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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 28 - Just Married

“When my dress was finally delivered, finished, and I tried it on I felt tears swim in my eyes as I looked in the mirror. I looked so beautiful. The gauche, awkward thirteen year old that I had been had completely disappeared. Here stood a tall and stunning nineteen year old ‘swan’. In six short years a transformation had taken place….’’ Gayle Woodward recalls her wedding day.

Invitation replies came back by the dozens and lists and seating arrangements were finalised. When my dress was finally delivered, finished, and I tried it on I felt tears swim in my eyes as I looked in the mirror. I looked so beautiful. The gauche, awkward thirteen year old that I had been had completely disappeared. Here stood a tall and stunning nineteen year old ‘swan’. In six short years a transformation had taken place.

Our wedding day dawned hot and sunny but with a breezy wind. I felt sick with nerves as Mary set my hair in large rollers and I sat under the portable hooded hair dryer. The flowers arrived and they were gorgeous. It was an 11 o’clock wedding at our local Presbyterian Church where I had been a Sunday school teacher. By 10.30 a photographer had arrived and photos were taken of me with my parents and the bridesmaids in our lounge. Neighbours and friends were gathering outside on the front lawn and the slight anxiety I had felt earlier was now replaced by great galloping nerves. My face was pale with fear.

The cars pulled up at the front door and we ventured out. My veil blew straight up in thehair as the wind hit it and further pins had to be inserted to hold it in place. I was helped into the car beside my father, as the bridesmaids and Mum took off for the church. As the Bridal car moved away from the house where I had grown up I felt a surge of sadness but Dad clasped my hand and it steadied me down. Soon we were at the church and I was being readied for the short walk down the aisle to meet my new husband. The wedding service went in a blur and I said my vows mechanically. I did not promise to ‘obey’ and my Dad did not ‘give me away’ as I had demanded and I was aware of these phrases being missing from the service. Before long we were signing the register and had been announced as man and wife. I waited to feel different and married and was disappointed to find that nothing had changed really.

We came out of the church arm in arm with my veil lifted back. Already the curls were falling out of my long blonde hair and I was constantly tilting my head, heavy with veil, back to keep the hair out of my eyes. Everybody was smiling at us and my next door neighbour Gaye and the little girls that I had babysat once showered us with confetti. One of them, Karen, gave me a Good Luck Horseshoe. I felt relieved to have one part of the day over. We soon were back in the cars again for wedding photos to be taken. We had the back drop of the bush and gardens of Dingle Dell in St Heliers for our photos and finally could relax a bit with our friends and brother and sister who were the bridal party. Woody had his brother, Terry, as Best Man and his old friend Ron Reid as groomsman. And on to the reception; the day was speeding by and we were just starting to enjoy it. Nerves had disappeared, we were married and it was rather exciting.

At Mission Bay the wedding cars parked by the footpath entrance to the reception area upstairs and members of the public at the beach stared as we walked into the building. I felt famous and on show. I liked it. We were announced to the assembled guests inside as Mr and Mrs Woodward. I had practiced writing this many times over the past five years but it was a shock and a thrill to hear it for the first time. We sat at the top bridal table with our attendants and parents at each end. Telegrams were read out including joke ones from Woody’s mates as these were always expected at weddings in those times. Dad gave a lovely speech welcoming Woody to the family and informing everybody that both of us had recently qualified in our two very different careers and that he was very proud of us both. We were served at our table but the guests had a buffet meal for lunch. Neither Woody nor I could eat very much and were soon on the move around the room talking to friends and old relatives, aunties and uncles and grandparents. My Granddad had made the trip down from Mangonui in the North with my auntie, uncle and cousins.

The afternoon went so quickly and it was soon over. We would leave to go back to the Whitehaven Road house where I would get changed into my Going Away outfit, Woody would change into clothes other than his hired wedding suit, I would throw my bouquet to the waiting girls and we could be off. I was going to wear a pale blue mini dress in a linen look material, with pale blue shoes and a white straw hat turned back at the brim. My, by then, straight hair was tucked up in a ponytail inside the hat.

Someone had driven Woody’s blue Ford Anglia to Whitehaven Road and as we were changing, Terry, his first wife Pam and my cousins Bill and Tricia were decorating the car with whitewashed slogans such as ‘Just Married’ across the back window, ‘Gayle and Woody’ across the front window and all sorts of suggestive and rude things such as ‘Free Love’ and ‘Sex’ around the sides. They had tied the obligatory tins on string to rattle along the road as we drove away, streamers flew from the aerial and the worst thing of all, fish stuck into the exhaust pipe and the engine bay. We emerged from the house to be greeted with gales of laughter as we surveyed the scene. I was pretty shocked but it was hard to be mad as all the older ladies, tiddly on sherry, giggled and offered suggestions to me that they would never usually utter under normal behaviour. The whole scene was of gaiety and hilarity and it was a very happy send-off that we received. We would not have been quite so happy had we realised that our suitcases had been filled with confetti between the layers of clothes which would fall out in the hotel honeymoon suite that night.

We left to cheers and waves and headed straight for the Hawkeswoods’ house in St Heliers where Terry, Pam and the cousins were waiting to help us remove the stinking fish, although the smell lingered through the car, take off the tins and clear the windscreen so at least we could drive safely if not elegantly away. The Just Married slogan was still blazoned across the back but we didn’t mind. We drove away smiling at each other. We had done it! We were married and had both left home for the first time to set up our own life together.

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