Lady Christine Eames says the display of dresses at ‘The Big Day’ Wedding Festival at St Columb’s Cathedral is “staggering” and the organisers should be “thrilled” with the way it looks.
Her remarks came at Thursday evening’s Opening Service in St Columb’s Cathedral, which was led by the Dean of Derry, the Very Rev Raymond Stewart. The cathedral has been transformed for the occasion, with a vintage car on display in the porch, dresses being exhibited along both side aisles, and the gallery used to depict the Wedding Feast at Cana.
In her address, Lady Eames confided to the congregation that she wasn’t entirely sure what to do to open a wedding festival. “Around the world I have been fortunate enough to be asked to open all sorts of things,” she said. “I’ve opened rectories, I have opened sales of work, I have opened halls, I have opened water projects in Africa, I have opened all sorts of things – the last wedding festival I was at, I was asked to close it – but this is the beginning of this festival and I’m not quite sure what I’m meant to do (not put on my wedding dress, I hope, because I don’t think it would zip up).”
The dress worn by Lady Eames when she married her husband, the former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Robin Eames on June 25th, 1966 is among the scores on display in the Cathedral. The ten-day festival will run until Saturday 30th of June and includes dresses worn by parishioners, clergy wives and clergywomen, and women from the wider community.
Speaking to the congregation on Thursday evening, Lady Eames congratulated Cathedral stalwart, Elizabeth Fielding, and the festival committee on the preparation they had done. “To walk in [to the Cathedral] is really staggering,” Lady Eames said. “The cathedral looks absolutely magnificent. We all know that something like this doesn’t just happen. It takes a huge amount of planning, of thinking, of courage – yes, courage – ‘Will we ever be able to pull it together, will it ever actually happen?’ – it takes all that, and a lot of faith as well. And Elizabeth, I think that you and your committee – you’ve all worked together – should be really thrilled with the way the Cathedral looks tonight.”
Lady Eames said the “wonderful dresses” were “the stars” of this display and this festival. “I’m thrilled to see my own dress,” she said. “I speak for myself – and I’m sure those who have lent dresses all around us – lots of memories are evoked by what we see tonight; dresses that tell the stories of individuals, of couples, of families, of a community, of a church, of all different aspects of our living, and many of these stories begin on the days that these dresses were worn.”
“These dresses mark the beginning of journeys that will have had their share of joys and sorrows, of irritations, of anger and of love,” Lady Eames said. “They will tell the story that all of us encounter as we go on that walk through life. Today, as we look in this Cathedral at this amazing display – and with gratitude to those who worked so hard to bring it together – we think just of the trust that we are called to have in Jesus, and of the relationships between people, whether as husband and wife, whether as friends, whether as members of a congregation, whether as members of a community – whatever it might be. If these dresses could tell their stories they would have much to tell.“
Lady Eames – who lived in Londonderry from 1975-1980 – said those were difficult years for the community but very happy ones for her family. “For all sorts of reasons, it’s a very, very great pleasure, in a very small way, to be joined with this wonderful festival and to declare it open,” she said. She prayed that the work that had been put into it the festival would bring many people to the Cathedral, that they would be minded of the vows they made, and minded of God’s promise to be with us always on our walk through life. “May it be a very, very successful week,” Lady Eames prayed, “may the relationships between you all be deepened; and may the trust we have in our God be deepened also.”
As the Service ended, Lady Eames was presented with a stunning floral display by two of the youngest members of the congregation and afterwards parishioners and guests enjoyed refreshments which were served in the main aisle of the Cathedral.