The Mother of the Groom

Chapter 7

I was in seventh heaven when Christian asked if he and Ana could get married at our place, but I think most of my friends thought I was mad to agree to arrange their wedding within a month. However, the short timescale meant that we simply had to make all the choices and decisions quickly, based on what was available and what was possible, so I'd say in some ways it was actually easier than if we had six months or a year.

As we didn't have the luxury of taking months to decide on color themes and such like, it was fortuitous that Christian and Ana seemed to know what they wanted. They chose pale blush pink as their signature color, which I was delighted about because I knew from experience that such a soft pretty color, subtly intermingled with cream and silver, would effortlessly make everything look very beautiful and elegant. I also knew that this color theme would not present any kind of problem for the florists, which was perfect as I was planning on having gorgeous fresh flower arrangements absolutely everywhere.

It certainly helped that I found Ana such an easy to please girl regarding all the arrangements – she never demanded anything unreasonable or threw any kind of hissy fit about some minor detail. So it wasn't anywhere near as difficult to pull together as people might suppose, although I don't deny it was a lot of hard work. But I thoroughly enjoyed doing it, especially as I still had a couple of weeks annual leave owing to me, so I managed to get some time off work to allow me to throw myself wholeheartedly into all the arrangements.

Carrick had accepted that his son's marriage was going to go ahead with or without his approval, so rather than be left out and cause a horrid rift, he managed to put all his doubts and misgivings about them rushing into things to one side to fully come on board and help with all the arrangements, much to my relief.

But nevertheless, I still took the precaution of forbidding him from bringing up the controversial subject of the prenup again unless Christian came to him specifically asking for his advice on the matter, because he just had to accept that this was his son's choice. Carrick managed to comply with this, I think as much as anything because he hated the fact that Ana had now reverted to calling him Mr. Grey rather than Carrick, making him feel terribly guilty for unintentionally hurting shy little Ana's feelings. But the damage had been done, and he just had to hope that in time things would right themselves and she would feel more comfortable with him again.

Of course we were used to organizing our annual Coping Together fund raising ball, where we catered for a much larger number of people than would be attending the wedding, as the young couple had stipulated that only family and close friends were to be invited. The last fund raiser had only been a few weeks back, so we already knew the best firm to hire the marquee from and where it would be best to position it. We also knew the best caterers to employ, and what food would be most suitable, and as usual I left Carrick in charge of organizing all the drinks as this is his area of expertise.

My main concern was the weather. Everything would be so much better if it didn't rain, but of course in Seattle rain is always a strong possibility. So although we were planning to hold the wedding outside, Carrick and I had several contingency plans ready in case we had to move things indoors. In that eventuality, the marquee would be positioned right next to the house as a virtual extension. It would be a shame, as our preferred location was the far edge of our grounds, so that we could have one side of the marquee left open to make the most of the great view over the ocean, but if it was pouring with rain, there wouldn't be much of a view to be admired anyway.

I was so proud of the way our family all pulled together to get everything organized within such a tight timescale. Mia and Kate were marvelous as they took on the responsibility of helping Ana with her wedding dress and the bridesmaid's outfits. I hadn't appreciated that Kate's mother Diane was a very talented dress designer who ran her own very successful business, and Kate immediately contacted her to see if she would agree to design a dress for Ana at such short notice.

"Mom said she would be delighted to produce Ana's wedding dress, and she says she already has a design in mind that she thinks will be perfect for her," Kate announced when she was round for supper one evening with Elliot.

"That's wonderful, Kate. And is Ana happy with that?" I checked, just wondering if this had actually been run by her, having discovered how domineering Kate could be at times.

"Oh yes, she's very happy, because she gets on great with my mom. She spent part of last summer with me at my parents' place. That's how come she knows Ethan pretty well," she explained. "Mom's also more than happy to design our bridesmaid's dresses, Mia, so you must let me know when you're free to come for some consultations and fittings."

"Cool! I love the idea of our own individually designed dresses," Mia replied. "Mind you, if it was up to me, I would have chosen a different color, because I wore a pink dress to the Masked Ball."

"Oh, darling, no one will remember that, and pink really suits you, so you'll look lovely," I reassured my daughter. "And anyway, it's Ana's choice, so you'll just have to go along with it."

"I don't know about it being Ana's choice, more like Christian's" Kate muttered to Elliot. "He's such a control freak. Do you know, he's already called my mom on the pretext of telling her that money is no object so she could go ahead and only use the very best fabrics, but then acting as if that gave him the right to try and influence her design for Ana's dress? Of course she told him where to get off in no uncertain terms. I mean, since when does the groom get to choose the design of the bride's wedding dress?"

"So tell me Elliot, have you been working on your best man's speech?" I queried to change the subject as Elliot just shrugged in answer to Kate's little tirade. From the times I'd seen how they interacted, I'd already picked up that there seemed to be a clash of personalities between Kate and Christian, probably because they were both very protective of Ana in their own individual ways. I just hoped this would settle down between them, but right now I really didn't want to sit and listen to Kate criticizing my son right here in my own home.

"Sure have, Mom. I've got all sorts of great jokes and stories lined up ready - Christian's gonna love it," Elliot smirked.

"Nothing too risqué or embarrassing, I hope - I don't want you upsetting your brother. And don't forget Ana's parents are going to be there, as well as your grandparents. Perhaps you'd better get your father to read it through beforehand, just to be sure," I suggested, knowing my eldest son can rather juvenile with his sense of humor.

"No, trust me, it'll be fine. You worry too much, Mom. I just want to make sure it won't be dull or boring," he insisted in his usual laid back manner. But I decided in any case I would be having a word with my husband later, and strongly urging him to read and censor Elliot's speech if necessary,

Carrick was absent that evening because he was meeting up with Christian, Welch, Taylor and the rest of the security team our son now employed, to discuss all the security arrangements that would be required at our home for the wedding. I think he also wanted to find out more about the findings from the Eurocopter investigation, to know if they had worked out exactly why Christian's helicopter had crashed. Although he had been trying to hide it from me, I knew this had really been worrying him, especially as Christian had told us that he fully intended to start flying his helicopter again as soon as possible. I didn't dare let myself dwell on the implications if it turned out the engine malfunction was not down to a technical fault, so I buried my head in the sand as I kept myself busy with all the wedding preparations. But unfortunately security issues kept cropping up.

It was through 'Coping Together' that I had gotten to know Reverend Walsh. I had always found him to be a really lovely man, always so friendly and helpful, so I suggested him to Christian and Ana as a suitable minister to perform their wedding ceremony, as they both freely admitted they hadn't got a clue about who to approach. Bruce Walsh had happily agreed, and had even generously offered to donate his service fee to 'Coping Together'.

So it came as somewhat of a shock to me when Carrick said I had to hold off getting the wedding invitations printed, because it was necessary for Reverend Walsh to pass all the detailed background checks the security team deemed necessary before it could be confirmed that he would be the officiant performing the ceremony.

"Is that really necessary?" I queried.

"Just because he's a man of the cloth does not mean he's immune to bribery and corruption, Grace. People aren't always what they seem. You read the newspapers, so you've read for yourself how anything is possible with regard to politicians, law officers and even church ministers. So sad as it is, I'm afraid I have to agree the security team is right to be cautious," Carrick insisted. I had the distinct impression that there was more to this that he was letting on, but I let it pass. I didn't want to have to think about such unpleasant matters at what should be such a happy time in the lead up to our son's wedding.

"Do you know Ana's parents very well?" I asked Kate. Ana's mother Carla, her current husband Bob, and her ex husband Ray were all coming for the wedding rehearsal the day before the big event, and for the dinner that we were hosting afterwards. I'd invited them all to stay with us rather than go to a hotel, but I couldn't deny that I was feeling a little anxious about how the two men were going to get along. It all sounded rather complicated, especially as it turned out that Ana's mother had been married a total of four times.

"I've met Ray quite a few times over the years since Ana and I became friends, so I know him pretty well. He may be Ana's stepdad, but he's pretty much the only father she's ever known, as her biological father died right after she was born, so she never knew him. And Ray's a real sweetie. He doesn't say much, he's one of those ex military, strong, silent types, but I know he thinks the world of Ana and would do anything for her. I don't know her mom so well, but I have met her a few times, and she's very nice too, even if she seems a bit scatty sometimes. I haven't met her latest husband, but Ana seems to think he's okay, and that her mom is happy with him," Kate filled me in.

I hadn't wanted to seem too inquisitive by asking Ana lots of probing questions, but I couldn't deny that I felt much happier now that I had a little more background information. In any case, as hosts Carrick and I would be doing our utmost to make our future daughter-in-law's family feel welcome and included in all the proceedings.

I needn't have worried myself about Ana's family, because everyone got on just fine both at the rehearsal and the dinner afterwards. Ana's mother Carla was a vivacious, bubbly lady and I liked her very much, and her husband Bob was a very amenable and pleasant man too. Kate was right about Ana's stepfather Ray – he didn't say very much, but I noticed that he watched Ana closely a lot of the time. Of course Carla and I both got very emotional at the wedding rehearsal, although I don't think I was quite as bad as she was, and I dreaded to think what we were both going to be like at the actual wedding.

"Oh my baby girl," Carla kept wailing, as Bob did his best to comfort her. "My beautiful little girl. If only her father were alive to see her now."

My mother was in her element, of course, she loved being included and meeting everyone, and my father was on top form making jokes at her expense. They really were like an old fashioned double act at times. But at least my mother was very good at making Carla feel welcome, which I appreciated.

My heart had been bursting with joy as I'd watched Christian and Ana going through their paces at the rehearsal, smiling at each other, so happy and so in love. I hadn't had much opportunity to speak to him other than to run various arrangements by him for his approval, as my workaholic son had been frantically busy organizing everything with his business matters so that they could have an extended honeymoon. I was delighted that Christian was actually taking a proper vacation, as I couldn't remember the last time he had – not since he'd set up his company probably. And we were touched that Christian secretly asked our advice about the best places to visit, because he remembered that Carrick and I had spent our honeymoon in Europe. We were under strict instructions not to breathe a word about his plans to anyone, especially Ana of course, because he wanted to surprise her, which was so sweet of him. I was really happy to see Carrick discussing various art galleries with Christian that might be worth a visit in the South of France, pleased that they seemed to be getting on better again. They've always had a rather fraught relationship – Carrick thinking he knows what's best for our son, Christian rebelling against him - but I know that doesn't mean they don't care deeply for each other.

Christian has been insistent all along that he wanted everything for his wedding to be done in the time honored traditional way. So I reminded him of this when I turned down his request to stay the night here at Bellevue with Ana, the night before their wedding, after the rehearsal dinner. I'd not had a problem with them sharing a room when they'd stayed the night after his birthday party, because ever since I'd practically walked in on them the first time I'd met Ana, I obviously knew they slept together, and quite frankly I was so delighted by this turn of events with the son I'd feared would never have that kind of relationship that I was hardly going to insist they slept in separate rooms when they stayed over that time.

But tradition decrees that it's bad luck for the groom to see his bride on the actual wedding day before the ceremony – he has to wait to see her walking up the aisle to him. I think this is probably a throwback to the days of arranged marriages, when the groom hadn't even met his bride beforehand. The worry for the father who was trying to marry his daughter off was that the groom might not to turn up, if he found out in advance that his bride was hideously ugly, when he'd been told that she was beautiful. I think that may also be part of the reason why the bride's face was covered with a heavy veil too!

Christian was not at all happy about having to leave at the end of the evening, and he lingered in the hallway talking to Ana, putting off the moment of parting. I nearly quoted some Shakespeare at them.

'Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow'

But instead Carla and I just teased them, and practically threw Christian out – he was just going to have to manage without his darling girl for one night. I knew it would make that first moment when he saw her walking to him more special, and he would thank me later. But the dreadful scowl on his face as he left was priceless, and reminded me of when he was a small boy and couldn't get his own way.

I knew the forecast for the day of the wedding was for dry and sunny weather, but I didn't dare believe it until I woke on the morning, and threw back the drapes to see a perfectly clear blue sky.

"Good lord, are they some of Christian's security men I can see out there with Taylor already? There are so many of them," I exclaimed as I looked out over the grounds. There appeared to be at least half a dozen men with him.

Carrick came and looked out of the window over my shoulder.

"Yes, they'll be making regular sweeps throughout the day, but please don't draw attention to them, Grace. Christian doesn't want Ana worried by their presence, so they'll be keeping as low a profile as possible."

"Is all this really necessary? I mean I know the paparazzi have been pursuing them relentlessly ever since news of the wedding got out, but now that Christian's agreed to release some of their wedding photos in return for donations to the charities he's nominated for them to choose from, I thought they'd backed right off," I said.

"It's just a sensible precaution, that's all," he replied rather evasively.

"What are you not telling me, Carrick? This all seems way over the top, because the level of security is even tighter than it was for the Masked Ball," I remarked suspiciously.

"Nothing, nothing, Gracie. Now come on, I think we need to get a move on, there's a lot to be done," he insisted, so I let the matter drop for now.

The morning passed in a flurry of hairdressers, beauticians, florists, caterers and also photographers coming and going. As two very private people who really hated the way nosy photographers had been trying to invade their space recently, Ana and Christian had decided that although they obviously wanted lots of beautiful wedding photos of their special day, they didn't want the atmosphere ruined by a photographer dictating to them where to stand and how to act, or holding up the proceedings in any way while he re-took shots.

So in the end they asked Ana's friend José, who was apparently a very talented amateur photographer, to take as many shots as he could during the course of the day, as well as hiring a professional photography team recommended by Kate's mother, who were renowned for quietly merging in and taking much more natural pictures rather than formal poses. I was very happy with this arrangement, having been to some weddings where it almost felt as times as if the intrusive photographer was running the whole show.

In my opinion, the whole focus of the day should remain firmly on the couple declaring their love for each other as they make their vows in front of their friends and family, rather than worrying about camera angles and great shots. And anyway, Christian and Anastasia make such a beautiful couple that I was sure any pictures of them couldn't fail to be anything less than stunning.

Ana's dress had been delivered to our house the day before by Kate's mother, under wraps and practically under armed guard as well. She informed me that in her business, she has to operate under the most secretive conditions for her clients, as if pictures of her gown designs are leaked out in advance of being worn they can fetch huge sums of money, which with her husband being head of the mighty Kavanagh Media, she would no doubt be only too aware of.

"There have even been attempts to hack into my computer systems recently, but as my husband has always strongly advised me to have the very highest level of security encryption for all the systems at Kavanagh Designs, no one has yet succeeded." Diane informed me.

"Goodness, it sounds as if you work at Fort Knox rather than in the fashion industry," I exclaimed.

So far none of us had been privy to the wedding dress design – so we were all itching to see the creation. I'd been allowed to see the bridesmaid dresses, but only under strict instruction not to breathe a word about them to anyone, but they were gorgeous and I knew both girls were going to look wonderful in them. Mia and Kate had also helped me to choose my outfit. I'm always looking for any excuse to wear a big hat, so naturally I indulged myself for the wedding. But Carrick made me promise to only wear it for the ceremony as he thought it would be in the way after that, so I compromised by having a different evening outfit to change into for later.

Carrick, Elliot and Ray were all going to be wearing pale pink vests under their tuxedos, while Christian was wearing a silver vest under his. As part of his best man duties, Elliot collected Christian in the morning from his apartment and brought him over to Bellevue, under strict instructions not to let him arrive too ridiculously early. At least my son was obviously very keen to marry his sweetheart, with no chance whatsoever that he would fail to turn up, however much Elliot may have joked about it.

I think Elliot was still rather miffed that he hadn't been able to persuade his brother to have the whole Las Vegas bachelor party experience, but I for one was glad, because these events often end up getting out of hand, especially when large amounts of free flowing alcohol are involved. But of course I'd been safe in the knowledge that Christian would never have agreed to it however hard Elliot tried to twist his arm - he should know by now that no one can make Christian do anything he doesn't want to. I'd just worried that Elliot might have been tempted to go ahead and fly down to Vegas to party on his behalf anyway, as he'd already drawn young Ethan Kavanagh into his plans, much to Mia's displeasure – I think she is definitely sweet on him, and I also think she probably has a very jealous streak, much like her brother Christian. So the thought of Ethan at a strippers show would probably not have pleased her one bit.

I'd tried to find out from Mia what the state of play was between her and Ethan, but unusually she refused to be drawn very much – which is what convinced me that she did like him.

"Sure, I like him, Mom. But he keeps blowing hot and cold, so I don't know what's going on, and I've decided I won't be messed around," she announced.

But I thought that when Ethan saw her looking so gorgeous in her lovely bridesmaid dress, he would find it hard not to be won over if he was feeling any reluctance, and I was sure that thought was also going through my daughter's mind too. I might be biased I suppose, but my daughter is a very beautiful young woman – and one who most surely knows how to work it as well.

We left the men to it downstairs, as the women busied themselves with all the required preparations and beauty procedures upstairs. I saw Ana checking her cell and smiling, so I knew I didn't need to tell her when her fiancé had arrived. Franco the hairdresser had brought two of his assistants to help with everyone's hair, but he concentrated on putting Ana's hair into an elaborate up-do, seeming to have a very clear idea of exactly what would suit her. I have to say that he was certainly very talented, because when he'd finished she looked amazing, and I hugged myself to think of Christian's face when he saw his stunning bride. Ana kept looking in the mirror as if she couldn't quite believe it was her reflection she could see – I imagined that she hadn't got dressed up like this very often in her previous student life.

My mother was lending Ana a silver filigree hair comb to secure her veil – the same one that she had worn on her wedding day. I had also worn it for my wedding to Carrick as my 'something borrowed' so I was delighted that Ana would now be borrowing it to carry on the Trevelyan tradition.

"I think it's important to keep the old ways alive," my mother had declared when she'd taken us upstairs to her bedroom to get the hair comb and present it to Ana. I'd offered to drive her over to visit my parents one evening in the week before the wedding when Christian had been tied up with work, but he'd insisted that Ana's protection officer should drive us over - much like Taylor, he was another man of few words called Sawyer. At least that gave us girls more of a chance to chat as we sat in the back of the car together. I'd thought she'd probably feel more comfortable if I was there to help shield her from my mother's rather over exuberant enthusiasm for their wedding, and it was nice for me to have some one on one time with my future daughter-in-law away from my protective son. I'd found Ana to be totally delightful as we happily chatted about all the final wedding arrangements.

"It's beautiful, and I'm really honored that you would allow me to wear it, Mrs. Trevelyan," Ana had said sincerely as she took the precious gift, obviously very touched by the gesture.

"I think you should call me Grandma, don't you? After all, we're going to be family now. And talking of families, I really don't think it's going to be long before we hear the pitter patter of tiny feet. You mark my words, this time next year…" my mother had winked at Ana, who had then proceeded to blush a very deep shade of red.

"Mother! For goodness sake, stop embarrassing the poor girl," I'd reprimanded her.

She really was shameless about her wish to see some great-grandchildren, and of course secretly I desperately shared her desire to hold a new born baby of theirs in my arms. But as they were not even married yet, I told myself to be patient and hope that this was something we had to look forward to in the future.

In any case I was really looking forward to seeing Anastasia wearing the hair comb that Mom lent her, knowing that it created a unique bond that we three ladies would always share.

The wedding had been set for quite early in the day – partly at Christian's suggestion that it made sense to fit in with his plans to whisk Ana off for their secret honeymoon, and partly because my impatient son couldn't see the point in hanging around waiting all day to get on with the business of getting married. Of course it was all right for him; he never had to spend very long on his grooming because he always looked so very handsome. It was quite another matter for most of the ladies.

But finally everyone was ready, and so we started gathering outside with all the guests. I know Ray was nervous about his role in all the proceedings, but Carrick had tried his best to reassure him that everything had been kept very simple and straight forward, so there really wasn't anything that could go too far wrong.

"And Ray, don't worry about having to give a long drawn out speech at the reception. Just speak from the heart; no one will think any the less of you if you just keep it short and sweet – in fact everyone will probably thank you," Carrick had said to try and put him at his ease. We both really liked Ray's quiet, understated personality, and just wanted him to relax enough to actually enjoy his only daughter's wedding day.

My heart swelled and nearly burst with pride as I saw my two wonderful sons waiting at the front with Reverend Walsh, looking so smart in their wedding outfits.

"Nice hat, Mom. Careful you don't take someone's eye out with it," Elliot joked, as I swatted him.

Then I looked at Christian.

"You look very dashing and handsome. I'm so proud of you, Christian. Ana's a very lucky girl," I whispered emotionally, as I reached up to caress his cheek.

"No, Mom. I'm the lucky one," he replied, as he kissed my cheek in return.

My darling boy. For so long I had been so sad, because I thought this day would never come for him, as I'd assumed he would never marry. Yet here he was, deeply in love and about to be wed. After everything he had gone through, finally he was learning to open up his heart and let us love him, because of the healing love he'd found with Anastasia. I thanked God every day for arranging the chance meeting that had rescued him from the undoubted pit of loneliness he'd existed in until then, despite our best efforts.

And I refused to even think about that woman today and the harm the evil bitch had inflicted upon him. Today was all about new beginnings and looking forward, and I wasn't going to let anything or anyone spoil it. I knew Carrick's conscience had obliged him to undertake some discrete enquiries to ensure she wasn't involved in any way with a minor, because he'd never have forgiven himself if he had allowed an illegal situation involving a pedophile like her to continue when he could have intervened to put a stop to it. It disgusted both of us to learn that the whore was involved with a young man virtually half her age – Christian's age more or less – but however distasteful we found it, there was nothing illegal in their relationship.

So now I focused on the happy event that was about to unfold in front of me. Carla was already crying, of course, and I had my hanky at the ready, because I could also feel the tears welling. Carrick looked at me, gripped my hand and smiled, with no need of words. We were both remembering the day we made our vows, and despite some inevitable ups and downs, I've never once regretted marrying Carrick, and I knew he felt exactly the same way about me. We have been truly blessed in our marriage, and our fervent wish was that Christian and Ana were equally blessed in theirs.

Then we heard the music start, so everybody stood and looked towards the back, waiting for Ana to make her entrance on her proud father's arm. The music they'd chosen was the piano and cello rendition of 'A Thousand Years' and it was so beautiful and evocative that the tears I'd been trying to hold back already started to flow. And then we all saw Anastasia, and I heard a collective gasp as she made her way up the aisle because she looked so very beautiful in her exquisite wedding dress, which was a simple, fitted, off the shoulder design made from a gorgeous pale ivory lace , with a matching lace veil flowing behind with the train of her dress. Mia and Kate followed her, both looking so pretty in their pale blush pink dresses, and I noticed Elliot and Ethan both staring at the girls. More weddings to come perhaps?

Ana looked rather nervous until the second she locked eyes with Christian, then I saw her smile and relax. And from that moment on, it was obvious they only had eyes for each other, which was just as it should be for a young couple about to profess their love and lifelong commitment to each other. Ray's hand trembled as he passed Ana's hand over to Christian, and I thought how hard it must be for him to be literally giving his daughter away, especially as he was all on his own with no partner, and I resolved to make sure we didn't leave him out, that we always included him in our family gatherings whenever it was possible.

I knew there had been some sort of controversy about the wedding vows between Christian and Ana, but whatever had happened, they'd obviously resolved it and the outcome was that they both expressed the most heartfelt sentiments and said the most beautiful words to each other. The tears were streaming down my cheeks by now as I tried to discretely dab them with my hanky, while Carla was practically bawling her eyes out.

Christian's voice was so sincere as he quietly but confidently spoke out.

"I solemnly vow that I will safeguard and hold dear and deep in my heart our union and you.

I promise to love you faithfully, forsaking all others, through the good times and the bad, in sickness or in health, regardless of where life takes us.

I will protect you, trust you, and respect you.

I will share your joys and sorrows and comfort you in times of need.

I promise to cherish you and uphold your hopes and dreams and keep you safe at my side.

All that is mine is now yours.

I give you my hand, my heart, and my love from this moment on for as long as we both shall live."

Ana's voice was a lot quieter, but she didn't falter or hesitate with her vows either.

"I give you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, to stand by your side in good times and in bad, to share your joy as well as your sorrow.

I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals and dreams, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, to share my hopes and dreams with you, and bring you solace in times of need.

And to cherish you for as long as we both shall live."

I don't think there was a dry eye in the house by the time they had exchanged their wedding rings – Carrick pretended to have something in his eye, of course. Men! What's wrong with showing some emotion?

"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," Reverend Walsh finally declared with a big smile.

They kissed, and then gazed into each other's eyes, so very much in love, and I found myself offering up a little prayer to Ella, sure that she would be looking down on her son at undoubtedly the happiest moment of his life so far.

And so we moved on to the reception to celebrate their wedding, and I have to say that everything in the marquee looked fantastic, even if I do say so myself. The blush pink theme had worked out beautifully, just as I'd hoped it would. The florists had excelled themselves, and there were pale pink and ivory roses everywhere, that matched the roses in Ana's gorgeous bouquet.

Christian and Ana both dutifully circulated round to speak to all their guests, sometimes together, sometimes apart, but never separated for very long. Then we sat while the food was served, and I was relieved that it was all excellent – you can never be sure how things will actually turn out on the day, however much planning goes into it. Christian ate like a horse of course because he always does, but I noticed that Ana just picked at her food, I expect because she was just too excited to have much of an appetite.

The speeches passed off without incident – Ray made a very touching speech about how special and precious his daughter was to him, but how he felt that in Christian she had found a worthy partner to share her life with. Of course Carla and I ended up in tears again, and Ana got very emotional too, as she hugged her dad. I was relieved that Elliot managed to get the balance of his speech just about right, with a few little jokes at his brother's expense, but nothing too bad, and afterwards I saw the two boys have a manhug that involved a lot of back slapping. I think I might even have heard Christian whisper 'Thanks Lelliot," which was how he used to pronounce his brother's name when he was a little boy.

After the meal it was time for some dancing, and again the young couple were very good and made sure they danced with other people as well as each other. Naturally I made sure I grabbed a dance with my son.

"Happy?" I asked him as I smiled up at him, knowing it was a rhetorical question.

"You have to ask, Mom? I'm the luckiest man on the planet right now, because of my wonderful new wife," he beamed back at me. The pride in his voice as he referred to his wife was so sweet to hear.

"Yes, Ana is a very lovely girl - I'm so delighted that you two found each other, and I couldn't be happier to hand you over to her. But I will always be here for you, and I will always love you, no matter what, Christian. Never forget that. I will never stop being your mother, and a mother's love is unconditional." I wanted us to draw a line under the whole business with that woman, because I didn't want it to come between us, however hurt I had been by it.

"Thanks, Mom. That's means a lot to me," he whispered and smiled again. I loved seeing him smile so much, but even better, as the music came to an end, he gave me a big hug a well, and I was thrilled. I loved seeing my son so happy and relaxed in this way.

While I had been dancing with Christian, Carrick had been dancing with Ana, and I knew he was trying his best to put her at her ease and smooth things over between them again. I fervently hoped he would succeed, because this girl was part of our family now. I had faith that Ana would see how sincere my husband was in his wish to make her feel that he regarded her as his new daughter. I suppose we just had to give it time – everything had happened so quickly after all.

Finally the young couple announced that they were leaving – I think a joint effort from the grandparents to coerce them into starting a family right away proved to be the final straw for Christian's tolerance, and understandably he wanted to have Ana all to himself. Unusually, Ana remained in her wedding dress as they prepared to leave.

"Christian doesn't want me too," she just shrugged at her mother and Kate when they queried why she wasn't changing into her going away outfit as had been planned. Kate muttered something about her not promising to obey Christian, but I thought it was lovely that Ana wanted to please him, rather than conforming to what her friend thought she should do. It was their wedding day after all, which I felt Kate needed to remember.

My son hadn't been able take his eyes of Ana in her wonderful dress, so it was obvious that he liked it very much indeed. I'd noticed that under the top layer of lace, the dress beneath was made of beautiful silk. I remembered how, as a boy, he'd always loved touching and feeling silky fabrics, although I'd always been careful not to draw attention to this for fear of making him self-conscious about it, if I saw him touching one of my silk scarves for example. I also remembered how when we first adopted Christian, he used to suck his thumb as he fingered the silky edge of his comforter blanket – his blankie.

So if he wanted Ana to remain in her silk gown, if he wanted to have the pleasure of holding her and touching her while she was wearing his favorite fabric, then I thought that was an excellent reason for her to continue to wear her dress for as long as possible on their wedding day, and I was glad that she was happy to do this for him.

So finally we had to let the young couple leave for their honeymoon, but not before all the guests had been gathered up to make a human arch for them to go through, as we showered them with rice. As was traditional, Ana tossed her bouquet, and Mia suddenly appeared from nowhere to catch it, effortlessly beating all the other contestants.

Tradition dictates that whoever catches the bouquet is going to be the next bride, but somehow I doubted that would be my daughter, even though I suspected she was pretty keen on Ethan Kavanagh. Whatever was going on between those two, I'd seen the looks they'd been exchanging all day, even if they had been keeping their distance. But if I had to put my money on who was most likely to get married next, I'd have to say it would Elliot and Kate. She seemed to have tamed my erstwhile playboy son, and they were very loved up. Perhaps the services of Diane Kavanagh would be called upon to design another wedding dress in the near future?

I pushed these musings to the back of my mind, and concentrated on making my farewells. Then the happy couple was gone, as Taylor drove them away, headed for the airport and the trip of a lifetime.

Look on my profile for details of how to access my blogs to read this story with illustrations and also to read 'Meet Fifty Shades Continued'.

I don't own any of the Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters therein. They belong to E L James. I'm just borrowing them for fun and not for profit. Please refer to the Legal's page for further details.