This weekend we were, once again, at a wedding.
It wasn’t in an art gallery or a church, but in a barn, nestling in a West Sussex Valley, surrounded by wild flowers.
And it wasn’t full of young dreamers christening their future with layers of white lace.
It was a second-time-around marriage for both bride and groom.
Full of a sense of calm completeness.
Full of the warmth and happiness of all weddings without the anxious edginess of your wedding having to be better than everyone else’s.
This was a very important day for both of them but it wasn’t their only important day .
The bride and groom both have families and successful careers, their lives have already been strewn with important days.
Their wedding was simply a celebration of the fact that, through all the chaos that life brings, they had found each other.
Strangely, or maybe not so strangely in these modern times, the groom’s ex-wife was there, laughing and chatting and dancing the night away next to her ex-husband and his new wife..
I tried not to stare but a little part of me was desperate to walk over and ask them:
” Does this not feel a bit weird? Are all of you really fine with this?”
But even by my fourth gin and tonic, I was still feeling too politely English to ask.
And anyway, as I stood watching the newly-weds, catching each other’s eye, sharing a smile, I realised that it didn’t matter who else was there.
There was something so serenely complete in the intimacy of that shared smile, that for a moment, even I believed the rest of the world didn’t exist.
And so I think maybe they have done it.
Maybe this time they have found their other half, their perfect partner, the soul mate they have been searching for all their lives.
Maybe this time they have, each of them, found The One.
” Where are you going on honeymoon?” we ask as we catch up with them, standing in the doorway to the dance floor..
” Cycling in the Outer Hebrides,” they say in unison.
” Really,” I say, trying to work out if they are joking. ” For your honeymoon?”
They grin, a ” nelwy-married, we-don’t-care-what-the-world-thinks,” conspiratorial grin.
” It’s so beautiful there,” says the groom, ” cycling will be amazing. I’ve been training for ages.”
” And how about you?” I ask, turning to the bride, ” have you been training too.”
” Oh,” she says, ” I cycled up the road by our house last week, it’s quite steep. Anyway,I’ll be fine, bought some padded knickers.”
And arm- in -arm, the happy couple wander off to chat to other guests.
And perhaps that’s why it was such a lovely wedding.
There was no trying to impress.
No trying to pretend this was some kind of whirlwind romance that had swept them both off their feet and knocked them sideways.
Nothing to prove except that they love each other and want to quietly spend the rest of their lives together, padded knickers and all!
But it set me to thinking, pondering the question that Mia, our 16 year old daughter, often asks me.
” How do you know? How do you know if you’ve met the right person? How do you know when you’ve found The One? “
And I never know what to say.
Because the truth is, the decision to share your life with someone, to marry them or stay with them for ever, is always a bit of a gamble.
It’s easy to get swept along with the excitement of a moment.
Easy to confuse passion with love and infatuation with the real thing.
Easy to believe that you can never feel this way again.
Easy to dream that you have fallen in love when you have really just fallen out of being alone.
Easy to hope that this is it.
Easy to get it wrong.
We’ve all been there :
waiting heart-broken and hopeless for the phone to ring or a familiar footstep on the stair.
Wondering why or how or when it all went wrong.
Clinging onto to the shadow of a feeling that is no longer there because even the shadow of a feeling is better than no shadow at all.
Emotions are fickle and dreams all consuming.
But I don’t want to tell my full-of-the-future-16 -year -old daughter, any of that.
I want to wrap her in a blanket of hopes and dreams and keep her warm with love and laughter.
” So?” she demands again, “How do you know when you’ve found The One?”
I try the simple answer:
” you just do.”
She gives me one of her disparaging looks.
” That’s not really an answer is it mum?”
” I suppose not,” I say, ” but I think it’s the truth. It’s just that sometimes the truth is hidden under so many layers of emotion that it’s hard to be sure.”
” Great,” says Mia, ” so I will just have to guess.
Is that what you did, you and dad-guess?
Did you give up your job and flat and your London life to go and be with him in California because you “guessed,” it might be a good idea? “
I sense a note of slightly panicked cynicism creeping into her voice.
I hug her tight and stroke a stray strand of hair back behind her ear.
” There was no guessing involved,” I say comfortingly.
And suddenly I am transported back to LA airport, Ninesh and I sitting side by side on warm, plastic seats, cups of watery coffee in our hands, waiting for the last call for my flight home.
We had spent just 2 weeks as a couple altogether, one week in England at Christmas and this last week at Easter in California.
And as we sat there, the cloud of separation hovering over us, Ninesh said:
” So I suppose this is it, we might as well get married.”
And just then my flight was called and I stood up and spilt coffee all over my jeans and the floor.
And looking up at Ninesh I realised that I wasn’t flying home, I was flying away from home.
And I nodded and said:
” I suppose we might as well.”
” I think Mia, ” I say, ” that you truly do ” just know.”
It’s about listening to your heart.
Not the butterfly fluttering, breath-stopping, million-mile-an-hour beating part of your heart
But the so-far-down-you-hardly-notice-it – part.
The part of your heart that always feels a little bit empty.
Only when you meet the right person, it doesn’t feel empty anymore.
It’s like you’ve found the piece of the puzzle that you didn’t even know was missing.
And that’s how you know you’ve found The One.”
I feel triumphant in my poeticness.
But Mia raises an eyebrow and glances at her phone.
” Puzzles are really boring,” she says, ” and they take ages to finish. Anyway, can I go to a party on Tuesday? It’ll probably be full of pieces from the wrong puzzle but it might have good music.”
And I think of our friends cycling through the first weeks of their marriage.
I think of Mia dancing through the beginning of her search for The One.
I think of Ninesh and me, still connecting the pieces of our never-ending puzzle of togetherness.
And I know that whoever The One is and however long it takes you to find them, it will always be worth the journey.
Even if you do have to buy a pair of padded knickers to get there.