As you may have seen in my previous post, last year I got married to Maria on a steam train. Well, not exactly… we actually got married at Kidderminster Register Office, but we went for a steampunk theme for the whole day, and, fittingly, booked a steam train for the wedding breakfast. Now, read on for part two… With the morning’s formalities over, the party was about to begin. The Severn Valley Railway is a heritage steam railway operated by enthusiasts and volunteers that runs between Kidderminster in Worcestershire and Bridgnorth in Shropshire. The Kidderminster Town terminus (situated adjacent to Kidderminster main-line station) is a lovingly restored redbrick station, and is also where we assembled for the journey. Conveniently, the station also houses a pub, the King and Castle, which was quickly filled with top-hatted and be-goggled wedding guests. It also turned out that Kidderminster Harriers (whose home ground is near to the station) were playing at home that day so a fair smattering of confused-looking opposing fans of Oldham Athletic were there too (Kidderminster lost).
We couldn’t fit all of our friends and family in the at the registry office, so we’d asked the rest of our guests to join us at the station. We had a short wait before the train was ready to depart, so this was an excellent time to catch up with friends and family and marvel at the wonderful outfits everyone had put together. Beers were drunk, photos were taken, and a group of my new bride’s friends sang – what else? – ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’ from the Sound of Music.
We had a glass or two of hot mulled wine on the platform to fight the crisp November air, then boarded the train bound for Bridgnorth. The starters were laid out for us in the two main dining cars, and the main was served en route by a small army of white-suited waiters. Unfortunately, due to the small size of the train’s kitchens, we were unable to seat all of our guests for dinner, but we did extend an invite to our remaining guests to a seat in the Hogwarts Express-style compartments at the front of the train with hampers stuffed with picnic food (for which we are both extremely grateful to Mike and Anne Cummins for supplying). There was a half-hour stop-over at Bridgnorth where we all disembarked for a stroll around the station. Some of the party managed to find their way to the station pub – the Railwayman’s Arms – where, awkwardly, there was a wake going on for a former rail worker. Then it was all back on board for the return journey and desserts and coffees.
Back in Kidderminster Station there were coaches waiting to whisk our party off to the evening venue. We’d struggled to find the ‘right’ venue, so were about to settle on a fairly traditional large room at the Mercure Hotel in Bewdley (on the outskirts of Kidderminster), when the hotel’s events organiser mentioned that there was a smaller venue downstairs called the Kings Suite. It was a cellar bar, with lots of small rooms with high vaulted ceilings, a small dance floor, and loads of quirky features and once we’d seen it we knew we’d found the ideal venue. In keeping with our steampunk theme, we thought it would be fun to style these rooms accordingly. I designed a floor plan loosely based on the Cluedo board, and gave the rooms names. There was a Games Room, a Ball Room (otherwise known as the dance floor), a Laboratory, a Lounge and more. In the Drawing Room we put paper tablecloths and pens and let my cartoonist buddies loose. In the Library, we blu-tacked bookcase wallpaper to the walls and stacked a few old books around. I also drew some prints of imagined ‘Heroes of Steampunk’ to decorate the walls of the venue (prints of which will shortly be available at my new website – Caricatorium – of which more details in the New Year)
Making the traditional speeches on the train was always going to be problematic, with our guests split between two carriages (with the kitchen car in between), so we held them over until everyone had arrived at the Hotel. Pete, Maria’s Bridal Escort went first, followed by my Best Man, Matt, who, aside from digging up embarrassing childhood photos from my mum managed to get our cartoonists to draw large caricatures of me live. I mumbled my way through my speech – public speaking not being my forte – to be joined by my bride in thanking everyone involved. We danced the first dance – Maria had a long-standing dream that her first dance would be to ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ by Animal Magnet – then went through to cut the cake. Our fantastic cake had a suitably retro-sci-fi design, and took the shape of a steampunk rocketship.
We then danced and drank and ate and circulated amongst our guests for the rest of the evening… A splendid time was had by all. I’ve been to a lot of weddings to draw caricatures over the years, but this was by far and away the best I’ve attended (well, I am biased).
Our thanks go to everyone who helped out with putting together our special day. Particular thanks go to my Best Man, Matt, to Maria’s Bridal Escort, Pete, to Maria’s Bridesmaids, Robyn and Lara, to my Mum for helping out, to our friends Emma, Amin, Mike, Pete and Lisa for taking wonderful photos*, to Mike and Anne for making up the hampers for the train, to all our guests for making such an effort with their outfits and really getting in to the spirit of things – not to mention the gifts and contributions towards our honeymoon fund – and finally, I’d like to thank Maria for making me the happiest man in the world.
*I’ve attempted to credit all the photographs to their originator, but if I’ve missed anyone one, please let me know and I’ll change it.