“I took beta-blockers before a wedding and woke up wrapped in a tinfoil blanket”
I had never taken drugs before a wedding. I’ve been a bridesmaid many times since I was a kid, so I’m used to having the eyes of a congregation on me. But this time it was different. My friend Claire* asked me to be a bridesmaid a year before her wedding in 2018. As an event planner, I knew from the start that she would create a dream day as chic as she . Her in-laws’ house was chosen as the venue for the reception. Their acres of land, populated by adorably quaint cottages, was the perfect spot for a marquee. Other than briefing me and the other bridesmaids with a color palette for our dresses, all Claire wanted us to do was show up and enjoy her big day. A few months before the wedding, however, Claire asked me if I wanted to read a passage from Dolly Alderton’s book, All I know above love, at the religious service. I was delighted.
I have always described myself as a confident person. As a teenager, I regularly sang and performed in school plays, so the idea of standing in the pulpit and speaking to a crowd didn’t bother me. Above all, I was flattered that the couple chose me for such an important role. But, before the wedding, for the first time in my life, I began to understand what it meant to be nervous. It soon dawned on me that, unlike a school performance, the reading would involve me addressing a crowd of 120 people anticipating one of the most important days of my friend’s life.
I thought of all the weddings that had happened before, when those not used to speaking in public seemed painfully monotonous and indifferent when giving a speech. As a result, I decided to learn the words of the passage by heart, like an actor memorizing his lines. But, as the day approached, my stubborn nerves did not calm down. A few weeks before the wedding, I texted a friend and told her how nervous I felt. “Have you ever taken beta-blockers*,” she asked me. At the time, I had never heard of it. According to the NHS, beta-blockers work to slow down the heart by blocking the action of hormones, such as adrenaline. My friend revealed that she often takes them to relieve her anxiety. According to her, the pills would stop all physical reactions from my nerves on the wedding day, so although I might feel like passing out, my nerves would not manifest outwardly as shaking hands or a shaking heart. ‘packed up. It’s exactly what I need, I said to myself. A few days later, she sent me a card in the mail containing two beta-blockers and a note with my instructions: take one pill the morning of the wedding with breakfast and another 15 minutes before entering the ‘church.
On the morning of the big day, I took the first pill while sitting in the makeup chair. Turns out I wasn’t the only one taking pills – the bride told me she too took a beta-blocker that morning because she was anxious about walking down the aisle. When we arrived at the church, the bridesmaids lined up outside waiting to enter. I remember how comfortable I felt and decided to take my second tablet with a glass of water. A few minutes later, I was standing at the pulpit giving the performance of my life. The vicar, who had worked in the Church for over 35 years, even came up to me at the end of the service and said it was the best reading she had ever heard.
At the reception, I was seated on the top table next to one of the groom’s friends. To say he was the life and soul of the party is an understatement. As he told tales of wild parties and vacations across Europe, I knew we were going to have a great time. I had had a few glasses of champagne by then with very little to eat during the day, but we soon found ourselves drinking shots of limoncello before the speeches had even started. From there, things start to get a little fuzzy.
Fast forward an indefinite amount of time; I woke up to find myself lying horizontally on a couch in one of the cottage annexes. It was pitch dark, but I could barely hear music and cheers from the front desk in the distance. I felt refreshed, as if I had been in a deep sleep. Confused as to why I slept or how I got to the cottage, I started to move. A loud crackle pierced the silence. A giant makeshift aluminum foil blanket covered my body. I grabbed the closest pair of shoes I could find and left the cabin to find out what was going on.
Using the marquee lights in the distance as a guiding beacon, I trudged across a field and into the marquee to enthusiastic cheers. “I’ve only been gone a few minutes,” I laughed at my friends as they huddled around me. ‘What are you talking about?’ they chimed in unison. “You slept for five hours. You missed the entire WELCOME. The bride and groom have already left! I stood there in disbelief. I later learned (via an embarrassing wedding video, no less) that the cocktail of alcohol and beta-blockers on an empty stomach had knocked me unconscious during the reception – barefoot – and my friends had to carry me to bed. They found a roll of aluminum foil in the kitchen and wrapped me in sheets to keep me warm. I was mortified.
The next day, the bride and groom hosted a big breakfast for the guests and, unsurprisingly, I was the talk of the party. As I tried to hide my embarrassment with a laugh, I soon learned that a rumor was spreading among the guests that I was taking Valium recreationally all day. Worse still, the news had made its way to the bride and groom. ‘Why did you take Valium on my wedding day?’ Claire whispered furiously to me under her breath when I approached her at lunch. Pulling the pack of beta-blockers out of my purse, I quickly explained what had happened and apologized profusely for my behavior.
While most people found my antics of the day hilarious, I’m still so upset that I missed so much of my friend’s wedding. I had been excited for months for the couple’s big day, but other than a few blurry images, I barely remember anything.
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*The NHS states that beta-blockers are prescription-only medicines, meaning they can only be prescribed by a GP or other suitably qualified healthcare professional. Beta-blockers are not for everyone. Learn more here.
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