Serena’s and Christian’s wedding was remarkably similar to Shaun’s and mine.
Trinity rather than King’s... That’s about it, really. Which is fine, because our wedding was lovely.
Halcyon summer’s afternoon. Beautiful service. Three hundred family and friends and more, milling over delicious tea and bubbly in the college courtyard.
Main difference being that these days, brides have rather more say in what happens at their weddings...
Thus, Serena had a few details which never quite happened for me.
Her bouquet turned up, for one thing. And she was allowed to choose her readings, including the Song of Songs which I had so wanted, rather than the day’s obligatory lectionary.
And Shaun and I had planned the James Bond theme tune, Nobody Does it Better, to be woven surreptitiously into our opening voluntary… which never quite happened either. Partly because this was King’s, Cambridge; and partly because the organist who was supposed to be writing it out for our organised turned out (years later) to have been in love with Shaun all along, so understandably wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about our wedding.
So Ben, who was organising the music for Serena’s wedding, snuck it into everything, purely for my amusement: the congregation would open their mouths to sing some lusty hymn or other, and find themselves diverted for a couple of slightly unusual bars before diving in…
And lastly, I had particularly wanted to get married on my grandmother’s birthday, Midsummer’s Day. My parents said this was too soon after Finals so we wed on St Swithun’s Day.
So, Midsummer for Serena it was.
The next challenge was to knit Norwegian and English together… without reviving the tensions sometimes experienced a millennium or more ago.
Thing about Norway is that there are long winters’ nights. Have been for centuries. So they get quite good at whiling them away.
Sagas. Beowulf. Tolkien. Stories with stamina, all.
Thus, for Scandi weddings, anyone who feels like it can get up and talk for as long as he or she likes.
If you have ever been to an English wedding you will greet this news with the same screaming horror Serena and I emitted when Christian said: My relations all want to know when they are to give their speeches.
There were sixty Vikings coming over the seas. That’s probably as many as laid waste to Lindisfarne.
In this country, we’re used to the speeches being the absolute pit of the day. What we didn’t yet realise was how entertaining these Norsemen and -women can be when they get to their feet and keep going, spontaneously, until a dawn which won’t be there until spring.
So we told Christian there are very strict rules about wedding speeches in England.
Father. Groom. Best man.
If anyone else gets up to speak the groom is honour-bound to run him through with the ceremonial cake-cutting-knife, for insulting his new wife. (And if any woman so much as thinks of opening her mouth she will be stoned to death at the city gates.)
So why, Christian asked, if these traditions are so unbreakable, are your brothers giving your Father’s Speech, Serena?
Ah, we explained. Yes. Well. There is a perfectly good explanation for that…
You see, that’s another very ancient English-wedding-tradition. Father’s Speech can be given by uncle, family friend, godfather... (at my wedding, the Vice-Chancellor of the university; just because he happened to be a very good friend of my parents and a close neighbour and the father of my very best friend of all… and knew how to give a thirty-second speech). And of course brothers. Particularly brothers.
Especially if the real father is preaching the sermon.
So Alex and Ben delivered it.
Bink wrote it. Took her a week and a lot of herself.
And it was quite the funniest and most entertaining wedding speech I’ve ever heard.
While Christian’s was the most moving.
Gosh they are good at this, those raiders from the North.
No notes. No preparation. Just got to his feet and told Serena how much he loved her – and how much we were all missing my mother although he never even got to meet her – and there was not a dry eye under the summer’s sun beaming throughout Nevile’s Court.
(There hadn’t been a dry eye after Bink’s speech delivered by Alex and Ben either, but that was for a different reason.)
And then that night all his aunts and uncles and cousins got to their feet after dinner and before dancing, and were all equally impressive. Poetry; song; even some tradition about the bride standing on the table or being pelted by bread rolls or something I can’t quite remember.
And then we danced, and danced and danced...
And it was some time and quite a lot later when Gatsby happened to slip into the conversation that Bink had been outside in tears the entire night. While he comforted her.
Usurped. Guilty. Very, very sad, that she spent her sister’s wedding evening exiled and crying.
And really very wrong, that he had comforted her, instead of one of us. Why hadn’t he told us?
Deeply ashamed that we, I, hadn’t noticed.
And a very, very long time later, angry.
I knew, somewhere deep and unarticulated in my soul, how this had happened and why.
Gatsby needed to be needed. That’s why he was always so helpful. (And he genuinely was: he had driven Rose’s harp to the field where we had pitched Serena’s wedding tent, for instance.)
So Bink had to be in tears.
Because Gatsby needed her to be.