The secret to a good wedding? More sincerity, less triviality

The secret of the classic country wedding is quality over quantity, says Giles Kime

The sky’s the limit when planning the modern wedding. Quite literally – why stop at immortalising the happy day with photographs of the happy couple and guests when you can have a bird’s-eye view of the venue shot on a video camera tethered to a drone?

The possibilities for upgrading every other aspect of a wedding now appear to be infinite. Why have a stag night in your favourite London restaurant when you and 12 of your oldest mates could go boar hunting in Morocco? And there are no lengths to which you can’t stretch yourself: a custom-made website outlining every detail of how you met, a social-media hashtag, three changes of outfit – the list goes on.

The fact that the organisation required to achieve this logistical feat would flummox the production team behind Ben Hur shouldn’t hinder you. After all, this is your ‘Big Day’. However, the question you should both ask yourselves in the small hours of the night is how many of your plans are necessary? Start with the essence of what you’re doing and work outwards.

In every culture, the concept of marriage is precisely the same: the union of two people. The way that’s performed and celebrated varies dramatically in different parts of the world – in Germany, guests break china; in Mexico, they pin money to the bride and groom’s clothes; and, in Sweden, female guests kiss the groom.

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Thirty years ago, the essentials of the classic British wedding were the ceremony, a reception (either standing or seated) and possibly a party in the evening, although this was the exception, not the rule. That model has been subsequently enhanced by the nuptial equivalent of an arms race that has left the event so elaborate it’s easy to forget that, at its heart, is a very simple and important exchange of vows.

Country Life’s call to pare back the British wedding is nothing to do with parsimony and everything to do with creating weddings that don’t look like an excuse for a party and two weekends away with your friends. Be warned, however: any tailor or interior designer will tell you that carefully considered simplicity isn’t cheap. They will also tell you that it requires discipline and high-quality materials.

A sizeable army of adult bridesmaids and ushers, a ring-bearing pug and the strains of Aretha Franklin’s Say A Little Prayer can’t fail to distract from the solemnity of a ceremony that is – however you look at it – a very serious undertaking. And it’s hard to think why a girly hen weekend in a villa in Ibiza would be more memorable than supper in the private dining room at Morton’s (save for the arrival of the bill).


Remember, too, that, although you might have decided that anything as boring as a budget won’t stand in the way of your dream wedding, the cost of even the most modest three-day weekend, celebrating the last of your single days, is unlikely to leave much change out of £1,000 – quite an investment at a stage in life when many of your friends will be clocking up half a dozen weekends a year.

However simple or lavish the modern British wedding, the only essential ingredient is a big helping of sincerity – and a little less triviality.