We were married on a windy mid-week afternoon in the midst of a global pandemic. The aisle was a mown path through the blonde grass of the paddock out the front of my parent’s house. A simple structure, built out of roughly hewn timber, served as our chapel. Its sides were woven with gum. Swathes of linen pursed and billowed from the corners; painting sheets bought from Bunnings the day before. The wind whipped the skirts of my sisters who stood at a distance, their hair backlit from the sun. That stormy light, particular to Australia, slanted across the faces of my mother and father in law, who had set off from their Welsh home two months prior to attend their son’s Australian wedding. It was meant to be a round-the-world trip that skipped across Patagonia, Easter Island, Vanuatu, New Zealand, here and then onto Nepal, but it stuttered to a halt in Australia; landing in a far different world to that which they set off.
When preparing for your big day, contingencies in the country might include bushfires, storms and perhaps the odd flood, but a virus sweeping the world doesn’t often cross your mind. How naïve. Preparations on my family’s little farm outside Tamworth for 200 guests had been going on for months. Mum referred to herself as Mother of the Bride, with unrivalled dedication. My grandparents turned up many a week, arms laden with foliage, helping mum coax the garden into the best shape of its life. The heavens had opened and the verdant countryside, after years of drought, seemed confirmation that it was all meant to be. Aunts and uncles and cousins showed up, pulling down fences, erecting news ones. Neighbours arrived with champagne, brimming with excitement for the first wedding in the next generation of my community. The village that helped raise me, turning out in force to help press the seal of a new chapter.
Corona virus was something that was happening, somewhere else in the world. But we had napkins to choose and lawns to mow, a film of relativity and privilege coating our thoughts. The news started to change. The bulletins howled and nothing seemed certain. Messages flicked through. Were we going ahead? The lead up to what others espoused as the best day of their lives was surreal, as if a scene from someone else’s life. Only three weeks before, we’d been fussing over floral arrangements and bridesmaid earrings. Invitations, check. Veil, check. 40 British guests, most of whom had been billeted out to local friends and family. Check. The days ticked by. The borders shut. Restrictions loomed. Our providers were incredibly understanding, strong bush businesses with hearts of gold – Relish Catering, A1 Hire, Mr & Mrs Hill Lighting. Would we? Wouldn’t we?
An impulsive text was sent one morning to our minister, to see if he was free the next day. He was. I went to town and bought a lipstick, to Woolies, sanitiser at hand, for a cryovac of scotch fillet. Storms flickered around the horizon, the air swollen with eucalypt scented rain. The night before the wedding, we drank gin and made potato bakes. My baby sister baked her first cake, banana, which served as the wedding cake. The shed flashed blue, my husband to be and my father-in-law welding a wedding gazebo. The house was alive with an undercurrent of excitement. “It’s going to be lovely,” my grandmother, Bay said on the phone.
Waking early on the day of the wedding, I lay in bed for a moment, watching the shadow of the leaves outside my window dance on my sheets. I heard the burr of mum’s sewing machine, hemming the bridesmaid’s dresses. Paring back the fuss and frills and the expectations and dare I say it, a certain sense of being seen, left the exposed hide of whywe were doing this thing. To make our love binding. To make a commitment. To purposefully pull the silver strings of fate and plait them together. It would have been wonderful to have all of our friends and family there to share it, and my heart still aches for what could have been. But standing there under the cathedral of the sky that day, looking at the man I had chosen, I felt close to something omnipotent, something sacred and all encompassing. It turns out you don’t need the rest, although it sure is nice. Behind the napkins and chairs and stress is the creeping joy, the morning cups of tea, small ambitions and searing disappointments, salty grievances and two families getting to know the other. We ate our wedding feast on the veranda, the setting sun flushing the sky a deep coral, a Hallmark rainbow slicing it in half. My family cheered and toasted each other, laughter rising like mist. A first dance in the living room, barefoot. It was ours and it was more than enough.