81: Highland Fling for Two

81: Highland Fling for Two

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Highland Fling for Two

If we could ever make red tape nutritional, we could feed the world.

~Robert Schaeberle

Kenny was born and raised in New Jersey, but spent every summer on his grandma’s farm in Topeka, Kansas. I was born and raised in suburban New York, and spent many teenage vacations on my sister’s farm in Missouri. So we grew up close to each other and vacationed close to each other too.

Fast-forward about thirty-five years and the latest craze, Speed Dating, finally brought us together. We had only seven minutes of conversation. Kenny says it was love at first sight. He says that when he sat down at my table, he saw me smile and thought, “Oh, boy! I finally got a pretty one!”

I was impressed with Kenny’s easy laugh and his love of art. But I had also selected three other bachelors for a second date. Kenny agreed to wait while I went through my list of worthy contenders. And, of course, no one thrilled me like Kenny. So, after fifteen months of weekend dates between two states, Kenny asked me to marry him while we went on a two-week photo-journey vacation to Scotland!

In the summer of 2005, London was besieged with terrorist bombs, and Great Britain instituted stronger guidelines for visas and marriages. The British national security response required a special marriage visa. This meant we had to submit an additional passport photograph as well as a separate application to be married in the British Isles.

I had to make many long-distance phone calls and website visits to get all the requirements outlined. It seemed that everyone wanted some kind of validation of our intent to marry before issuing the coveted marriage visa stamp in our passports.

“Send us the receipt for your wedding dress,” they said.

“I’m not wearing a wedding dress. This is not my first marriage,” I answered, politely.

“Well, then at least send us the names of the rest of the wedding party — the bridesmaids and your family members.”

“Um, we are actually kinda eloping,” I whispered.

The Scottish authorities just sighed.

At last, just ten days before our departure, I got some straight answers from the British Consulate in Chicago. I packaged up our expired passports, current passports, birth certificates, and Social Security numbers, as well as letters to “prove” we had no intention of seeking political asylum to live in Great Britain. I can tell you that sealing the tape on that thick FedEx package containing our entire identities was probably scarier than saying “Yes” to Kenny’s marriage proposal!

While waiting for our marriage visas, I was busy arranging for everything from our rental car to ferry boats between the Outer Hebrides isles. Then there were the details of our wedding ceremony with the local registrar and witnesses to our vows! Through the wonders of the World Wide Web, I became good friends with the owners of one particular bed and breakfast, The Ballygrant Inn on the Isle of Islay. David and Ruby Graham agreed to stand with us as our wedding witnesses and planned all the last-minute details.

In fact, on our wedding day, we drove our little blue compact off the boat ramp of the luxury ferry in the early morning of a clear, sunny Saturday. Ruby had asked the village florist to dye fresh white roses the exact color of my cobalt blue suit for my bouquet. I hadn’t even thought of flowers! The florist added a corsage for Ruby and two boutonnières for the men with a single blue rose bud, sprig of heather, and a plaid ribbon.

As we dashed into the floral shop, the owner looked up and smiled, saying, “So, you’re the Americans what’ve come to get married, eh?”

It was just like that wonderful old movie with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, The Quiet Man. So many people in this wee seaside town were waiting to help us celebrate our wedding!

I had read about the Bowmore Distillery on the Isle of Islay as being one of the few operations that still malted their own barley on site. That was worth seeing! Unfortunately, the Bowmore Distillery was now closed on Saturdays, as the tourist season ended on September 1st. But when I sent a return message to the website manager about our wedding day on Islay, she quickly offered to meet us at the distillery for a private tour as soon as we got off the boat!

We pulled the heavy stainless-steel paddle through about six inches of barley on the cellar floor of the distillery. After turning the barley, we were treated to several “wee drams” of every bottling on site. And so, as the day edged toward our sunset wedding by the sea, we were thoroughly warmed with the best of the “water of life.”

David and Ruby were excited as they accounted for every known tradition. They had their teenage son, Ewan, release their black cat just outside the door as I dashed out to the car. A black cat is good luck in Scotland!

We had planned to be married in the garden by the sea as the sun set, but the wind was too strong for an outdoor wedding. The registrar offered to perform the civil ceremony in a charming stone cottage just beside the garden. As Sharon, the Islay registrar, was reviewing the particulars of the event with us, Kenny stepped away from his video camera on the tripod. And then it was happening! Sharon was actually asking the “I do” part! Kenny was bright red, and his collar was plastered to his neck. At last, we had exchanged all the words, and David and Ruby were signing their names to the official document. I was a little giddy when the registrar asked how we had met and come all the way to Scotland to be married. And so, while I was telling her about our fairy-tale romance, I saw Kenny step over to the camera tripod, and something made a click.

Our wedding video begins with me smacking my new husband’s arm with the back of my hand as he sheepishly admitted that he didn’t have a chance to turn on the camera before that moment. Our love begins with a good hearty laugh for all! May it always be that way.

~Valorie Wells Fenton

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