It’s hard to believe that a full on year has passed since that fateful day – a day of golden memories, built up from moments to be treasured until the day I die.
From the moment I woke up, around 9 o’clock, and started writing my speech, I knew it was going to be special. After all, it’s not every day the old man presents you with a plate of sausage butties crafted by his own hands. It’s not even everyday you get the boys around to take a shot of whiskey with you and ensure you’ve got your pants on the right way round. And it’s most definitely not everyday you get to marry the woman of your dreams.
The lads got me to St George’s Hall with time to spare, and I stood there looking up at the sweeping majesty of the building feeling just a little bit small. It was on the steps of this building that Bill Shankly once stood, addressing a sea of Liverpool supporters stretching as far as the eye could see. “I have drilled it into our players,” Bill told them back then, “time and again, that they are privileged to play for you. And if they didn’t believe me… they believe me now!”
Bill’s right, I thought suddenly, gazing up at that sprawling structure. This girl is privileged to be marrying me. Privileged!
And so in I went, all doubts swept aside. I soon found myself waiting patiently at the head of the aisle, the Mitchells and the O’Neills gathered behind me. I was still nervous, but I was excited too, eager to see Jen and get the show on the road. I think I held it together pretty well, all things considered. My mum only had to tuck my shirt in once during the whole service!
Jen, for a change, decided to milk the drama. I was starting to think she might have been overwhelmed by the weight of privilege bearing down on her and was reconsidering her options, but I should have known better. She was just next door, too busy dancing to Into the Mystic to start heading down the aisle.
When she finally made her appearance, I think it’s safe to say my jaw hit the floor. She was stunning, this girl of mine. Truly stunning. And it struck me then that I was the lucky one, far luckier than I deserved, to be getting ready to spend the rest of my life with this grinning, dancing, crazy light floating towards me.
Quick as a flash, the deed was done. After saying a few words and exchanging a couple of rings, we were pronounced man and wife. We entered St George’s Hall as two separate entities, but we left as one. Not that we had any time to reflect on the enormity of this, before we were bungling everyone onto a big red bus and setting off for the dark side of the Mersey (the girl is privileged!).
The reception took place in Oxton Cricket Club, a delightful if modest setting that had been beautifully decorated by our family and friends. There we held a smaller ceremony for those who hadn’t seen the real thing, trading even more vows before even more witnesses… suggesting there’s definitely no escape now!
The rest of the day was filled with copious amounts of alcohol, great music, delicious food, epic cake, and questionable dancing. All under a delightfully warm sun and a clear blue sky – you know, until nightfall. It was the perfect day…
…right up until the shit hit the fan.
By the time local law enforcement had shut the party down and everyone else was tucked up in bed, me, the wife, and my mum and dad, finally made our way back to the hotel. Once there, we attempted to check into our room – the bridal suite, booked many moons in advance for just such an occasion. Sadly, we were told, the room had already gone.
‘Who the hell has it gone to?’ Jen asked as politely as possible.
Looking back on it, in the hotel’s defence, it was an easy mistake to make. When you’ve got a wedding party booked into most of your rooms in the hotel, of course you give the bridal suite to the 89-year-old widower who turns up three hours before anyone else.
That said, to understand the level of fume coming off Jen at this point, you have to recognise how much effort she’d put into organising the entire wedding day, and indeed how much time she had spent discussing those plans with staff at the hotel to ensure everything ran as smoothly as possible.
Having booked up most of the hotel for our family and friends, we decided to book the bridal suite for ourselves thinking that it would be nice to spend our first night as a married couple in a hotel, where they would pamper us a little and help round off the day as perfectly as possible.
Instead, we were being told that the bridal suite was gone and the bride was going to have to find somewhere else to sleep. I understood the implications of this information, as did my mum and dad, still waiting for their own room. The concierge, it seemed, did not. Like a lemming throwing himself from a cliff, the young man actually laughed.
I think the only reason he’s still alive is because my parents were there as witnesses. Eventually the storm faded enough so that we could sort a room and Jen marched off to bed, demanding champagne as recompense.
Before I could run after her, my dad got a phone call from my auntie and cousin who were locked out of their own hotel. As neither of them knew the area, I had to go with the old man to pick them up and bring them back to our hotel.
Fifteen minutes later I walked into our newly acquired non-bridal suite room (a twin, and generally a bit naff) to face a barrage of abuse for abandoning my new wife in her greatest hour of need. We spent a good ten minutes hurling abuse at each other, before realising the ridiculousness of the situation. Then we just laughed… and the rest of that night will remain a mystery.
The next morning we asked grandad Stan if he had slept well. “Not really,” he said. “The bed was too big and covered in rose petals. There was a bottle of champagne though.”
He did lose a sock, at least.
There’s some karma left in this world.
* * *
Whilst I’ve taken this moment to mark the anniversary of Bridal Suite Gate, it’s also a chance to reflect on the first year of Mr and Mrs Mitchell. And what a year it’s been.
It started just a couple of days after the wedding itself, when we escaped the aftermath and headed for the rain kissed cobbles of Bowness. There, thanks to the ridiculous generosity of our family and friends, we must have looked more like Bonnie and Clyde with their ill-gotten gains, than a pair of newly weds opening their cards and presents.
In the lead up to Christmas we were off again, this time on the real honeymoon. We went storming across America, joined at various points along the way by different friends and family. We drove from Chicago up to Niagara Falls, then back down to Boston and New York. We met Vin Diesel (physically assaulted Vin Diesel, in one friend’s case) and breathed in the same Times Square air as Dwayne Johnson. Sadly, he never asked if we could smell it… but I could, Rock. I could.
We’ve even been guided around Italy, from the picturesque coastline of Sorrento and Amalfi, to the beautiful hills and vineyards of Tuscany. We were led there by a woman whose doctors say she should be putting her feet up, but who insists instead on living life to the full. She continues to be an inspiration to everyone whose life she touches, and long may it continue.
We also got a dog, the mighty Thor, who welcomes us home like the heroes of old, his boundless energy and unconditional love meaning we have to walk far more than our legs are used to.
And now there’s a bun in the oven too… a promise of adventures yet to be. I can’t wait to meet the little one, and I know Jen will make as fantastic a mother as she does a wife.
There’s a story to be told in all of these moments, a wealth of lessons to be shared. But, for today at least, none of them carry the weight of the Wedding Night. When an old man found himself spoilt like a young bride, and all he could do was complain!
2nd September 2017