From 1998 to 2008, I attended zero weddings. Then suddenly, everyone was getting married. I reckon we went to five weddings that year. This stampede of marriages (and the best bit – stag do’s) continued for the next few years.
Then, the invites suddenly stopped (maybe it was something we did) and it was christenings, not weddings, that occupied our summer weekends.
However, last weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to our first wedding in a couple of years: my second-cousin Jodie and her fiancé Skip were getting married in my hometown of Sherborne in Dorset, with a reception to follow in the nearby village of Folke.
Not only did this give us a chance to get together with many of the cousins, uncles, and aunties on my mum’s side of the family, but Tiff and I would also be returning to the building where we were married in 2010 – Sherborne Abbey.
Luckily for Jodie and Skip, the weather was much more favourable than it was for our big day. Dull skies soon gave way to bright sunshine as the 1pm start time approached, and the temperature was comfortable for those of us wearing jackets and blazers.
I usually opt for a boring combo of suit and white shirt at weddings and christenings. This time I decided to make more of an effort with my outfit with items that I could bring out of the wardrobe for more than special occasions. After more shopping around that I would have liked I settled on a blue blazer/beige chinos combo. Not very adventurous I admit, but it made a nice change from a cheap suit.
In the morning, I’d woken up with a sore throat and some aches and pains. So I vowed to excuse myself early as I didn’t think there was any way that I’d last the whole day. In fact, I cut short my planned long walk with Tilly in the morning because I was worried that I’d run out of energy in the middle of the countryside. A long shower provided some temporary respite from my impending man flu.
As is the tradition with many weddings at the Abbey, we met a few of the guests beforehand at the Digby Tap pub on Cook’s Lane. The weather was already stunning by this point, so we enjoyed a pre-wedding drink in the small beer garden by the entrance with a few of the family. I opted for a 6% Rattler Cider – arguably a bad choice so early in the day. I’d have preferred a beer, but the quality of the ale in the Tap can be a bit hit and miss and I didn’t recognise any of what was on offer.
Jodie didn’t make Skip wait too long for her arrival and we enjoyed a nice service with hymns such as Jerusalem (one of my favourites) accompanied by the Sherborne Abbey choir. The choir also sang during the signing of the registers, which sounded magical and made the occasion feel really special. It’s also worth noting that the organist turned up this time – for our wedding we had to draft in a competitor from a local music competition at the last minute because the organist we booked didn’t show!
After the service, Tiff and I took the opportunity to have a quick photo together at the exact spot where we were married. Then we had a few pics with the happy couple out on the green. I managed to take zero photos of Jodie and Skip, unfortunately.
After that we had a little bit of time to kill before the reception, so while most guests headed to the Half Moon pub, I popped over the road to the Clever Cobbs Cafe to get a tea for Tiff and a couple of coffees for my grandad and me. We took a seat on the pavement in the sun, and remarked that this is probably one of the best spots in Sherborne with a view up the road to the abbey.
Once we’d sipped up our drinks, we made the short journey by car to the reception at Folke Manor Farm. What a venue! After negotiating the narrow lane from Alweston to Folke village, we turned up a drive to be greeted by a bright green lawn, leafy trees blowing in the breeze and a marquee overlooking the farm’s pond. Beyond that were black sheep grazing in the fields, the village church and views of the Dorset countryside towards Bulbarrow Hill. An accordion player and fiddler provided the soundtrack to this quintessential Dorsetshire scene.
It didn’t take long for a waiter to thrust a glass of Cava in my hand. There was also Buck’s Fizz, Stella lager and Thatcher’s cider on offer, and I soon moved onto the ice-cold Thatcher’s, aware that I was already mixing my drinks.
While everyone was mingling on the grass, a few of us took the opportunity to walk over a small wooden bridge onto the island in the middle of the pond, drinks in hand. We also wandered into the marquee to take a look at the decorations and the amazing cake, another creation by Jodie’s uncle Terry who also made our wedding cake.
As the afternoon shadows started getting longer, we made our way into the marquee for a fine wedding breakfast, followed by the much-anticipated and highly entertaining speeches. After that, the evening become bit of a blur – I remember drinking red wine, I remember dancing to the band and I remember hearing a couple of splashes as some overenthusiastic guests disturbed the farm’s ducks by jumping in the pond. Oh, and I remember requesting some Dire Straits for Blackie – the father of the bride.
Then, when midnight rolled round, grandad kindly jumped in his car and drove back out from Sherborne to give us all a lift home. So much for leaving the party early – I’d forgotten about aches and pains and sore throat somewhere along the line.