"To love - "
"To a lifetime -"
"To memories of happy days and happy nights - "
Claudio leaned back in his chair and looked at his wife and sighed mistily.
"Six years ago today, Marja, I carried you across the threshold of our first apartment -"
"After we'd walked up five flights of stairs - "
"There was no elevator and our apartment was on a narrow landing -"
"With only a railing over the stairwell, and you had to be very careful not to tip me over the edge as you picked me up and swung me around to get through the door!"
"And then" Claudio smiled slyly, "I carried you inside for a night of wild nuptial bliss!"
Marja and Claudio looked at each other fondly and held hands under the table. But they didn't meet my eyes. I narrowed mine, and leaned forward.
"May I ask a question?"
"Absolutely!" Claudio waved expansively, and poured himself another glass of wine.
"DID you have a night of wild nuptial bliss?" I said. "I don't know of a single couple who, in real life, on their actual wedding night, actually did. A wedding is mostly this huge, stressy, organized-to-the-walls THING, and even if it isn't stressy or messy, the party afterwards is generally pretty epic, and by the time you've escaped from the guests and gotten back to your room, any reasonable person just wants to go to SLEEP. I reckon that there isn't actually a single wedded couple - at least, any a couple that isn't required to produce proof of consummation in the morning, or isn't 18 and invincibly horny - who DOES consummate their marriage on their wedding night!" I sat back and took a deep breath. "There." I said. "A speech."
Marja and Claudio looked at each other. They looked at me.
"To answer your question," Claudio said slowly, "We did NOT. To be honest, I didn't even carry her very far over the threshold."
"About three steps." Marja giggled. "Then he fell over. It was two o'clock in the morning when we got upstairs, and it had been a LONG day!"
"First I picked her up at her parents house - at noon -"
"And then we went to the courthouse -"
"And then the church -"
"And then we had a party -"
"A REALLY good party- "
"And after THAT, lifting her up to carry her across the threshold almost floored me. We sort of OOOZED across, with her feet about an inch above the floor -"
"And then we went to sleep." Marja grinned. "But the day afterward - THAT was another story."
Mr Tabubil and I were married at ten o'clock in the morning, barefoot, on a beach. We were married out of a small hotel in Titikaveka on the Island of Rarotonga, and after the ceremony, we and our few beloved guests repaired to the hotel's little restaurant for a truly EPIC wedding breakfast. The weather was tropical hot and tropical sticky, and when the party floated to a finish, Mr Tabubil and I, drowning in our splendid wedding togs, dribbled upstairs to our room, throwing promises behind us to see everyone again on the beach, in an hour - just enough time for a shower and a change of clothes and the briefest of restorative shut-eyes- that's all -
In our room we barely had the strength to close the door and slip off the dress and the suit before we fell face-down on the bed and fell asleep, his hand on mine, clasped together over our fine new rings.
We woke up three hours later to the sound of laughter and splashing below our window. We slipped into swimsuits and went down to join our guests and only came out of the water when the sky had turned red and the sun was setting over the reef.
Upstairs again, we discovered that while we were down in the water, the housekeeper of the hotel had crept up into our room and laid out a wedding tableaux. Two cane chairs had been dragged over to the window and turned so that they faced the sea. A small table had been placed laid between them, and laid with my wedding flowers, a candle and a box of matches and a bottle of champagne. Over the back of the chair she had draped a brand new pareo, in the same shades of blue and purple as the water outside. The bed had been turned down for sleep, and as a final touch, the housekeeper had gone into the closet and found a lacy little bit of nothing that I had brought with me in my suitcase, and she had smoothed it flat and laid it out across my pillow.
It was perfect.
But this wasn't an evening for romance. We were new-married in paradise, but we were also in the middle of a one-week window where we had the north American friends that we loved best in the same place as ourselves, so we dried ourselves off and walked across the road to a little cottage where our Canadian friends were staying, and a rather splendid after-party burst into the black tropical night like a catherine wheel.
We crept home again at three in the morning, and slipped into bed and fell straight asleep.
When we woke the sun was high in the sky, and looking around the room at the untouched wedding tableaux, we felt a terrible remorse. The housekeeper had spent such time and shown such kindness setting up the perfect nuptial night, and there we were, the unspoken wedding cliché, and all her efforts wasted.
So we stepped into the breach.
Mr Tabubil dragged the chairs around to face each other and lit the candle to blacken the wick and blew it out again, and dropped the spent match on the table. I wadded the freshly pressed pareo into a ball to crease it, and pulled it straight again, and dragged it across the floor half-way to the bed and left it there. While Mr Tabubil twisted our bedsheets and pillows into a perfect storm of acrobatic disarray, I took the lacy bit of nothing and wadded it up and shoved it underneath one of the pillows - and considered it, and took it by the corner and dragged it out again and left it hanging artistically half-way down to the floor.
We looked at the chaos and smiled. We'd said thank you. In the best possible way - with a tableaux to match her own.
And Mr Tabubil took my hand and we went down to breakfast.
Happy anniversary, Mr Tabubil. It's been three wonderful years. Here's to another three, to match Marja and Claudio's six, and three more after that and three score times three -
Here's to happy days and happy nights -
To love and to a lifetime.