Our columnist reflects on the ups and downs of the typical modern wedding.
The first of my children’s generation in the wider family got married last weekend and I’m taking an interest in studying the form.
I’ve been going to more funerals than weddings lately. The people you love grow old and die all the time, but everyone seems to marry in waves. Also, they marry in pairs, so logic dictates that funerals outnumber weddings two to one. I have a lot of funereal Orders of Service from which, when the time comes, I hope to steal good ideas, but fewer from weddings.
“It was a riot of flowers, the best man was a woman and the band played until 2am”
We had a wedding in the village a couple of years ago, movingly blessed in church and carried through to a wonderful reception on the cricket pitch. It was announced in the Parish News with the line: ‘In a village that rarely finds itself at the forefront of social change…’ There were two camels in attendance and Kiwi accents everywhere because one of the boys getting married is a New Zealander. It was a riot of flowers, the best man was a woman and the band played until 2am. Plenty worth stealing from there.
Kate’s nephew’s wedding took place in the last village in England, in the Welsh Marches, a region so steeped in romance that even the bilingual road signs seem to presage a happy partnership based on mutual respect and understanding. It’s the country of the Black Mountains, of tiny churches crouched beneath beetling hills, slighted castles, ruined priories and post offices that sell ice creams and breakfast cereal.
The grandest houses are called Court and we explored the gardens and sham turrets of one inhabited by the same family since the reign of Edward the Confessor. That takes a parcel of canny marriages and considerable respect for the institution, too. It feels like good marriage country.
Kate’s sister had taken a house down a long drive shared with a misanthrope who barricaded himself behind Keep Out signs scrawled in red paint on every visible surface. His role was to bring the spice to the wedding sugar. We glimpsed him once, watering in his roses with a yellow hose.
There was a dinner to meet the Other Family and long walks and expeditions to entertain ours. When, at last, we took our places in the choir, across the aisle from the bridal party, we scoured the booklet to check the hymns: ones we knew, but hadn’t sung in ages, slow, sonorous and swelling.
Bride and groom were both choristers and it showed. A friend sang Butterworth while the register was signed and, when we launched into Jerusalem the Golden, it was as if the entire church had been infiltrated by a choral flashmob.
“It was certainly a production, up on stilts to even the ground, with an elevated terrace and no visible means of support.”
The newlyweds sauntered under a blizzard of petals to the marquee, which the father of the bride called a fandango. It was certainly a production, up on stilts to even the ground, with an elevated terrace and no visible means of support, lovely with flowers and the bunting my mother-in-law had made out of old sheets and summer dresses.
At dinner, my neighbour confessed himself bewildered to see guests of all and any age: at her wedding, his daughter had allowed him just enough old crocks to seat a single table and he’d found himself entirely surrounded by young strangers. Another couple had hired a vast yurt, which sat almost 100 guests to dinner and still had room for the dancing.
Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner compels stunned sympathy, but I feel for the Wedding Guest, beating his breast as he hears the fun starting without him. He would have ditched the greybeard loon for William and Helen’s wedding, I’m sure. What’s a horrid story about a dead bird compared to Champagne and girls in frocks, with Delilah on the dancefloor?
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