They say it's meant to be unforgettable. That it's the biggest day of your life. That you'll cherish the memories forever. We've all heard these words, some of us with an impatient sense of anticipation, others with a cool, nonchalant indifference. Aside from the odd daydream of being led down the aisle towards a beaming David Beckham (I don't know where Victoria had gone off to in that particular fantasy of mine), I'd never really been the "ooh, I want to get married" kind of girl. I haven't "planned my wedding since I was 12" (at that age I was too busy planning the celebratory dinners for my Oscar win and my Nobel prize in literature) or spent afternoons oohing and aahing over bridal magazines. I've always thought that the magic of a wedding was getting married to this person, not just "getting married" as an abstract, general concept. It was getting married TO HIM that was the whole point; without him, the random idea of being a bride held no appeal to me whatsoever.
I went into my wedding day expecting anything: rain-roaring thunderstorms, family feuds, Italian relatives wandering lost at the airport, the groom throwing himself into the sea and frantically breast-stroking it all the way to Denmark fuelled only by panic - but what I did not expect at all was to have that fairy tale wedding that "every girl" apparently dreams of.
The day before the wedding was a Friday the 13th that stayed true to its horror movie-esque reputation: heavy, menacing clouds filled the sky as loud, meaningless quarrels poisoned the atmosphere between me, my family and my fiance. At a certain point, I confessed to my best friend and bridesmaid that "none of this feels like me or like us and I don't even feel like showing up tomorrow", an outburst I'm now truly sorry for - she'd been such a huge help and had no clue what to do when I went into panic mode. As David took off for his stag night (the day before the wedding, true to tradition!), I sat alone on my mum's couch with a book and my Mac, finalising the wedding playlist and wondering if I'd made a big mistake by moving my big day to Sweden. A very depressing image of rain soaking my bouquet filled my head and I suddenly felt so tired, like all I wanted was to wake up in my bed in London and for all of this to be far away.
The wind raged outside my window through the night and I must have slept for no more than three-four hours.
But in the morning, even if the weather was still very windy, the sun was shining bright and just one look at my future husband with his rumpled blonde hair and sleepy eyes made my stomach flutter. Today was the day!
After a light breakfast of fruit, marmalade toast and coffee, me and my mum were off to Anna at Ekman Hair, the family hairdresser. She's been doing my mum's and sisters' hair for years and was the mastermind behind the amazing 'dos at my sister Sofie's wedding last summer, so when it came to choosing a hairstylist, she was my first choice. Sitting in the chair with my second cup of coffee of the day, I watched her work her magic as Daria, the photographer, arrived and snapped a few shots of me getting fixed up. The butterflies in my stomach were waking up and stretching their wings as I watched the first part of my bridal image take form.
An hour and a half after slumping into Anna's chair, I gazed into the mirror at a half-up, half-down style with long, big, cascading curls. My hair looked like a fairy tale. Well, as I was still wearing ripped jeans and Converse, it had the resemblance of the start of a fairy tale.
My dad, who'd shown up in the meantime to pick me up, whisked me into his car before the wind got the chance to rip into the delicate hairstyle, and we zipped off to the seaside villa that would be the setting for the ceremony. I was met there by my sister, who took me upstairs while my best friend diverted David - he was already down at the terrace with his family and a few other early arriving guests. Sofie did an amazing job tying me into the contriving yet wonderful corset of my dress as Mia, the make-up artist, showed up and sat me down to work magic on my face. As she transformed me, people kept showing up with glasses of champagne (always appreciated) and questions (less appreciated, especially when you can't move your face!).
My best friend Johanna arrived, looking radiant as always, and I handed over her and Sofie's bridesmaid gifts - two delicate bracelets with a heart charm with their initial. Just as I was wrapping up the handout, the officiator lady showed up and started asking TONS of questions - where are we going to stand? Where is she going to stand? Is there going to be music? In the meantime, Daria the photographer snapped pictures of my newly made-up face. I struggled to relax my face for the camera while doing my best to answer the officiator. I relied on Daria and Photoshop for the results! My father showed up and we took a few snaps together, before, as if by magic, everyone disappeared and I realised that the time had come.
My father walked me down to the long staircase above the terrace on the water where everyone was waiting. I glanced downstairs. David was standing next to the officiator and Johanna, who had the task of translating the ceremony into Italian and my sister in front of David's brother, ready for their bridesmaid and best man duties. I took a deep breath and let my dad lead me down what seemed like endless stairs, while our wedding song, Se L'Aura Spira, performed by Owain Phyfe played. Daria ran in front of us, clicking her camera, while everyone stared at me - it's a one-of-a-kind feeling, those short, fleeting moments when all eyes are on you, yet the only eyes you see are his.
When I reached David and saw the huge smile on his face, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Everything took on a whole new light. The ceremony was short and sweet, the wind was so fierce that Sofie had to hold my veil back to keep it from flying in my face in every photo, but the sun was shining and that's all that mattered (for the photos, at least!). When we'd exchanged rings and were holding our marriage certificates in our hands, I finally released every trace of nerves and gave way to all the happiness in my heart (that's why I'm smiling hysterically in pretty much every post-ceremony picture!). David made an attempt to carry me up the stairs, but it prove too dangerous a feat and we gave up after three steps. At least he tried!
The dinner that followed was a feast of Mediterranean flavours, heart-warming speeches, tears (me), funny faces (me again, and David) and just really amazing conversation and togetherness. All my friends and family (well, almost) in one place. And they were there to celebrate us and our love.
After dinner, Daria asked us to take some funny, scene-y photos with David's guitar (not actually his - borrowed from the husband of one of my childhood friends!). I normally dislike this kind of imposed silliness, but Daria was very convincing, so I joined in - and I'd never regret it as the photos look amazing!
When the cake rolled out, everyone gathered for photos - that's how gorgeous it was. A soft nutty base with chocolate and fresh strawberries - I could never have asked for a more perfect (vegan!) cake! It came from Marimilo Bakery in Södertälje outside Stockholm.
I grabbed a coffee (third of the day!) after the cake, only to spill on my dress - yes, really! The unthinkable happened. But in these occasions, I think it's so important to just laugh about it. I really don't think I could be friends with the type of girl that would throw a fit if it happened to her.
My best friend Johanna also represented most of the musical entertainment of the evening - she's a truly talented singer and we were so lucky to have her do a show at the wedding! David and I stepped onto the floor for our first dance as she masterfully belted out Have I Told You Lately That I Love You - one of the most beautiful, flawless moments of my entire existence. I remember everything just being so gloriously, amazingly perfect.
Until my shoe broke!
That's right, one of my heels just snapped underneath me (not while I was dancing, thank God!) and completely broke off. This had never happened to me before in my life - until my wedding day! Luckily, I married a very handy man, who immediately found a hammer and got to work, actually fixing the shoe! I beamed like the proud wife I am.
Obviously, David also played a few pieces on the guitar. I introduced him, telling the story of how I'd first fallen in love with him when I heard him play and knew that he was the man of my life - because I wanted to listen to this forever.
As soft dusk started to fall (around 11pm - it's June in Sweden!), I took a look at my family and friends dancing, eating, drinking, talking and laughing and realised how wrong I was the previous evening in my feeling that this wedding wasn't "us" enough: it was ALL us, thanks to the effervescently beautiful mix of people that attended. They were what made the day amazing.
The festivities sparkled on until, tired but happy, I let Johanna help me out of my dress, threw my Converse back on - without removing my veil or tiara! - and fell into my dad's car, along with my husband, a bottle of wine and what's left of the cake.
When we pulled up at the Grand Hotel Saltsjöbaden, I let out an incredulous "is this us"? The hotel was SO stunning that I had no words. The suite was fit for a prince and princess (which is what we felt like!) and I couldn't stop taking photos of everything - this is the place where Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner once stayed! We watched the Italy-England World Cup game eating cake and drinking wine - I can't think of a more "us" wedding night concept.
When David fell asleep, I crept out of bed and took a photo of subtle sunrise outside, complete with amazing sea views. Alone, I watched my wedding day end, feeling nostalgic already, but at the same time excited about everything that's to come.
In the end, it was windy, my shoe broke and I spilled coffee on my dress, but even so, the first thing we said when we woke up the following morning was, "can we do this whole wedding thing again?". Really, the only negative part of our wedding was that we only get to do it once.