I lived with my friend, Nnamdi, in my second year of university. We lived together with seven others in, essentially, a three-bedroom house with a large thinly-walled extension haphazardly attached with next to no heating. The kitchen was a corridor, the sitting room could just about fit a sofa, my desk was on a hinge so you could squeeze past to the wardrobe, but every room had a TV with Sky installed so we were unaware of the discomfort. Nnamdi was studying medicine (it’s amazing to finally put that in the past tense as he has at last graduated and is now a doctor!), he dressed suavely until it came to bedtime when the Long Johns and bobble hat appeared, loved to bake and is now an addict of The Great British Bake-Off. He is a loyal and dependable friend, a joy to be around, and last weekend, I attended his wedding.
I can only aspire to having a wedding as meticulously and lovingly planned as this one. Even the weather, apparently planned by Nnamdi’s father after some forceful and insistent praying, was perfect with a dazzling blue sky. After a frantic morning of dressing, struggling with hair and faces, Holly, Anna and I raced to the church, anxious to be there by at least half 11 for a wedding to start at 12. However, we didn’t receive the memo that you could still rock up at 12:30; people appeared in drips and drabs for an hour as we sat people-watching and fanning ourselves with our wedding programmes. Thanks to our early arrival we had excellent seats for the ceremony, and for front row people-watching. Not only did the wedding bring Nnamdi and his fiancée, Hannah, together, it unified Nigerian and British culture. Half of the congregation arrived in colourful Nigerian clothing; head wraps in gold, red, bright turquoise, and robes or dresses in vivid prints. The whole contingent of Nnamdi’s cousins, aunts, and sisters appeared in matching red check print, all personally tailored to suit their styles. Immediately I felt very under-dressed when Nnamdi’s sister appeared with her red check tailored into a long slinky dress with black feathers over her shoulders and across her neck, and a gold headdress perched jauntily on her head.
Now, I am an emotional person but I never presumed I was one to cry at weddings. How wrong I was. The tears fell like a monsoon during the vows, the blessings, the announcement they were husband and wife. I like to think my red eyes blended well with Nnamdi’s tie.
The sun was scorching as we all mingled in the gardens of Squerryes Court so we made regular trips the bar where cooling apple, cucumber and elderflower drinks stood, icy and fresh, dripping water in the sunlight. Waiters circled with huge trays of nibbles and canapes; small cones of newspaper held a breaded scampi and two salty chips, cocktail sticks with spicy chicken or beef in a chilli marinade, platters of mini Croque monsieur, tiny slithers of Stilton quiche, delicate crackers laden with crumbly cheese, tomato and olives, all found their way to my mouth until I was laden with crumbs, handfuls of newspaper and cocktail sticks.
An enormous marquee was perched on a grassy incline. Tables were scattered with as many chairs as possible squeezed around them. (Nnamdi and Hannah have a lot of friends.) Each table was named after a location that represented something to the couple. The head table was named after their first address together. All the other tables were their past, they sat at their future.
Dinner was served. Each person had already chosen Nigerian or ‘British’ cuisine. (I say British, I mean not Nigerian). I was filled with regret as bowls of pepper soup laden with chunks of chicken were put down in front of the guests, not including me. I ate a ‘British’ hoisin duck salad with noodles and sparkling pink pomegranate seeds. And then slurped up a spoonful of Anna’s soup which caught at the back of my throat with a fiery kick of pepper. I’m a pathetic adversary to heat.
As everyone dug into their main of rice, spicy beef and plantain, I wolfed down an enormous lamb shank, smashed new potatoes, fresh baby vegetables and rich gravy. Speeches followed, more tears flowed, toasts were made before dessert – a trio of morsels: chocolate mousse, lemon cheesecake, and fresh strawberries and shortbread. Meanwhile a magnificent chocolate fountain was set up with doughnuts, brownie chunks, fresh fruit and marshmallows for dipping and was soon swarming with people, dunking with chocolate-covered fingers. A quick costume change saw Nnamdi and Hannah appeared transformed in traditional Nigerian clothing, therefore becoming the celebrities of the day with a wall of guests taking pictures, they cut their beautiful, ombre cake, flavoured with red velvet, carrot, and lime and coconut. Even amidst the dancing, and the crippling pain in my feet from my high heels, I still managed to stagger to the cake table four times for another slice.
The night ended with dancing, a quick change into my trainers, waving goodbye to the married couple and a long lazy cup of tea back at Anna’s. A wonderful day full of love, colour and laughter.