We woke up early on Saturday morning. Earlier than perhaps we should have, for we both had slightly dulled heads from the previous night's festivities in the bar. But we were excited. Excited because today was the big day. The reason for our trip to Ireland. Today was Jude and Gavin's wedding and nothing, not even a woolly head, was going to quell our excitement.
We raced down to join Gavin in his last meal as a condemned.. er.. single man - a sumptuous full English breakfast. He seemed quite calm. Unlike both his and Jude's sets of parents who's were as excited as school children.
We all had a few hours to kill before getting suited and booted so Stu, I and a bunch of other guests headed across to the country club attached to the hotel for a swim, spa and sauna. Which was a lovely way to detox and prepare for the twelve hours of retoxing to come.
We then had a quick bite to eat in the bar before donning our new M&S suits (their machine washable range is to be highly recommended) and joining the hundred or so other wedding guests for a pre-service G&T in the bar (as the more observant reader might have noticed the bar is playing a pivotal role in our wedding preparations).
Just before three o'clock we all followed (an increasingly nervous) Gavin into the room where the service was to take place. Beautiful flowers were everywhere as we took our seats and waited for Jude to arrive.
And when she did it bought a tear to my eye. Jude looked stunning in her magnificent ivory dress and flowers in her hair. She all but floated down the aisle to be at Gavin's side.
The service was relaxed and informal with Oscar the page boy performing his ring bearing duties with aplomb. We sang, we heard poetry and we heard the vows. The priest even found time to inject some humour into the proceedings. And before we knew it Jude and Gavin were signing the register and it was all over.
Back at the bar we all agreed at how lovely everything was and got down to serious task of drinking the place dry. After the official photography was done we filed down the wedding line into the ballroom to enjoy a handsome five (or was it six?) course meal as the wedding 'breakfast'. Just before the meal began however we had the speeches. Unusually perhaps, but completely understandably, none of the speakers wanted the fear of public speaking to ruin their meals so we toasted and listened with stomachs half rumbling. The speeches were equally moving, funny and entertaining with perhaps Gavin's being the standing out. But of course it's best men do have the best stories - something about swimming trunks and a train, was it?
The meal itself was totally delicious and before we knew it we were all back in the bar waiting for the ballroom to be reset for the further drinking, dancing and céilidh still to come.
Now fast forward eight hours and we were collapsed in armchairs in the bar having one last beer for the road. We had disco danced our little socks off, Irish danced like locals and drank half the Irish Sea in booze. Not to mention laughing like drains throughout. Such fun. And we have the pictures to prove it!
The next day, as Helen was driving Stu and I down to Dublin, we were all reflecting on what made the wedding such a success. Yes, it was seeing Jude and Gavin tying the knot in such a romantic fashion and, yes, it was the brilliant planning and relaxed atmosphere of the day but what really made it for us was that Jude and Gavin's family and friends were just so... well... familiar and friendly. We were made to feel so welcome at every point of the day by everyone. We really couldn't help but enjoy ourselves from start to finish.