sunset over Todi in Umbria, Italy

Sunset over Todi

By the time you read this, I will more than likely have arrived at my final destination for a flying visit to Italy for my big brother’s wedding.

He’s always loved Italy, ever since spending a year there during the course of his university degree, so when he and my soon-to-be sister decided they wanted to wed outside the UK, it seemed like a natural choice.

With views like this, who can blame them?

A view of the Italian countryside

The view from Montecastello di Vibio

A new understanding

Weddings are great: full of super-happy people rejoicing in the happiness of the couple, plenty of singing, dancing, drinking and merriment. A whole day dedicated to the love of two people.

What I hadn’t considered before this week was just how much weddings change when you’ve experienced your own.

I don’t know about my wife, but I went through 3 distinct stages at other weddings leading up to our big day:

  1. This is a lovely wedding.
  2. I love that idea, I’m totally steeling it/I definitely don’t want to do that at our wedding.
  3. I hope our wedding is this lovely/wonderful/happy.

As the day gets closer and closer, you start to understand more and more about the emotions and attachments you have to the day that you’ve been planning for over 18 months in our case.

But nothing that comes before compares to the emotion of going to the “next” wedding once yours is over.

Perception change

The way I understand weddings has fundamentally changed going into my brother’s.

I used to love them for all the reasons I outlined above. Now, I’m excited because I get to remember just how amazing our day was, whilst simultaneously revelling in the knowledge of the emotions my brother will be going through.

The calm before the storm. The build-up of tension. The release of walking back up the aisle without making a tit of yourself at the alter. The joy and smiles of the rest of the day surrounded by family and friends.

Empathy is a hugely powerful human emotion that connects us to each other by way of shared experience. Knowing what it feels like to experience something first-hand makes the emotions of experiencing it vicariously all the stronger.


My brother and I don’t have much in common beyond our blood and silly senses of humour.

He’s always been the sportsman, the tough-guy, the soldier (until recently, at least). I’ve always been the theatrical, dandy-ish, unfit one.

He’s travelled the world and seen people and places I can only dream of. I’ve travelled the UK and experienced people and stories he can only imagine.

There is very little in the way of common experience.

But our weddings will be something we can carry with us forever. They will stay for both of us as something we both understand. Something we both share, albeit in differing contexts.

Maybe that’s why I’m so excited.

The true joy of life

That said, I don’t think most of my excitement is related to my brother at all – I think it’s far more simple than that.

Over the last few years as I’ve battled with and against the changes brought to my life by my wonderful donor, I’ve learned one simple truth:

The greatest happiness we can find in life is the joy in the happiness of others.

Only when we learn to forsake ourselves and understand the high that comes with true empathy and sharing of joy between people do we truly understand what it is to allow happiness into our lives.

Joy is the most wonderful and wondrous of all emotions; you feel light on your feet, with a skip in your step and, if only for the briefest of moments, like nothing can touch you at all.

Shared joy is all of that, infinitely amplified.

That’s why weddings are awesome. And that’s why this weekend is going to rock our socks!


When did you last share in a moment of pure joy? What makes it stick in your memory? I’d love to hear about it – share it with us all on the comments or drop me an email if you’d rather be more private.

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