Jonathan and Hayley flew back to snow-covered London last night, after Christmas in bright and sunny Cape Town. My sister and my mom fly home to Durban and Cape Town today, after spending Christmas here with us. Cynthia departs tomorrow for her tour of Namibia. And on Tuesday Rob and I fly to Maun, in Botswana, to begin our honeymoon.
So the gathering is dispersed; but the change in our lives continues.
I was going to say, I don’t know if you saw what happened back there. It was all gone in a flash. But the intention, I believe, is to make sure that the light and the warmth from that flash, that arc of light across our lives, lasts for a very, very long time.
Thirty years at least, I have promised Rob. It might not always be pretty, but it will, you can be sure, always be me.
Before I welcome you all, and thank you, I want to thank my wife: thank you, Rob, for finding me when I was lost; thank you for catching me when I fell; thank you for promising to be there for me, and with me, through all the years that lie ahead.
It might surprise Rob, and it might surprise our friends and family too, to know that when I first sat down to think about what I should say at this dinner, after our wedding and the toasts and the photographs, between the wine tasters and the courses of this six course meal, I couldn’t think of anything. I am not often lost for words, but I had to ask myself, how do you get up and say something meaningful, something fresh and new, about something that seems so obvious? We are so easy together, Rob and I; so comfortable and happy together; we constantly amuse and occasionally frustrate but mostly enjoy and love and appreciate each other – what can one possibly say about that? As I say, it all seems so natural and so obvious.
And then I thought, it hasn’t always been this easy or this good; what seems at one level so unremarkable is truly special and very remarkable, precisely because it comes with so little pain, so little stress and unhappiness, and – let me say this – with some attractions and rewards too, which we shall not discuss at the dinner table.
Rob, I know that this wedding and this marriage means a huge amount to you. You’ve believed in us and looked forward to this moment, for a very long time. That there have been the occasional jitters and melt-downs along the way, is part of the necessary drama of such a momentous and life-changing occasion!
You pretty much promised to cry from start to finish, which I presume must mean that you are very happy. I want you to know that our wedding and our marriage means everything to me, too, and our happiness together seems to me quite as overwhelming as it is a wonderful and precious prospect. You are the one woman I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.
Long may our happiness and our joy in each other last – to Rob [toast].
There are many more things that need to be said, that will be said later, around the campfire in the boma. But I do want to say this, before I close: thank you, each one of you, for coming, and for being here to share our wedding with us. A wedding, as you know, is not just a party for family and friends – it is something far more profound. It is a moment when two people make vows to one another, in the presence of those who are dearest and closest to them; it is an act of trust and commitment before witnesses. Thank you for being our witnesses, and for coming from far and near to share this moment with us.
It is hugely important for Rob, and for me too, that her sister Cynthia is here with us tonight, after a journey that must have worn her out body and soul; and her cousin Alida and her husband Bob, who have flown in like Cynthia from the other side of the world – a side of the world that is also, in a very real sense, now my home too.
I am no less happy that my mother Yvonne can be here, and my sister Laura. I know my father would have been here too, and I’m sure he is, in some way, here with us in spirit. But most especially I want to thank my children: not simply for playing so beautifully for us – it means so much to Rob and to me that you did play for us – not simply for the work and the love that went into all the preparations – but simply for being here. I want you to know that I don’t take for granted, for a minute, the love you have shown to me and Rob; the understanding and support and acceptance. Thank you Kathy, thank you Jonathan, thank you Eve. Thank you too to Gareth, Hayley and Shaun.
Lastly, to absent friends: to all those who have been thinking of us, friends and family in Canada, in England, in the USA, in Australia – you may not be here in the flesh, but we will eat, drink and have fun enough for all of you!
To absent friends! [toast]