As we all know, last week was the build-up to Kirsten and Aaron’s wedding. I left London on the 21st, flying over to help with the final preparations beforehand. It was a crazy, caffeine-fueled week, one I’d repeat again in a heartbeat if it were possible. To recap, then:
I arrive in Pearson Airport, a half-hour late. 90 minutes later, I stumble into the Arrival Hall, into the arms of Kirsten, the bride-to-be. Why did it take 90 minutes for a single adult to make her way through the labyrinth of Immigration and Customs? Good question. The answer is very unsatisfying, I’m sorry to say: the brilliant people at Pearson decided to put 3 flights’ worth of luggage on ONE carousel so I had to wait. And wait. And, let me see, wait some more…before I finally got my bags.
Kirsten got me to her car and off we drove to my home for the next 5 days. I can’t tell you in words how wonderful my hosts were. You’d have to hear the tone of my voice and see the warmth in my eyes to get the true picture of their hospitality, kindness and generosity. Suffice it to say, I’m nominating them for a knighthood in the next Birthday Honours List. Here’s a photo of the view from my room
Kirsten and I drove to Stemz, an amazing florist in Toronto, to drop off the bird cages we’d had sent from HK, for use as centerpieces on the dinner tables. We met a very talented woman named Fiona, who was going to prepare all the flowers for the wedding, from the bouquet onwards. Although this photo looks like we’ve got a body stuffed in the trunk of the car, it’s actually showing all the bird cages, wrapped up.
This was supposed to be our “easy day”, the one day of the week where we had only one thing to do and that was, relax. Ha. Ha. Ha bloody ha. We used that day and that day used us. We were running around like headless chickens, to the hotel for a last minute convo with Nick, our adorable liaison; to the hairdresser, to confirm bookings for Saturday am; to the bank. Once that was done, I had a lunch with a friend of mine whom I’ve known for 28 years. We went to the 4 Seasons and halfway through lunch, got to listen to fire drills being conducted. That wasn’t fun. The lunch was, but I could have done without the ear-piercing whine of the drill.
I’m happy to say we made our way through Tuesday with military precision. One high note of the day was going to The Bay to pick up some wedding gifts that had been ordered for Kirsten and Aaron. That part was fun. We finished the day at The Keg, with martinis, steaks and lots of laughs with Kirsten and Aaron.
Are you keeping up? We’re up to Wednesday now. Lars and Michael were arriving that evening and we wanted to keep up the pace, knowing that once they landed, time would just whizz by. We had an appointment for lunch with my adorable HK friend, Sarah, that day. Along with Gillian, we went to Holt Renfrew (which is Canada’s most lah-di-dah department store, similar to Harrod’s, Lane Crawford or Nordstroms) and enjoyed catching up with each other.
Kirsten’s friends had been arriving since yesterday, and by today, most of her bridesmaids were in attendance. She has been friends with them since her early years in HK and they were definitely enjoying themselves in this mini-reunion. These “girls” were great – I’d love to have them on my side in battle, that’s for sure. They had amazing Starbucks skills, always knowing when we needed an extra jolt of caffeine and delivering it to us with great panache. My first experience with this was early on Day 5, when we were going to get manicure/pedicures in Yorkville. We went to Lux Spa, for those of you living in Toronto, and they did an amazing job on us. I had a french manicure and a chocolate pedicure. Once applied, the chocolate looks like you’ve just stepped into something unmentionable on the street but hey, what price beauty, right? Riiiight.
We got on a small bus downtown that evening, which drove us up to the church for the Rehearsal. That was fun. I totally lost the plot regarding instructions from the priest – do this, do that, and more important, DON’T do that!! – so decided I’d rely on the kindness of strangers on the day. I was sure I wouldn’t get yelled at if I messed up, not with 130 witnesses backing me. After the rehearsal, we went to a beautiful dinner, put on by the groom’s parents at their home. A very warm and welcoming evening, one that put everyone at ease, heading into the home stretch.
Boo hoo, today was the day we said goodbye and thank you to our gracious hosts and moved into our hotel room for the weekend. This was a BIG Day: 2 meals to be shared with various family members, plus a quick ring polishing and a hurried search for bride and bridesmaid umbrellas for the coming storm.
Our first meal was breakfast, at New York Deli, which serves food as good as its name. It’s what we used to call a Greasy Spoon, a restaurant filled with delicious, homey food, served by wisecracking waitresses who seem to have a coffee pot permanently attached to their hands, always ready to pour a refill. We sat down to breakfast with the Danish half of the family and had a relaxed, artery-clogging meal with them.
Later that evening, we had the “calm before the coming storm” dinner with my side of the family plus our Toronto and HK friends. Kirsten had booked a private room at Terroni, and I’m glad she did. We needed some privacy for ourselves and I think it’s safe to say we all enjoyed that evening, perhaps a little too much. That night marked the first time since Mum died, that we had our family in the same room at the same time. It was quite an achievement.
We got home around 11.30, ready for bed and a good night’s sleep in preparation for…
THE BIG DAY
I woke up at 2 am. Fell asleep at 3. Woke at 5. Got teary-eyed. Watched the bedside clock tick the minutes until 6, when I got up. I was out of the hotel before 7, heading through very wet, rainy streets for Kirsten’s apartment. She came downstairs with the b-maids, a tray of croissants and another of cut fresh fruit. We found a taxi willing to accept 5 women plus snacks in his 4-person only taxi, and off we went to the hair salon. We had make-up. Hair up-dos and blow dries. Coffee. Lots of laughs. A few tears (yeah, me again). Please, if you’re ever in a situation like this, do remember to wear a buttoned shirt. It’s almost impossible to remove a turtleneck after one’s hair and make-up have been applied. Not that I did that. No, really, I didn’t do that. We had hired a very cool photographer, Jeff, to begin the day with photos at the salon…not sure I’ll like the before photos but the afters were magnificent!
Kirsten and I went back to her place, she with a veil in her hair, me with a hat in mine.
Upstairs we went, and I helped her on with her gown, which wasn’t a teary moment, to be honest. I was too busy fretting about doing up all those millions of satin-covered tiny buttons down the back, to be worried about crying. Jeff was there to photograph it all. He shot off up to the groom’s parents’ home and left us to finish our preparations.
I put on my tights. Immediately got a run in them. Cursed a little, especially because they were brand new, right out of the box, I’d paid a small fortune for them and ruined them within 1 minute of their birth. Finished my outfit, gave a hug, a kiss and a few words of wisdom in the bride’s ear, and I was off to the hotel to help Michael with herding out overseas guests onto a coach, heading back up to the church.
We were given the Party Bus. This was no ordinary bus, let me assure you. Instead of regular seating, we all sat on stuffed-leather benches along the sides of the bus; there was a bar at the rear, mirrors, small glowing fairy lights on the ceiling…all that was missing was a stripper pole or perhaps a lapdancer or two.
We arrived at the church. The bridesmaids arrived separately and once they were on-site, the guests were seated, the maids lined up with the groomsmen, and we waited for the bride and her father (that would be Lars, for those paying attention).
I was walked down the aisle by the best man and I don’t think I stopped smiling from that second on. I was so happy, so excited and so sure everything would work out (plus, I’d made it to my seat without mistake so was feeling pretty good), why wouldn’t I smile? The organist began playing, and the b-maids and g-men began walking. There was a pause. The organist started up again, and suddenly, there was Gillian walking toward me, the Maid of Honour. Behind her, a very shy, very sweet flower girl. Finally…finally…I saw Kirsten. I won’t describe her because I couldn’t do her justice. Beside her, was her half-smiling, serious and very proud father. I took a look at Aaron, who was watching her with laser-like concentration, to the exclusion of all else. As daughter and father approached, Kirsten and I exchanged glances and almost as if on cue, we both got a little teary-eyed. Once Lars came to sit beside me, our pew was a little sniffly, I have to admit.
Everything was under control though, and the ceremony began. Within 45 minutes, they were introduced to the world as husband and wife, and they were escorted to their car and they were driven off to begin their new life…at the groom’s parents’ house.
No, they’re not going to live there. We just wanted to get some photos there of the wedding party, which we did, and then off we drove, back to the hotel for a little rest before the night’s dinner party.
I won’t give too many details on the evening, other than to say there were some brilliant speeches, some amazingly funny games and lots of laughter and great music. I think it’s safe to say it was that Kate and Will should step aside – Kirsten and Aaron are here and they’re definitely the couple of the year.
The Danish family had advised, in one of the first speeches, that it’s a tradition to cut the toes off the groom’s socks (they never said what would happen if toes were cut as well), and I think that’s why Aaron’s shoes were being removed. There was another tradition involving the displaying of the groom’s boxer shorts. Those Danes have some interesting traditions, and by “interesting”, I really mean “odd but incredibly amusing”.
So, in a very large nutshell, that was my week. It was a week dedicated to love, but not just the romantic variety. It was also love of family, of friends, tradition and beauty. It was one of the most special weeks of my life and I’m very sure the Bride and Groom would agree, once they lift the radio silence they’re imposing while on their honeymoon in Cuba.
Thanks everyone, for your kind words and best wishes to us this week. It’s meant a lot to our family and to us, the Aunt and Mother of the Bride.