A London Cab and the White House

Ann and Clinton are two young Australian professionals living and working in London who decided to come home to Geelong for their wedding day. It was all arranged by using those modern day miracles, the world-wide web and email – to book the celebrant, the location for the wedding, the reception arrangements and transport for the bride and her attendants.

The couple had decided on an outdoor wedding to be conducted in the grounds of Corio Villa, often referred to as “The Wedding Cake House”, or just "The White House". This is a delightful garden property magnificently situated high above Eastern Beach Geelong, with spectacular views over Corio Bay. A heritage building which is unique in Australia and listed by the National Trust as a fine example of UK prefabricated iron housing construction. Manufactured in Edinburgh, it was shipped to Geelong in pieces before being assembled on its present site in 1856. In perfect order today, it is a showpiece for weddings and other special celebrations.

The couple chose an Australian summer afternoon as a treat for their many UK friends who left their wintry home country to travel “down under” for this very special event at this exclusive location. To add to the UK flavour, a London Cab was hired to transport the bridal party to Corio Villa, travelling around Geelong's spectacular waterfront along the way. A string quartet was present to provide background music and to play the bridal party in.

So all was set for the “wedding of the decade”, the only thing left to chance being the weather. The forecast was for hot (35C) northerly winds with a change later in the afternoon and the likelihood of local thunderstorms and rain. So as the guests assembled in the garden in the late afternoon many eyes were raised to the sky watching the sun disappear behind turbulent dark clouds as the temperature dropped suddenly. Whilst we waited for the bridal party to arrive the question on everyone's lips was “should we go ahead?”, but as there was no provision for an alternative under-cover venue ("Plan B") – the consensus was that we keep going and take our chances on the weather.

The bridal party arrived after some unexpected delay, and we were pleased to see the London Cab eventually appear before any rain started. The cab looked great, but it was obviously having some problem as it turned into the driveway, stopped, then made an enormous last gasp effort to struggle thirty metres up the slight incline to where I waited with the photographer. It just managed to climb the slope before coming to a halt marginally short of its intended destination with clouds of steam pouring out from under the bonnet! The driver – with good cause – looked extremely rattled, but at least he had accomplished his delivery duty, before he phoned for RACV roadside service to come to his rescue whilst we got the bridal party organised. Then the string quartet commenced to play, a signal for the guests who had been seated on garden chairs to stand as the bridal party made their entry in readiness for the ceremony to commence on the rear lawn of the property..

But whilst this drama was being played out, the weather was worsening and the celebrant (my wife Anne) had not got far into the ceremony before it became very obvious that we could not continue in the developing rain, which had rapidly changed from a “light sprinkle” to “heavy” followed by “torrential”. So the ceremony was quickly called to a halt whilst everybody scurried for whatever shelter the rear veranda of the house offered. This unfortunately was unable to adequately cater for the seventy or eighty people present, so many were more than a little bedraggled as a consequence, myself included. After fifteen minutes had passed, the downpour diminished and we decided to go ahead with the ceremony for a second time with the bridal party now sheltered under the veranda. But again we hadn't got far before the rain reappeared, teeming down and cascading over the veranda spouting, leaving us no option but to call an indefinite halt to proceedings. Despite the interruptions and their wet clothing, the wedding party and all of the guests took the stoppages in great spirit and considered that they were part of a very rare and unusual happening, one to be long remembered! There was much laughter and a general acceptance that this was a very special day for them all.

During this second stoppage, the bridal party were invited to shelter in the house where drinks were provided to help them preserve their equanimity, whilst wedding guests and celebrant waited outside for the rain to clear before the ceremony could recommence, with no idea as to how long this might take.

Just as well Anne had no further wedding commitments for the day!

After another fifteen or twenty minutes, the clouds cleared, the rain ceased and the sun attempted to shine, so Anne once again got the ceremony moving with the wedding party now assembled under a large umbrella in the rear courtyard, with guests standing in the open courtyard or under the veranda. Vows were duly taken, rings exchanged, documents signed, and the wedding certificate presented more than one hour after the original commencement, after having now made three attempts to start the ceremony at three different locations on the property.

The events of the day highlighted the fact that no matter how delightful the chosen outdoor location may be, a “Plan B” is essential. Had the weather not improved reasonably quickly, we would have all been in greater bother than we were!

This was an occasion which tested the calm professionalism of the celebrant and drew on her considerable experience to provide the wedding party and their guests with a dignified and memorable ceremony in circumstances which otherwise could have been a disaster! And as we commented afterwards, Anne's portable PA system was a key factor in enabling her words to be heard by all, allowing her to keep control of the situation despite considerable difficulties. It just proves that a good PA system is truly a necessary instrument for creating a successful ceremony!

When we took our departure, the guests were all happily enjoying drinks in the courtyard, despite many of them still in damp clothing, hopefully drying out before going on to the reception.

And in the background the abandoned London Cab sat forlorn and lonely where it had “run out of puff”. Methinks a new motor might be in order!

An unusual but memorable day!

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Peter Cowden
'The Celebrant’s Roadie'

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