Almost one year ago, one of my best friends called me and said, “You know Tash (his eldest daughter) is getting married in Tuscany next August?”
“Yes, I know. You told me a few months ago,” I replied, instantly wondering why he was reminding me.
“Well what you don’t know is you’ve been on a shortlist of four and she’s been asking God for a sign as to who she should have to officiate at the ceremony.” he went on, my curiosity climbing higher and higher. “And she believes she’s had a sign and she wants you to do it!” he exclaimed.
I laughed out loud, and continued to laugh for the rest of that day. And for a good number of days after that.
The plan was as follows: the engaged couple – Rob & Tash – were going to ‘do the legal bit’ in a London registry office shortly before flying out to Italy, and then have a full-blown, Christian ceremony in the middle of the beautiful Tuscan hills surrounding the medieval town of Volterra.
I was highly flattered, honoured and massively excited at the prospect of marrying my friend’s eldest daughter and her beloved fiance, who I had not even met at this point.
I have led plenty of church meetings in my time but this was going to be a first, and I was thrilled at the prospect of such a task.
Come the day itself, there was all the usual last minute rushing around, changes of plan (except for the ‘main plan’ of course) and the wonderful sense of building anticipation. In a bid to remain highly organised, I wanted to remind the groom’s sister to step up to perform her reading as soon I had finished the prayer that would end my Address. I thought I spotted her, and so went to give her the gentle reminder.
“Remember to come up and do your reading as soon as I finish the prayer then, yes?” I quietly said to the increasingly nervous-looking lady. Her reply surprised me to say the least, “Er…I’m not coming up anywhere, and I certainly won’t be doing a reading,” she said in that hushed tone that carries with it an air of assertiveness that tells you there is no persuading this person.
It quickly transpired that this was NOT the groom’s sister. In my defence, I had only met the lady in question briefly the previous evening – but still, it didn’t bode well for other things I would have to remember… I comforted myself with the fact that it would be hard to make the same mistake with the bride and groom.
Thankfully, the service went wonderfully well. A truly beautiful version of Amazing Grace was played – the sound was heavenly and I was almost overcome with emotion before we’d even started!
Tash, the bride – a truly beautiful person, inside and out – and her dashing groom, Rob, were brilliant throughout. The day eased into the evening reception at a wonderful villa nestled in the Tuscan hills, just outside Volterra. The sky was one of those ‘Artist’s palette’ perfections that you truly marvel at – I paused during one conversation to point out the sheer beauty of it.
Truly moving, as well as hilarious, speeches were made; the cake was cut (after having been made before our very eyes); the stage was set for the first dance at around midnight, accompanied by a great two-piece band who had flown in from Canada, and the party truly began. At the point where they played Sweet Caroline, the bride’s entire family were all dancing at the front and, for a divine moment, it was as if they were in a kind of ‘wedding heaven’ – inviting anyone who was there to partake in their unbridled joy.
I’m glad to say that many of us did and it was genuinely wonderful.
I was further heartened by the several times people told me how lovely they thought the service had been, when normally they couldn’t wait for that part to end, and to get on with the reception.
Best of all, (for my ego at least!) the groom told me later on, that a number of different people had asked him in all seriousness, “Where did you hire that Ibiza rock star vicar from?”
Our two weeks in Tuscany before the wedding had obviously helped with the so-called Ibiza look and as far as the rock star bit was concerned, I was glad I had chosen not to hire a dog collar for the day.
It was definitely one of the biggest honours I have ever had.
Will it be a one-off? Probably… but I’m open to offers!