Bryn, Paul, Claire and I went to Kit and Fiona‘s wedding this weekend. Despite the hideously long drive (almost 11 hours, with driver/navigator pairs driving and sleeping in shifts in order to maintain progress) throughout Friday night – and the equally long journey back on Sunday, it was a most fantastic and memorable experience.
The event took place in Aberlour and Knockando, which is pretty much as far North as you can get in the United Kingdom and still recognise people as being human. It’s actually only about 50 miles from Inverness, where I was born, set in a beautiful string of valleys North of the Grampian mountains.
The service was great – despite a few early setbacks (such as the bride arriving and wondering where the groom was… he hadn’t run away, it turns out, but was with the best man and the reverend, sorting out some of the mandatory paperwork…) – the Knockando church is built in the style of the 700-year old one that stood there until six years ago, when it burnt to the ground. Fiona looked fantastic, everybody sang along to silly Christian verse, Steve didn’t lose the rings, and nobody fluffed their wedding vows. That said, when the vicar who was officiating the ceremony asked Fiona to repeat, “And I promise this in the name of God, the father, the son, and the holy ghost,” she looked shocked for a moment – having just forgotten the first bit – and said, “Umm… help?” to request that he prompted her again. Which was sweet, in it’s own special way.
The reception was held at a lovely hotel in Aberlour – The Dowans Hotel – which, to the joy of Bryn and I – hosted an impressive 80 different varieties of whiskey, including treats like Oban, McAllans, and the very palatable locally-distilled Aberlour. The area is deep in whiskey country and Bryn and I had tried earlier in the day to visit one of the distilleries, without success (seemed to be closed for the winter, despite signs to the contrary, so we instead went and bought four kilos of shortbread, which will keep Paul happy for some time). Kit’s speech – which, as is traditional, spoke of how he and Fiona met – was particularly touching, describing the fascinating story of how they came together, and gave thanks to the project I did for my dissertation, which was in fact what Kit was giving a presentation on (in my absence) when they first met! Steve – the best man – also delivered a good speech: fighting against a moderately-obvious fear of talking to an entire room at once in order to take apart some of Kit’s more obvious flaws, such as his ability to get lose even given a map (he later gave them very carefully-delivered and well-described directions to their honeymoon venue, perhaps just to rub it in).
We ate a great meal, and then took part in several traditional highland dances – embarrassingly, all alien to me, but we soon discovered that the best approach was simply to ask a local to join you in a dance, and you’d soon understand what was going on… or fall over trying. Bryn, in particular, seemed to enjoy dancing with several pretty Scottish lasses, and was actually really quite good (lesson of the day: despite his protests, Bryn is actually a good dancer!). Between the alcohol, the company, and the dancing, Bryn seemed to have a fantastic time – I’ve not seen him quite so happy in many months! Restricted by tight-fitting trousers (I really should have gotten myself a kilt in the Huntley tartan before the wedding) I did a little less well, but still really enjoyed drinking myself silly then whirling around with random party guests.
Kit and Fiona left for their honeymoon in the northern isles (the mad fools!) in style, sent off by a cheer from the hotel courtyard and with tin cans trailing behind their car, and – a few drinks later – we made our excuses to leave, too: we had, it must be remembered, not slept properly since the previous morning, as we’d spent all of the last night travelling up there! Breaking with Scottish wedding tradition, nobody got involved in a fight (although Paul and Steve almost did at one point, and I’m pretty sure that if I’d have worn the Huntley tartan, some long-forgotten inter-clan battle would have begun again after centuries of peace). We retired to our (also lovely) bed and breakfast down in the town, taking turns to carry Claire (who’s feet, squeezed into quite impractical shoes, were hurting pretty badly).
All in all, a fantastic event. I’m really glad that I made it up there to see Kit and Fiona get married, and the party thereafter was wonderful too. Well worth the drive.