Pamella Laird

© Copyright 2023 by Pamella Laird

Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-fixing-dress-on-girl-1676133/
Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy at Pexels.

I could be ‘a fly on the wall.’ But I’m not, I’m the vicar, so you are hearing this from an on-the-spot, reliable witness. Through Sophie I’ve heard of her wedding plans in unfolding steps. We all knew this would be the fun wedding of the year—with her infectious laughter and mass of auburn curls—Sophie’s that sort of girl. I’ve seen enough brides walk up our aisle—I’m now an authority on weddings.

Helen, the bride’s mother told me, for the past twelve months, Sophie has had only one thing on her mind—her wedding dress. It seems husband-to-be, Nick told her she’ll look gorgeous in whatever she chooses and not to stress about it. He’s a good man I believe, and has learned a lot about women in his twenty-nine years. Their wedding will be a remembered delight and I believe they’ll enjoy a long and blessed marriage.

Apparently Nick’s reassuring remark only encouraged Sophie, always anxious to please, to search through endless Bride Magazines. Helen prolonged the agonising search by enthusiastically going along with her daughter’s single-mindedness. They decided that Sophie’s ‘wedding dress of the century,’ will echo Marie Antoinette as a shepherdess in the Tuileries. And I quote, ‘the layers of tulle will make the skirt floaty and dreamy enough for a princess. The boned bodice, lace-covered and with a heart-shaped neckline will have tiny sleeves.’ It seems, in the end, the choice of material caused more concern than any style or pattern.”

Sophie asked an important question, of her dressmaker, ‘Will this skirt waft about me and really my dream dress?’

Janice maker of fabulous dresses, with commendable patience and tolerance replied sweetly, “I have my secret ways—it’ll be exactly the skirt you want. No need to worry, and thank you for the picture, you’ll love it. You’ll need to shop around for the lace you want for your bodice, think about a gentle white, not too harsh, or maybe any other colour that you fall in love with. Many brides these days choose colours, even black, but I’m sure you’ll feel black is a ‘bride’ too far.”

That’s a relief, Janice, I knew you could do it. Colour? Perhaps the  palest blue, like mountain mist. You’ll let me know how many metres won’t you?’

I’ve kept an eye on Sophie over the weeks and eventually after agonising days and weeks, I learned all was decided—the pattern for herself—the ‘dress of the century’ and the style for her bridesmaids.

Having fixed on the basics, Sophie and her mother enjoyed traipsing around the fabric shops until they’d narrowed down the store that imported the most charming and luxurious of fabrics. Several days later, Sophie carried a weighty armload of material into Janice’s workroom.

We won’t bore you with the finer points of the cutting, sewing and dozens of fittings for a bride who, eventually floating three centimetres above the floor, was as lively as a balloon on windy day. Let me tell you about the day.

It rained all morning.

Sophie’s house bubbled over with their dressers and four colourful bridesmaids, in their soft shades of pink, green, apricot and lemon. Palest blue for the bride. Their special gowns, also made by Janice in a similar style to the bride’s, had plain, boned tops, the main variation being that of pencil-slim skirts.

Sophie’s dad, Mark, by the dining room window most of the morning willed the rain to stop. He had to do something, anything, to help the day along for his precious only daughter. Her brother Chris, said something about collecting the flowers from the florist and hadn’t been seen since. Mark spent a lot of time looking at his watch. Sophie has everything under control. She has planned for her bridesmaids to travel in her brother’s car and to wait outside the church, along with the photographer, a friend of brother Chris. Fortunately, she’d run her ideas for her own arrival past me and I’d given my approval.
At one-thirty on the afternoon of the fourth of April, I don’t know how they did it but the four girls stuffed themselves into Chris’ Jaguar. They are to wait in or near the porch (depending on the weather), until Sophie’s arrival. Her mother will travel with Aunt Charley, and her dad in the truck cabin with his brother Geoff.

Despite her many anxious glances beyond the elm trees towards the cold winds of the south, Sophie’s plan is destined to go ahead. It’s only five minutes from the house to the church so she installs herself on the deck of a truck with a side she can hang on to. She’ll sit in style on an antique Redaelli chair from their lounge. She knows this chair won’t crush her Marie Antoinette skirt. It’s sturdy and solid, enough to keep her balanced on the otherwise precarious truck-deck surface.

I’d arranged for the wide gates beside the arch and lych gate to be open, to allow her farmer uncle to drive onto the church green. Three or four steps and she’d be on the path leading to the main door. The rain has stopped, but judging by the bumbling black clouds still threatening, they have to judge the time carefully as no one wants to see a sodden bride.

Despite the blackness raging on the southern horizon, I feel our bride will be safe inside the church on her father’s arm before the squall arrives. Ah! There she is, every bit the queen of the day, high on her throne as Uncle Geoff negotiates corners and kerbs. The truck considerately brakes and reverses up to the assembled guests while our gorgeous Sophie waves delightedly to all assembled in her honour.

She stands and gathers her puff-ball skirts, cautiously steadying herself.  Walking confidently to the rear of the deck she peers at the abyss between her, the lawn and her guests. Having the foresight to see that Sophie will need both personal and obviously (as it turns out), sensible help, one of the men returns from the church with a metal step-ladder that he opens and hastily positions on the grass at her feet.

Balancing at the rear edge of the truck deck, her blue colour-matching high heeled shoes, poke their noses over the edge. Sophie holds the voluminous skirts of cloud-like tulle away from the deck that she’s happy to notice earlier, her cousin Mark has swept clean. She peers down from the truck height to the space between her, the lawn and her triumphant arrival at the church.

Still holding up her voluminous skirts, Sophie studies the drop. Dismay creeps over her sunny face as the reality of the space between her and the step-ladder, still presents a sure-fire risk of her wellbeing and decorum. She has no intention of allowing this tiny over-looked pickle to hobble a shepherdess, the focal point of the day. She looks soberly at the more than two-metre drop between her and her goal, then down to the baffled faces of the expectant guests.”

Sophie calls to her father standing on the lawn beneath her. He holds out his arms. She shakes her head. ‘Your idea lass—we didn’t think that one through.’ Sophie glances over her shoulder at the darkening of the skies and the realisation that it’s now or never.

There are several encouraging suggestions from the group below with a few unhelpful cat-calls and suggestions from the younger male guests in the animated group. The least welcome are those from the teenage male guests—'Jump—jump.’

Sophie glances first at her watch, again at the gulf between her and her beloved then back at the sky and her dilemma. She gathers her arms full of tulle, walks to the edge and jumps. I’m among the watchers enjoying the predicament as much as any.

Sophie’s desperate leap of faith is welcomed with yells of delight as her magnificent skirt acts as an umbrella caught in a high wind and immediately unfurls over her head leaving every inch of wedding under-finery exposed to the on-lookers. The cat-calls change to bellows of laughter and the delighted squeals of female guests. Her father leads the hilarity.

With unexpected steadiness, she lands upright, there is a minor difficulty in keeping her balance while she pulls her three-inch heels from the soft lawn. Success! Her face is wreathed in smiles. Her dad strides to her from the edge of the crowd and with an arm around her waist, helps her to the safety of the pathway as the guests step back making room for her on dry ground. The first drops of rain splash onto the concrete and the laughing throng rush as one towards the church entrance.

With her bridesmaids clustering around, Sophie is still laughing as the four young women gather around her in the porch, pat her dress back to its intended, billowy, shepherdess glory. Wagner’s Lohengrin Wedding March fills the church—Sophie takes her father’s arm and looks up to him with one big smile.”

My son is a vicar in a North Yorkshire (UK) parish and regaled me with this story. I’ve tried to keep it just as he told me. I know the church at Patrington so can visualise the scene for myself.
 I like to think your readers would not find it impolite.
Thank you,
Pamella Laird
New Zealand

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