Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Wedding on the Spree, or marriage à la men

I haven’t been to more than three or four weddings in my life. And all few of them of the male-female variety. So it was quite sailing in unknown waters for me to spend yesterday celebrating, at Berlin’s Rote Rathaus (Red Town Hall) and later at a Youth Club in Prenzlauerberg, the marriage between my young friend, Hannes, and his splendid ‘boyfriend from Bosnia’, Mirza.
And what a day it was! I am told hysteria sets in the lead-up to weddings, and there were indeed one or two tight throats on view at times, but the young folk had the luck to have our Ollie as their ‘fixer’ and everything, from start to finish, went on lavishly-lubricated wheels.

The hall of the Rathaus is a lovely place for a ceremony. Imposing, classical, but not too much so, and splendidly echo-ey in accoustics. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand much of the registrar’s apparently appreciable monologue, but the body language spoke better German than I, and, of course, once the music started…
The music was provided by my pal, Paul (‘Montmorensy’), on a keyboard hastily borrowed from Tim Fischer, and his song for the occasion was that aria of arch-devotion, ‘If I Were a Cloud’ (words and music: Montmorensy). Being decidedly of the devoted kind myself, I felt a little, self-indulgent prickle begin on the inside of my left eyelid as he reached the final ‘oh’…

Then the bridegroom kissed the bridegroom, the registers were signed, joy reigned everywhere … and not too many of us knew that Mirza had somehow lost his passport the previous day and that the newly-weds were going to have to spend the first hours of their married life at the Bosnian Embassy and the police-station…

We filled those first hours between the ceremony and the evening celebration with champagne on the edge of the Spree, and a stroll down the river’s banks to an Italian restaurant, after which Thomas H took Paul and I for a guided tour of his delicious little underground theatre, the ‘Quatch’: a former East German nude revue house now devoted with vast success to comedy programmes. It has everything of that 19th-century music-hall feel that I love to it … soon I must return and, German language or not, watch a show going on amid its red-and-gold intimacy.

By 7pm, Ollie had completed the transformation of the scruffy clubroom into a glittering cabaret, Hannes’s family had magicked up mountains of food, an Iranian taxi-driver had unbelieveably produced the missing passport, and – as, Julia poured gallon after gallon of champagne -- on came the Entertainment.
We started with a set of five of the best from Montmorensy, followed by an emotional rendering of the young couple’s favourite song from the omni-talented Ollie. And then, finally, we all sang. As rows of sparklers waved in the traditional fashion, we joined together in what must have been one of the rousing-est and ringing-est renditions of ‘Somewhere’ in a long time. Well, the room did contain some of Berlin’s best singing performers. And yours truly – who hasn’t operaticked in a long time – unshyly bawled out his bit along with them.

More champagne, more food – Paul even braved with gusto the top tier of the deeply-iced strawberry wedding cake! – and all sorts of new folk to meet – Marion the politician, Guido who I had enjoyed so much in Cabaret, Anthony from America, Dirk from South Africa … what a cosmopolitan lot we were and, thank goodness, everyone, it seemed, speaking English! Useful. For Mirza, like me, doesn’t (yet) speak German…

I’m sure the party went merrily on until the wee hours, but we slipped quietly away well before the witching moment. It had been a long day … but such a lovely one. The herald, I hope, to a marvellous married life for two really lovely young men.

Dammit, it’s days like today I get the feeling I want to be married, too …!

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