There has to be an exclamation at the end of this post title or how else will you hear me SHOUTING about Saturday 12th August?! I’m still buzzing from the excitement of the weekend and for once, it’s not just because of the coffee. I won’t make this a long one (or at least I’ll try not to) but I feel I have to write this down because I want to remember it forever…
I left it a bit late but, at the beginning of August, I finally decided upon a lovely local pub to be the venue of my 50th birthday party. I didn’t want a massive do – just a few friends and family. There would be a late lunch with some girlfriends around 3ish, then the ‘party room’ was booked from 6-11pm. This girls’ lunch would give me time to chat (while sober and still talking sense) to those friends nearest and dearest before the rest of the guests arrived.
Lunch was served and there was a frisson of excited energy around the table which made me happy – but slightly nervous. Had they started drinking before lunch? Why all the checking of the mobiles in between the chatter? And why oh why did Mrs A insist on filling up my water glass, instead of her more usual tendency of goading me to ‘get the prosecco down your neck, Mrs B!’?
I was a risotto and 3 glasses of prosecco down when things were starting to get even more ‘heightened’. Okay, I know most of us around the table were in our 50s and early 60s, but the amount of times they had to get up to go to the loo wasn’t normal, was it? Or perhaps it was and that’s what I had to look forward to now I had joined the 50 club, that I’d also be joining the Tena Lady brigade! Then…it just got down right weird! “Okay”, shouted Mrs W (who had been unusually quiet so far) “First group of ladies – into the car outside.” I watched, confused, as 4 of my friends got up and shouted “See you soon!” and waved at me as they legged it outside into a waiting car.
What the hell was going on?!
I asked the remaining ladies what was happening and they tried to reassure me with words such as: “It’s all good. Don’t you worry. We promise we won’t let you do anything you wouldn’t want to…” And then, Maz, one of my oldest friends asked if I was wearing matching underwear and I began to panic! She smirked and shouted “only joking!” as she dashed out of the pub with another group of girls to another car!
Then there were four. My sister, Mrs A, Mrs W and me. By this time I was a stuttering wreck of a woman. I had no clue at all what was happening. What about the party?! I was told not to worry and that we would be coming back to the party for 6pm. It was almost 5 – what could we possibly do in an hour that was worth missing chatting at the table and drinking copious amounts of prosecco for?!
Finally, I was ushered outside into a waiting car with the rest of the ladies. Mrs W’s husband was the driver and he was in on the plans too! We started driving and Mrs A and Mrs W told me I had to watch a video. There, on the mobile screen was my lovely Stressed Husband, wearing the clothes that he had been wearing that morning and this is what he said…
Hi my beautiful wife. I hope you’re having a lovely day so far. I know there’s always been one thing that you’ve wanted more than anything. But for me to give you that, I need to ask you something…will you marry me again?
At this point the tears started to fall and I think I’d gone into complete shock! My sister told me to look out of the car. We had pulled into a church – the same church that we had gone to as 23 year olds to ask the vicar if we could get married there. We were told we couldn’t as we weren’t Chiswick residents at the time. Eventually we’d decided to go off, just the two of us, and get married abroad. And although it had been an amazing wedding, afterwards I regretted not having my family with me. I didn’t realise then the impact of not having my dad walk me down the aisle to ‘give me away’ to John. It was my one regret.
I still didn’t understand! Okay, yes I would marry John again, but what? Now?! In THIS church?! But…but…how? You have to book years ahead to get the date and time you want to get married in the perfect venue, don’t you? Would we be getting ‘married’ on the green nearby? A lovely, fun little blessing just John and my friends?
My sis told me to look again and see who was standing next to my daughter, Aimee. And there, at the entrance of the church was my dad, who John had flown back especially from Spain. He was holding a bouquet of flowers, waiting to walk me, his baby girl down the aisle.
Of course. That’s when I really, really lost it! Cue tears, running mascara, streaky makeup and snot! Thank heavens big sis was on hand with tissues. Funnily enough, as I walked down the aisle with my lovely dad to Nat King Cole singing Mona Lisa (my granddad’s favourite which he used to sing to me when I was little) I looked at the delighted faces of friends and family in the church and I didn’t care about my smudged makeup. It was the most incredible moment and it will be etched on my mind forever.
How on earth had Stressed Husband pulled this one off? To explain it all would take too long but I will say that amazingly, he managed to keep it a secret not just from me, but from all my friends and family until 24 hours before the actual vow renewal. The day after, listening to him explain how he did it, I was honestly astounded. I realised that to arrange the perfect surprise in secret, in such a short amount of time, took extreme imagination, sheer determination and buckets full of charm and chutzpah…which he obviously has in heaps!
From the ensuing Facebook comments one of my friends had written: Who needs two years to plan a wedding when you have John Barrett on the case!
That evening, back at the pub, the atmosphere was full of happiness. There was dancing, silly shenanigans, prosecco flowing, non-stop laughter…and one very, very happy birthday girl. 🙂
This post is dedicated with undying love to #StressedHusband – who may very well have been stressed while carrying out his secret plans but now, according to one of my Instagram friends on hearing about my day, actually deserves the new, glossier title of #UnicornHusband 🙂