“And your eyes
Your eyes, your eyes
They tell me how much you care
Ooh yes, you will always be
My endless love
Two hearts that beat as one
Our lives have just begun”
Six years ago, on Friday 29 August 2014 I married Karl David Francis McFarlane Norrington. It was the happiest day of my life. Karl and I had first talked about marriage within months of getting together. It was always our plan; it was only ever a question of time.
But the day we finally married, nearly 9 years after we met, was a day without comparison in our lives. I was over brimming with happiness at the fact that we had publicly declared that we were one and had vowed that that was how we would remain until “death do us part”.
In some ways I am a total cliché. One of my nicknames is “Princess” or “PK” short for Princess Kira on account of the way I behave – apparently 😉. My favourite colour is pink. I love clothes, handbags, shoes and all things girly. My favourite drink is champagne. I love being the centre of attention… so I suspect it is hardly surprising that I was a girl who wanted the fairy tale wedding.
I was only planning to do it once so everything had to be perfect, and it was.
Karl and I married in Oxford, the city where we had met, where we fell in love, the city of our Alma Mater. The city where we had spent countless hours together and the city where we were so happy. The wedding ceremony took place in Brasenose College Chapel – Karl’s college (also former Prime Minister- David Cameron’s college!). We then hosted our Wedding Reception at my college – St Hugh’s College, Oxford (also former Prime Minister- Theresa May’s college!).
Every single detail of our wedding day was perfect and uniquely us. I wore three dresses (the only other person I know of that wore three wedding dresses on their wedding day is Kim Kardashian!!). I adored my wedding dresses. A long sleeved, lace, A line Intuzuri dress for the ceremony, a fitted fishtail Pronovias dress for the reception and a backless, lace, knee length dress for our wedding dance. To this day, I don’t think I could have picked more beautiful dresses to get married in.
I entered Brasenose Chapel to Pachelbel’s Canon in D played on the organ. There are no words to describe how I felt to see Karl waiting for me in the church at the end of the aisle. I didn’t cry but I came very close to it and I felt overwhelmed by the emotion of seeing Karl and all the people we loved best in the world there to witness our marriage. Karl looked so handsome and so nervous in his navy-blue morning suit. Our wedding was officiated by both my childhood Jamaican pastor and the Chaplain of Brasenose College and we had a gospel praise and worship band. I am 100% sure that Brasenose College had never had a wedding like that hosted in it before.
Our wedding reception started with a champagne reception at St Hugh’s followed by a Champagne Afternoon Tea accompanied with a classical harpist providing background music. We later had a food truck which provided American soul food for our guests. We broke all the rules about speeches and had speeches given by the mother of the bride, brothers of the bride and groom, our bridesmaids, our ushers and me. Of course, Karl’s speech was the highlight and he delivered an incredible speech in his typical unassuming, funny but super competent way.
Our wedding dance was a dance breakdown which started off with Kci and Jojo’s “All my Life” and finished with a choreographed salsa routine to a Soca remix of “La vida es un Carnival” by the probably the most famous (and Trinidadian) Soca Artist of all time Machel Montano. Our DJ played Soca, Bashment, Hip Hop and R&B and Karl and I exited our wedding reception to Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love”.
We spent our wedding night in Suite no. 12 at the Crazy Bear Luxury Hotel in Stadhampton. It is unquestionably the most amazing hotel room that I have ever stayed in. I remember to this day how I felt waking up the next morning and realising that we had really done it and were married. I remember going to breakfast with my hair piled up into a messy bun with remnants of my wedding makeup around my eyes making me look like a panda and just feeling like the happiest girl in the world because I was his wife and he couldn’t have been prouder of that fact.
So when Karl died, I felt like my perfect fairy-tale wedding was ruined. I was so annoyed because I felt like in the future, I would need to re-create that fairy-tale wedding with someone else and I had no idea how I could do better than the first time.
For the first 3 years, I found the anniversary of my wedding day the most exquisitely painful day imaginable. For me it was and is the most painful of all of the anniversaries because it was a reminder of the scale of my gigantic loss. I would feel a creeping darkness for the whole of August and I couldn’t bear to stay in the UK for my wedding anniversary. I ran as far away from the UK and especially Oxford as I could possibly go.
I couldn’t bear to think of my wedding day on the 29th August so I ensured that I had the best distractions in the world to keep me from thinking about it. So, I spent my first wedding anniversary without Karl in New Zealand and the girly (and previous) scaredy-cat jumped 15,000 ft out of a plane over the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, the week after doing the world’s tallest Bungee Swing in Christchurch, New Zealand. It felt amazing and it was easy for me to do it because I just asked myself what was the worst thing that would happen to me if it went wrong: I would die and that was no longer something that scared, or mattered to, me.
I spent the second wedding anniversary on a cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam on a Contiki (18-35) trip and the third in St Petersburg, Russia again on a Contiki. I had decided that I would spend the wedding anniversaries doing and seeing amazing things as a celebration of the fact that I was still here and still alive. But the truth was that I was desperately seeking the biggest distractions I could find so that I would not have to think about my wedding day. I was smiling and laughing but inside I felt shitty for the entirety of the month of August.
2020 has been the year that I have finally found peace and it has been the first time that August has not been a horror show for me. I think the 29th August will always be a day that is tinged with sadness and I still have moments of despair but it is not the same overwhelming sadness that would turn my whole world black. I have made peace with the fact that I had my fairy tale wedding and that whilst there was no fairy tale ending for me, I do not need to re-create the fairy tale.
The fairy tale happened, the fairy tale ended and my life went on. I got what I wanted, I got what I dreamed of and whilst it didn’t last, my dream came true. That is something that can never be taken away from me.
If I get married again, which I hope I will one day, I will not try to re-create a fairy tale because I don’t need to. Not least, because a fairy tale looks different to me now. For me, a fairy tale now would simply be someone that I would grow old with, who is strong enough to stay.
So today I am going to celebrate being me, being the girl who got her fairy tale, who lost everything but stayed standing. I am proud of her.
And to Karl, I wish we had more time. I will always be so grateful for all the happiness you gave me and the way you loved me. So much of who I am today is because of you. Thank you for giving me the fairy-tale and making my dreams come true. I just wish love had been enough to save you.