Good news for brides – or is it good? From 4 July, their weddings can go ahead, with only 30 guests. “But you can’t even have a party afterwards”, bleat the brides, “so what’s the point?”
Time perhaps to reconsider the “point” of marriage. It’s good to aspire to the idea that your wedding day should be the happiest, and most spiritually fulfilling of our lives. And important to commit to your partner in front of your closest friends and relations (could these really number more than 30?). But why should it have to also be an administrative headache, rife with opportunities for giving offence to the multiple attendees, to say nothing of some of them giving offence to you? Added to that, there is the crippling expense: the average UK wedding in 2019 was reported to cost £31,974 (about $39,700), which is just below the average annual salary of £36,611. One year’s salary spent in one day!
Fact and fantasy have become blurred as we channel celebrity brides while planning. Hovering over everything is the spectre of consumerism. – Mary Killen
I partly blame Cinderella, which we all read as small children and read in turn to our children. (By the way, actress Keira Knightley has banned such works from her home because, she believes, they compound sexual stereotypes). Weddings have become festivals of egotism. Fact and fantasy have become blurred as we channel celebrity brides while planning. Hovering over everything is the spectre of consumerism. Brides want their wedding days to be like their 21st birthday fifty times over. The presents, the attention, the glamour, the photographs, the expense … and all focussed on them.
But then the clutter of other expectations comes in: the expectations of the guests.
First the people on the guest list. There was a time when we didn’t have too many friends. Now we’ve got friends from home, acquaintances from where we live now, pals we met at school, at university, at work and those we bonded with when we went abroad and conflated the happiness of the holiday with personal compatibility. At one wedding in the 1990s, an over-connected (and famously vague) bride dealt with this by simply not inviting anyone whose surname began with S. It shaved off a useful percentage of invitees and she later attributed the oversight to her renowned vagueness and the fact the “S” section of her Filofax had fallen out. But most of us would agonise over exclusion and end up inviting everyone who would be “offended” not to be.
Then the expense of the dress, the flowers and the marquee and the catering – all of which detract from the religious importance of the union. Wily brides’ mothers can think of inventive ways to cut the costs. Celebrating the wedding in May means you can pluck wild flowers from the hedgerow, such as cow parsley. Or split the cost of the marquee by having a neighbour marry the following weekend and throw the party in the same marquee. But with the new rules allowing only 30 guests, you now have the marvellous excuse not to do any of that.
Like funerals, weddings have become rackets. Tragically, my own eyelash technician, who has been with her partner for five years told me that she wanted to get married but that they were still saving; they had calculated that festivities would cost them something in the region of £35,000 (about $43,500). And for what? To make a whole tribe of drunkards more ill and dyspeptic and crippled by their footwear and resentful about their place at the table; the type of music being played or the rate of flow of the alcohol. To give themselves, as hosts, anxiety about the speeches and potential hecklers.
The average UK wedding in 2019 costed £31,974, which is just below the average annual salary of £36,611. – Mary Killen
That £35,000 would clearly be much better spent as a downpayment for a mortgage but this wannabe bride, an avid reader of Hello magazine (which features at least one celebrity wedding a week), felt that if she didn’t compete and put on a good show, her friends would think the worst of her.
I strongly advised her to go for a “wedding-moon”, whereby you have your wedding and your honeymoon in the same luxury Caribbean resort, a trend spearheaded by The Sandals hotel chain. The Sandals resort – which is sanctified – organises the priest, the hymns, the wedding dress, the breakfast banquet, the music, the photography and the legal documentation. Roman Catholicism is of course the dominant religion in the Caribbean.
Escaping abroad is one of the best ways to spend your wedding budget. The whole affair, including airfares and a week in the resort will cost you and your husband as little as £5,000 (about $6200). If you really want your family to come too, then they can, but the sort of person whose expectations of a wedding are conditioned by social media and celebrity watching are also fully on board with the idea of the romantic elopement to a Caribbean island and no one will take offence.
With crisis comes opportunity … old hippies know the I Ching symbol for crisis also means opportunity. Seize it brides. Just get the commitment under your belt, privately and in an spiritually fulfilling way, and no one can blame you for putting on a bad bash.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.