With this napkin ring, I thee wed: let’s stop getting worked up about weddings

Happily Ever After

I’m getting married in a month. Naturally, I’m looking forward to this momentous event with all of the excitement, trepidation and raised blood pressure that anyone would experience when they’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime event costing them thousands of pounds. But if there’s one thing that I’ve noticed during my two-year engagement, it’s this. There is a lot of bullshit surrounding weddings.

I’ll go to great lengths to sidestep bullshit where I detect it. Consequently, I’ve taken a rather laid back attitude towards what is supposed to be the most important day of my life. I refuse to give myself a nervous breakdown over something that resembles a terrifyingly over-organised birthday party. To be honest, this lackadaisical approach is only partially about refusing to adhere to convention – it’s also about me having no idea what I’m doing. I’m firmly of the belief that when a couple get engaged, the government should send them out a little booklet advising them of correct wedding protocol, a bit like those old Protect and Survive booklets from the 80s, which advised you what to do in case of nuclear war. Instead of duck and cover, it’d have poultry recipes and tablecloth advice. That kind of thing. It would certainly be a big help to people like me who’ve made it this far in life remaining blissfully unaware of All Wedding Traditions.

However, once you get beyond the basics, there’s so much arcane ephemera around marriage ceremonies, much of it of recent invention. For example, someone asked me recently what the theme to my wedding was going to be. They seemed quite taken aback when I responded: “What, inviting all of my friends and family to an enormous piss-up isn’t a theme?” When I bought my boyfriend an engagement ring, I was informed by another acquaintance that this was “very eccentric” of me. Apparently, wanting equality in all things wedding-related isn’t the done thing. Who’d have thunk it? My almost-husband accidentally left the ring in a toilet in Prague – there’s probably a rule about exactly what to do in those very circumstances. Who says you have to follow all these folk decrees? I’m not changing my name, there’s no gift list (sorry, John Lewis), and I’ve invited men to my hen night. I haven’t the heart to tell people that, as per convention, my Dad will be leading me down the aisle. I quite like them thinking of me as a rebel in a tulle veil.

And here’s a phrase to boil your piss – “wedding trends”. If the bridal blogosphere are to be believed, Mason jar cocktails are apparently a must-have – even if you’re having your ceremony in Birmingham, England rather than Birmingham, Alabama. A recent Emerald Street mailout confessed that ‘stealing’ is so totally hot right now. “You’d be shocked by the amount of stuff guests take from weddings – silverware, flowers, votives, the lot” one former wedding planner is quoted as saying. “In fact, the latest trend in the States is to provide lots of goodies for guests to take home so that they don’t steal other stuff, such as pashminas for women and flip-flops for dancing.”

I’m not entirely sure what’s more distasteful about the above statement. The insinuation that it’s not enough for me to spend a family-saloon-sized amount of money feeding and watering my guests but that, if I don’t bribe them with shiny freebies on the way out, they’re entitled to shove the cutlery into their handbags? Or that I’m being told to view my friends as shoplifters in Whistles dresses? Are you with the bride or the groom, Mr Raffles? Maybe it should be a box to tick on the invite – alongside ‘vegetarian’ and ‘lactose intolerant’, I should add “be sure to let us know if you’re a kleptomaniac”.

Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest of your life but society appears to be determined to ensure that it’s also the most stressful. The proliferation of wedding blogs, wedding websites and wedding trend-setters have encouraged us to turn an event that’s supposed to be a celebration of love into something part Japanese tea ceremony, part Domino rally. Your big day won’t be ruined if you don’t have the right kind of letterpress invitations, or if you don’t have a bespoke dessert table. Perhaps the most radical thing you can do to ensure a perfect wedding is to not sweat the small stuff or even perspire the big stuff.

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About author
Christina McDermott is a half Manc-half-Yank-Liverpool-dwelling writer and food blogger. She likes Krautrock, Booze of all flavours, Bad Jokes & Owls, and hates Bananas.
8 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. brilliant! i totally agree – i only went along with convention where i saw fit and where it suited me, not because someone told me to. and as a result, i had several comments on the day and the immediate run up that i was the most chilled out bride they’d ever seen.

    so much of the convention is bullshit, and it’s got worse in recent years. when my mother got married 35 years ago, there was no tradition of buying favours or little keepakes for guests to take home. yet now it is decreed that we spend an extra squillion doing so. it’s about time we went back to basics and focused on what the day is there for. to celebrate two people being in love and committing to each other.

  2. Totally agree. We did the good bits, adapted the not-so-good bits so they became good, and dropped the rest.

    I walked up the aisle on my own. I made a speech. My mum made a speech. We cut the cake together with a bloody great sword. I had a red dress. I had a blue garter. I kept my own name (of course).

    And when we split up, we were nice to each other and didn’t fall out over money.

  3. Yes…but is your mother wearing “a gown to the floor”? How about a hat? I’ve recently learnt that these two things supposedly govern what everyone else wears. My mum doesn’t care, and neither do I, so why should everyone else?

    (5 days to go.)

    • ‘Gown to the floor?!’ My Mum is 5 ft 2, and is wearing gigantic heels on the day. If she wore a gown to the floor, she’d probably end up tripping over the hem and falling down a flight of stairs. It took long enough for her to find a fascinator which (in her own words) “didn’t make her head look bizarre”.

      Hats are ridiculous. My Dad might wear a flat cap, but purely to enhance his resemblance to Gregg Wallace from Masterchef.

  4. Make sure your guests are fed at regular intervals, watered often and given somewhere to sit down and have enough toilets not to have to queue for ages or feel like it’s an epic trek. Bob’s your uncle…you’ll have a brilliant wedding.

    Because basically it’s a bit like any other party, just with a bigger cake. why people feel the need to get themselves incredibly stressed about chair covers and bouquet ribbons I do not know. If the only thing I can after your nuptials is that your curtain swags looked lovely, there are bigger issues going on with your relationship, trust me!

  5. Completely agree. We refused to follow convention for our wedding, despite being repeatedly told that over-priced toss such as seat covers, cake, favours, first dances and discos were ‘traditional’. We had no wedding list, no bridesmaids, stag/hen do or pageboys either. We sorted all the music ourselves from our combined iTunes (though this did result in Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix accidentally getting on the list and being played during the meal).

    I also had a vague idea that I’d wear red which provoked such horror in people that I decided I was going to do it and got a fab 50s style dress with massive petticoats.

    The insane spiralling costs around getting married are absurd – no-one should have to have a day which doesn’t suit them because friends and family clamour that it’s ‘traditional.’

  6. I completely agree with you. I’m planning my wedding at the moment and our families are shocked that I don’t want to take my husband’s name but I am perfectly happy wearing an ivory dress (with straps – the horror on some of my friends faces when they realised wedding dresses come with straps and therefore no back hamsters!) I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m planning something I want. A registry office because we’re not religious? Tick. Apparently it should be done in a church. Who knew?

  7. The best wedding (well, technically it was a civil partnership) I’ve ever been to involved a man in a suit of armour and a sword chasing the guests and brides around the ruins of Coventry cathedral. If that’s non-traditional then I never want to attend another traditional one ever again. ;)

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