We began The Day by a visit to the brides home. It was a glorious day – fairytale sunshine, the promise of a fairytale castle, and a pretty decent fairytale to go along with it. Driving down the tree-lined avenue, even us Highlanders felt somewhat honoured above our normal priveledges.
The entrance to the back garden was through a suitably green-ified archway. We all trooped dutifully through the kitchen, accumulating a flower on the way past. (I thought this was a lovely tradition – rather than have some form of “ticket” to announce in the hotel that you were a wedding-guest, the flower was your status-symbol to show you were an invited day-guest.) The men wore their rose facing up while us ladies had a downwards facing rose.
There was a whole set of new friends to be made: we had never met the brides side of the family before. One was – according to my Dad – the splitting image of my littlest sis. They both looked rather apologetically at each other as they were forced to pose for the “twins” photo.
The bride came down to greet all her guests when she was ready. She stunned us all with her black wedding dress and gold sash (unusual, even for the Netherlands Refo’s). She said she liked black, and was even more graciously dignified than usual.
Then, beginning as all good weddings do, it was time for the wedding cake! It was delivered fresh from the bakery, with a liberally tasty cream content. Due to the expected heat, it seemed sensible to just dive straight into that cream, before anything happened to it.
After a casual chat over cake, it was time to head off to the civil wedding. Aafke’s husband Mark was the Master of Ceremonies, and he’d got it all organised like clockwork. Firstly, he called out all the drivers of the various cars, and they were given a wedding ribbon to tie round their arials, and then they were all instructed as to their turn in the queue.
There was a red carpet laid out, and each of us was called out individually, while the car doors were opened by the ushers. Exceedingly impressively timesynced, it was, with the car pulling up slowly just as we began our way down the red carpet.
The cars all followed in procession to the castle. The civil ceremony usually occurs first, with a completely seperate religious ceremony following on afterwards. It was a fair crowd of all us family (30-40), yet deliciously homely-feeling and enjoyable.
The ceremony was not at all as I expected. Seeing a Major in richly formal attire, and in the traditional surroundings, I guess I expected something sortof official. Yet, it was much more just casual and chatty – Maarten and Henrieke just having a good laugh with the Major as he heard stories of their childhood – similar to our wedding speeches, I suppose. I guess I missed most of what was actually said, except the few sentences in English for our benefit. But I enjoyed the quietly jovial atmosphere, and the smile on my Grandpa’s face as the Major thanked him for coming all the way from Scotland for the occasion.
We had a picnic lunch. Usually at dutch weddings guests are left to fend for themselves for lunch – or skip lunch entirely with all the other food that is around anyway – before meeting at the next location. But since it was “just family”, and since we had a lovely circle of trees outside the castle to sit under, out came the picnic hampers. Rolls, juice, fruit… and enough to feed our army. (Then the wicker hampers were donated to Henrieke’s sisters as a thankyou for all the work they had put into helping prepare for her wedding.)
Next we went to the church. It was mainly a short address to the new couple, wishing them well for their life together, advising them to be sensible and presenting them with a family bible by the elders of the church.
More food next. A quiet restaurant in a sleepy corner of town, and a room to ourselves. We had the tables all arranged in a square round the sides of the room, and various presentations were given by someone standing in the middle of the square: Aunty Elly with a photo album of Maarten, one for every year of his life. And for every photo, an amusing anecdote. Just a pity it was all in dutch. Someone had made an anagram for M&H to guess, with the word being pegged up as they figured it out. All very creative and lovingly put together.
The afternoon guests then started arriving: all the friends from school, uni, church and life. They joined us in the restaurant for a bit of cheesecake or chocolate gateau or whatever took their fancy. It was ridiculously hot… everyone kept ordering more and more of those cute wee spring water bottles – I’d be scared to even peek at what the bill was for that! There were about three or four hundred of us at this stage, and M&H were engaged in almost full-time hand-shaking, and gift receiving.
Then the afternoon guests all drifted off again, and we were left with the family for a final moment of favours-giving. Everyone got a single stalk of a white rose. Us Scots were particularly thanked for travelling over for the wedding… not that I’d have missed it for anything! By this time it was nearly midnight, and poor Maarten was white-as-a-sheet… but happy with it, and I guess that is the bit that matters.
Maarten en Henrieke, thankyou for inviting me to your wedding 🙂