Over eighteen months a dream had taken shape. Starting as a mere idea, one neither of us dared imagine would grow past wishing.
We were drawn to Hargate Hall immediately, it reminded us both that there was once a time before weddings were carried out on conveyor belts at hotels, with sixty minute turn-arounds and paint by numbers formulas; a time before pre-nuptials and get out clauses, before vows who’s truth would corrode even at the first test; of religious words uttered by the unfaithful, ceremonies lost in pomp, with frameworks of obligation and words so diluted by years and use that they became meaningless to the couple reciting them.
Hargate Hall became an ideal for us, a fantasy which begged for substance, formed by our need to show our loved ones the vision we had seen.
We battled each other for voice on that car ride home after our first visit to the Hall, each wanting to express plans and ideas, thoughts for “what” and “how” and “when”. We both knew the “where” had been resolved silently between us during the tour of the rooms.
Two days later we booked the Hall for mid-June the following year, and the wedding seemed finally to be taking root in reality.
In the months leading up to the wedding we paid several visits to the Hall, each time with a trusted advisor in the form of a friend, or a family member. Each saw through the deception, each knew we sought their approval rather than their advice.
On June 10th 2011 we saw a different Hargate Hall to the one we had visited. This time wasn’t a visit, this time it was ours. We had never seen its face so fresh, painted in bright greens by the summer sun; the front entrance welcomed us like old money to the family manor. Above us gargoyles smiled down and promised us a rain free weekend.
We welcomed our guests as if to our home, each wide eyed and awestruck, floating to their rooms and apartments on a cushion of wonder.
We passed the evening drinking wine to a sunset made for us, while new friendships were bred, and old ones reborn between family and friends from both sides of the aisle. Children ran through the hallways and corridors seeking hiding spots, as adults explored castles brought with them from their own imagination, and memories of fairy tales their parents enticed them to sleep with many years gone.
The air of excitement flowed through the grounds like a warm breeze, a magical air which lifted spirits and wetted eyes. Surrounded by such love and good feeling, we truly felt blessed.
With a head spinning not just from the wine, I kissed my fiancé once last time before we went our separate ways; as I watched her walk away I cursed tradition, and wished we were spending our first night in Hargate Hall together.
Bacon sandwiches and brimming emotions introduced the morning of the wedding. The mist of an indecisive British summer covered the grounds and framed the Hall in a calm which permeated all who witnessed it. Looking out of the window on that all important morning, an immense feeling of optimism washed over me, a feeling of intense satisfaction, as though the mist were a whisper from fate, assuring me that all is well with the world, that the universe had made just enough room for our love.
I stood, all nerves, at the doorway to our future, waiting for the woman who would be my wife. As the viola filled the air with sweet music which soothed nervous hearts like warm milk, echoes from history sang along in a hall steeped in character. I felt the eyes of a hundred years of life staring at me from the very brickwork, and I knew that soon my wife and I would become part of the rich history of this place.
A hundred hearts missed a beat as the wedding march cut into my thoughts.
And then she was there.
Draped in ivory and framed by stained glass; halos of sunlight danced around her; a vision torn from my dreams.
She flowed down the grand oak staircase as naturally as water in a brook, and I knew that if God made Heaven and Earth, then he created those stairs just so her feet would fall on them.
My composure fluttered as delicate as the breath of babies; she glided to my side; she was looking into my eyes and my heart; we spoke, our mouths performing the will of our souls. The promises we had made to each other a thousand times, blessed vows of faithfulness, of love without limits or end, of blissful happiness exchanged for all our days; finally, the ones we loved could hear the words we felt so familiar saying.
And then we kissed, our beings welded together into one whole which had ached to be re-joined, as if separated before our births.
As man and wife we walked through the doors into the fields, our fields, with the sun falling down on us, and felt immersed in warm waters; a baptism of love for the new couple.
We left Hargate Hall on the Monday morning after the Saturday wedding. Our hearts were a battleground of sadness and joy as we said goodbye to a place which was more than just a venue, but an honoured guest.
As Hargate Hall filled my rear view, I felt a tear form, this time of pride and excitement as I drove towards my new life. We left a piece of ourselves behind, my wife and I, an imprint of all the wonderful things we are together, tattooed onto the stonework, soaked into the wood, which said that many years from now when we are old and grey, this place will still be ours.
David Keith Allott.