Sunday, 25 May 2008
Saturday morning dawned, well, before dawn for Satomi and I on this weekend of our vows. Climbing into our newly minted hire car, we made the short trip into Roma Street to pick up the first of our interstate (and international) guests - my Mum. It was to be a fairly momentous occasion, as Mum was to meet my soon-to-be bride for the first time on that dark, smoky train platform just one day before we were to be wed. The introductions had to be short and sweet, however, as the deadlines of the weekend were tight and imposing.
Stopping briefly to unload our human cargo at the Albion Love Den, we fired up the car for yet another pick up - Satomi's parents. This was to be another momentous occasion with this being the first trip to a western country for both Otosan and Okasan. Waiting at the pitifully small and over-crowded greeting area at the international airport was probably the first time a huge wave of anxiety and nerves overtook me. The previous weeks and months of getting this ball going had kicked in, and all of our plans and ideas were firmly underway. And, standing there amongst all of the other eager and watchful eyes, trained hungrily at the automatic doors which separated the customs area from the general public, I suddenly realised how much of an effort so many people were making to share this weekend with us. And with that, I had a pang of anxiety, wishing everything would be to their liking.
Before too long, the Nagai family representatives were spied and collected and we headed out of the terminal and into Australia proper. Satomi's parents were staying at a hotel just 2 blocks away from the Love Den, so I left the family to settle in for a bit and headed back down the hill to hang out with Mum. It was good seeing her again after about 18 months of being apart, and despite some early jitters, I think she was glad to have made the decision to come up for the occasion. We shared a smoke, a coffee and a chat before the Nagai's arrived for the inevitable cross-cultural introduction uncomfortable-ness. I was a little anxious that the cultural differences would be too vast for someone like my Mum (and, for that matter, Satomi's parents) to overcome in order for them to connect in some way. But, within minutes, omiyage was being exchanged and breakfast was being served (which Mum found particularly fascinating, with Otosan sucking down his standard egg on rice and miso soup heart-starter). And, through the stilted but comprehensive translated conversation, it was clear that there was one bond which transcended all things cultural - and that was the shared bond of being a parent. Okasan and my Mum in particular seemed to hit it off, to the point where Otosan seemed to feel very much on the outer and so started wandering around the Love Den taking random pictures of the strange things he came across.
With the other travelling guests being looked after (Steve-O was sorting out the Dave and Mizi show, and both Dad and Jen were making their own arrangements) it left us alone to share some quality family time together - which, in all reality, would probably be the only time we would get to do so. The conversation ambled into the early afternoon, before Mum made her way up the hill to check into her hotel room, and Satomi took her parents up to Toombul for essential supply shopping. Which left me in a little bit of a hole, getting some unexpected me-time. I, of course, fritted this away by playing Xbox and smoking way too many cigarettes - but that's to be expected, I guess. As the afternoon gave way into evening, the entire collected crowd of family and very close friends (Steve, Dave and Mizi) rendezvoused at the Love Den before descending on Thaiways for a mass feast. For the extended Connolly (and ex-Connolly) clan, this was a big enough event - with Mum and Dad seeing each other for the first time in about 23 years (according to Pat). Added to that this was the first meeting for Dad and my soon-to-be wife, and that all around the table we were either meeting each other anew, or reacquainting ourselves with relos we may have lost touch with, and you can get a bit of a taste for how special this night turned out. As these things usually do, the night focused back into the Love Den, with drinks, conversations and general good vibes all 'round. Our friendly possum once again made a cameo and became the star of the show (as she often does), before people started filtering out and leaving us, the happy couple, to ourselves. As we bedded down as a couple on that Saturday night, it sunk in to both of us that this was to be our last night as, well... single people.
Sunday, 30 March 2008. It was not our first choice of dates, being changed to accommodate people and events (our first choice turned out to be Easter Sunday), but it turned out to be a great choice in the end. The Sunday before, which was our original date, was crappy and rainy, but looking out the window as we awoke, we realised there was someone on our side. It turned out to be one of those perfect Brisbane days with the sky so blue and crisp that it almost crackles. There was no time to soak it up, however, with deadlines and pressing errands stealing our time even more so than yesterday. A quick trip up to the northern suburbs secured our flowers for the event, and as we arrived back, Otosan and Okasan were heading down the hill already prepped and ready to go. Before long, Steve arrived with Dave and Mizi and the bridal crew were off to Jinna's place for the day of preparations. The groom's party had one more task to achieve - arguably the most important one of the day (apart from the event itself) - the collection of the impressive Dreamy Donut wedding cake. Dave was given painstakingly clear instructions on the setting up of this cake, before our event organiser, MC, stage manager and all-round good guy Alan arrived to collect his gear (and Dave) to set up the bowls club for the reception. Soon after Steve-O departed to prepare himself and his parents, leaving me to my own devices. It was probably the worst move of the whole day, with that slight window of opportunity allowing the creeping nerves to take a real hold on my psyche and leave me a shaking, quivering mess. Mum's arrival eased the nerves slightly as she set about making sure her son got readily prepared for what was meant to be the biggest day of his life. She obviously succeeded in that mission, by delivering a slightly inwardly dishevelled (but outwardly suave!) groom to the Newstead Part rotunda in time and ready to go.
After a quick set up, I was thrust into the role of meeter and greeter for the steady, but thankfully small, trickle of guests attending. Masking my extreme nervousness, I cycled through the groups, thanking them all for sharing this day with us (and was quietly relieved to see absolutely no suits... yay!). I resisted the urge to chain smoke my nerves away, but instead found myself battling a monumental case of dry mouth which would make even the most hardened of pot smokers weep at its grip. Steve's Mum's bottle of water went a little way to ease the pain, but it was too little too late to save this little black duck from the next 45 minutes or so trying desperately to will his mouth into producing at least some kind of moisture.
All of those thoughts and nerves disappeared almost the instant I looked up to the top of the walk-way to see this gleaming, bright and sparkling figure in white. Only seeing the dress briefly before the event, I had no idea how it would look up close... and it seemed Satomi was intent on making the wait even longer, as for some unknown reason, they waited at the top of the path for a good 10 minutes or so before deciding to come down. With her arm entwined into the crook of her Dad's elbow, she eventually made her way down the long pathway behind her 2 bridesmaids - Mizi and Catherine. Greeting her at the top of the rotunda was a little surreal, with her beauty being something I can still not fathom. In front of the eyes of all of our closest friends and family, I felt on top of the world and scarcely heard a word of our celebrant's opening stanzas as I swam in the vision in front of me. With Otosan presenting his eldest daughter's hand to mine, the ceremony proper started to take shape. Saying the things we were prompted to say, and kissing in all the right places, the ceremony went without a hitch (apart from the ring being a little bit too tough to slide onto her finger) and it was over before I thought it had really even began.
After some extended photo opportunities (why does everyone own a bloody digital camera these days!!), the guests began their slow amble up the road to the bowls club, leaving the bridal and family party behind to get the official photos. It was only then that we realised that Steve's parents had high-tailed it home without the hire chairs that were supposed to be packed into their car before they left. Adding insult to injury, it appeared they had decided not to be burdened by their mobile phone for the afternoon, and so were impossible to get a hold of to get them to come back. Faced with a decision, Steve and I decided to shoulder half the load each and walk up the road to the bowls club, hopefully to have them collected at some later time. While it wasn't the most comfortable or elegant of events to have occurred on the wedding day, I couldn't help thinking that if this was the worst thing that could happen today, then I would be a very happy man.
As the party was already in full swing, Satomi and I made a graceful entrance to the sounds of Eddie Vedder's Big Hard Sun which heralded the beginning of what was to be a great afternoon and blissful evening. Cutting yet more photo opportunities short, I bee-lined it for the bar for a much need ale to relieve my still parched throat and mouth... oh, and made sure I got my new lovely wife a wine while I was at it. With the sun setting over the bowling green, the speeches were the first cab off the rank for the afternoon's "formalities". Best man Steve took to the stage first and set the bar too high for the rest of the speakers to come, including yours truly. His speech, peppered with in-jokes, and stories from both of our pasts (thankfully none of them embarrassing), had the room equally divided with laughter and tears. Unfortunately, Catherine had to follow this great speech and she did well with regaling stories of Satomi's past and welcoming me into her Brisbane family. A couple of more speeches later and we were introducing the real entertainment for the afternoon - Fretfest's own rising star Dave Di Marco. His short set was punctuated with Alan himself getting behind the mic and belting out a stirring rendition of David Gray's Please Forgive Me which prompted an impromptu wedding waltz.
Demolishing the white Lindt chocolate doughnut cake signalled the end of the night's formalities, as we settled into the evening. The night turned out almost exactly as planned - a gentle, intoxicated evening amongst our loved ones. With just the right amount of sweetness and craziness (thanks mostly to the Kelly gang), it ventured long past the planned finish time of 7pm. As the bar tab refused to nudge the limit we'd imposed on it, we went open slather and devoured as much drink as we could collectively handle. So much so, that we were caught with our shoes off and bowls in hand trying to drunkenly master the gentle game in as much drunken humour as we could (and hoping that the white shoe brigade wouldn't think any less of us for doing so). The rest of the evening was rather uneventful - apart from Steve being refused service for being too drunk and the Kelly's being warned off the green for trying to reverse the past indiscretions of the Australian cricket team against their fellow country-men by trying to bowl lawn bowls over-arm - and we slowly dwindled in numbers. Before long, we were piling into a taxi and heading back to the Love Den.
Opening the door to the Love Den as husband and wife was... well, to be honest, apart from our costumes, it felt no different to any other night, really. However, through the slightly drunken haze, we readied ourselves for bed surrounded by a warm and loving embrace that can only come from a day such as this. It was an enveloping warmth of the knowledge that from this day forth, this person who was sharing my house was to be doing so for the rest of my life, and also a warmth from the loving knowledge that all of those people there today were going to be there forevermore to ensure that no matter what sort of life we forge ahead with, it will be happy and joyous and wonderful. And that was exactly the sort of feeling I was aiming for when sketching out the wedding all those months (or weeks) ago.