Pre-wedding report - the last few days before the wedding - Andrew's report

Well everything was going so well, until the Tuesday before when my dad phoned up to say that he wasn't able to come along because he wasn't feeling well and didn't think he could cope with the journey. Of course, this really upset me but I know there's nothing much either of us can do about it, so another rejiggle of the table plan and everything is back to working. We'll just have to work around it.

Wednesday was meant to be a day off work, but due to not being able to get hold of a contact for something urgent I went in for a couple of hours in the morning, which was just as well as I then could reprint the table plan and re-do everything for the mirror. Came home, had lunch and carried on sorting out the piles of bits to go into their respective boxes, with the last few needing sorting. Not much to do now thankfully but must finish off the top table swag (been putting off doing some sewing since May… won't take long but hey, it's sewing).

Thursday, started off by going on to the Hitched forum and read our 'good luck thread' from everyone on there, and printed it out to put on the gift/card table at the wedding. Can't find my stack of blank DVD's so off to Argos on the bus I go (we wanted to put together a slideshow of pictures from the wedding to give to the parents when we see them after the honeymoon as it'll take about a month for me to put the proper videos together). Detour into the pound shop to get some cheap plastic food boxes for workplaces etc to have some bits of cake without risking them being squashed inbetween. Visited Ms Cupcake for a last treat before the wedding, grabbed KFC for lunch (which will also do for this evening, saves washing up later) and then put on my final washing load and pack clothes for the honeymoon plus my overnight bag for tomorrow, saves having to lug an entire suitcase into the Travelodge. Final check of everything all in the right place on the laptop, music etc, ready to rock and roll. Must remember to pack memory stick.

Friday… Best Man arrives about 9.30am and we start the mammoth task of squeezing all the boxes into his car. Takes a lot longer than it should have but we finally get on our way to Caz's, ready to meet her at lunchtime after her morning's pampering. Loaded a few more things in the car(s), I drove our car with Duncan following, and we then headed off M25/M3 via Yateley to pick up my final surprise for Carolyn, a genuine ex-Royal Mail postbox, from Inspire Me Designs. Carolyn's dad used to be a postman years ago, and they have a postbox outside their house, so I thought it would be a fantastic and unusual thing to have for people to put their cards in - and, of course, beside it a grey post sack borrowed from work for any gifts that may appear.

Carried on down the M3, M27 with a "needs break" at the delightful Rownham Services, then carried the final few miles along the M27 then off through Lyndhurst and across the open heathland to our hotel.

There was already a wedding booked in there for the Friday so we weren't able to do any setting up today but they gave us cupboard space to put everything in so we didn't have to leave anything in the car. Met up with a few friends and family who were staying at the hotel, had our evening meal together then left Carolyn in the hotel whilst Duncan and I headed off to Ringwood to our lovely Travelodge room for the night, and met up with my mum and family. As is often the case, the Travelodge is next to a main road and of course our room was on the front. The room was very warm so we could either be too hot to sleep, or if we open the window then the traffic noise (particularly good here as it's next to a roundabout where everything is either accelerating or braking) keeps us awake. I didn't sleep particularly well, if at all, although I think Duncan managed a few hours. At about 6am, I heard a rousing fanfare on the trouser trumpet from the other side of the room, followed by a cheery "morning" so I knew that Duncan was awake.

After sorting ourselves out and checking out, we headed to the McDonalds down the road for a semi-decent breakfast. It was then that the heavens opened, and I thought "oh great, here we go" as of course the weather is the one thing we can't do a thing about. We finished our breakfast, legged it across the car park in the rain to Duncan's car (which, of course, refused to unlock several times) and in we jumped. We then passed a petrol station that was really cheap so we went round the next roundabout, back down the other side of the dual carriageway to the roundabout we'd come on at the Travelodge at, and back in so Duncan could fill up. Off we went, rain still pouring down.

A few minutes later we passed a large church which always has thought-provoking signs outside on the notice board, and staring at me in big letters was "Whatever weather the British summer brings, Jesus Reigns", the pun of which made me smile. More about that later in our wedding report.

We arrived at Lyndhurst, navigated the one-way system again and turned on to the B3056 for the last couple of miles to the hotel. The puddles on the road assured us that they'd had the awful weather here as well so we didn't bother to travel down to the spot we'd thought about having some 'private photos' taken as it would have been far too soggy to risk getting Carolyn's dress dirty, and went straight to the hotel instead. Thankfully the rain had eased a little as we arrived, so we went into the hotel to be greeted by Robin and Pamela, who were waiting for us. We checked with the duty manager that all was well, and started to set up the reception room, as the bit where we were having the ceremony was still being used for breakfast and wouldn't be free till about 10.30am. Quick readjust of timings to compensate and everything will get done.

We got the cupboard unlocked and moved everything from there to the reception room so we set all the boxes out to see what was in there (and more importantly, what wasn't!) but all the hours of cataloguing, recording and labelling we had done in the last week or so and had taken over my living room paid off and pretty much everything went smoothly. Pamela and Robin leapt into action with the list of what went where that Carolyn had put together, complete with pictures and diagrams, and started decorating the ten guest tables whilst I started by pinning the swag on the top table. Andrew set to work on the sweet table, and once I'd set the swag up concentrated on the postbox/guest book table whilst Pamela started putting the top table bits together.

First problem of the day, our two tier cake stand we had asked for had three levels on it. A quick conversation with the duty manager and a few phone calls later, and someone was despatched from one of their other hotels with the two tier stand for us. Panic over.

A bit of noise behind me, I turned and saw that my mum and her family had arrived. She told me that Uncle Stan was about half an hour away, and her sister and family would be here in about an hour. Despite their kind offer of help, we were well on schedule so I sent them off to the bar to entertain themselves whilst I concentrated on finishing the post table.

Next task, now that breakfast was over, was to get into the ceremony room and start putting the music equipment together. That went relatively smoothly apart from one dodgy connection that a bit of sellotape fixed, and Robin and Pamela then came in and started decorating the aisle chairs. We thought the room looked a bit cramped so a quick recalculation after one family had to drop out at the last minute through illness meant that we could actually get away with two rows less chairs than we had originally planned on the side where Carolyn would be making her entrance, so rather than suggesting it might be easier for her to detour through the kitchen we made space to make it easier for her and her party to make their entrance.

12.30pm came. Sarah, who was doing a song during the blessing, arrived on time at about the same time as Roy, who was operating the music equipment, arrived. I left them to discuss levels, balancing and other technicalities whilst Duncan and I shot off to an empty bedroom so we could get changed. Where was my tie? In fact, where was the box with the ties in it anyway? A frantic scrabble in the cupboard full of now mostly empty boxes, one was located, and off we went.

I came down just as the registrars arrived, so I introduced myself to them and we cleared the room of everyone else so I could have my legally required pre-wedding interview. A few questions, checking details and suchlike, nothing to be concerned about. All boxes ticked, so they went off to interview Carolyn and we opened the doors to let guests in from the Applemore bar to get seated. Lots of introductions and handshakes, pointing family members and those involved in the ceremony to their seats and general socialising. John, our photographer, took a few shots of me and Duncan out in the garden, as it had stopped raining (for about the 4th time) and ticked a couple more off of the big list of shots we sent him. He then went into the reception room to take those pictures whilst he had five minutes.

Around 1.20pm the registrars reappeared, letting me know all was well and everything could proceed. They took their positions at the table at the front of the room and carried on with the various administrative tasks that they need to do with preparing the certificates. Robin and Andrew carried out their task of herding the stragglers in the bar through into the ceremony room and seated. Rough headcounts meant that only one person had decided not to come and and let us know about it. 110 people all seated and waiting, and spaces for the bridal party in the front where they should be.

At 1.25pm I took the mic, welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming, explained why my dad wasn't there so as to avoid repeating myself 50 times later, then played the pre-ceremony music track I'd picked ('Reasons for Waiting', by Jethro Tull). I chose this about 2 months previously, and it was a fitting choice given the circumstances now as my dad introduced me to their music many years ago.

Although our 1.30pm start was delayed by a minute or two thanks to some guests arriving late which had delayed the pre-ceremony bridal party photographs, otherwise all was well and to be honest it didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Thumbs up from the hotel staff to the registrars that the bridal party were waiting outside the room and were ready. The registrar did their introductions, gave Robin and Andrew the nod to open the doors, gave Roy the cue to start the music, and we all stood as Canon in D started.

I could hear the rustle of a wedding dress coming up the aisle... and as expected I had a silly grin. As is tradition, I didn't turn and look as Carolyn made her entrance but I knew that the wait would be worth it as I could hear gasps of delight from several of those around me who were able to turn and look.

Carolyn arrived at the front, I turned and looked at the beautiful sight of an angel in white (well ivory) that was standing next to me. That was a moment I won't forget in a hurry as the 100+ people around me in the room faded into nothingness and all I could focus on was my bride to be standing by my side. The music faded as members of the bridal party shuffled to their seats and our ring-bearer came and stood next to the best man clutching the ring cushion as tight as he could, and the registrar motioned to everyone to be seated.

This was it. The moment that we'd spent a year putting together. Deep breath and keep yourself together. We're getting married.