Those two little charms usually cue the chime of wedding bells. But this past Sunday, at Holiday Inn Reading West, one lucky bride-to-be dropped a different phrase as she walked down what will one day be her aisle: “Now we have to.”
She and dozens of other brides- and grooms-in-hopeful-waiting had gathered at Holiday Inn Reading West (read: Padworth, 7.7 or so miles down the road from the real Reading West) for a free wedding in Reading prize raffle.
It was quite the prize, worth £1,999. The lucky raffle for a free Reading wedding included the wedding breakfast, newlyweds’ love pad, drinks and dance at Holiday Inn.
The contest worked pretty decently as a marketing tool to entice people to attend a wedding fair they probably otherwise would have missed, since the location is rather off the beaten path of Reading centrality. After all, everyone had to register in advance and be present to win. The runners-up (potentially up to 99, although there were probably closer to 50 in the room) all received specially discounted wedding packages should they be keen to book within the next month, and marry within the next year.
Iain and I made an afternoon stroll out of the event. Roundtrip, we covered about 16 miles. Along the way, we spotted two baby foxes, sadly squashed by traffic along the Bath Road. Indeed, we had crossed over to the dark side that is West Berkshire. We then journeyed through Theale, discovering the magnificent cathedral, Holy Trinity Church. Nearing Padworth, we went past an antique lorries show, where I personally enjoyed the antique SLRs that seemed to be in equal abundance.
When we arrived at Holiday Inn Padworth, the hotel staff collected everyone’s names and wrote them on plastic balls of pastel shades. They put them into a bingo bin in anticipation of the free wedding in Reading moment.
As we all sat within the wedding ceremony room, the contest organisers drew a name: Sarah (insert maiden name here).
I expected a shriek, but no-one responded.
Then a girl stood up in the back, seemingly unsure if they had pulled a name, let alone hers. When she got to the front of the room, her hand slightly covering her face, Sarah poignantly declared, “Now we have to…” (Get married, presumably.) A similarly surprised bloke, notable for his dagger-shaped earring, laughed a little, and followed his girlfriend as she took the couple’s first steps down the aisle.