We had a wonderful day - many many thanks to everyone who came to help celebrate with us!
This page will serve as a sort of web log post about the wedding and honeymoon. If you want to comment, you can do that on this page - just scroll to the bottom and click "Edit this page".
We have about 200 photos from the wedding [here]. A selection of 35 of the best can be seen [here]. Some of these photos are linked from the [_] links in the diary below. (Note that you can zoom in on the photos by clicking the magnifying glass at the top corner, and you can add comments to any photo by typing in the box below it.)
Now, to the diary!
The Wedding Ceremony (in Alex's words)
Alex writes: At 9am on a typical Saturday, I wouldn't be thinking of getting up for another couple of hours at least. However, 29th July was most emphatically not a typical Saturday. So it was that by 9:30, Ant and I were already getting ourselves into smart suits, and shortly after 10, Mike arrived and drove us both to EmmanuelCollege Chapel.
At Emmanuel, the anticipation just rose and rose as noon approached. Jeremy the minister and Matt the preacher were there when I arrived, and we exchanged excited words. Family and friends started arriving shortly after I did[_][_], and as I saw person after person walk around the college's Front Court[_], it was hitting me that I'd seen people dressed up for weddings before, but this was for my wedding!
I managed to brief Trudi Dickins and StephenClark when they arrived: they were people who'd been powerfully used by God in my and Rachael's process of becoming a Christian respectively, and so we'd asked each of them to do one of the Bible readings. More and more family and friends turned up with big smiles or anticipatory grins, until it was only my parents who I was still waiting for. Thankfully even they managed to defy the traditional Churchill lateness and be at the chapel with more than 10 minutes to go[_].
Then Phil started playing the processional music, and I gulped, stood up with my best men beside me, and turned to face the chapel door...
And Rachael walked in.[_] And my heart leapt and did a double somersault for joy as I saw her. She was utterly, breathtakingly beautiful. And as she neared and I could make out her face through the veil, she was clearly as excited as I was! [_]
The service passed in a bit of a blur. People managed to get where they needed to be at the right times. The hymns of praise that we'd chosen took on new meaning as we sang them side by side at our wedding. There were a few hiccups - we'd both memorised our vows, but my mind went blank once or twice and Jeremy had to prompt me; and it took both of us a little longer than we'd expected to put the rings on one another's fingers[_]. But we were so overwhelmed with the sheer joy of the moment that we couldn't care less. After Jeremy pronounced us husband and wife, we couldn't help but give delighted, amazed grins to the assembled beaming congregation[_][_].
Finally, we got to process arm in arm down the chapel[_], past the wonderful supportive smiles on all sides, and make our way outside.
The Wedding Ceremony (in Rachael's words)
Rachael writes: I got up even earlier – 7am, I think. Like a small child on Christmas Eve, I hadn't had much sleep, but was too happy and excited the next day to feel tired.
Had a wonderfully girly morning getting ready with my mum and sister and best friends. Heike the hairdresser joined in and was as girly as the rest of us.
The morning went surprisingly quickly, and I was getting changed into my dress at 11:45, while my mum was trying to hurry us all downstairs.
Outside the chapel, we met up with the bridesmaids and Jeremy, the Dean. I was eager to go in, and wondered why the processional wasn't starting already; but Jeremy suggested we all take a moment of quiet[_]. I thought he was going to lead us in prayer, and wondered how my dad would feel about that; but he didn't, we just paused and stood still for a few seconds and caught our breath. In hindsight I think this was extremely valuable, otherwise I might have gone scampering up the aisle like an excited puppy. Also, it was an opportunity for about ten more guests to make it into the chapel.
Then the processional did start – the heart-quickening, significance-loaded opening of the Wedding March. We processed in, through an overwhelming array of faces of loving friends and family, too many to take in even at the slow pace I was passing them – and saw[_], in the centre, my wonderful fiancé, looking stunning with his dark curls cascading down over his white suit.
Earlier I'd thought it was a shame that Alex and I, having been apart since the previous afternoon, wouldn't get to speak to each other until after we were actually married. But as we stood looking at each other at the front of the chapel, I realised words were unnecessary and would have been insufficient.
After the Service
Alex writes: It was a wonderful, light-headed feeling, standing around outside the chapel being congratulated by friend after friend, as bubbles drifted all around us. Thank you all. I received a phone call from my grandmother at one point, via my uncle Mike's phone, so for those of you who were surprised to see me on the phone[_], I was being congratulated by family who couldn't make it there in person!
Things relaxed a bit as we made our way to Chapman's Garden for drinks and photographs. I didn't know this part of Emmanuel so well, but it was a beautiful setting for many photos. I think the sunlight was quite bright, though, so if we seem to be squinting in some of your photos, that's probably why! But we can't really complain about the weather, as it was as good as we could possibly have hoped for - a warm, sunny day, but with enough breeze to keep us rather cooler than the preceding heat-wave-enveloped week would have allowed. People kept asking me if I was hot in my three layers, but I was oblivious to any degree of temperature once we were out of the chapel. I think I was distracted :)
We were still having a hard time taking it in, and kept stopping to show one another our rings and embrace delightedly[_]. This carried on for many days afterwards! It was great to see people enjoying time with one another[_] and catching up with old friends or family they hadn't seen for some time[_].
Even both best men had difficulty attracting everyone's attention to let them know the wedding car was about to depart; so DouglasReay stepped up, quite literally, and boomed the announcement from on top of the bench in an impressively carrying tone. The wedding car[_], ably chauffeured by Rachael's grandad, manouevred through slow Cambridge Saturday-lunchtime traffic to carry us to the church hall.
Alex writes: It was amazing seeing CityChurchCambridge's huge hall all filled with dining tables and decorated with balloons, for our wedding. I was immensely impressed with the work that PeterTaylor, the caterers, MoonShadow and Nagi must have done to get everything set up.
Several people were in the hall already, although most were making their way over from the college. It was quite relaxing getting to chat to a small set of people in-between the huge gatherings. I noticed with a sigh that Mike had decided to reciprocate one of the things I'd done as his best man, putting together a huge collection of all the silly quotes he'd made and attaching them to the wall of his wedding reception. So greeting us on the wall were ten pages of absurd things I've said over the past ten years. In fact, the Alex-embarrassment didn't stop there, as they'd also got some A4 prints of photos of me in silly situations, most notably being tied to the RealityCheckpoint on my stag night two weeks earlier.
More and more people arrived, until the best men suggested that the bride and groom should leave the hall so that we could formally enter. It was an interesting, slightly nervous feeling standing outside the reception venue waiting to be called in. But far less nerve-wracking than earlier in the day: for one thing, we were holding tight to each other. We heard the boomed announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for the bride and groom!"
It was a wonderful feeling processing through the huge crowd, assembled to share in our party. I wanted to say "processing solemnly", but it was anything but solemn - everyone was smiling and laughing, and I'm sure we were too[_]. Once we'd made it to the table, Matt Waterson thanked God for the day and the food, and then the dining started. More accurately, then we on top table went up to the buffet tables to serve ourselves, followed by the other tables one at a time... I fear it may have been quite some time before the later tables ate - sorry about that! The menu was one we'd had custom-prepared for us by the chef, and the mushroom and thyme lasagne that we'd laid on as one of the vegetarian dishes was utterly wonderful. After the savouries, of course, came the chocolate fountain[_] (another thing we'd specifically requested the chef to provide). Messy[_], but delicious[_]. I'm sure many people came away with chocolatey fingers and big smiles as a result of that.
Naturally, top table finished our meals before anyone else did, so after chatting amongst ourselves a bit, we got up to mingle with as many of the guests as we could. I was delighted to see people had been enjoying the assorted puzzles[_] we'd left on the tables, and encouraged people to swap with other tables once they'd solved the ones they had.
After dinner came the speeches: first Angie, Rachael's mother, delivered the bride's parents' speech on behalf of Dave[_]. The majority of it was a rather impressive poem that she'd obviously spent some time composing; when she said "I'd like to read a poem I've written", my initial reaction wasn't great, because most home-made poems can seem rather trite. But this was wonderful, and of quite impressive length also: basically a collection of anecdotes from Rachael's childhood set to verse. There were several cringes on Rachael's part[_][_] as the rest of us giggled.
Then came my speech, in which I got to read the two OxfamUnwrapped? cards that people had bought us from the Oxfam website, which obviously allows people to enter more text than it's capable of printing in the cards, because both of them were truncated partway through a word, and didn't have room for any indication of who they were from[_]! In later conversations we tracked down their senders to be my friends Marisa and James, and my Scottish aunt and uncle. We're very happy to have received those gifts, because OxfamUnwrapped? is a great way to send donations to people who need them rather more than we do.
Finally, Mike got to give his speech[_] on behalf of the two best men. As he commented, he wasn't short of material with which to embarrass me (see the ten pages of silly quotes). I was impressed with the miniature GreenTriangle? they presented me with (only one or two feet per side, rather than the original four-foot monstrosity). All in all, though, I felt I came away relatively unscathed...
And then it was on to the ceilidh! First Rachael and I started with a lovely slow[_] couply[_] waltz[_], generously taught to us by Sally and Emperor after we were impressed by them dancing it at their wedding. Then we had a mixing dance, where two couples dance together then head off to the side of the dancefloor to grab two more couples, after which we go and grab four more then eight more... The ceilidh band were great, as we'd heard from those who'd heard them play at another wedding in CityChurchCambridge.
We took a break in the middle of the ceilidh to cut the cake[_]; later on we also went out to have some photos taken in the golden evening light, some of which turned out utterly delightful[_][_]. We passed our car, which had been impressively decorated in shaving foam, not to mention acquiring cat-ears and a cat-tail made of cardboard[_].
The ceilidh continued, until an impressive "last dance" in which the entire dancefloor linked hands in one long chain and spiralled around one another, out one entrance to the venue and in the other; and then it was time for us to go. Rachael threw her bouquet, which was caught by a quite remarkable leap in the air[_] by Jacqueline; Mum came to read us a delightful haiku; and all of a sudden we were making our way to the car. Everybody was smiling and waving and we felt very privileged to have such wonderful and loving friends and family. And finally, we left our wedding after an marvellous, unforgettable day, by driving away in our cat-ified car[_]. And there was even just enough sunset left to greet us as we escaped the Cambridge buildings and approached the hotel.
Rachael writes: We soon arrived at the Quy Mill Hotel - it was only about ten minutes' drive away. It was beautiful and we highly recommend it. It's a collection of converted barns rather than a single building, and our room had a sloping ceiling with wooden beams inlaid, a chandelier, and a four-poster bed with pretty, lacy drapes. Oh, and a jacuzzi bath for two :)
The next day, we stopped off briefly at our new marital home, to drop off the suit and the wedding dress, and to meet Alex's parents, who were kindly driving us to the airport. We looked at the boggling array of presents, which filled most of the lounge, like several years of birthdays and Christmases all at once; and left them to open when we got back. The carload of Churchills played word games on the journey, and arrived at the airport check-in in plenty of time, where unpacking a CD player to listen to on the flight necessitated an embarrassingly visible rummage through honeymoon luggage. The airline sat us on opposite sides of the aisle, so we couldn't listen to it together anyway.
Cyprus was wonderfully warm, even stepping off the plane at 3am. We got onto a coach, looking couply and conspicuous among a crowd of Club 18-30 holidaymakers heading for Ayia Napa further down the road; checked into the hotel and fell asleep.
One thing we didn't enjoy so much was the hotel's so-called entertainment. Blasting from huge speakers beside the pool, it began by waking us at 11am (we'd had a very late night!) with an aquaerobics class, and continued unremittingly until after midnight, when the cabaret performers stopped their tuneless rendition of well-known advertising jingles. You couldn't relax by the pool while it was on, and even in the bedroom with the windows shut the noise came through, at a volume louder than you'd choose to have the television on. We were hiding in the bathroom at one point to get an extra layer of wall between us and the noise.
Fortunately, the holiday company were very efficient at getting us transferred to another hotel, which also had the entertainment, but more quietly, less continuously, and less centrally, so you could escape from it if you wanted to. It took them a while to understand that a honeymooning couple might not want the entertainment they'd specially laid on for the benefit of couples, and might prefer to entertain themselves; but once we'd communicated this to them, we were pleasantly surprised that they could move us the same day.
We discovered a wonderful bakery near the hotel, where they sold freshly-squeezed exotic fruit juices and an amazing variety of cakes and sweet and savoury pies, and there were two kittens roaming cutely around the picnic tables outside it, helping people finish any food they didn't want. Food was something which was very plentiful, with unlimited buffets every night at the hotel, and large portions if you went out to eat.
Not far from the second hotel there was a water park. It wasn't like a typical UK indoor swimming pool with two flumes and a wave machine; the scale was closer to a theme park, except people were walking around in swimwear and the rides were water rides. The detail of themed scenery and the restaurants and snack stalls were more Alton Towers than Parkside Pools; unfortunately, so were some of the queues. The water park was where we most noticed the heat, because we were outside in direct sunlight nearly all day. Alex had the sense to wear a T-shirt, which kept him cool and damp; the sun dried a mere bikini in the time taken to queue for a ride, and we got quite sunburnt, despite efforts to re-apply suncream. There were some very high, very exciting water rides, including a fast flume in the dark with strobe lights, and one where you sit in a big rubber ring together and it slides so far up the side that it feels as though it's about to tip over. The aquatic adventures inspired us to buy our own inflatable to use in the hotel swimming pool, and we chose a large figure-of-eight double rubber ring which comfortably supports two people reclining opposite each other. We took it to the beach as well, and had fun floating out to a tiny island on it. The island was only about fifty metres from shore, in shallow, wadeable water; but still.
We went to see some sea caves! We parked the hire car on top of a cliff, and looked down at the evocative line of caves in the cliffside below, beckoning to be explored. Apparently there were only two ways to get to them: clamber down the rocks, or leap from the top into the sea below and swim to shore. We chose the first option, although we saw some blokes trying to impress their girlfriends by means of the second. The jump must have been several storeys high and you couldn't tell what rocks were lurking a few inches below the water. Climbing down the rocks was a fun challenge, and we went poking around in the caves, some of which were very deep. The deepest one appeared to have a shipwreck inside, although it was too dark to be sure. There were scattered planks of rotting timber, and in the dark depths of the cave there seemed to be a back wall made of wood. The side of a ship, or a secret door...?
Another fun thing we did in the sea was shallow water helmet diving ([this] is a link to a similar activity, but in Bermuda). We climbed off a boat into seawater about ten feet deep and sank to the bottom under the weight of heavy helmets, open at the bottom like inverted fish bowls. Air was pumped into the top of the helmets from a tube connected to the boat, and bubbled out of the bottom, through the water, which remained at about neck-level. We were able to walk around very clumsily on the sea-bed, due to the unfamiliar weight and the magnifying effect of the helmet glass. Shoals of fish swam right past us, some just black and grey, others fascinatingly rainbow-coloured. We even got to feed them with soggy bread. Holding up a piece of bread causes a whole swarm of fish to completely engulf your arm and nibble your fingers – quite a strange feeling!
We visited the monastery in Ayia Napa, which has been uninhabited by monks since the former quiet fishing village became an international clubbing capital. The buildings are still pretty, though, and the local English-speaking Anglican church uses the courtyard to hold open-air services in the summer. We went along to one of these, at the nicely accommodating time of 11am. The regular congregation were a very friendly and welcoming community of people, and they were excited about having a couple of honeymooners worshipping with them. We also visited a couple of Orthodox churches, and it was fascinating trying to figure out the inscriptions on the icons, some of which were written in heavily stylised Greek calligraphy, and match them up to the names of the saints in English. In Cyprus they seem to be more trusting about leaving their churches open to the public than in England, despite the greater abundance of ornate and valuable objects. We went into a crypt under a small village church, and there were ancient paintings illuminated only by uncovered candles, barely giving enough light to see them in the underground darkness. It was tempting to light a scrap of debris and hold it up to the painting to see it better, like in an adventure film, but I was afraid of setting the painting on fire.
The free map from the hire car company featured an advert for the "Magic Dancing Water Show". We had no idea what that was, and a call to the advertised phone number revealed little more; but the name was too intriguing to miss out on, so we went. Getting stuck in the only traffic jam we'd seen in all Cyprus made us twenty minutes late for the start, but the remaining forty minutes were still worth the entrance fee. There was a big line of fountains at the front, illuminated by coloured lights, and they really did dance to the music, leaping higher and lower, rotating and swaying. The music ranged from slow, pretty melodies to loud intense rock and loud intense classical pieces, and the versatility of the dancing water in matching it was impressive. Gently swaying, lit by soft white light, it could suggest a willow or silver birch; bursting up in fast, random flickers and coloured red, it could suggest a fire. They also had a smoke-and-laser show, and an erupting volcano, which coughed up globs of glowing red liquid into the air, and then spewed more of the same in a huge gushing torrent all down its sides. As well as the water convincingly imitating magma, there was genuine fire, coexisting with the water and impressively avoiding being extinguished by it.
There was a little watersports shack on the beach by the hotel, offering jet-skiing, banana boats, paragliding, and so on. I wanted to go jet-skiing, but when I saw the jet-skis up close I realised they were less like a pair of powered skis or even an aquatic motorbike, and more like a whole motorised dinghy that you happen to have to stand up on; so I was less interested. Alex was very keen to try paragliding, and we noticed they offered paragliding for two people on the same parachute, so we went to do that. We got into a boat and donned lifejackets and harnesses, and got strapped to a horizontal pole; and then we were swept up into the air as the boat accelerated. It was surprisingly comfortable, as we were sitting down in harnesses that supported us underneath our thighs, not suspended in the kind that constrict you under the armpits. We were really high up, and got to see a huge stretch of the coastline, identifying beaches we'd visited or driven past; and got to see the deep, intense blue of the water below us, so far out to sea. It was odd being so far from shore with nothing solid visibly beneath us, and it was nice being up there alone together, so far from anyone. It was also hot, and I was glad when the driver trailed our legs in the water as he winched us in. Then we swooped up one more time to clear the back of the boat, and landed gently on the deck.
On our last evening we went into Ayia Napa to go to the fair. We'd been past the fair before, but it hadn't been open. We found a sign saying 10 till 2, which we thought meant in the evening, but it wasn't unambiguous. As it happened, bits of the fair were starting up earlier than 10pm, as we ate our dinner on the terrace of a restaurant the other side of the road. I was struggling to eat my food, with the terrifying spectacle of the Slingshot confronting me. It was a ride in which two people are strapped into seats in a spherical cage, which is connected by elastic ropes to two insanely high supports. The two people then sit in helpless anticipation as the ropes are tightened and tightened, and then when the literal and figurative tension has reached a peak, the cage is released and shoots up into the air between the supports, catapulting to almost twice their height, before bouncing around a bit and being lowered back to the ground. I almost definitely wanted to go on it, but I wasn't quite sure. Alex was up for it if I was. So we walked around the rest of the fair first, playing on the air hockey and dance machines, and other rides such as a roller coaster. We discovered some wonderfully retro arcade games, which took Cypriot coins that didn't exist any more, although Alex convinced it to accept a British 10p. Eventually we stepped up to the awe-inspiring Slingshot, queued behind one other couple, and then took our places. It was somewhat anticlimactic after the previous few hours' buildup, in that waiting for the ropes to tighten was scarier than the actual motion; but it was fun and exhilarating. There was an on-board camera in the sphere, so after we got off we got to watch the video of ourselves. The video was fun, but after consideration we decided not to buy a DVD of the minute of footage. There was also a free-fall ride such as I've occasionally been on in fairs and theme parks back home, except this one looked a bit tame, because it bounced up and down for short stretches, rather than falling the full extent of its length; and because when we approached it there were a bunch of kids on it. We decided to go on it anyway, and whilst it was less scary than similar rides, it was so much more fun! All the bouncing reduced me to squeals and giggles, and when it finished I was laughing "Again, again!" The ride operator took me seriously and started it up again, despite our protests that we didn't have another batch of tokens to pay him with; I think it was a fairly slow night and he'd enjoyed watching us on it the first time, so he gave us a second ride for free. After the fair we wandered around town a bit, enjoying the warmth of the evening and the buzz of the town – we wouldn't have wanted to spend the whole holiday somewhere so busy, but it was fun to visit. We passed some wonderful ice-cream stalls, one of which let us try all kinds of delicious, intense flavours while we made up our minds which ones to buy. There were far too many to choose from, so we ended up with three mixed tubs between us.
On the flight home, we were fortunate enough to miss the bomb scare by about two hours, and had got out of Heathrow before it happened, so we knew nothing about it until much later the next day. Alex's uncle Michael met us at the airport and gave us a lift back to Cambridge, where we sleepily but joyfully entered our marital home together.