As a rule we don’t do garden weddings here but the request came from Second Daughter’s Best Friend so we made an exception on New Year’s Eve. It sounded like fun. The ceremony, cocktail party and dance were all to be in the one place, culminating in fireworks at midnight. Our greatest worry was the potential fire hazard if we had a dry spell. Ha!
The preparation was humming along when the rains started last week. We had the garden ready, edges and hedges sharp and the lawns mowed despite the rain. We just needed one dry spell of a few hours to do the final blower round to present it all at is best. The dry spell never came.
On the Friday morning, the marquee company came in. And the rains continued. In case you have wondered, putting up a large marquee (in this case 20m by 10m – we do have a large front lawn) is not unlike a glorified version of putting up the family tent but without the arguments. The marquee men were wet to the skin and had the second, smaller marquee up when the bride arrived to point out that the large one was not in the agreed place and it needed to be moved about two metres. To their everlasting credit, they moved it (in the rain) with remarkably good grace.
The second set of contractors was now on site to do the sound, lighting, furniture, stage and dance floor. They too were wet to the skin and amazingly good natured. But the wheels were starting to fall off. We couldn’t dress the marquee because 100% humidity meant tablecloths and seat cushions would all soak up too much moisture. Nor could the parquet dance floor go down. Practicing an aura of calm (after all, it wasn’t my daughter’s wedding), I told the bride’s mother not to worry and I would do it in the morning for her because the bridal party and family all had hair and makeup appointments.
In the morning, the rain was unrelenting. Now all the rain which would normally be absorbed into the lawn was being directed down the sides of the marquees and flowing like a small sea in underneath. Needs must. The dance floor was laid. I dressed the marquees. And as the rain got worse, the need for crisis management grew. We were doing a bit of reconfiguration using four extra small gazebos which was all we could rustle up. I established umbrella stations (we own quite a few brollies) for the dash between covered areas. The cake had to be brought in under an umbrella (couldn’t have the icing pockmarked). The band were loading in gear as fast as they could in the rain. We could at least park the caterers with undercover access though the bar staff were getting saturated moving alcohol and glasses to their location in a wheelbarrow.
By this time, I was soaked to the skin and dressed like an old tramp but abandoned all plans to find the time to get changed and flossied up (we were invited guests at the event) until after the guests had arrived on the three coaches. We have issues with the need to get large vehicles off our road here but are very experienced at managing our available space and can turn and park the largest coach. So did I need to meet prima donna coach drivers who tell me that I have no idea what I am talking about and there is insufficient space? No I did not. But rather than argue in front of guests (I was feeling at a sartorial disadvantage), I headed out to the road to manage any traffic there (it is designated petro chemical highway, is our country road) while the prima donna drivers disgorged passengers and then thought nothing of blocking both lanes as they fluffed around sorting out turning their coaches.
It was about this time, I noticed the rain had stopped. Such are the wonders of our drainage that we only need 20 minutes without rain and all surface water disappears.
Now, I thought, I shall go and have a hot shower. But no. Two late arrivals on the last coach had been flying for 20 hours and really needed to shower and change. Was that all right? Of course. Unfortunately for me, dear Reader, we may be a five loo establishment but we are a one shower household. All I could do was to change for the… wait for it… garden tour. When first suggested, I had scoffed. “People who come to events here are not interested in the garden,” I said. “They are here for the event and to party.” So I thought maybe 10 of the older guests would join me. In fact I had about 70 or 80. Given that they were teetering along in stilettos wearing cocktail attire, I only did the shortened tour of the top gardens but even so, herding up to 80 people along is a mission.
I finally got to shower and change. And the rains held off. The actual ceremony was, at the last minute, held outside as originally planned. The event ran seamlessly and everybody had a wonderful time and absolutely loved the venue. The fireworks at midnight were spectacular. Nobody wanted to leave so the band played on until 1.30am and I completely ignored the prima donna coach drivers who had to sit out on the road with their hazard lights on and wait for the extra hour. If they had been pleasanter earlier, I might have looked after them.
The torrential rains did not return until the pack out the following morning. Over 20 cm (8 inches) of rain we had in that period of under three days. But the lawns are fine. They will recover quickly.
I, on the other hand, have realised there are good reasons why we don’t do garden weddings here.
First printed in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.