We got back from our trip to Calgary last night but after unpacking and doing a few things around the house, I didn’t get around to posting. But I’ve decide to backdate this post on Tuesday to yesterday so I can do a Music Monday post as it connects pretty directly to our trip.
We’d gone to Calgary for two family events – a 50th Wedding Anniversary on Friday night and then a 50th Birthday party for a cousin on a different branch of the family tree on Saturday night.
I was asked to give a toast to our family’s milestone anniversaries at the birthday celebration and, barring a few ad-libs, this is what I said:
Hi, my name is Jason Hammond. I am Susan’s cousin and I was going to joke that I’m her favourite cousin but I know that would offend a lot of people in attendance here tonight. So I’ll just say I’m her favourite cousin. Who’s male. And who lives in Regina. And who’s between the age of 35 and 40!
I’d like to thank Aunt Greta for asking me to say a few words in honour of the various milestone anniversaries various members of the Hammond family are celebrating this year and most specifically, the 50th wedding anniversary of her brother Ken & his wife, Eileen which was celebrated last night by many in the Hammond family who have gathered together this weekend.
When I was thinking of what to say to honour such an accomplishment, I thought back to my wife’s and my own wedding reception, eight years ago in 2003. I have to begin by explaining that technically, Shea and I had three weddings!
We planned to get married on the beach in Mexico but to simplify paperwork issues, we’d gotten legally married by a Justice of the Peace here in Calgary which is where we were living at the time. A month later, we had a ceremony on the beach in Mexico with a small group of family and friends. Then we had a reception in my wife’s hometown later that summer for everyone who couldn’t join us in Mexico. As we all know, most men have trouble remembering one anniversary so I don’t recommend putting yourself in a spot where you have to remember three!
Now, I think the bar’s open so you may find out otherwise as the night goes on. But normally my wife and I aren’t big dancers. For that reason, we decided that instead of having a traditional First Dance as Bride & Groom, we would have our DJ play a song called “Prettiest Eyes” by a British group called The Beautiful South. This very touching song tracks the development of a relationship with each verse covering a different milestone – from a couple meeting and falling in love, moving in together, and slowly growing older together through all of life’s joys and struggles.
For our first dance, we asked every couple in the audience to join us on the dance floor and the song began to play. The trick was that after every verse we had our MC ask people who had been married for a certain period of time to *leave* the dance floor, naturally starting with “those who have been married for one year or less.” This got Shea and I off the hook immediately!
The next verse was five years or less which saw a great outflux as many of our newly married friends (as well as one 80-something couple who had recently re-married!) joined us on the sidelines. The next verses were for couples married for ten years, twenty years and so on.
As the song played, I realized with some horror that we hadn’t really planned this out very well as we hadn’t thought who, or indeed if anyone, would be left after the final anniversary, the 40th, was called. But after the MC called for the couples who had celebrated their 30th anniversary to leave the dance floor, I was happy to see that it had worked out perfectly – there was one couple from my wife’s side and one couple from mine left dancing.
That was Ken and Eileen.
Shea and I happily joined the two remaining couples on the dance floor and our silly plan to get us out of a First Dance actually ended up working out better than we could possibly have imagined. The symbolism of us joining two couples who had lasted forty years together – and now fifty in Ken and Eileen’s case – was not lost on us and we can only hope to reach the same milestone ourselves.
We have lots of inspiration as we look around the crowd gathered here tonight – Mike & Deana are at five years, Susan and Bill are celebrating their 20th, Wes & Lynda Banbury are at 30 years, my own parents will celebrate their own 40th anniversary this year as will Donna and Paul. I’m sure there are many others at or close to symbolic anniversaries as well.
For all of us who are married, it all begins with our wedding and so I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome Jessi to the family. As most of us know, her and Shane are getting married later this summer in Hawaii and beginning their own journey together. I will offer one piece of advice – if you decide to have two…or three weddings…make sure the next one happens during the winter months and I guarantee a lot more Canadian cousins will show up!
Anyhow, to pull it back to our reason we celebrate tonight – congrats to Susan on her 50th Birthday and also to her and Bill as they approach their 20th wedding anniversary.
I propose a toast to our family’s many milestone anniversaries.
This song, which I’ve posted before, long before I had Music Mondays, is a favourite (although I don’t draw too much attention to the fact that one of the great appeals of The Beautiful South for me is their super sweet melodies are often mixed with sarcastic lyrics such as “And I only write it down/Just in case that you die”! Yep, that’s part of the refrain in Shea’s and my first dance song!)