Our wedding day. The best day of my life. Like that stag week in Austin in October 2000, the occasion was always going to be special, simply because all of my best friends and my family were gathered together in one place. But then to be married to the amazing Farah, outdoors, on a sunny October afternoon, in front of all those people, that makes it the best day.
Getting married outdoors was important to me, probably because hardly anyone gets married outdoors in Scotland. It was one of the few things I requested during the planning of the wedding. And I didn’t have to worry about it being cold and wet in Texas. However, I was unusually nervous as the big day approached.
Part of the nerves came from the fact that I had not been involved in any of the planning. A deliberate decision on my part, I should add. So I didn’t really know who was doing what, and how it was all going to go down. I had been happy to trust Farah’s judgment and style. But for someone who usually likes to be in control, it was hard for me to relax and just let things happen.
I was also deep in the shit of the stress bog that was the D&L law firm. The big Brooklyn podiatric malpractice trial had just finished, but the glory of that victory barely lasted to the end of that week. My bosses were not happy that I had planned to take off 4 whole days from work to get married, and they made my life miserable until I escaped New York and arrived in Austin just a couple of days before the wedding.
The wedding was to be held near Fredericksburg, about 2 hours west of Austin. I’d never even visited the location before, so I saw it for the first time when we all arrived out there on the Friday afternoon, the day before the wedding.
The site was out-there, Texas style. A lot of land, and a lot of sky. It was on a ranch that had been built during the filming of a western movie a few years earlier. At the time, the set was in the process of being converted to a venue for reenactments, complete with small cabins, an old west town, and a saloon bar. Most of us stayed on the property for two nights. It wasn’t designed for weddings, but it was amazing.
It was humbling how so many of my friends and family made the journey over from Europe for the wedding. I spent a lot of time picking people up from the airport that week, but that was the least I could do. By Friday, everyone had arrived.
We had a walk-through of the ceremony on the Friday night, and then we all sat around outside for the rehearsal dinner. It was a clear night, and being out in the country meant that we could see a sky full of stars. My dad, for one, was captivated by the dark expanse that soared from horizon to horizon. Twice he fell of his chair as he gazed further and further back in amazement. He blamed the big sky, but his new found love of Shiner beer may also have contributed.
Farah and I had decided to stay in separate cabins for the night before, so that we wouldn’t see each other until the ceremony on Saturday afternoon. So after dinner, me and my men adjourned to our cabin for the evening. And that’s when I started getting really nervous.
I’d asked my friends Dougie and Jambo to be by my side as my best men. My mate Nelly would have been involved too, but he was sort of the unofficial best man at the first one, and that didn’t go very well.
I met Dougie on my first day at Glasgow Academy in 1993, the same day I met Nelly, Jonny, Myles and many other boys who are still my friends. We were 12 years old. While Nelly sat right in front of me in the classroom, Dougie was to my left. Nelly and I got on really well at first because he seemed like the only other relatively non-posh person in the class, (and he was from Bearsden). I remember thinking that Dougie was very posh, so that I probably wouldn’t have much in common with him.
But then I found out he was really into football (soccer) and we became buddies. Then I found out he was really into American football (football) and we were solid mates. After a while we both had Sega Megadrives and we played Madden ‘91 together a lot.
I don’t ever remember falling out with him. Dougie is not like most of my other friends. Dougie is not “cool”. He has never been interested in stylish clothes or new music, and he has had the same haircut since 1993. He is really into cricket. But I’ve never hesitated to introduce Dougie to the coolest and most stylish people I know. Actually I really enjoy doing that, because Dougie cuts through all the bullshit. I love Dougie because he’s not cool, because he doesn’t get give a shit.
Wait, we did fall out once. Over the girl I fell for in Chapter 18. The summer before we went off to college, Dougie started snogging her behind my back. When I found out, I was livid and heartbroken at the same time. But we got passed it. He went off to play cricket in Australia, and we wrote each other letters. And it was fine. Dougie and I were in Melbourne together in 1998, he was in Austin with me in 2000, and he is still the first friend I see when I go back to Scotland. In 2009, Dougie asked me to be best man at his wedding, and it was one of the proudest things I’ve ever done.
I asked Jambo to be my best man too. I didn’t really get to know Jambo, real name Jaime, until our 2nd year at University. He was at a different high school, but I’d met him a few times because he lived across the street from Nelly. I first got to know him well, when he and I played together as strikers for our soccer team Forest Pump.
My friendship with Jaime was not typical of two blokes playing football together though. We didn’t always talk about sport and girls and going out. Or if we did it was on a different level. Jaime is full of love, and he doesn’t hesitate to express himself. He’s also an emotional fucker, and I am too. I’ve had some very deep conversations with him. I have a feeling that most of the others in the team would probably say the same thing.
He’s also hilarious, and talented, eternally optimistic, truly loyal, and better than average at underwater swimming. But it’s his unfiltered heart that I love about him.
Together, the two of them were a perfect team to get me through the wedding. I could rely on Dougie to be organized and solid, and I also knew that Jambo would help me to feel the love.
On the Friday night, the three of us went back to our cabin and together they really helped me calm my nerves. Yeah, the nerves. I think it’s normal to have a tiny worry that maybe, just maybe, your spouse-to-be won’t show up on your wedding day. I mean we’ve all heard the nightmare stories right? I know that I always had a feeling that one day Farah was going to wake up, and realize that she was way out of my league. I still do sometimes. But Jaime and Dougie somehow convinced me that that wasn’t going to happen.
The ceremony itself took place late in the afternoon on Saturday October 20th, 2007. Neither of us are very religious so Farah and I had asked our friend Floyd to be the Officiant at the wedding. The proposal was his idea too, and we knew that, as a great actor, he would perform well. Once Dougie, Jaime and I were dressed in our kilts, we walked over and waited towards the back of the outdoor seating area, and nervously chatted to the guests as they arrived.
A few hundred glances at my watch later, everyone was seated, and someone gave us the cue to walk down the aisle. We’d hired some local dude to lead us down playing Flower of Scotland on the bagpipes. It sounded terrible, well more terrible than normal bagpipes, but I don’t think anyone noticed.
I reached the front, and turned around to see everyone sitting and smiling at me. I tried to take deep breaths as I looked over the faces of so many close friends and family who had traveled so far, and so many people I’d never seen before who were almost certainly just there for the free bar. But I had Dougie and Jambo to my right and Floyd to my left. My heart was pounding as I looked over and beyond the gathered audience, waiting to see my bride in her dress for the first time.
And then I waited a little bit longer.
And then I waited a little more.
My anxiety levels began to increase, but when I turned to the men beside me, they all gave me reassuring nods.
And then I noticed that my friend Ben Hotchkiss was running around trying to fix something. Ben was the singer in The Real Heroes, the band I used to manage, and he was supposed to be singing a song as Farah walked down the aisle, accompanied on keyboards by his bandmate Cory. But then it became apparent that the outdoor electricity had gone out. There was no power to the keyboard or his microphone.
My instinct, as his former band manager, and as someone who likes to be in control, was to immediately run over and try to fix the problem. But I couldn’t. I just had to stand there, with everyone looking at me, and try to smile.
Then I saw Farah peak around the corner of a cottage, also trying to figure out what the delay was. When I saw her, all the nerves went away. I knew that however it happened, I was still going to marry her. And that was all that mattered.
Ben couldn’t fix the power, so Cory ran inside and grabbed a guitar. He and Ben improvised, and instead of standing at the side, they walked behind Farah and sang the song acoustically. The song was ‘Into My Arms’ by Nick Cave.
Not for the first, or the last time that day, I started to cry. Farah looked incredible of course, although when she joined me at the front, I did notice an unusual expression on her face. Almost like a fixed grin. I tried to whisper to her if she was ok, but she just nodded and continued to grin back at me. And then she winked at me, and she had never done that before. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was just as nervous as I was.
We had spent a bit of time on our vows and the readings. When we couldn’t find anything we loved, we ended up writing our own vows, and adapting some other traditional verses. Farah’s friends Dawn and Layla read a Dr Seuss poem that Farah loved, and my cousin Katy read a Robert Burns poem. Then we had Floyd read a poem that Farah’s mum Deborah found for us. It was quite a dark poem for a wedding, but we both liked it. It seemed to fit us. It was called ‘Ask the Impossible’ and you can read it here.
Floyd read out that poem as Farah and I stared at each other and tried not to cry. Floyd did an amazing job. After the ceremony, a lot of couples told us that they felt he had just married them again.
The whole thing lasted 30 minutes, but it felt like it was over in a flash. I didn’t relax completely after the ceremony because I knew I had a speech to give. This was one of the other things I’d requested – the set of formal after-dinner speeches traditionally given at Scottish weddings. At American weddings, sometimes you might get a couple of people who will stand up and make a short toast to the bride and groom, a minute or two at the most. In Scotland, the best man gives a long speech, the groom gives a long speech, and the father of the bride gives a long speech. It’s a big part of the wedding tradition, and the whole thing can last more than an hour.
I’d been working on my speech for a while, but I probably didn’t get to spend as much time on it as it needed. I actually tried to watch my speech on our wedding DVD the other night, and I couldn’t get through it. A few people commented on the day, that the speeches were a bit long. I defended the tradition at the time, but they were right. My epic speech lasted more than 25 minutes, and it could have done with some serious editing. I must have thanked every person I’d ever met. And then told a story about how I met each of them. As readers of UnReidable might have noted, I do tend to ramble on sometimes.
Anyway, Dougie did a great job as the Master of Ceremonies, and then Jamie killed it with his best man’s speech. I was able to watch that the other day and it was brilliant. It was sweet and loving and personal, yet funny and entertaining. One of his lines was: “I honestly think that if Pete put his mind to it, he could do absolutely anything …. except beat me in an underwater swimming contest”. That’s a private joke, but he still got everyone to laugh at it.
The rest of the night was just a party, but the best party I’ve ever been to. Three of the guys in the Real Heroes had formed a cover band and they rocked all night. During one of their breaks, my Aunt Margaret taught everyone how to do Scottish country dancing, and the bar stayed open until every single item of booze was emptied.
I think that Farah and I left around midnight, but apparently the party raged on until the sun came up. The next day we were regaled with stories about how all the single people at the wedding had hooked up. The friends, the family members, the staff, the lads, the wedding planner, even the Officiant – they all pulled. There was even another unofficial wedding in the small hours, unofficially officiated by Floyd, between two of my friends, who will remain nameless. Although one is called Jambo. And the other is called Ed.
Sunday was spent mostly saying goodbye to people, and I was back at work in New York on Monday. I remember my boss shouting my name, 10 seconds after I walked back into my office, and before I’d even taken off my jacket, which was not unusual. I walked into his office, and brusquely asked me how my wedding had been. I told him with the utmost sincerity “It was the best day of my life”. He responded without missing a beat: “Sit down. This is going to be the worst day of your life”. What a dick.
Farah and I went on honeymoon a month later, over the thanksgiving holiday. We went to the island of Curacao in the Dutch Antilles. I watched Scotland lose 2-1 to Italy in a vital Euro 2008 qualified, but it was still incredible, and we’ve been back twice since.
When I think about our wedding day now, it still makes me happy. In my speech, I tried to explain how important the day was to me. I talked about the song ‘Switching Off’ by the band Elbow that I’d been listening to as I flew to Austin to propose to Farah.
The song suggests that if its true that your life flashes before your eyes when you die, then perhaps you can choose the scenes that you want to see. And that maybe you can capture good memories as you go along, and store them in a ‘final scene’ folder in your head.
I tried to explain that concept in my speech on the wedding day, because it was that day, and that moment, standing up in front of everyone that mattered in my life, and proclaiming my love and commitment to Farah, that I wanted to capture. That’s the best memory I have.