Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Margo, Jerry, Madge & A Magical...Marriage?

In a full and varied life it has been my pleasure to attend some pretty spectacular parties. Boy George’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Summer Solstice’ themed birthday in 1995; I went as Titania Fairy Queen and danced with the kaftan-clad birthday boy. The 1997 opening of the Calvin Klein Collection boutique in Paris where the man himself took quite a shine to me and sent me home with free, autographed smalls. The backstage bash at a Finsbury Park music festival in ’99 where a kids TV presenter and I made creative use of the luxury portaloos (and I earned my second Blue Peter badge). The night at Dirty Dishes where the mirrorball came down (for which I may have been partially responsible…) The soap awards after-party where I challenged Lionel Blair to a dance-off - and won. And yes, my very own ‘Studio 54 Meets Disco Bloodbath’ Hallowe’en 2006 extravaganza where TWBD transformed my bachelor pad into a blood red Eighties New York discotheque and Patrick Batemans and Morticia Addamses thronged the Clapham Road. None of these however come close to matching the sheer style, glamour, excitement, emotion and beauty of one of the happiest days of my life – Margo and Jerry’s wedding.

Even writing those words has brought a lump to my throat as I think back to the day just three weeks ago. Let’s get one thing out of the way before I begin the recollections though. Although the invitations said ‘Civil Partnership’, I and most of the other guests quickly came to refer to the occasion as the ‘wedding’ and I’m sticking with that. While one or two people I’ve spoken to baulk at calling a gay union (any gay union that is, not just Margo and Jerry’s) a ‘wedding’, for my money a ‘wedding’ as opposed to a ‘marriage’ is the whole shebang of ceremony, reception, evening do, speeches, confetti, drunk uncles, tearful aunties and fat bridesmaids getting fingered behind the marquee. Admittedly M & J’s wedding was far too classy to have the last of these (there was no marquee for a start) but a wedding it most certainly was and anyone who wants to say otherwise frankly wouldn’t have been invited. To my mind the terms ‘marriage’ or ‘civil partnership’ (or indeed, ‘civil marriage’) apply only to the mechanism via which the relationship becomes official in law; everything else is semantics.

So, down off my soapbox and on to the big day. Actually let’s start a few nights before when we - the grooms, the overseas visitors (Brick, Adam and Matty aka The Americans and Claire Mac, The Sicilian Widow), OLoC and myself – kicked off the festivities at where else but VauxhallVille. There we found the gang were in celebratory mood too, it being their first birthday. They’d gone for a Wild West theme, always one of my favourite dress-up choices, and entertainment was provided by the sublime Tina C who dedicated many a song to the happy couple. Timberlina, who I’m still just a little bit stalker-ish about, made sure our party was the centre of attention and although I think we may have pissed off the gorgeous Nathaniel De Ville by storming the stage for his line dancing finale it was the perfect way to start off the wedding weekend. Margo – under the influence of three bottles of Cava not to mention the caipirinhas we’d necked at Anne Frank’s House before leaving – fell on top of Sam the Wedding Planner, nearly knocking her out and resulting in not only a golf ball-sized lump on his left temple but also a black bruise to the tongue which he was lucky not to bite clean through. Which would certainly have made saying his vows somewhat tricky…

After a Friday spent recovering, Saturday saw me running a few errands for the boys and making the finishing touches to my outfit, before joining M & J, the Hollogays, The Americans, The Sicilian Widow and a huge contingent of their recently-arrived families for a long, boozy dinner at the local Italian. What was beautiful about that part of the celebrations was the realisation that this wasn’t just a wedding of two people who love each other deeply, but of their loved ones too; their friends and families, siblings and ex-lovers, colleagues, employers, employees, all brought together by the common bond of their love for one, the other or both of this gorgeous couple.

Sunday morning dawned and with it, The Big Day. The ceremony was due to start at 3.00 so I could afford a lie in even though – having been given the honour of being Master of Ceremonies – I had to be at the Prince of Wales Theatre, their chosen venue, at 2.00. I was up in good time but on looking in the mirror saw that a few late nights (and long days) had taken their toll on my usually flawless complexion and I looked pasty, puffy and – aaargh! – spotty. So, I put out a Facialist 911 call and within half an hour had a fully-trained expert on my doorstep armed with the finest products and strict orders to make me a supermodel. The results were nothing short of miraculous and I was dressed, groomed and out the door within the hour and got me to the ‘church’ just about on time.

What followed was nothing short of dreamlike.

After a walk through of the venue and timings with Sam the Wedding Planner (who’d made a good recovery from Thursday night’s near-fatal Margo-tumbling accident) the ushers (among them, The Agony Uncles) and I took our places to receive the guests as they arrived, and what a glamorous bunch they were. The hats, gowns, suits, corsages, fascinators, cravats, ties, jewellery and general sparkle with which everyone had adorned themselves made for a picture–perfect colourful congregation, led by an immaculately attired groom and groom; Margo in a beautiful checked two-piece, Jerry in a more sober, sharply tailored navy number. Their make-up artiste had worked miracles on Margo’s golf ball, rendering it all but invisible, and the swelling to his tongue had subsided enough for him to get his ‘I will’ out when the moment came.

That moment was at the near-climax of a truly beautiful ceremony which combined the very considered – thoughtful, literary readings expressing what love means to them – and the high camp – a choral rendition of a classically re-arranged ‘Crazy For You’ in honour of the boys’ own goddess, Mrs Ritchie. Taking place on the stage of the theatre, decorated with nothing more elaborate than huge hyacinths in monolithic glass vases, the ceremony was touching, honest, sincere and devotional. Only two things distracted from the emotion of it all. One was the registrar’s inability to pronounce the word ‘ask’, instead saying ‘arks’, bringing to mind Catherine Tate’s ‘Am I bovvered?’ schoolgirl Lauren. The other was, well, you’ve probably guessed – me, sobbing uncontrollably having been completely overwhelmed with emotion before I’d even arrived. I’d managed to hold it together long enough to announce the guests as they’d arrived and usher them into the auditorium but then totally lost it as the vows were read.

Still, I was able to get something of a grip and moved on to the champagne reception in the theatre’s main room, a fabulous art deco space overlooking Leicester Square, complete with sweeping staircase designed – and of course used – for grand entrances. Glenda and ActiveWill, the buffest boys anyone knows, had been talked into taking the role of Champagne Charlies and had spent many extra hours in the gym and many fewer hours eating to ensure that they were at the peak of their musculature for the occasion. Stripped to the waist of their skin-tight white jeans and sprinkled in gold body glitter, the boys toured the room filling guests’ flutes from Methuselahs of Perrier-Jouet and Laurent-Perrier, ensuring that by the time the cake – a glorious, just-shy-of-over-the-top pink iced confection – was ready to be cut, the majority of those in attendance were half cut themselves.

After a few group photos it was time for food, and a delicious, Cornucopian fork buffet had been set up in an adjoining, equally splendid room. Rosé – the boys’ favourite wine – flowed freely, rather too freely in my case considering my duties were not yet over, guests mingled, conversation flourished and love was all around.

Moving downstairs to a function room, transformed for the evening by who else but TWBD into a fantasy disco, the evening part of the bash got into full swing and more guests poured in. The drinks went down, the volume up, and revellers of every age, size and persuasion took to the dancefloor to throw their best shapes to the DJ’s sounds. The floor was cleared for the grooms to have their first dance, to the wonderfully personal choice of ‘Nothing Fails’ (more Madonna) and choreographed to a sufficient extent to impress without a trace of showing off (though God knows if you can’t show off at your own wedding, when can you?) Entertainment was provided by scene legend Dave Lynn, who had most people in stitches with the notable (and vocal) exception of a rather intoxicated distant relative of Jerry’s who was swiftly evicted by his mother.

Finally came the speeches and although five may sound excessive it was anything but, as each of the two best men, Margo’s brother and father and the boys themselves delivered very different but equally moving orations which between them managed to thank, involve, welcome and embrace everyone in the room, and beyond that those who weren’t there: the ‘absent friends’. Touchingly, the boys handed out gifts – beautiful, thoughtful, individually chosen gifts – to those of us who had had duties; I will cherish mine, a paperweight bearing the words ‘A Crown Of Life’ always. And as far as the formalities went, that was pretty much that and it was time to party.

By about 11 o’clock, I had been on the go for nine hours or so and been drinking for much of that. Coupled with my greatly heightened emotional state – partly due to the occasion and my love for Margo who I love like the brother I never had, and partly due to self-pity for my own recent break up from a relationship I’d invested so much hope in – and having rather upset Jerry with an ill-placed ‘joke’ that strayed the wrong side of politically incorrect, I realised that I was in no fit state to stay a second longer and left without saying goodbyes. I think if I had attempted to I would only have started crying again and no-one wanted to see that, frankly. I disappeared into the night and thankfully made it safely home; I woke the next morning still holding my button-hole where I’d gone to sleep clutching it like a precious keepsake (which it is).

I really couldn’t pick a favourite moment of the day. It was so perfect, so personal, so inclusive, so stylish, so sincere, so real, so fantastical, so fucking special from even before the start until well after the finish, that to try to pick one moment would be folly. I’ll remember it for many years to come, how much fun it was, how honoured I was to have been involved, and how when I saw two such devoted and loving people, who I love so very much, commit themselves to each other for life I actually thought my heart would burst out of my chest. So here’s to you Margo and Jerry. You pulled it off – the best party of my life. Thank you for giving me the honour of being your MC and sorry if I let you down by being a drunk. Thank you for the lovely gift which as I type I can see out of the corner of my eye in the spot where I now keep it, proudly on display. But thank you most of all being there for each other and for making the promises you did in front of us all on that wonderful day. I’ll never forget it.

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