A group of us turned up at the train station for 12.45 to get on a minibus. It was pretty multicultural - we had a Brazilian lady, a Portuguese lady who lives in the Netherlands, couple from Belgium and Portugal, and a few of us from the UK. We stopped to pick up a lady on the way called Alison from a tiny little train station. There was all the usual gossip about how you'd met the bride or the groom, where you are from and what you do. Alison regaled me with tales of travelling around Peru and other places.
We arrived at Dode after a magical mystery tour where none of us knew where we were going, probably not even the driver. It is a medieval church that was built in 1100 but stopped being used as a church around 1300.
It was pretty small from the outside. Round the corner there were some druid stones (though it was pretty muddy so I didn't explore too much).
The inside was tiny, but beautiful. We all milled around and chatted until the bride turned up and had talked to the registrar. There was some music on in the background, and I noticed a piece from the score of The Princess Bride!
The lady Alison turned out to be a surprise that Julie had organised for us: she did little paper profiles of us so we could remember the day. She got quite a few done before the service started. (To see more of her beautiful work look at her website www.alison-russell.co.uk)
The service itself was pretty short: a poem, some words by the registrar, the vows, the ring and the kiss. I didn't even have time to cry!
Afterwards when the happy couple were off outside with the photographer, Julie had a arranged a spread of tea and doughnuts for us! So we all got to chat while the photographer and the portrait lady wandered around and did their thing. Naturally, the bus driver, the photographer, the registrar and Alison all got some time for tea as well. The groom handed me the bouquet while he drank his tea (earl grey) and declared that I was clearly next - when I said that I hadn't caught it, he said he'd be happy to throw it at me if it meant I was the next one getting married.
We got a few more photos outside of us all. By now dusk was starting to fall and the church looked pretty magical with all the Christmas decorations up. We all got to throw some confetti.
Then it was back on the bus to the city for dinner at Cafe du Soleil. We had the whole of the top floor to ourselves, we all chatted, drank prosecco and ate delicious food. I ended up sitting by all the kids which was fun - we were the naughty end of the table. We started off with garlic bread and oil, then the starters were calamari, or a plate of cold meats and pate and for me it was olives and mushrooms and a small plate of mussaka. For the main course, there was beef wellington with macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with mussels, while I had spinach and butternut squash risotto. For dessert there was a trio of lemon sorbet (I love lemon sorbet exclaimed the 12 year old opposite me), some eton mess and two profiteroles. We were absolutely stuffed by the end!
There was no dancing and no speeches, but there was still cake. Julie followed a woodland theme (the bottom is chocolate, the middle is Victoria sponge and the top tier is lemon).
Mini-Julie had a floaty white empire-line dress, with a long sleeved cardie over the top and an amazing white furry capelet. I was wearing a big, grey, fake fur coat, a fuschia dress (with matching belt) and a single string of (real!) pearls. She ended up cuddling me and stroking my coat quite a lot and I felt like a big teddy bear. We exchanged coats several times during the meal - I did wonder if she was going to try and disappear off with it at the end of the night!
The waiting staff were lovely, the kids were amazing! All of the kids were well behaved during the service, and maybe one of the babies cried a bit over dinner. I was sat next to a Sottish and Finnish couple over dinner with a three month old, and she was stunning. The older kids ran around a little bit, and then towards the end of the night they completely cleared the tables for us - they took all the silverwear, glasses and china back to the kitchens. The staff were amazed. After that they made swans out of tin foil, did card tricks and played more board games. The bride and groom got to talk to everybody, and Julie kept asking everyone if they had had a good evening. The staff said it was one of the most relaxed parties they'd seen.
It was a beautiful day but right at the end of the evening it started tipping it down. As we walked through the restaurant downstairs, a few of the ladies at dinner were exclaiming about the rain, but ever practical as always Julie even had a special white wedding umbrella. I walked them up the road to the hotel on my way home, holding the bottom of the gown out of the rain til she was over the threshold. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.
All in all, it went off without a hitch. Everyone looked stunning and I met some really interesting people. I hope they have a long and happy life together!