Australian writer Shauna Reid was living in Edinburgh on a Working Holiday visa when she met her future husband Gareth down the pub. Eighteen months later, he proposed to her – just eight weeks before her visa was due to expire.
Gareth and I were a couple that liked to take things slow. It took six months of shy smiles and blushes to finally get together after our first meeting in the pub; and a further six months to whisper I love you. But with my visa running out we had to quickly decide how serious we were about the relationship. To be honest – that bit felt effortless and natural. It was the hasty wedding part that reduced us to a dribbling mess.
How do you organise a wedding in eight weeks? What do you when half the guests are on the wrong side of the world and the Home Office is breathing down your neck? We scoured local venues and kilt shops while fielding calls from our respective mothers – Which country would the wedding be held? Should they book a flight? Should they buy a fancy new hat?
It seemed an impossible task. No matter what ideas we came up with, it seemed doomed to be a shoddy and rushed affair with one side of the family going bankrupt from the airfares. In the end we did the sensible thing: we ran off to Las Vegas.
Our mothers were tearful when we announced our plans, but they had to admit it was really quite a logical solution. The two of us would go to the States and marry quietly but garishly, then use our honeymoon time to let it all sink in. Then we’d have a big party in the summer with the Scottish contingent, then head Down Under later in the year for a long overdue visit and celebrations with my own family and friends.
I was a bundle of nerves on the morning of our Las Vegas wedding. Despite my careful planning I’d forgotten something borrowed and blue, so I had to ask Gareth if he had a pen then write the word BLUE on my foot. Then the surprise of my frock was ruined because I couldn’t zip it up on my own, despite abstaining from starchy carbs for weeks prior. Gareth’s lingering memory of his bride will be her bent over the bathroom sink wheezing, “Just pull… a little… harder!”
But the nerves were forgotten as we cruised down the Strip in a taxi, past the fake Eiffel Tower, the fake Statue of Liberty and the fake Venice. If you were going to do something as crazy as get married in a hurry, you may as well do it in the craziest town on earth.
We tied the knot at Graceland Chapel, following in the footsteps of glittering celebrities like Billy Ray Cyrus and Jon Bon Jovi. The ceremony was brief but poignant, with a roly-poly Reverend who just couldn’t get Gareth’s name right. In the space of a five minute ceremony he was Garret, Gary and Grant.
“Now repeat after me,” she drawled as I placed the ring on my man’s finger, “Jared, I love you.”
“GARETH!” I corrected, “I love you!”
Seconds later we were officially husband and wife, grinning like loons as we paid the bill and collected our certificate. I asked for our DVD – my mother had made me promise to get the ceremony filmed if she couldn’t be there.
The receptionist went pale. “You ordered the DVD? Oh. OH!”
Turns out they had forgotten to film our wedding. So what else could we do? We took it from the top. We got married all over again. They were so apologetic that they threw in the in-house Elvis for free. Svelte and sexy in a black jumpsuit, he walked me down the aisle while crooning Love Me Tender. As the camera creaked on the tripod, we said our vows again, recapturing the sincerity and tenderness of the original moment just ten minutes earlier.
After the wedding we went back to the hotel, put two dollars through a slot machine and headed to the MGM Grand to see Tom Jones in concert. It was the happiest day of my life.
But Weddings Three and Four were just as unforgettable. In July we had a low-key ceilidh and buffet with all our Scottish friends and family, expertly organised by my mother-in-law. In October we had a casual garden party in Australia, expertly organised by my own Mum. My friend Matt donned a preacher’s costume and conducted a mock ceremony in which Mum gave me away to Gareth, yet again.
It was a crazy year but I wouldn’t change a thing. Nobody went broke from air fares and everyone got a chance to celebrate with us. I also got excellent mileage from my wedding dress!
Shauna’s book The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, is available from all good bookshops.