Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Looking back 25 years - Wedding reflections

Bryan and I celebrated 25 years of wedded Bliss recently. Where did that saying come from? I am not complaining about our time together but really who on God’s Green Earth can possibly have 25 years of Bliss? I always think of bubble bath when I think of Bliss, can’t take that word seriously at all. But my mind wanders.
Sophia, me and Julie

We were legally married a few weeks before our "Wedding Day". Something to do with the fact that Father Basil, the lovely Greek priest that married us, was not an official marriage officer in Zimbabwe. I think there may have been a language barrier involved in the passing of the written whatever it is that you write to resister as a marriage officer with the Zimbabwe courts. So on the 17th March (St Patrick’s Day, not that we knew that at the time) Bryan and I toddled off to the Magistrates Courts in Harare to get hitched. We did not want to spoil the wedding which was set for the 30th April so we decided that we would go alone and not make too much of the event. The staff at the wedding registry office were not impressed with us when they discovered that:-
1. We were not in our glad rags for the event.
2. We asked how long we had to wait and how long the actual getting married bit would take as we had to get back to work.
3. We did not have any witnesses with us and they were even more displeased that they had to round up a couple of government workers to act as witnesses to our marriage. Tea time was looming and finding two people willing to abandon their break was not easy.

Even the Marriage Officer was unhappy. Before he performed the wedding ceremony he gave us a rather long lecture about what a serious thing this marrying business was. For a moment or two or three during the set down I wondered if we would be allowed to marry at all, having clearly not shown the proper reverence and gravity the occasion demanded. I think the fact that we were rather young did not help our cause. Anyway after being thoroughly chastised we were "allowed" to be  married.
 Rob and Bryan - note best man Robs black eye courtesy of Bryan during a squash game... GRNNNNNN
At the time Bryan and I were involved in a Harare Reps Production probably one of the Calling Shows. We mentioned in passing (as you do) that we were “off to tie the knot” to the cast and crew. They had a whip around and presented us with a bag of money “to pay for a wedding breakfast”. Did you notice that I said “a bag of money”? The horrors collected COINS. We were given strict instructions that we could not change the coins for notes and that we had to pay for our breakfast with the coins from the bag. Picture if you can two young newlyweds paying for their wolfed down wedding breakfast (remember we had to get back to work) in the terribly smart (in those days) Harare Sheraton with a grubby cloth Standard Bank banking bag (remember those?) filled with coins.  
With the Parents
Fast forward a few weeks and we had our lovely wedding at the Harare Greek Orthodox Church, mainly because they would have us. Bryan and my's religious devotions are lacklustre at best and the high minded Anglican Church was well aware of our lack of piety because of my parents’ long involvement with the church. I can just imagine various church groups praying for our dammed souls for years, sorry Mum - only teasing. Anyway, unsurprising, they said no way were they going to marry a couple of heathens like us. We could have gone on bended knee to another Church (that I will not name for fear of being struck down) who it seems would marry just about anyone (that would be almost everyone that we knew and loved) who was prepared to attend a series of pre-marriage guidance sessions and then wade through the most agonising service where women were told to submit to their husbands (and not wear the pants in the marriage) and husbands were told to treat their wife with respect as God had entrusted the wives to the care of the husbands - or words to that effect. You can't see me doing that without a fight can you? Now the Greek Church took a more philosophical and long term view and figured that they were undertaking a community service and our straying ways would most likely be mended further down the line (I am half Greek after all ,and all those years of tradition would, they assumed, win out) and our children (with any luck) would be good Greek Orthodox devotees. I am also pretty sure my lovely Aunt Tass was a wonderful and convincing envoy when she petitioned father Basil to marry us. Once that was done and dusted, the talented Anna Dalmitis who was designing my wedding getup had to talk Father Basil into allowing me and the bridesmaids to wear trousers for the service. Something he had no problem with, but there again I am sure Anna was a skilled negotiator on my behalf. I do wonder if my insistence on wearing trousers was somehow a subconscious cock a snoot at that dreadful Presbyterian priest and the horrid speech that he churned out at more weddings than I care to remember with him officiating. Oh the price we all pay for a church wedding!
With our lovely Grandparents

 Of all the churches in Harare (I might be a bit biased here) the Greek Orthodox Church is just the most beautiful. I spend many an hour as a child inside that church gazing at the artworks in awed wonder. In between standing up and sitting down as you do in church, and scratching at arms and legs and neck because of horrid articles of appropriate church going clothing, I made up all sorts of stories about the saints on the wooden panel that separates the nave from the sanctuary. I spent happy hours day dreaming about St George Slaying the Dragon. I would gaze fondly at the angels and cherubs and feel all warm and fuzzy at their loveliness and quiver with fear at the beautiful sad pictures that Helen Lieros had lovingly and devotedly painted on the walls of the Church. I never ever thought I would get married in the church. Looking back I am so glad that we did. The memories of my childhood, our wedding, our sons’ christenings, my father's funeral, and all manner of other family events that are observed through the rites of the church are so very precious to me, especially now that I am so far away.  The memories of all those rituals are so comforting.
The Greeks do weddings in the most wonderfully symbolic way. The ceremony has a charming, old world, bygone era; incense filled, feel to it and in Harare is conducted entirely in Greek. There is a lot of doing things in three’s. There are symbolic candles and ribbons and crowns. Our wedding crowns were the same as those used by my Grandmother at her wedding, they were delicate and beautiful. Here is a bit of info on what a Greek wedding is all about.

Interior shot of the Harare Greek Orthadox church - pinched off the Cephalanian and Ithaka facebook page

Bryan’s mum Cecily was roped into arranging flowers. I remember that she and she friends were entrenched the day before the wedding in the carport of my parents’ home. The driveway was littered with delivery vans and ladies nattering away arranging beautiful mounds of flowers.  Whilst writing this I could not remember who was with Cecily helping her so I gave her a call and asked what the scoop had been on the flower front. Cecily told me that I had insisted that I wanted vlei flowers so my poor mother-in-law and her probably reluctant friends drove into the bush and robbed nature of several acres of its bounty so that I could have natural flowers and grasses.  What was I thinking, making my poor future mum-in-law do that? I am, of course, very glad that she did.  My memory is of Cecily and her “all for one and one for all” chums being a delightful back drop to the mundane job of wedding setups with their busy creative industry and warm chatter. Half way through the afternoon a pick up arrived with a delivery of protea flowers from the farming community of Headlands (thanks Debbie). That was a totally unexpected and a delightful surprise that added to the stock of flowers arranged.
Bryan says I galloped down the aisle dragging my poor father along in my rush to get to the alter. I think that is a little unkind of him and I do not believe him. He recovered from that statement by saying that my eyes shone like the stars. How sweet is that?
After the service a Reps friend took Bryan aside and cautions him saying that there was a very strong likelihood that Bryan had just been signed up for a few years of hard labour on a Greek oil tanker. But who knows as it was all in Greek and he can't have been right as here we are twenty five years later and no one was conscripted on to a ship.

The Wedding reception was in my parents garden- my mother spend a frantic few months arranging petty much everything. My mother was confident that at the end of April we would be absolutely rain free - so we did not bother with Marquees. It rained the day before the wedding. All over the  chairs and tables. A great deal of teeth gnashing ensued. I have noticed from that day on that around our wedding anniversary it rains every sodding year in Harare. On the day (whew)  the sun came out. I sat in the garden waiting to go to the Church soaking in the early morning crispness wondering what Bryan was doing.

I loved that our reception was at home in the Garden. I loved that my Greek relatives all brought lovely Greek food. I was thrilled that that we had a haggis, which, to be honest I did not try. From Cecily's flowers to Amos Caspi acting as our Chauffeur in his Rolls Royce it all I meant the world to me that almost everything that was arranged was done by a friend or a family member. My memories of our wedding are tied up in the togetherness of it all. I sat with family for hours hand drawings the covers of our invitations. We sliced our cake with a ceremonial sword that belonged to a dear family friend - Costa Hiatas.

There were speeches made, and toasts  drunk. It was a day, naturally, of special  memories created.

Done and Dusted
Twenty five years of being married to one person is not something to be sneezed at. We have, surprisingly, achieved this milestone in relative calm. I can honestly say that I can count on one hand the number of time that we have fought in that time. Most likely because I am a past master at passive aggressive sulks and Bryan does not fight. A recipe for bliss? Well, maybe. When Bryan asked me to marry him (that is once I realized that he was proposing to me, which took a bit of time) I remember looking at him and thinking “Yes, I can see myself sitting opposite this person at the breakfast table when I am seventy.” Wild romantic that I am. Honestly only the young can be so arrogantly confident. I mean how do you know at that age that you can bear to spend that much time with someone? Regardless, I thought I could, Bryan must have thought he could because he proposed in the first place, and somehow we have made it this far. How young and stupid we were and how lucky we have been.
Pop open the bubbly- Then

And now toasting 25 years

Bryan and I have a friend, Jerome O’Brian, who made a speech at our wedding - Bryan did the same at his. We have know each other since our teens. Jerome is clear of thought and wise and recently he blogged a gem on the nature of love.  Now, as you know I am not one to go all dewy eyed about biblical verses being quoted but that is Jerome’s stock in trade and he is pretty good at it. All wonderfully high minded. I do think though, that  if you try and remember the high minded stuff, the on the ground bits work.

I have linked this here  :Jerome's Jottings - Love

Or you can read it below:

Love is ….?

by jeromeobrien


So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13: 34 – 35)
I have been hearing this word ‘love’ bandied about with ill regard and thought over the past few weeks. Here is one serious definition as to what love is that has recently been offered to me:
“Love is being stunned by the identity of the other, by the strength of feeling, by the realisation that this is not something one has chosen to do or feel. Sheer givenness and sheer providence.”
Sheer coprolite, more likely.
At best this description is infatuation; at worst, it is pure licence. Whatever it is, it is not love
Here is what love is, and, pleasingly, it comes from the book of love:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7)
For me, this kind of love can be epitomized little better than in the story that Jesus told of the Prodigal, or lost, son (Luke 15: 11 – 32). It is such a well known story, and it is a story of the true meaning of love. In this story, the younger son is loveless: he is arrogant, impatient (“I want it now. Now is the opportune time!”), selfish, overfed, unconcerned, grasping and independent.
So, too, is the older brother in the story. He is a loveless man: arrogant, boastful, proud, selfish, greedy, jealous and angry.
In the face of this onslaught of lovelessness, the amazing thing is that father chooses to be loving: deliberately, decisively, determinedly chooses to be loving. This is not an emotional matter, it is not an instinct and there is no ‘being stunned’ by anything. It is his choice. He meets all the criteria that Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church about when he reminded them of what love is. The father in the story is patient with both sons; he is kind, generous and giving to them equally; he is selfless and self giving; he keeps no record of wrongs and abandons his claim to rights. He never gives up and he perseveres with them equally: with the one, he waits; with the other, he goes to him. He works hard to keep them in relationship and this is what love is. I am convinced that this is the kind of love Jesus was talking about when He said, “As I have loved you …”
The miracle and beauty of the story is not the father and son’s reunion, but is the fact that the prodigal discovers love. As Jesus said, “He came to his senses”. He sheds his pride and arrogance, humbles himself, abandons his claim to rights and entitlements, and is ready to serve and be in relationship again.
That encounter that takes place on the road, then, is not love. It is the result of love. Yes, that encounter is one of deep emotion and outpouring of sentiment, and that is good stuff, but it is the culmination of love that has already been at work. The hard graft, the deliberate choices and decisions that the father has made, represents true love that makes the encounter possible, and the emotions which follow it.
With the older son, however, there is great doubt whether he will ever change his loveless ways.
So let’s hear it for the forgiving father and the returned son.
But not so quick.
Jesus told His followers that this was the way that He loved them, then He said, “In the same way, you must love one another”. Patience, forgiveness, generosity, selflessness, humility, kindness and perseverance. This is what love is.



frances said...

Penny! Did you have a quick glass of red wine before the church thing, or are those rose petals I can see in the pic of you emerging from the church with a man with hair and a carnation stuck to his chin?

Anonymous said...

aaaah Pen - love the photos - your mum and dad were such a glam couple - oh I miss you all SOB SOB and more SOBS - seeing Mimma and Poppy - aaah - more sobs - seeing a young Julie and Sophia = thanks for sharing.
p.s. sorry I must be honest and say I didn't read all the words............. perhaps too much sobbing.

eeek what does select profile mean - I shall use anonymous - love Serena

andy dips said...

what a wonderful read!
Well done!
And now when are you going to announce that you've decided to come to the reunion?

Penny Mackenzie said...

Truth be told I had a small whisky not because I needed one but it felt like the sporting thing to do when it was offered. Yes rose petals! I know it hard to believe but Bryan did once have hair

Penny Mackenzie said...

Hi Serene Serena

We are a pathetic bunch arn't we. SOBING at the drop of a hat. Hey guess what I finally got together with Maria K. Had lovely chats. I have a couple of pictures of your folks that get me teary. Love you.

Penny Mackenzie said...

Ahhhhhh Andy wouldn'r that be lovely.

Penny Mackenzie said...

Truth be told I had a small whisky not because I needed one but it felt like the sporting thing to do when it was offered. Yes rose petals! I know it hard to believe but Bryan did once have hair

Sue Bolt said...

What a lovely blog Pen. Many congratulations to you both on achieving 25 years and you both still look fabulous, even though Bryan hasnt got any hair!! But then neither has Marty, so there you have it!!
Love and hugs from us all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Penny

What a lovely blog! We remember your wedding well as Pix and I had just got together and next year we too will be celebrating 25years!! Time flies when you're having fun!!

Congratulations on 25yrs
Julia & Pix

Anonymous said...

I so remember sitting in the right hand side of that beautiful Greek Orthodox Church.. xXXX Mary G

Jen Standish-White said...

What beautiful memories so evocatively written Penny. I love that one can see you then and now and recognise the same love and connection. Well done you two on reaching 25 years together as wife and man xxxx Jen

Anonymous said...

Pen this is wonderful. I was always so sad to miss your wedding and I am going to gush. What a beautiful blog - so special. I read the updates all the time, you write beautifully and I am sad that I don't get to chat to you anymore. You guys are amazing!!! Gush over! Much love Joe

Penny Mackenzie said...

Hello Joe sweet thing,

There is a very strong likelyhood that I will be in your neck of the woods in mid July. Once i know for sure i will let you know and we can get together for a very long overdue catch up!!!! Hugs and love.

Anonymous said...

well Caitlyn thought you look like Aunty Penny... but... not so much that I looked like me. lol.

Unknown said...

Lekker for you both!! Truly a thing to revere these days. Now for scary 6 degrees of separation stuff.... Bryan's Mom taught Science to me for a term at St. John's College ALL those years ago...