Friday 3rd January, 2020
I awoke in a bedroom with my daughters around 7:45am. Plans to see the sun up, in my battered pair of runners, were immediately dashed. I’d over-slept and over-indulged the previous evening. My phone pinged. Issy was sending me a photo of the sunrise. She’d made it up in time and had run 10kms. I smiled, and drained the glass of water that had sat patiently waiting, since 2am, for its chance to play a part in the day’s events.
At 3:30pm today, on the steps of The Sun House, and in front of eighty-two people (who had respectively and kindly rearranged their family Christmases and New Year celebrations to be with us) Issy and me would marry.
As I struggled to determine exactly the total number of hours still up for grabs before 3.30pm, and the silence of that moment when Issy and her Dad, Mark, would walk out in front of us all, it felt increasingly inefficient to remain in bed. I swung round and left the house, blinking hard as the garden colours came into focus.
The air was already heavy with moisture. I was feeling slightly disorientated so, to counter that, imagined where, later that evening, each of the round dining tables would be placed, pausing momentarily to question the unevenness of the large stone tiles to the right of the lawn, where our natural “dance-floor” would unfold.
As with most facets of these two ornate buildings, secured for our special day, there were health and safety nightmares every which where you looked!
Feeling under-exercised, and with the remnants of a dusty brain, I hopped into the pool and enjoyed the sensation and solitude of the water.
The grooms party – myself, my brother “Bish” and my longstanding bestie, Martyn (also known as “Cake”) along with our families – were staying at The Dutch House, an equally stunning property, joined to The Sun House by a pretty gravel driveway.
The Dutch House has four downstairs bedrooms, connected in the shape of the letter ‘n’ and surrounding the lawn, and beyond that, the Indian ocean. The building dates back to 1870, and maintains the merchant grandeur of its early years. Each of the rooms we hired resplendently furnished with four-poster beds, enormous bathrooms, and an engaging selection of old framed portraits and photographs.
As our motley crew slowly emerged for breakfast, over at The Sun House, the bridal party were several beats ahead of us: Issy, sisters Phoebe and Joey, friends Chloe and Teegs, and mother-of-the-bride, Pobby, had already fashioned an assembly line of helpers to organise the table plan, the name cards, and the bright yellow, orange, green and blue fans we’d carried over from Saigon for the occasion.
For the preceding two hours, in the tradition of keeping distance from one another, and in the face of a fittingly antiquated wifi network, Issy and me used various nieces of ours as emissaries between the Houses, shuttling messages and responses about seating arrangements, button-holes and first dance choices.
Fortunately, with the day’s heat rising and the clouds convivially dispersing (it had monsoon rained the day before at precisely 3:30pm) refreshments were on hand, in the form of cold beers and heavenly cheese and tomato toasties.
With our final touches in place, the adrenaline picked up as hotel staff begun dressing the tables for dinner and hanging long, squid shaped lamps in the trees.
It was approaching 1:30pm and we needed an ironing board, and perhaps a stronger drink. The remnants of a bottle of Woodford Reserve were poured out, and our housekeeper ran off to find an iron.
Twenty minutes passed before he was back, with a brand new one he’d run off and bought at the local shop – a fittingly generous, but welcomed, hat-tip to the sense of edgy formality brewing in the air.
Over in the The Sun House’s Cinnamon Suite, ‘Team Issy’ were in full dressing-up mode. Like workers to their Queen, the bridal bees were omnipresent (at least, that’s what it felt like for the bride!)
Downstairs, the Sri Lankan registrar was arriving, and the chairs for our ceremony were being arranged on the tiered lawn. Upstairs, flower girls Martha and Hazel were duly escorted out of the scrumptious nest of pleated hems and mascara, and taken to the glacial inner sanctum of Grandma’s bedroom to remain “cool”.
Other, older bees were paying more attention to their Queen – from the furious fanning of faces all the way to (and, as it turned out, just moments before the bridal music was to be cranked up) the mother-of-the-bride lying prostrate on the floor, stitching a torn seam in Issy’s dress.
For a lost moment in time, on one side of this exquisite and bubbling cauldron of excitement, the groomsmen sipped whisky and tequila, whilst their bridal counter-parts, 200 metres away, shared a jug of sparkling gin and ginger.
The minutes evaporated, and the booze inspired a loosening of any tension, as we collectively edged closer towards that delightful moment of no return – of getting something, finally, underway.
Around 2pm I showered, again, in possibly the most opulent bathroom I’m sure to ever frequent. Only to take one step outside, to join the growing grooms party (I’d called for some recruits, to bolster numbers) where I immediately started to perspire.
What to do?
Dressed in linen shorts, and very much with jacket in hand, I inhaled as much of the scene before me as I could muster – a charming, boisterous gaggle of family men and affable banter – and knew, full well, that a damp shirt was (in the scheme of things to concern oneself about) a mere trifle. In any case, I had two spare identikit shirts at the ready, to change into later on (as learnt from previous weddings in Asia).
There was then a subtle, but recognisable, pause in our pre-wedding joviality. 3pm. It was time for the groomsmen to set off. A final toast and draining of glasses, a tweak of the lapels, and the men were on the move.
As we turned down the front path to the road that ran up between the two Houses, I spotted the first rainbow flecks of tropical wedding attire, as two wedding guests spilled out of an arriving tuk.
Off we go…