It was 54 years today that my parents were married in a small but beautiful ceremony in northeastern Nova Scotia. The wedding date was well chosen. The apple blossoms and lilacs were blooming in the province, birdsong filled the trees and the promise of long warm days of spring and summer hung in the air. For a young couple, starting out on the road of life that would bring more than 50 years of joy, their happiness is reflected in their faces in the photos from that memorable day. I think about this as another gloomy spring day unfolds in British Columbia. Our weather has been unusually cloudy and damp, but like that day in Nova Scotia many years ago, the promise of spring and summer hangs in the air. I passed a wedding procession recently in Burnaby and it brought back fond memories of some of the wedding events I have played for in the past decade or so. One of the most memorable was a hot July wedding on Gabriola Island. The couple, their family and guests were all ferried over to the island on a water taxi where we had to trudge up a hill to the local community hall. Outside on the lawn, I piped the couple to a simple ceremony that took less than 15 minutes to complete. This was a very laid back affair, with only two people wearing ties in the whole party – the bridegroom’s father and the piper. The groom himself was wearing sandals. Once the formalities were over, we moved into the hall where we pumped our own beer from a metal keg into plastic glasses, while the local women’s club barbecued sockeye salmon for the guests. After we had eaten our fill, the couple requested that I play their first waltz together. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, as I had never before played for a marriage dance. So I finished my scotch (provided from a flask by the groom’s father and uncle) and fired up the bagpipes. A few slow tunes, then some jigs and reels and soon everyone was up on the floor, dancing and having a hoot. The fun ended far too soon when someone yelled “the water taxi is leaving”. We all scrambled out of the hall, I packed my pipes, and joined the crowd hustling down the hill and piled onto the water taxi for the ½ hour ride back to West Vancouver. I provided a few more tunes on the stern of the boat for the entertainment of the passengers and nearby boats.
I’ll always remember this wonderful experience. Since then, I’ve run into the couple a few times and they’re still happy together, and still fond of the pipes.
I can also recall with humour the last minute call on a Saturday morning to play in Vancouver at the marriage of the son of a former Canadian prime minister. The bride’s mother believed she was committing a social “faux pas” by not having a piper at her daughter’s wedding. I was hastily summoned to her home where I was plied with drinks, a cheque for my upcoming performance, and introduced to the gaggle of bridesmaids having their hair and make-up done. After the ceremony, at a swanky Vancouver golf club, the former PM regaled me with stories of my former Cape Breton-Highlands Canso member of parliament and other antics in Ottawa in the 1970’s and 80’s. He guided me around the reception, gin and tonic in hand, introducing me to a who’s who of society people from BC and Ottawa, and announcing me as his piper from Nova Scotia. (I was living in Kitsilano at the time).
I’ve played bagpipes at wedding ceremonies in Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby and Ladner. Last summer, I played at the Swan-E-Set golf course in Pitt Meadows at a beautiful wedding of the daughter of a former colleague from Global BC. (See photo above). I don’t think I have ever played on a more beautiful day. The weather was absolutely stunning, as was the setting, and the bride.
Let’s hope more days like this are ahead, and couples tying the knot start their new lives together under clear blue skies, warm days and the skirl of the bagpipes.