It’s the night of Heleena and Philip’s wedding. The night is crisp. Smith Street is awash with its usual cast of characters. I make my way up to the venue, dodging a volley of VB stubbies thrown by the nearby hobos.
Now, I don’t get too nervous before ceremonies, but tonight feels different. I feel fidgety. The type of fidgetiness you get after shotgunning a pack of Nerds.
Tonight’s ceremony is a surprise wedding. And the biggest anxiety that comes with surprise weddings is that more things can go awry. The main worry is people can easily guess it beforehand.
I try to look as inconspicuous as possible. I take things down a notch by dressing in my Casual AF outfit. I also make up an alibi; I’m the third youngest son of Aunty Toula from Doncaster. The one that played state hockey back in ’03.
Thankfully, Heleena and Philip are no slouches (they're both very attractive and amazing folk, too). Panama – the venue they’ve chosen – has an engagement party feel. So far, everyone is none the wiser.
By the way, and I don’t mean to break the narrative here, but how good was my use of ‘awry’ back there?? Proud of that.
Anyway, Heleena and Philip’s family are Greek. I have a very strong affinity with the Greeks. I’m half-Macedonian, which is essentially Greek. I think. You’d have to ask my Aunty Slyvia.
I also love zucchini and am shithouse with money. So all the dots connect.
I take part in a huddle with the photographers and the venue manager as well as Heleena’s younger brother. Man, what a cool dude. He goes into the dancefloor mosh and drags out his Dad, who is swiftly taken to the back room to meet his daughter who is decked out in her wedding best.
First shock. Then tears. Then fist pumps.
They walk out of the room and I’m given the nod to tell the room.
I take to the stage and the crowd is still pretty rowdy. I put on a front announcing I’m the ‘venue manager’ and that I have some ‘housekeeping’.
Eventually the time comes for the curtain pullback, the switch and bait, the big reveal, the ol’ Wheel Of Fortune puzzle solve.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there is one last thing I need to inform you about. I’m not actually the venue manager, and this is not actually an engagement. To be honest with you, I’m really Paul Bonadio, a wedding celebrant.
You heard right; this is not actually an engagement, it’s a wedding!”
Friends scream. A few aunties faint. Security pop their collars and brace for impact.
I hadn’t heard that sort of roar since Libya was last liberated from dictatorial rule.
It was a wonderful ceremony that was all due to Heelena and Phliip. They are both immensely talented, creative and in love, despite Philip's 20 a day coffee habit and Heleena's inability to make Tzatziki dip.
What an awesome duo. So good.
I walk away from Panama clicking heels and doing cartwheels down Smith Street (again dodging another round from the hobos).
I dig my folks, they’re awesome. Really great.
But, for one night, I’ve never been more proud to be Aunty Toula’s boy.