So here we are, retired, on the downward slope and so on…. blah, blah! But wait a minute, on the contrary, we and countless others seem to be having the times of our lives! No slippery slope this, no snoozing in the chair nor slothing in front of the TV for us! Our lives are filled with amazing happenings. Take, for example, two weddings which happened in our family during this past year – how different and how unbelievably wonderful they were.
The first was that of our son, Chris, who became betrothed to his Chi-yu Ku in a very Taiwanese event on the 27th December in Taipei. The second was that of my niece, Lauren, who wed her English/Irish/Australian John on her dad’s game farm in the Timbervati on 9th May this year. So, for fun, I compared the weddings, trying to emphasise the ‘flower’ aspect of each for our essentially Gardening Web site.
To start with, the venues couldn’t have been further apart, Taipei and Timbervati!
The first wedding took place in the Royal Hotel in Taiwan which is steeped in history having been designed and built by the wife of Chiang Kai-shek, he who initially took many intellects away from Communist China to the island of Formosa to give them a better life where they could continue their intellectual pursuits. It is a beautiful, very red Chinese building and our wedding happened on the tenth floor where huge windows overlook Taipei.
Chris and Chi-yu followed most of the traditions of the Taiwanese ceremony and my husband and I felt exceptionally privileged to be a part of it especially as we were so warmly welcomed by our new family, many of whom speak English. There were flowers everywhere.We had corsages of roses, Karen (Chi-yu) carried lilies,my grandchildren strewed rose petals along the red carpet and flowers were woven into the fabric designs around the hotel. Karen, wore five dresses that day. She wore red lace for the initial ceremony where I placed a gold necklace around her neck and she graciously poured tea for us, showing that she is now part of our family. Her next dress was white and here Karen walked down the carpet and was formally handed over to Chris by her dad. We banqueted on amazing food whilst Karen changed yet again into a beautiful blue dress, the party dress. The bridal party entered and danced down the aisle and we then all moved between the 200 guests raising our glasses and saying “Gumbai – happiness.” The groom’s family then left the room so that Karen could say Good-bye as she traditionally would go to some far away place to live with her husband’s family. When we returned to the hall we found our new daughter-in-law dressed in a red traditional dress. Her last dress was ice-green and was worn at the party later that evening where we were joined by all their friends to dine and dance into the small hours.
Lauren’s wedding was set under the baobab tree where, during family holidays, our children climbed, watched passing animals and dreamed (perhaps of getting married one day in this very special place ?) The tree, normally festooned with crème d’ tarte flowers, was bare except for a few leaves as winter was approaching but there was a very active beehive in the tree trunk. The bees kept away and in doing so blessed the bridal couple as they took part in a dual ceremony beneath the branches. The service consisted of the normal “Do you take……” followed by an African marriage where John and Lauren exchanged copper bracelets, drank African Beer from a mug and where John placed a kaross around Lauren’s very beautiful white-gowned shoulders. The colourful group of African ladies dancing in the sand gave a fantastic atmosphere to the day.
Lauren wore a beautiful French lace dress with a train and a very long veil. She and the bridesmaids carried bouquets of simple flowers whilst my grand-daughter, the flower-girl, carried a basket of succulents and birds nests. In the marquee (somewhere in the bush) the flowers were simple. Huge baskets of palm fronds hung over the dance floor and palms were placed in baskets all around the marquee. Glass vases of aspadistra were set on the table and the white marquee with billowing curtains was as romantic as any Out of Africa movie. No film producer could have bettered the moment when Lauren and John, driven in a beautiful old Willies Overlander, came hurtling down the hill with Lauren’s veil blowing horizontally out behind as the sun set and, wait for it…..three elephants came trundling across into view.
Each was unforgettable, each was hugely moving and we two retired old toppies were there.
~ Clair Miller