If, like us, you love a bit of classical literature, it seems like an absolute no-brainer that you might want to get married in a literary wedding venue. Why not imbue your wedding day with all the prowess and stature associated with your favourite writer? Moreover, some of the loveliest venues in the land have got literary connotations that you’d be foolish not to make the most of.
The Globe Theatre, London
We were lucky enough to write about Kathryn & Tom’s wedding that took place in The Swan at The Globe and boy did it feel spectacular. Seeped in the gravitas of Shakespeare’s Globe, the hospitality areas of this magnificent theatre are beautiful, contemporary and boast some of the best views of London.
Stevenson House, Edinburgh
For an intimate wedding reception, why not settle into the sumptuous surroundings of Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood home? A gorgeous Georgian townhouse, now privately owned, you’ll find all the charm of a beautiful house that’s only a 15 minute walk from Edinburgh Castle.
Burnham Beeches Hotel, Buckinghamshire
Standing handsomely within its own ten acres of private gardens and parklands, Burnham Beeches is steeped in history. Originally built in 1727 as a hunting lodge for the Royal family, the building has since played host to a number of famous faces, perhaps the most notable of which being English poet, Thomas Gray. After visiting his uncle at the property in 1737, Gray was inspired to write his famous poem, ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’. The enchanting Georgian hideaway is the perfect setting for a wedding, with its stunning white facade, AA Rosette Restaurant and 10 elegant banqueting rooms.
Wordsworth House & Gardens, Cumberland
What could be more magical than getting married in the very birthplace of the father of English Romanticism? Wordsworth House & Gardens owes its name to William Wordsworth, an English poet who, with the publication of Lyrical Ballads, helped to launch the romantic age of English Literature. Nestled deep in the rugged fell mountains of the Lake District, this Georgian property offers an idyllic setting for a fairytale wedding. Take advantage of wonderful wedding photo opportunities by posing in the glorious walled garden or upon Wordsworth’s famous terrace.
Chawton House Library, Hampshire
This grand Elizabethan country house in Hampshire has regularly hosted one of the most widely read writers in English literature, Jane Austen. With spectacular parkland views, the venue earned the title of ‘Great House’ in many of Austen’s letters to her peers, having once been owned by her brother, Edward. Fast forward to the present day, the building now offers a one-of-a-kind wedding experience where guests can dine in the Oak room, dance in the Great Hall or stroll across the South Lawn with their very own Mr Darcy or Miss Bennet.
Charles Dickens Birthplace, Portsmouth
Wedding venues don’t come more extraordinary than the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous authors, Charles Dickens. This charming house can be found in an unspoilt Georgian Street in Portsmouth, along a cobbled street lined with Regency lampposts. The venue hosts intimate weddings for up to sixteen guests.
The D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre, Nottingham
Built in 1876 as the offices for the local coal owners, Barber, Walker & Co., where as a boy the world famous writer D.H. Lawrence would collect his father’s wages, it now offers an intimate venue for small weddings. It’s also the new location for the registry office, so that’s convenient!
As self-confessed bibliophiles, the thought of documenting a wedding at a venue with such prestigious literary connections leaves us giddy with excitement. To follow in the footsteps of great writers from the past would not only be a dream come true for us, it would add yet another layer of literary magic and romance to your Wedding Report.
One of the strange phenomena about getting married is that your wedding always feels like it was just yesterday. Time passes, your marriage grows, your family expands, life goes on but when you think about your wedding it doesn’t feel like that long ago. Not really.
You might not realise it at the time because you’ll be far too busy planning the thing and enjoying the excitement, but your wedding is not just about the two of you. It is a marker for everybody involved. Your wedding is an important snapshot of all your loved ones, at that very specific moment in time when they gathered to share in your happiness.
At some point down the road, you’ll glance at a photo of you surrounded by all your friends at your wedding and wonder when you all grew up. You might catch a glimpse of a cherished relative who’s no longer around and realise how fleeting that moment was when you celebrated so heartily together. You’ll see faces who no longer configure in your life and wonder at the absence of ones who are now so important to you.
A wedding is never really just about two people. The supporting cast all contribute to the enjoyment of the day but, more importantly, they complete the picture of who you both were as a couple at that time in your lives. Make sure you have a fitting tribute to them long after the day is over.
Image by Tarah Coonan
Renata & Jonathan – Cote d’Azur from Allora Visuals on Vimeo.
We recently shared with you the wedding report of Renata and Johnny but before we close the pages of their love story, we just had to share with you the stunning film of their day created by Allora Visuals.
This wedding was nothing short of awesome to work on and that is thanks in no small part to the team of talented professionals who helped pull it together. From the incredibly organised Kerry at Lavender & Rose Weddings to the wonderfully evocative images produced by Polly Alexandre, it was a pleasure to work with everyone who helped make Renata & Johnny’s wedding come to life.
So, sit back, put your feet up and enjoy a truly sensational film of an utterly magical wedding…
The concentric circles of wine glasses that had gleamed beneath candlelight at the start of the meal now sat abandoned on each table, kiss marks on their lips and finger marks around their waists as testament to the love affair between drinkers and the specially selected grapes.
“I hope he buys you flowers, I hope he holds your hand,” the band continued, fading into the background of buoyant chatting and irascible laughter. “Give you all his hours when he has the chance, take you to every party ‘cause I remember how much you love to dance…”
Had Johnny not been embroiled in his own series of conversations, he might have noticed his big brother wandering around various tables with a crumpled raft of papers in his hand. David smiled as he drank in the atmosphere and chatted his way up towards the microphone. The raucous atmosphere abated slightly as David mounted the couple of steps to the terrace that acted as his stage.
“They made me speak last, which is a double liability,” he said. “First of all I’ve had too much to drink, and secondly there’s so little light here that I can’t read my speech anymore!”
Titters of amusement propelled the start of his speech into an easy, tipsy, friendly, funny ode to his brother, his new sister-in-law and the love that they had all witnessed throughout the weekend.
“Dear Mr and Mrs Dadasova, family and friends, beloved Johnny and Renata, it is with great pleasure that I stand here tonight to share such a unique and special moment: the recycling of my little brother.”
The audience burst out into full-blown laughter and Johnny, shaking his head at the prospect of what was to come, grinned at his brother.
“Excuse me, did I say recycling? I meant the wedding of my little brother!” David corrected. “Finally it happened! We’ve all been waiting for it for so long! Finally Johnny is getting married to Renata and what a beautiful bride he has tonight.”
A whistle in the crowd carried on the still crest of the night as David continued to muse about how far Johnny and Renata had come since their African endeavour. He said he’d had to physically coerce Johnny to join the safari, comparing the feat to trying to get the groom to endeavour in guerrilla warfare.
“Anyway, who thought you’d have gone so far when we met that first night in downtown Nairobi, in some dingy little dive and from then – as Rehanna mentioned before – it was like an Errol Flynn movie,” David recalled. “Johnny just swept and wooed Renata off her feet, saving her from deep sea monsters from the Indian Ocean. In fact, what Rehanna forgot to say was that Renata just stepped on a dead sea urchin and we all had to spend three days in the ER crying.”
Again, laughter greeted David’s deadpan delivery and Renata clapped her hands together in delight at the retelling of the story. Changing the subject, David declared that he knew the audience expected him to shower them with a plethora of juicy, spicy and twisted little anecdotes that would no doubt have them all rolling with laughter between the tables, give Johnny access to the cool dudes hall of fame and cause Renata to never ever speak to him again.
“Yes, I have stories about Johnny that range from nightclubs to police holding cells, from lavish palaces and yachts to sleeping in ports and park benches, from Moscow to Thailand and all places of questionable reputation in between,” David conceded. “But as I said, if I were to venture down that part of memory lane it would be a slippery slope from which there would be no coming back.”
His adopted tone of doom made his audience laugh as they attempted to envision Johnny in the myriad scenarios that his brother had so vividly painted.
“So, the only thing I can say tonight is that having cohabitated with the beast, Renata, you are wedlocking (I don’t know if wedlocking is a word, but I like the locking part of it because you are locking Johnny away I hope for a very, very long time),” David said, tangentially. “In some ways you are setting off in some of the things I have done in the past, so the minimum I think I can do for you tonight is to give you a few little tips and pointers on what will make your union long, successful and happy.”
With a deep breath and a serious expression, David glanced up from his script and looked directly at Renata as he told her: “Johnny spends 80% of his time in front of the TV. So: a couch, a TV, TV remote controls, chips and McDonalds will make you a happy marriage. Yes, a comfortable couch for him to watch his TV, a remote fully charged of all the batteries to the Sky, the cable, the iPod, the satellite, the DVD, the VCR, the web: all of them have to be one program. He will come every night if you greet him with the TV remote at 5pm.”
“Anyway, on a more solemn note, of all the stories I could tell tonight none of them could match the one that is being written now,” David said. “The most beautiful one of your lives is being told right now in this magical setting.”
“So I repeat to you it is with great emotion and joy that I stand in front of you tonight and am allowed to speak,” he continued. “Many times have I been given this honour, but none of them really compare to tonight, for it is my special buddy that is setting sail tonight, my bro, my little brother and we are celebrating.”
Renata’s hand sought Johnny’s across the expanse of their little table as they listened to David’s fond words.
“We’re celebrating the materialising of his love for Renata, through the beginning of the most powerful journey of them all: a family,” David said. “My dear Johnny – and we’re coming to the end – you and me have lived through thick and thin, many moments side by side, many feelings: sad ones, happy ones, we have been through tempests and shipwrecks, times of joy, delight and euphoria, all of them helping us to understand and accept us in our weaknesses and appreciate us in our qualities.
So I must in front of all of you here tonight admit a little pinch, for I no longer will be your number one…”
Sniggers escaped a few guests as David appeared to be laying his heartbreak out for all to see.
“…the one that will share all those intimate moments I was referring to – no, not those intimate moments – I will no longer be the one you confide in, the one whose shoulder you will come to cry on (and boy, do you cry a lot).”
The sniggers grew into full-bodied chuckles and David sneaked a knowing grin at his brother, revelling in the glorious way in which Johnny forlornly shook his head.
“But I take great relief and content and great trust in my replacement,” David said. “You have met a powerful, wonderful and beautiful bride who will be able to coach you in all of those moments. And as such, I address all of you now, and you two in particular, I hope and wish both of you to not see a day go by without feeling blessed to have each other – and hopefully additions in the future.”
“Rabbi Hall said it before, but I look in the eyes of my bride over there and tell her tonight that I love her very, very, very much as I suggest all you should do the same,” David said. “I thank heaven every day for my Irina and Samuel, because when the day is up and all others have gone home and whether the chips are up or whether they face down that’s what really counts. That’s what really makes the world go round – not money, but family.”
Applause began to swell in hearty agreement with David’s words, but he continued hastily before they could suppress his train of thought.
“So from the bottom of my heart I wish you all the health and wealth, I wish you all the happiness and love, I wish you the true essence of it all that encompasses all of the above feelings I’ve mentioned, I wish you a family,” David concluded.
For one last time, the audience rose to their feet with their glasses in hand as they joined Johnny’s brother in the final toast of the evening. The chink of glassware meeting in the air preceded the rapturous applause that concluded the speeches and indeed the wedding breakfast.
It was the perfect final formal note to end on, as Johnny and Renata knew when they headed to the stage to thank David. He endorsed every heartfelt word of his speech with charged embraces for both of them. Before the attention of his audience splintered any further, David quickly seized the microphone again as he remembered to cajole everybody inside for the next part of the celebrations.
So began the jaunty music of a lone violinist racing through a myriad of notes of a traditionally upbeat song. People bopped in their places, shimmying to the folk tune and humming along to the familiar melody. Gradually the crowd started to follow David’s lead and left the fiddler in the garden in order to join the pounding sounds of the DJ and band indoors.
Colourful lights flashed around the cloistered interiors of The Grand Patio, bathing the historic walls in neon blues, greens, purples and pinks. The chic white furniture surrounding the periphery of the dancefloor provided refuge for less willing guests, but there was no shortage of volunteers to get the party started, led by Mimmika at the centre of the dancefloor.
Curious faces peered around the pillars of pink Verona marble that lined the room, watching the revellers dive straight into the celebrations. In the opposite corner, a small queue formed against a long table which, on closer inspection, proffered a sumptuous dessert buffet. The keenest members of the wedding party perched on plush sofas and stools with plates full of sweet treats balanced precariously on their knees. Oblivious merrymakers would dance past them, sailing dangerously close to their puddings with outstretched limbs as they pulled some serious shapes.
Dessert dishes soon lay abandoned on low coffee tables as the band segued into a pounding rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy In Love.’ The bass seemed to vibrate through the very fabric of the villa as the MC whipped the throng on the dancefloor into a frenzy with the introduction of the new Mr and Mrs Chesner.
Enormous smiles blazed across Renata and Johnny’s faces as they entered the room like a pair of champions, their enjoined hands punching the air in triumph. Surrounded by women swinging their skirts in time to the music and men grooving to the soulful tune, the newlyweds plunged into the heart of the celebration. With arms in the air, smiles on their faces and hips shaking in syncopation, they barely noticed the industrious work of friends who procured a pair of chairs and rushed on to the dancefloor with them.
The music suddenly transitioned into the beloved Hora and the newlyweds found themselves thrust into the air on their respective seats. Hoisted high overhead at the will of their family and friends, Johnny and Renata laughed and squealed with delight as they rocketed skywards time and time again. Their hands remained gripped on the edge of their seats, too disconcerted by the risky nature of the act to let go.
Slipping down into the crowd for the final time, the newlyweds slid from their seats and gaspingly caught their breath amidst the roar of those around them. Renata’s mouth dropped ajar as she turned in time to see her father being ricocheted into the air on the seat she had just vacated. His sense of enjoyment far outweighed that of self-preservation as he threw his hands in the air with delight, trusting implicitly the shoulders on which he was supported.
There was no time to stop and stare though as Jonathan’s dad landed on the ground. The crowd quickly joined hands and danced in a ring around the room, surging inwards sporadically and laughing when the circle haphazardly expanded once more. Despite the chaos and noise and bustle of the moment, every person partaking in that dance absolutely flooded the dancefloor with love.
When the circle disintegrated, Johnny looped his new wife’s arm through his own and gaily they swung one another around back and forth across the dancefloor. Their faces remained alight with euphoria as they skidded across the polished floor, swapping partners and attempting to make the most of a wonderfully memorable moment.
Even a fleeting drama when the train of Renata’s dress snagged beneath an exuberant heel and made her stumble couldn’t exacerbate the bride’s enthusiasm. Sensing Johnny’s nephew sitting on the sidelines but wanting to join in, Renata made a beeline the boy and swept him into the bedlam of their dance. She watched as her husband traversed the dancefloor and thoughtfully brought their parents into the action, too.
A few faces looked relieved and a few lungs appeared to gasp for breath when the Hora finished and the band replaced it with the more contemporary sound of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love.’ Younger members of the wedding party who had resisted the tradition of the Hora now scurried across the room to join the dance party.
Such was the merriment of the crowd that they scarcely noticed the bride slip away into a hidden turret with Rehanna and Mimmika in tow to help her perform a quick change in the privacy of Beatrice de Rothschild’s boudoir. Such was Johnny’s pleasure in seeing all of his guests so obviously enjoying themselves that he found himself rendered momentarily stationary in the middle of the dancefloor, absorbing the joie de vivre around him before softly and thoughtfully soliciting the older members of the wedding party to check that they were alright.
And such was the pulsating party atmosphere that guests couldn’t help but succumb to the rhythm of the music. One lady ingeniously tucked up the skirt of her dress, shortening its hemline to give her greater freedom to dance. There was absolutely nothing that could come between these revellers and a good time.
Whilst the guests continued to dance around a percussionist dressed in a bandanna and white trilby hat with his bongo drums in the centre of the dancefloor, a saxophonist meandered through the crowd, blowing wildly ecstatic notes into the audience. Well-versed in dancing in even the spikiest of heels, ladies continued to fill the dancefloor – their fluid hips swaying to the music, their faces a mask of joyous rapture.
Outside, the abandoned wonderland of the wedding breakfast twinkled enigmatically beneath the bright crescent moon. Even as busy waiters cleared away the debris of dinner, the setting remained nothing short of spectacular for those few couples who seized the opportunity to heed Rabbi Hall’s advice and steal a moment alone together.
A raucous cheer from indoors punctuated the calm evening air as Madcon’s ‘Begging You’ filled the villa whilst an empty table simultaneously appeared in the middle of the dancefloor. Curious dancers backed away in time to make room for two waiters to cautiously carry in a magnificent macaroon pyramid. Further cheers of acclamation went up in honour of the sweet pink effigy as it landed successfully on its plinth. Quick hands seized cameras to catch the alternative wedding cake and a savvy few even managed to catch Johnny’s expression as he glanced round in time to see his wife re-entering the room.
A playful smile danced across Renata’s lips at the sound of the cheers and applause she received for her second grand entrance of the day. Gone was the elegant, floor-sweeping Monique Lhuillier ‘Amaranth’ dress in favour of a white, strapless, knee-length 60s style party dress from Femmes Fatales. A sweet little bow on the back completed the fun, feminine picture.
Renata’s hair now sat swept back into a ponytail, showcasing a sparkly hair slide and vintage diamond earrings that dangled to her shoulders. Trotting happily into the room on sky scraping heels, there was no doubt at all that the bride was in the mood to party into infinity.
The Black Eyed Peas and Michael Jackson set the tone for the evening, keeping the dancefloor packed full of gyrating bodies. A sense of awe settled over the room as a pint-sized reveller took to the stage to execute the most extraordinary dance to the sound of Billy Jean. Having travelled all the way from the US, Josh made sure to captivate the enthusiastic audience with his awesome dance moves. The macaroon pyramid, moved to the periphery of the room for safety, quickly found itself easily devoured at the request of the bride and groom with guests even incorporating the Potel & Chabot treats into their dance moves.
Having been temporarily separated by her outfit change, Renata danced over to her husband, her body sliding tenderly up against his. Johnny couldn’t help but plant a kiss on her perfect cheek. She was the queen of the dancefloor with everyone wanting to be near her, magnetically drawn to the force of her personality, her beauty and the good times she radiated.
Johnny’s eyes remained locked on Renata even when she shimmied her way around the room finding new people to embrace. He watched as she flung her arms lovingly around each individual and asked time and time again if they were enjoying themselves, as though there were any other option. He watched her from the corner of his eye even as he received hugs of gratitude from his own friends and relatives, allowing their words of congratulations to pour into his ears.
Sometimes it seemed like he didn’t even realise that he was so captivated by his wife, but then he’d suddenly seem to catch himself. He’d smile and shake his head, as though recovering from a temporary reverie in which he marvelled at his own good luck to have such a beautiful partner to spend his life with.
When the new Mr and Mrs Chesner found themselves onstage amongst the band, they looked out at a sea of adoring faces in the audience, all looking up at the newlyweds with the greatest wishes for their future. And though Renata’s heels bore the grassy scars of the earlier festivities and Johnny abandoned his jacket to further enjoy the evening, they would be carried long into the night on the strength of goodwill from those around them.
Nothing they had imagined had even come close to the euphoric reality of the day in which hearts, souls and lives had been joined and dreams had come true. It had been a multilingual, multicultural, phantasmagorical day, filled with love and affection, romance and fantasy, and the personification of the strength of Renata and Johnny’s relationship.
All images courtesy of Polly Alexandre
They dined by the light of the rising moon and glittering stars, the magicians of the night raining down a cascade of blessings upon this new marriage as they began their wedding banquet. Decadent courses followed delicious hors d’oeuvres and amuse bouche. Conversation flowed as freely as the Burgundy wine and some stronger spirits whilst an attentive waiter stood by each individual table to serve on demand.
Mimmika and Rehanna slipped out of their seats as yet another round of plates left the tables. The band drew to a swift close at the sight of the bridesmaids stepping up to the microphones for their dual speech beneath the now blackened sky. Mimmika and Rehanna smiled as a flurry of multilingual greetings flowed easily from their lips and amplified around the French Garden.
“We hope we’ve managed to greet all of you in your own language,” Rehanna began. “And you may or may not believe this, but between the three of us all of those languages were being spoken in our home in London on a daily basis.”
Impressed murmurs rolled around the audience as, at the centre of the crowd, Renata turned her chair fully to face her friends.
“Wow, ladies and gentlemen, look around you!” Rehanna exclaimed. “What a spectacular location for such a wonderful event. A big thank you to Mr and Mrs Dadasova for hosting us tonight at this wedding function and we just want to convey our heartfelt thanks to both Johnny and Renata’s families for entertaining us so wonderfully over the past three days.”
Consenting applause greeted the appreciative remark before Rehanna handed over to Mimmika in order to share some anecdotes about their shared life in London with Renata.
“You may realise that Renata, Rehanna and myself all come from different corners of the earth,” Mimmika explained. “Lithuania, Kenya and South Africa came together thirteen years ago. With ridiculously diverse backgrounds and cultures the fact that the three of us became so close despite these differences is testament to real and true friendship. Being thrown into the deep end together in a foreign country meant we far surpassed the boundaries of friendship and we are sisters and will stay sisters for life.”
Renata nodded passionately, eliciting small smiles from her bridesmaids as they glanced over at her.
“In London we lived all together in a real life episode of ‘Friends’. Our doors were never locked to each other and symbolically this is still the case despite living in different countries now,” Mimmika explained. She recalled the guilt that she and Rehanna would feel when Renata insisted on staying home to study instead of partying, only to find she had used her evening to watch Sex and the City and eat takeaways instead.
“Naturally she would ace all her exams anyway, having the photographic memory that she has,” Mimmika assured the audience, and Renata’s knowing laugh could be heard carrying across the lawn. “As well as being super smart, Renata is one of the most special people in our lives. You never have to worry about airs, graces and pretences with her; you can always be yourself and she’ll accept you for who you are. Even with the high standards she has for herself and those around her, she is still so humble and down to earth and can fit in anywhere and with anyone. She has drive, ambition and is strong, and yet she has the kindest, sweetest heart – a truly rare combination in a person and a depth of sincerity that is almost extinct in these days.”
“Renata has been there for us, celebrating our joys, helping us through our harder times as we will always be there for her, and she will do anything for those that she loves and cares about,” Mimmika said. “Which brings us to the greatest love in her life, Johnny. How did he do it? Luckily we’ve got somebody here who knows the inside story so I’ll pass you over to Rehanna.”
Knowing laughter began to spread outwards from Johnny and Renata’s little table as Rehanna claimed to be the one with the real story of how Johnny and Renata met.
“Picture this story with the leading characters Johnny Chesner and Renata Dadasova at that time,” Rehanna said in her precise, clipped voice. “Renata, a seasoned veteran, comes to Kenya ready for safari on the coast, no fear of what she will encounter. Johnny on the other hand, press-ganged by his brother into coming to Kenya, doesn’t know what to expect, other than that there are bugs, wild animals, no proper toilets and definitely a lack of security: not a good thing for a Swiss person. Renata is seriously wondering who this guy is that doesn’t see this exciting country in the same light as she does and, so far, she isn’t very impressed.”
Laughter swarmed around the garden as Johnny gamely shook his head in despair. It was a story that they knew inside out but still made them smile whenever they heard it.
“However, slowly but surely, Johnny begins to like the scenery, the excitement, the culture and of course the people, not to mention the fact that he wants to get to know the beautiful Renata,” Rehanna explained. “By the time we head down to the coast with the vivid sun, sand and the sea, Renata is quite smitten with Johnny and this is where she won his heart. In her absolute mission to spend time with Johnny alone, Renata insisted that we went jet skiing, despite the fact that we warned her it was 6pm in the evening, visibility was exceptionally poor, the tide was very low and injury was an inevitability. Johnny, in his desire to impress Renata, takes her on the back of his jet ski, does a fancy but rather ridiculously dangerous turn, Renata comically goes flying off the back of his jet ski and lands very, very painfully on a sea urchin.”
Howls of laughter greeted Rehanna’s comical retelling of the story, delighting those who had not heard it before and amusing those who knew only too well the intricacies of the tale.
“But these dire circumstances allowed Johnny to woo Renata while he tended to her from her hospital bedside – on New Year’s Eve, no less,” Rehanna said. “And further, to show her how sorry he was, he flew all the way from Geneva to London to take her to a romantic dinner and, well, ladies and gentlemen, as they say the rest is history.”
A collective sigh enveloped the newlyweds who sat, hand-in-hand, watching their beloved friends recount their mutual history.
“And the moral of this story is that behind every wonderfully romantic relationship, there’s a masterminding beautiful woman, her jet ski adventures and a sea urchin,” Rehanna concluded, invoking a round of applause for the nature of her story-telling.
“So that’s how Renata found her Johnny and Johnny found his Renata and here is our wish to you,” Mimmika rejoined. “Love is important, yes, but along with the love you have for each other, you should cherish each other – every little thing about each other. Grow in your similarities and respect your differences, never try to change each other; why mess with what you fell in love with in the first place? Remember each person gives and receives love in a different way and their own special way so take time to learn and appreciate each other’s way. And finally, a successful marriage is one with plenty of holidays so come visit us in Paros and Kenya many many times, because we miss you dearly!”
Johnny and Renata threw their heads back with laughter but nodded vigorously at the request. Amidst an onslaught of applause, Mimmika asked everyone to stand with a glass in hand.
“Here’s to Renata and Johnny and a happy, healthy, beautiful life together,” Rehanna toasted. “Cheers!”
Though glasses had been repeatedly thrust in the air in appreciation throughout the evening, they now did so at the bridesmaids’ request. Rising to their feet in appreciation, Johnny and Renata’s guests toasted them heartily, whilst they in turn made their way to the stage to personally thank Rehanna and Mimmika. The cheers from the audience endorsed the hugs and kisses that Renata lavished upon her close friends and chosen sisters.
Whilst everyone else sank back into their seats, Mimmika and Rehanna stepped out from the microphones and returned to their respective places and partners. Rehanna’s request for a shot of vodka was only masked by an impromptu chant from a table on the other side of the garden who noisily requested in Russian (Горько) that the newlyweds ought to indulge in a kiss. Renata and Johnny’s acquiescence invoked yet another roar of cheers and they laughed as they returned to their seats.
It was from the central position of their sweetheart table that Johnny stood to make his own speech a little while later. With Renata seated at his side, Johnny looked around him at their assembled friends and family who eventually managed to stifle their conversations to hear him speak.
“I just want to say a few words to thank everyone for being here tonight and joining us in sharing our special day,” the groom said. “It means a lot to us that our dear friends and family are all here.”
Appreciative applause swept like a rolling wave across the lawn, engulfing the newlyweds with its strength of feeling and mutual thankfulness.
“I would like to address a special thank you to Renata’s parents, my parents-in-law, Galina and Idrakas, for their support and help in making this evening a dream,” Johnny said, turning to their table to address them. “And I would like to say how proud and honoured I am to have become part of your family and I promise to take good care of your wonderful daughter and of course do everything she tells me to…”
Good-natured laughter combined with gentle applause, but subsided back into roars of laughter when Johnny added, “…Even if it involves watching football on Sunday night!”
In an unprecedented move, Johnny switched seamlessly into a few Russian sentences, the success of which garnered him laughs of delighted surprise, applause and tender sighs as he won the hearts of Renata’s relatives and friends in their own language.
“I would like to say thank you to my parents without whom I wouldn’t be here today,” Johnny said. “Thank you for giving me life, for putting up with me all these years, and – most importantly being myself a hypochondriac – giving me good health until I met Renata; now she is taking on that challenge. I thank you also for all your efforts to make this weekend an unforgettable moment.”
He nodded in appreciation to his parents and was greeted once more with applause and acclamations.
“My sister Daniella and my brother David, I thank you both for always being there and watching over me, you guys are the best,” Johnny said, his last words almost being drowned out by the cheers and applause that they invoked.
“And finally, I’d like to say to my outrageously beautiful wife tonight that I never knew what I was missing before I met you,” Johnny said, looking down at Renata. “Every day with you is filled with love, so much friendship, happiness and lots of fun. You are simply amazing, my sweetheart Renata. Cheers to you, to us, I love you forever.”
He sealed his words with a kiss, the temptation of Renata’s face tilted up towards him as she listened to him speak a little too good to pass up. Johnny’s siblings and both their parents all slid out of their seats to embrace the groom and compliment him on his fine words.
Abandoning their flower filled table to capitalise on the company of all of their wedding guests, Johnny and Renata basked in the flattering light of the evening as they circumnavigated each table. The warm glow from the candles and lights caught in Renata’s cascade of glossy dark hair and danced across the pristine fabric of her dress. When she threw her head back with laughter or lent down to embrace a special someone, her beautiful aura simply eclipsed everything else around her.
Ladies wrapped themselves in pashminas and jackets to protect themselves from the soft chill of the night. The clouds had rolled away to leave an unblemished blanket of stars overhead, providing absolutely no insulation from the coastal cliff top breeze.
Even when Johnny and Renata did return to their seats, their little oasis frequently played host to a line of well wishers stopping by to chat to the newlyweds. Whether they managed to eat much of their food or drink much of their wine seemed to be subject to the best intentions of those passers-by who just wanted to tell them, “Last night was already amazing; I couldn’t imagine that this would be better, but it completely took my breath away.”
It was an opinion that Renata carried into her own speech as she stood to address her cheering, adoring fans in the form of her most beloved family and friends. She spoke first in fluent Russian, her voice tripping lightly through the rapid syllables before reverting back to English.
“I just said that, for me, I’m so proud that I’m the daughter of my parents,” Renata translated. “They’re extraordinary and amazing people and I’m forever grateful for everything they’ve done for me in life, so bravo to them!”
She put her own hands together to join the wealth of applause in honour of her parents, smiling across at them with unabashed affection.
“Now, my friends are everywhere today,” Renata said. “My old friends and my new friends – I just want to say you are all amazing and being an only child all these years you have always been there for me. We always partied together, we had wonderful times and everybody is my sister and brother and I’m so blessed that everybody’s here and you all look wonderful and are having a fantastic time and it’s the biggest present for me ever, so enjoy!”
“Also, I’m very, very lucky to enter the new family of Mr and Mrs Chesner,” she continued. “They have been great to me and took me into their arms from the moment they met me, so thank you so much for everything yesterday, you really set the mood and the level for the entire weekend. So bravo to Mr and Mrs Chesner!”
Amidst the applause, Renata quickly went on to extol the virtures of the new siblings she had acquired from the Chesner family, cheering personally for all of them whilst they returned her salutation with noisy heckles from their table further down the garden.
“Last but not least, Johnny,” Renata said, smiling as she spoke her husband’s name and feeling her heart swell as she looked over at his handsome face. “It’s been almost three and a half years since we met on the Kenyan safari adventure (that everybody now knows about thanks to my bridesmaids Rehanna and Mimmika). You’re amazing. I love you enormously, you rock, we make an amazing team, thank you for everything. Today has been everything me and you wanted and I really am so grateful.”
As her sentiments rolled freely from one into another, cheers and applause peppered her words. Johnny bashfully ducked his head at her praise, an emotional smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“And thank you everybody who came from so many countries, so many continents,” Renata concluded. “You look amazing, having a wonderful time. Let’s all celebrate!”
The cheers bubbled up into the air and floated down the side of the hill, raining jubilations down on the town below as Renata resumed her seat and the band dipped easily into a Bruno Mars number.
“Same bed but it feels just a little bit bigger now,” crooned the singer, temporarily drowning out the natural symphony of frogs surrounding the garden. “Our song on the radio but it don’t sound the same…”
All images courtesy of Polly Alexandre
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