As I sat in the Shannon airport, bundled up in a cardigan and jeans, Sally warned me that it was quite hot in England at the moment. Unusually hot. And sunny. Not your typical English weather.
For the first two days in England, I found her forecast to be accurate. Clear, sunny skies above, shorts welcome below. But as luck would have it, on the day of Jess and Brooksy’s wedding, we awoke to grey skies and a delicate mizzle.
The ride to Derby, where the farm was located, was about two hours from Wycombe, and while Jamie drove, I slept. (I’m not usually a sleepy passenger, but we’d been out late.) By the time we arrived at the farm, it was actually raining. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but this was a camping wedding. Our tent was packed snugly in my suitcase, waiting to provide what shelter it could from the elements.
We drove the car across the field to a relatively open spot near another tent, and proceeded to pitch the tent in the rain. I thought we made a good team, but Jamie might say otherwise. I brought years of camping and tent-erecting experience, while Jamie brought invaluable skills he’d learned as a cub scout. We’d successfully inserted the poles and figured out how to put the rain cover on before stepping back.
“Right. Where are your stakes?” he asked.
“Stakes? I didn’t bring any.”
“You didn’t bring any stakes?”
“Well…no. We never use them.”
“…you never use them?? The tent is going to blow away.”
“No it’s not,” I countered half-heartedly. This was England, after all. It certainly could fly off in a particularly strong gust. “We’ll weigh it down with heavy items.”
I dragged the ten-pack of beer we’d brought, my backpack, and a few other objects from the car and Jamie placed them strategically at corners. Still, he did not look reassured. He moved the car – we worried the field might flood and our car would get stuck – and I got changed to find Jim, who’d greeted us when we’d arrived at 11:30, full beer in his hand.
“Free beer tent!” he’d called out. By the time I’d put on my dress, it was coming down pretty hard. I ran to the beer tent to find Jim and two other guests sipping pints while the sky opened up like a deluge overhead. Jamie met us a little while later after disappearing. I later found out that he had located some sticks, fashioned them into tent pegs, and secured the tent to the ground with them. Boy scout, indeed. (I bet he did some whittling, too.)
Since there wasn’t much to do until the friends reception at 12:30, we all indulged in some beer at the tent. Every once in a while, someone would run in and join us. Patrick and Hannah arrived soon and darted in, Patrick drenched and donning Hannah’s raincoat. By the time 12:30 rolled around, the rain hadn’t let up. We were meant to go inside when the cowbell rang, but the sound of the rain pummeling the tent was enough to drown that out.
The reception was unlike any I’d been to in the US. We were standing far in the back and couldn’t see much, but we could hear. The father of the bride spoke first, followed by the groom, and then the entire cohort of groomsmen. It was unusual for me, but Jamie said it was typical.
Somehow, by the time it ended, the rain had let up and revealed bright, cloudless skies. We picnicked outside, played some heated rounds of badminton, and joined Patrick and some others to play petanque, which I was winning until grey thunderclouds rolled in overhead. And just like that, the sky opened up and hailed down on us between loud blasts of thunder.
Despite the mercurial weather, it was a great time. Unfortunately, since I’d begun drinking early, I was exhausted by 9 and, being in the north of England, it did not get completely dark until close to midnight. I discovered that Jamie was tired as well, so we retired to the tent – which was still standing and, remarkably, dry on the inside – when the sky was still a dark blue/not quite black.
I wish I’d had a bit more energy to keep going throughout the night, but the day itself had been a lot of fun between the games and the company. The fact that the wedding involved camping on a farm had elicited many an eyebrow raise from friends, but I’ll say this: it may not have been traditional as far as weddings go, but it was far more memorable and a lot more fun than sitting stifled in a dance hall.