. The team working in the America pavilion in Epcot took their own photo to use for promotional material. Carol, the entertainer in The Rose and Crown, wrote and sang a song about them to the entire pub while I filmed. A girl working in the Morocco pavilion wrote Congratulations in Arabic for me and posed with her own sign. Then I sent all the pictures and the music to Dale (back to using an alias now- Dale is an actual human with a real name that I won't be revealing)- and he stayed up until 2.17am putting together the video that I sent my friends on the morning of their wedding. 

They loved it. They felt me with them for the entire day and mentioned me in the speeches. (In reality I went to the cinema on my own and sat there crying about the fact that I wasn't at the wedding. Especially when Jiminy sent me a picture of her in her dress, my eyes well up thinking about it now.)

Wedding number one down. 

(This is the link to the video, if any of you are interested. It is magical, even if I do say so myself.

The next three weddings involved hen weekends. 

The first wedding after Jiminy Cricket and Rex's was Minnie Mouse's. Minnie Mouse is ridiculously organised and had her hen weekend so far in advance that I was still in Florida and missed it. She did, however, then have a barbecue the weekend before her wedding. 

She had the women over during the day, and we had a tea party (which involved vodka in teacups and filthy games, obviously), whilst the men went out for an Indian. Then in the evening the men came back to the house, and everybody watched the football together. (Well. Not me. I was outside slurring about how much I missed Disney, I'm sure.) Then we had a barbecue and played Beer Pong. 

It was perfect, and definitely an idea I will be stealing for my wedding.

The hen weekend after that was for Madame Adelaide. 

We went to Bath for a relatively chilled weekend. We ate, drank, danced and spent a lot of time in our onesies and most of our time playing Heads Up. We got to see a beautiful city, learn Charleston, I bought my dress for the wedding, and got to know a gorgeous group of girls that I was then also lucky enough to see again a week later as we watched Madame tie the knot. 

The final hen weekend of the year was for Pumbaa.

Pumbaa's hen weekend was organised by her sister. Her sister is THE most organised person I have ever met. She's like a cross between Monica from Friends and Santa Claus. Seriously. 

Which meant that it was INSANE. It was jam packed and exciting and funny and magical, and I will be hiring Pumbaa's sister to organise my own hen weekend and my wedding. 

I could write up every second of every hen event I went to this year because I loved all three of them so much, but instead I'm going to provide you with the highlights of each one, and the things I love most about these occasions....

1. Grandparents. 

The absolute number one thing I love about hen weekends is that everyone's drunk and honest and outrageous in a way that they never normally would be- and there are normally mums and nans about to witness it. 

A few examples: 

- At Minnie's hen we played Mr and Mrs. The groom had been asked certain questions and his answers noted, then we asked the bride the same questions to see how many matched. One of the questions was: What is the groom's favourite...ahem...position? The bride answered -in front of the groom's mother- mortifying- then remembered it was her own mum that had done the interviewing! When she pointed it out her mum giggled and answered: "Thought I'd spice it up a bit babe. It is your hen." 

- At Pumbaa's hen we did It's A Knockout (which I cannot recommend enough), and as part of the warm up challenges the groom's sister had to pole dance on a man from another team. She did, she was amazing, and we won that challenge. As she walked away from the man she had stripped, taken her top off for and pole danced on, her Nana grabbed her, hugged her and said "well done, I am so proud of you." In what other situation would that happen?!

-A few minutes after the above incident, the It's A Knockout team were explaining the health and safety procedures to us, and to make it a bit more interesting for the filthy minded hens and stags (seriously, normal people become ridiculous at these events!), they made us "put one hand in the air and one on your genitalia". My favourite moment of the whole weekend, potentially just ever in my life, was when the sister of the groom, dead seriously and with a concerned look, caught her Nana's eye and said "hand on your genitalia Nan! Quickly!" 

2. Other Wedding Guests. 

This was something that I hadn't particularly thought about before this year. The three hen weekends I went to were those of my three best friends in the entire world. They are the centre of everything to me and anyone that has ever spent more than five minutes with me will have heard me talk about them. So meeting their other friends that I've spent years hearing about but never actually met was brilliant, and, clearly, these girls have excellent taste in friends so I ended up meeting some amazing people. And because hen weekends are SO full on, you end up getting to know people very quickly, and making friends easily. 

I found myself walking away from all three weekends excited to see everyone again at the wedding. 

Now they all need to hurry up and have babies so that we can be reunited again at the christening.

3. Fun- just because. 

I wrote in my last post that it is so rare for adults to do something just for the sake of fun. Obviously hen weekends happen to celebrate the fact that someone is getting married, and they take a LOT of organising, but once they're happening they are probably as close to doing something just for fun as you can get for an adult. 

I said earlier that the only time I ever booked off from The Lion King was for the sake of hen weekends and weddings. 

What a brilliant way to spend my only days off. 

I cannot think, in fact, of one other occasion in which a group of adults ranging from the ages of 20 to 70 would get together to play Pin The Pants On The Hunk, partake in a Burlesque dance class, do a "How Well Do You Know Your Friend?" quiz, dress up as brides and attempt to eat chocolate with a knife and fork, and time themselves bursting balloons attached to one another's backsides. Can you? 

4. Silliness. 

When Minnie Mouse had her hen weekend away, the one that I missed, I was in Florida. Specifically, I was in Walt Disney World- the happiest, most magical place on earth. I was with Dumbo, one of the sweetest, most magical people on earth, when I received a picture of a man. 

A very specific area of a man, to be precise. I'll let you imagine what body part it was, but I'll tell you one thing: it wasn't his face.

Receiving that picture in broad daylight in Walt Disney World whilst hanging out with Dumbo was potentially the most surreal moment of my entire life. We just don't send pictures like that to each other. 

Except, when you're on a hen weekend, you do. 

Suddenly male body parts are the funniest thing on the planet. They're on straws, part of the games, hidden in goody bags and referred to an unreasonable amount. You would never do that in real life. 


5. Gossip. 

I mentioned above that because hen weekends are quite full on, you get to know each other very quickly. The day before the most recent hen weekend I had given my number to someone and was waiting to hear from him. My memory of it is that I played it very cool and mentioned it in passing in the car on the way there. 

When I arrived at the wedding everyone that had been at the hen weekend- from the bride's colleagues and close friends to family members and groom's relations- asked whether I had seen him again yet. 

Equally I was keen to talk to people I had only met at the hen weekend about pregnancy, holidays, in  depth work issues and their love lives. 

I swear I made life long friends at these things. 

Now as magical and special as the hen weekends were, they were nothing on the weddings. 

Like with the hen celebrations, I could bore you with every second of each wedding, from having my hair styled to watching the first dances, but instead will provide you with my favourite parts....

1. The Moment The Bride Walks In. 

In the movie 27 Dresses we're told that instead of looking at the Bride when she walks in, we should look at the groom. I tested this three times this year, and can confirm it is the most magical moment of the day. 

At Minnie's wedding, it resulted in me sobbing unashamedly into Pumbaa's shoulder. At Madame Adelaide's wedding, it meant squeezing Dale's hand painfully tightly until the bridesmaid provided some comic relief by stepping on The Dress, and at Pumbaa's wedding, it meant taking a lot of deep breaths to steady myself in time for my reading. 

I guess maybe because they are my best friends, and I've spent ten years fantasising about weddings with them, it was extra special. Maybe because I've been at the end of the phone to listen to the tears of heartbreak, I've been hurt and furious on their behalf, I've told them that they deserve the best, I've reassured them It Will Happen, I've laughed and cried through He's Just Not That Into You with them approximately five million times, and I've told them how wonderful they are, watching the faces of the three luckiest men on earth register just how lucky they are was extra special. 

Plus my best friends are the three most beautiful women ever, which probably helped. 

Still, next time you're at a wedding, watch the groom's face. If you're not overwhelmed with love and magic, make a little noise when they ask whether anyone knows of any reason why the two of them cannot be joined in holy matrimony....

2. Confetti. 

When I was little I always thought confetti was a surprise for the bride and groom. When you look at pictures they always look shocked and happy, as though it has come out of nowhere over their heads. 

In reality, it really makes me laugh. The bride more or less announces "it's time to throw colourful paper over me now, so I'll wait here, you get into two lines. When you're ready, I'll walk down the middle of the two lines, and you must throw your confetti as I get to you, okay? It must be right, because the photographer only has one chance." 

Then the couple walk down, everybody throws it, and they look surprised and happy for the photo. Brilliant. 

3. The Speeches. 

I think the speeches are my favourite part of the day. I'm lucky in that I've only been to four weddings for the whole day as an adult, and every single speech at every single wedding has been heart warming, genuine, and funny in equal measure. 

At Minnie's wedding, her husband explained that he's got where he is today (he and Minnie have achieved a ridiculous amount at their young age), because his mum taught him you can get anything if you're nice to people. 

At Madame Adelaide's wedding, her husband said that if anyone had told him four years ago that he would be living in Essex, married to an Essex girl and the co-owner of a pussy cat, he never would have believed them. (I don't know if I can get across in words how brilliant this was, actually. I think it was the outrageously happy and proud smile that went with it that made it.) 

At Pumbaa's wedding, her dad said that his new son-in-law was not being welcomed to the family, because he was already a part of it. So much so that he can't even see where the joins are anymore. 

They are all tiny clips of long days but each of those will stay with me forever.

4. The Wine. 

On no other day of the year is it acceptable to start on the wine at 10am (except maybe Christmas day, and even then I think it's meant to be slightly later), and continue to drink until 1am. For free. Minnie Mouse was pregnant at the most recent wedding and I think she was fairly sad to miss out on that particular highlight. 

5. The Food. 

When I was a bridesmaid for Minnie Mouse the ridiculously delicious food started at 7am when we were brought bacon sandwiches. Yes, I am a vegetarian. But (I feel like I will regret posting this for all to see), I am a vegetarian with a dirty little secret. I miss bacon. And sometimes- when nobody's looking (or when my Grandparents don't understand the rules of vegetarianism- a story for another time), I eat bacon. Minnie Mouse's wedding was one such occasion. And it was amazing. 

After that it's a champagne reception with hors d'oeuvres (at Madame Adelaide's wedding they had these mozzarella and tomato with balsamic vinegar things that I am still dreaming about), then a three course dinner, then cake, and occasionally, an edible favour. 

It's like a dream. 

6. The Little Things. 

The weddings I went to this year were full of them. Little things that could never have been planned but made the day nonetheless....

- The Lord's Prayer: 

It was Minnie Mouse's wedding. Pumbaa and I had cried non-stop more or less since we had woken up. We had sobbed when we got to the altar (neither of us had been warned that we would be walking down the aisle to Christina Perri's A Thousand Years and we were therefore emotionally unprepared for it) and so were a little worse for wear. It was time to say The Lord's Prayer. We opened our mouths to say the first line. From behind us, an outrageously loud, passionate, Irish voice filled the church. Minnie's step mum. At first I thought it was just me laughing, that is totally my sense of humour. As it continued I could feel the bridesmaids either side of me vibrating with laughter. Four of you laughing your meticulous pedicures off wearing matching dresses and matching tear stains with Christina Perri going round your head is nothing less than real magic. 

- Let It Go. 

The next wedding I went to was that of a family friend, and was just for the evening reception. The bride and groom have been together for eleven years, since they were in year ten, and finally tied the knot in August. 

The bride and the groom's brother did an impromptu duet of Let It Go. She clearly knew the song very well, because she managed to swing around in her dress at exactly the right moments so that we felt like we were watching The Real Elsa. It was funny, powerful, and managed to avoid being cheesy or cringey. It was perfect. 

-I Wanna Dance With Somebody. 

Madame Adelaide didn't want a big party after her wedding. She wanted the service and the dinner, and that was that. When we had all finished dinner, she was at our table talking when I Wanna Dance With Somebody came on. This is my favourite song of all time and a huge hit between the four of us as a group of friends. The bride said that she wanted to dance. What I've learnt this year is that what the bride says goes, no matter how laid back the wedding (to give you an idea of how laid back Madame Adelaide's wedding was, Pumbaa and I recited our reading from Pumbaa's phone). Within seconds, Pumbaa had dragged every single person into the middle of the room, and her fiancĂ© had turned the lights down and the music up, and- da-daa. There was a disco. It couldn't have been any better if it was planned. 

- The Groom's Nana

I mentioned when I was discussing the hen weekends how brilliant I think Pumbaa's husband's Nana is. 

At their wedding, after the bride and groom had had their first dance, the dance floor stayed empty, and Pumbaa and her dad had a Father-Daughter dance. (I'd like to point out that I had managed to keep it together all through the service and the speeches, and only cried at this point of the day- 8.15pm. A personal record, I believe.) The second I registered that they were dancing to I Hope You Dance- one of my favourite songs and the song that means so much to Pumbaa that she has the lyrics tattooed on her- I lost it, and sobbed into my wine. A few moments later, couples started joining the dance floor. I stood, snivelling pathetically as I watched everyone, when I realised that Nana was dancing with someone very young and very good looking. I turned around to put my camera away. I turned back. She was dancing with someone different. Equally young and equally good looking. 

The pattern continued for the rest of the night. I didn't cry again after that. 

7. Thoughtful Touches. 

I couldn't tell you all of the thoughtful, personal additions to every wedding I went to because there were so many. But each and every one of them made it extra special for every single guest. Minnie Mouse provided us with Krispy Kreme donuts with our names on them, Madame Adelaide gave us personalised Dairy Milks, my family friends put photos of themselves as children on the toilet doors to show which were for boys and which for girls, and Pumbaa and her husband put photos of their parents on their wedding days on the top table. Everything was so well thought out, I will be expecting this every time I go out for dinner from now on. 

8. Dancing. 

One of my favourite things to do at weddings is to look around at the serious, teary faces during the service and remind myself that in a few hours they'll be throwing themselves around the dance floor with their ties around their heads. 

Similarly to the hen weekends there aren't many times in life that people of all ages and backgrounds will come together and let their hair down. There's a brilliant moment on the video of my 18th birthday party where my outrageously tall, 18 year old neighbour Rob is dancing with my relatively short, 65 year old Grandma, and they're chatting while they bop. I LOVE moments like that, and since I turned 21 it's only really at weddings that it happens. 

9. My Best Friends. 

The best thing about all three weddings is that I got to spend actual time hanging out with my best friends in a way that we never normally do as adults. 

We took a Charleston class, and a Burlesque one. We played Heads Up. We went wedding dress searching, guest outfit shopping, and tiara hunting. We viewed venues, assessed invitation designs and discussed seat covers. I spent real time with their husbands' families, learnt more about their taste in food, flowers and music. We drank wine for whole weekends at a time, dressed up, dressed down, even undressed at some wilder moments during the Burlesque class...We laughed and cried together, had our hair and makeup done together, opened presents, reminisced about the past and predicted the future together. We wrote and rehearsed readings together, and held hands as we watched our best friend walk down the aisle. 

I feel closer to my best friends than ever before, and we have made wonderful memories together because they agreed to commit their lives to someone else. Funny, isn't it?

A lot of people have asked me recently how I feel about all of my best friends being married. How I feel about being single at "this stage in my life". (Seriously. I'm 25.) When I'm going to get married. Whether I would like to have children soon.

There's a moment in Sex and the City when Charlotte says to the three other girls "maybe we could be each other's soulmates? And then we could let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with."

I've been lucky enough to watch my three beautiful best friends find their true soulmates, fall in love, and walk down the aisle towards men that know just how lucky they are.

For me, though, those three girls are enough right now. They're everything.

My favourite moment, out of all of the weddings I've been to this year, was on Pumbaa's wedding day. The four of us had a photo taken.

The photographer asked "Is it just you four?"

And my eyes filled with outrageously happy tears as I nodded and my voice croaked "just us four."

That's more than enough for me.

For now, for always.

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