The Wedding of
Elena Kursheva
Adrian Worsfold

2:30 pm, 14th July 2001

Elena was jolted from her beauty sleep around 8:30 am by a friend not realising that there is a three hour time difference between Russia and the UK. Nevertheless there was plenty to do, including for Adrian and mother a trip to Barton for additions to the bouquet when also Adrian bought some ribbons.
Adrian set off alone in a car decked with these ribbons to arrive at Hull Unitarian church around 13:45. He tried to set up the video camera on a tripod and make other checks, but was interrupted by the arrival soon after of the registrar. First thing was checks to names and ages followed by the fee. This upset his concentration and probably was why the video camera set up was not sufficient resulting in a very poor video - the darkness attributable to having the 1/1000 shutter on. This is a result of the tendencies of camera switches to change position with friction when the camera lays on its side.
The best men (there were two, MI and Mi, reflecting Adrian's co-equal friendships) seemed to be late in, his sister descending on Adrian about needing payment from mum for the buttonhole flowers. The party from Clowne - sister, brother-in-law (giver away), neice, her husband, her baby, his guardians, had actually arrived much earlier and sat in a public house, whilst the best men disappeared for some time to prepare and to bring along the family of one of them.
So Adrian was somewhat nervous: not of the event as such but perceived lack of control over what was going on. He was also worried about the ordinary film camera playing up, and whether anyone else would operate it properly. The ideal situation was to take the pictures himself, but MI, a best man, decided Adrian should do nothing and he'd take pictures starting with the bride's arrival. Adrian was aware how easily the camera can be out of focus, ruiining pictures.
A candle was lit, the right hand one of three on a candelabra, for Adrian being in his seat, waiting for the bride.
Adrian's mother was brought by neighbours invited to the wedding. They led the way so that Adrian's ex-colleague and friend Sa could bring Elena behind them in a ribboned 1960's Spitfire car. Sa's friend accompanied her and came in his car. Elena found the low level of the car an experience, especially as she was taller than the space provided. Sa had intended the roof to be off (the car later would have got wet through) but this would have led to Elena's hair seriously ruffled by the wind over the long, high, Humber Bridge, and possibly a cooled head.
When Elena arrived, and waited at the doorway in, also met by the registrar making his checks, Adrian could see that the video camera recording light was not on, and shielding his eyes got up to put the camera over to record mode, but checked nothing else in the panic. David Ellis, Adrian's sister's husband, accompanied her in and to stand alongside Adrian.
Adrian was able to see her then, and a buzz went through him of realisation that this was serious now.
The left hand candle was lit, leaving the one in the middle unlit, for Elena's arrival and the service was begun. The service was written initially by the minister EP as a theistic semi-Christian marriage service. Adrian had taken this and rewrote it, preserving E's approach, but making it compatible with humanism and a non-realist approach to faith. It contained a sample of Pagan liturgy and material from Zoroastrianism, as well as original material Adrian wrote, having written a wedding that he celebrated on June 1st for some New Holland Goth-Pagans. E had added in some small speaking style alterations of his own and then in the service ad-libbed extra into this mixture. He also made slight changes to the sermon, which Adrian wrote as a history of the Internet origin relationship and brief biographies of the couple.
The service went smoothly, although Elena put out her fingers to prevent a repeat of some vows (because the ring and chain exchange was at the top of the following page) as had happened at the practice. This pause was spotted by one best man MI, who in his speech wrongly attributed the gentle intervention to Adrian to demonstrate Adrian's nervousness.
Another difficulty was pronouncing Elena's name. The minister never said "Nikolayevna" correctly or near correctly once. He said "Elena" in Anglicised form, which Adrian would follow with his nearly correct "Yi-lienna". "Kursheva" was said as "Koosheva" but often with the stress in the wrong place. Only Elena pronounced her name correctly. Adrian's name was pronounced correctly, although Elena had to force the W sound a little.
With vows stated, the middle candle was lit, representing marriage. Adrian likes candles in religious services. It was also part of Adrian's wish for "difference", running alongside Elena's wish for tradition, that Adrian put a ring on Elena's finger, but Elena put a chain of red garnet stones over Adrian's head, about which she had said no one in Russia would understand. People in Russia might think Adrian is a dog or a horse. Atthe writing stage Adrian was surprised by Elena's rejection of anything astrological going into this service, so Adrian used the hymn Star Born and the Pagan ritual element to make some distant oblique suggestion of Elena's astrological beliefs. Elena had consulted charts before the wedding, of course. Elena had said she is not a Christian and was unsure of a church service, but this church could accommodate her and his rejection of explicit Christian content.
The service incorporated the signing of the register. Elena's age was wrong, Adrian pointed out, so the registrar said this would be corrected. Before the short sermon-biography, some music played, and Adrian John Worsfold, then Elena Nikolayenvna Kourcheva, also known as Yelena Nikolayenvna Kursheva, signed, and then the two best men, the giver-away, and Adrian's mother, signed, making four witnesses. It was at the end of the service that the registrar presented Adrian with the marriage certificate, although apparently by tradition this is kept by the wife in her safekeeping.
The final hymn was the The Healing of the Nations, to the tune Finlandia, containing the only mentions of God in the whole service, during which the best men and groom had some restrained but unavoidable giggles as the organ and singing congregation parted company, the organ going somewhat faster than the singers. At the end, and married, the wedded couple walked up the aisle to finish.
The photographs were taken in the garden, to some anxiety of Adrian (unaware then of the video error) as to whether the pictures being taken were in focus. MI had his camera, and Mi had Elena's. Adrian made some interventions to advise. The camera was also faulty, so that when it didn't connect its points, the shutter opened and did not close again for some time.
With rain threatening, we carried out an adpated Russian tradition by taking photographs in a civic place. Often Russian newlyweds place flowers on a military grave, but we were photographed in front of William De-la-Pole, whose name is given to a local mental hospital, a point not missed by MI, still doing the photography. Also the river provided a backdrop. At this point rain was falling in big drops: quite a change from the sunny start.
By the time the reception was underway (and to where did the best men disappear? Perhaps to buy a bottle opener!) there was loud thunder and heavy rain outside. Provided by some church people, the particpants served themselves from a side table, starting with the people of the top table, and of them the bride and groom. The groom ate two large portions of the first course, whereas the bride ate one portion only. Then the groom ate one portion of the second course, but the bride quickly wanted another. "No," said the server, she would just ask other people what they wanted of the collection first. So Mi the best man, who had not wanted one said that now he did. "You've changed your mind," said the server. "Yes," he said. He took it, and gave it immediately to Elena. She then took one for herself anyway, meaning she had three! The best man MI did not want a sweet, but told the minister he would perhaps have had some cheese and biscuits, and so the minister went away and came back with a plateful of cheese and biscuits, much more than he actually wanted.
There were plenty of drinks being consumed - wine, soft drinks, and beer brought in, though there was apparently no bottle opener for the beer imported. The beer was well consumed by the giver-away and best men.
The speeches began with the giver-away, who like everyone thanked the churchpeople caterers (for what was a very good spread) and others who had made the wedding possible. Adrian made some comments about the bride definitely being the right person for him. Elena spoke in Russian at some length, and then gave an English translation, which included remembering her parents who could not attend. The best man Mi gave a short speech but then MI gave a long and entertaining unscripted stand up routine. He pointed out that he had known Adrian since 1967. He said he had not seen Adrian so nervous, which was new. Also new was the way that Elena had already changed Adrian. He also pointed out that Adrian had never worn a suit before (this is not true, the previous jacket was once a suit before the trousers became impossibly tight, and now the jacket has no chance of buttoning up). At least he did not repeat that Adrian's suit cost £7.50 in a charity shop and £10.50 to clean, or indeed Elena's dress was all of $50 from Russia. He recommended that Adrian started a full time job rather than the part time one he had, in order to better afford the disciplines of "a job, a wife, a house" (of our own). He also recalled when both of them left Adrian drunk to slide down the front door to be collected by Adrian's mother coming to the door. Obviously this was the long promised embarassment! The topic probably reflected more the condition of the best men and giver-away than this rare and historical experience of the groom decades ago. Some cards were readout, and Adrian pointed out that others were at home (seeking not to offend anyone who might have sent them direct).
When it came to the washing up, the lady of the couple from New Holland joined in. This drew great praise and thank yous, and one could almost see her so fitting the part (traditional gender roles in churches) that they probably were hinting that she could join the church and certainly did invite her back. Never mind that a church is supposed to be principally a place of worship, thought, belief and for anybody and everybody. Elena has quipped that the church is "the over eighties club" which is a comment on the age group of many (quite active) in it, leaving some people puzzled as to why the groom, 42, goes to a church and this one. Adrian goes for liberal religious principles, but has always been marginal, because he does not fit into the people-types that all churches seem to attract and create from those who stay. Perhaps churches provide gender and age defined arenas of power and responsibility, using gossip and interventions; so to hold a wedding and its reception in such a setting is to engage with this traditional world of defined roles. Perhaps it is a reflection of how little control people have in their lives in general that these voluntary societies are created and maintained according to certain mores, norms, rules and values. The best man later admitted to Adrian that he went into the kitchen to get an (apparently non-existent) bottle opener, when a man going into the kitchen at a sensitive busy time should be avoided at all costs.
After the speech came the cutting of the cake. This is another one of those photo-opportunities which does not quite reflect the reality of the event, though we did actually cut into the cake with the heavy knife. It was then whisked away for cutting into small portions. No one ever got fat on wedding cake, which is cut always for larger numbers attending and elsewhere.
The event finally drew to its on-site close. Comments were made criticising Adrian about not going to a hotel for at least that evening. Adrian was already becoming tired, and likely to be too tired, to go to a hotel. Elena does not like hotels as such.
The best men left to happily waddle along the road, to go to another pub, and apparently did not return home until 9:30 pm at night. One estimate was 11 pints of beer drunk by the biggest consumer that day, though this may be a conservative estimate, with additions of vodka and champagne and wine. The giver away wasn't far behind in his enjoyment of the day.
With the Spitfire car gone before the food started, Adrian's mother went directly home with the New Holland couple, Adrian drove the bride and his sister, and the giver away went in the other car that came from Clowne with all its people. The people of these two cars went to the Humber Bridge viewing area of Barton, where the bride and sometimes the groom stood on a concrete wall, or he stood on the ground below her, or he took some pictures of her, with the bridge forming the background.
Some neighbours came in to the New Holland house to see the remarkable sights of the bride in her dress and Adrian in a suit. They had some of the left over food and cake. In fact the left over food lasted another day, both breakfast and tea. Meanwhile, the giver away carried on drinking the beer made available for the christening of Adrian's great neice, and his wife (Adrian's sister) wondered if he would ever be able to go to work the following day. He was quite sure he would (and did).
Those two were driven by Adrian home, who laughed in the car when Adrian referred to "my wife": an example of his new found apparent conformity. They never believed he would marry, and the speed of it came as a shock. Adrian left New Holland at 9:30 pm, and his wife, who was tired, wondered about the safety of such a long 145 miles round trip. After a short pause for a drink and hearing everyone's positive comments he returned at 11:10 pm to end up in bed at gone 2 am for nothing other than sleep.
Adrian Worsfold
Note: this is not a diary entry but was added to Adrian's diary