Weddings: the stuff of daydreams and nightmares, of bridezillas and confetti, but a far pleasanter topic to write about than Brexit. The other three dames are way ahead of me in planning their offspring’s special day – indeed, my two have vowed never to tie the knot – but this weekend has just made me reassess what a wonderful day it can be.
This is wedding two of 2016, with another two scheduled for the autumn. And what a contrast number two has been to number one. The first was held at Westminster Abbey, with a reception nearby, and though it was a happy occasion we’d lived virtually through the planning process because daughter was maid of honour and it had gone on for months. I don’t know who breathed a bigger sigh of relief when the day was over, her or us.
This weekend was a different kettle of fish completely. The bride was daughter’s best friend from uni, as different from her as chalk and cheese. She was marrying a man five years younger, one and a half feet taller (or that’s what it looked like), who she’d only gone out with originally, as a friend, because she thought he was gay. She had got up to scrapes with daughter, nearly got arrested in Texas with her, survived a hurricane with her (her father had advised the pair of them to find some good looking local lads to help and they’d barricaded themselves in a bathroom), and run up horrendous mobile phone bills with her.
We’d met her parents frequently over the three years of uni, but were touched when they invited the whole family up to Ormskirk to the wedding, and for dinner at their place the night before. It was a mad evening. The M6 had done its best to delay us, the bride’s make up artist had cancelled at the last minute so she’d gone out to buy up Boots, and all the bridesmaids had gatecrashed supper. But boy it was fun: we put the world to rights, discussed the following day, had a lovely meal, and then traipsed back to the farm where we were staying.
We knew we were in for a day of it, but hadn’t actually appreciated just how long it would be:
- Arrival at 1.15pm
- Service at 2pm
- Wedding breakfast at 4.30pm
- Evening reception at 8pm
- Hog roast at 9pm
- Carriages at 1am
We calculated, at the end, how long we’d stayed in one place: ten and a half hours. And it had flown by. We’d had the formal stuff, but interwoven with informal stuff, like being able to pop out into the gardens with a drink from the bar and chat. Daughter did a reading from Tennessee Williams in the service, we’d been included in the official wedding photographs on the steps, looking out over the countryside to Southport, we’d thrown confetti with the best of them, and we’d met some wonderful people. The best were a family similar to ours – grown up son and daughter – where the mum, a teacher, had resigned, bought and converted a horsebox and was now providing a catering service at festivals.
The day was planned within an inch of its life, but didn’t feel that way. The bride’s mum arrived without tights, and ten minutes later the organiser turned up with a pair in the right size and shade. This woman was like Margaret Thatcher on steroids, earpiece in, clipboard to hand, unobtrusively ensuring that every detail was perfect. Vegetarian meal to the right party? Tick. Glass on the dance floor cleared and mopped up before anyone knew it was happening? Tick. Wedding cake removed and returned, in identical sized slices just minutes after the bride and groom made the first incision? Tick.
Now, I am not in favour of marriage. I never said yes to Dame Mike. He just got fed up with being turned down, went to my father, who broke the news to my 95-year-old grandmother and then the deed was done. It was an up and down sort of day, the reception was held at my parents’ flat, I broke the loo before I left for the registry office, felt so bad about not having flowers (I’d held out) on seeing my father’s downcast face at breakfast that I walked into Selfridges on my way back from a haircut to see what they could do. They closed the shop down, organised a posy and button holes that I took home on the bus. It snowed. My father-in-law nearly let my father fall out of his wheel chair on the registry office steps and the service took place five minutes early so half the family missed it. My parents-in-law were having one of their periods of non-communication, so all discussion took place through the intermediary of Mike’s Aunt Peg, a deaf as a post Prestonian who ressembled – through constant wearing of a turban – a turtle. She come up the night before and got lost, and made Mike abandon his stag do to try and find her.
This weekend, though, has made me see things in a new light. I think I fancy getting married again and having a ball. But maybe I’ll wait for the other two planned weddings first.