The staple Florida sunshine was replaced with wind and rain this morning. Best to get all this bad weather out of the way before the beach wedding. It was almost a little bit cold.
With everyone now in the US, some of us gathered again for breakfast. Bridesmaids, bride and groom, other halves and granddad all gathered around a high table at Gulf Drive Cafe for a proper American breakfast.
There were pancakes, cheese grits, eggs over easy, maple syrup, tacos, toast and jelly. Grandad was bamboozled by the egg options – he asked for fried, and when our server listed the types his face became one of bewilderment like she was speaking another language, to our amusement. I also tried to eat some pancakes without maple syrup, which is a crime. Conway snacked on little bits from all of us, but mostly stacked all the plastic jelly and jam pots before knocking them down and starting again.
Activities were planned for last night, but jet lag, a day of driving, and dinner finishing later, meant all the girls were falling asleep rather than partying. They postponed until today – and after breakfast they all went down the beach to The Beach House restaurant, for celebratory drinks and some quality time. Leaving us lads to drink and play cornhole on the beach, getting slowly coated in salt from the sea spray. Conway tried his hand at the game, picking up the beanbags and throwing them, but soon resorting to climbing the ramps and putting the bags directly in the hole – usually as someone was trying to take their turn.
After a brief shopping trip to Publix – and a delicious Pub sub, we recouped and regrouped at the house where most of the wedding party were staying – a grand building above a double garage and besides a canal, it was a friend of a friend’s place.
We all ate takeaway pizza and had drinks in the garden, by the water’s edge – where we could watch random fish leap above the water. Conway ran around, unwilling to be held, he needed a full time adult to protect him from the canal, the swimming pool, the stairs and garden ornaments. He ate pizza and his cheesy greasy fingers threatened many dresses with ruin. By the pool, groomsmen and bridesmaids practiced the ceremony, led by the groom’s mom.
I brought Conway home early, the evening already late – in the night sky I found the first star and showed him, “Star” he said, I told him the stars will always be there, for his whole life. “Buy-bye” he said to the star, as we got in the car to drive home.
The wedding would begin at 4pm, on Coquina beach. In the morning I drove into Bradenton to pick up the bouquet, and some “baby’s breath” – a wispy white flower – the florist showed me, hardy and pretty stuff you can put everywhere. I picked up maid of honour Samantha and she and the flowers went to the house to prepare – makeup, dress, hair, and so on.
For Grandad, Conway and me it was a quiet day, as everyone was getting ready elsewhere we played with wooden cars and beach balls, sat on the balcony with coffee and ate lunch. Three dolphins lifted up above the water right in front of us to our amazement. The bay was busy with weekend boats, and we watched groups prep and set sail from the little marina by our pool.
At 2pm we began to get ready, Conway in his little grey suit, me in my big grey suit, Grandad in his – white shirt rather than pink – he thought he hadn’t packed it. Frustratingly we hadn’t managed to get Conway to nap – now nearing the wedding he would be growing sleepy.
I dropped Grandad – father of the bride – at the house, and with another wedding guest we drove up to the beach, traffic was busy for the weekend and the car park boiling over. Conway fell asleep in the car, and in the hot afternoon I carried him beneath the pines to the gathering of guests – we would all wait in the shade until the last moment, a little electric fan kept baby cool. When the limo carrying bride and all was spotted we all dashed out to our seats on the open beach.
In the hot sunshine Conway stirred, he woke up and began to cry. It was so hot, and he wanted his mummy. Nana and I did our best to comfort him and give him shade, but he was having none of it. Here comes the bride, in her beautiful white dress, Grandad on her arm, groom waiting by the arch. Everyone on the beach stopped to watch, they filmed it on their phones, they cheered. Oh, poor baby, crying at the wrong moment. Mummy followed in her sleek blue dress, bridesmaids behind, and Conway couldn’t go to her yet, and the crying kicked up a notch. I took him away, back to the shade, and back beneath the pines he quietened.
The wedding continued, behind the sand dune. We heard cheers, and with baby in arms we watched husband and wife head back down the aisle, clapping and cheering all around for the happy couple. And as they had their photos taken, sunglasses on, Conway got to breastfeed beneath a parasol.
We drove in to Bradenton for the reception, our car’s aircon cooling us all down, we had to stop at the bridge, it was open to let all the weekend boats through. We arrived before the limo, and watched newlyweds, groomsmen, bridesmaids and mother of the bride get out in style. There’d been whisky in there too.
Everyone applauded and cheered, as one by one bridesmaids and the happy couple were introduced and took their seats for food. We ate Cracker Barrel fried chicken, macaroni cheese, beef, ’slaw and salad. There were speeches and bridesmaids tag-teamed hilariously. They danced their first dance and wedding photos were taken outside – in the calm evening light, palms silhouetted against a Florida sunset. They cut the cake and attacked each other with icing, the bottom tier was chocolate and peanut butter and it was oh so good.
Music played, and Conway ran about, excited by everything and all the attention, he danced, he played with other children, he hugged the bride and played in her dress, he tried to get behind the bar, or work out the water cooler, he loved Nana’s dress, and he held on tight to the bride as she threw her bouquet. He jiggled his little feet, and rocked his shoulders, swayed his head, all with a wide-eyed grin, he had the best night, and he carried on, all the way through until the end, when he fell asleep as his head lay in the car seat, looking adorable in his waistcoat.
When our heads hit the pillows they had the same effect.