by Fiona Harrigan
Most people remember the film “When Harry met Sally” for the diner scene. For me, the one that sticks is where Sally and her friends are discussing boyfriends, and, more pertinently, marriage. Sally explains that there was no point in remaining with her ex when they each wanted different things. Her (married) friend shakes her head sadly and says, “At least you could say you were married.” Now, it is not my intention to examine the motivations for marriage here – I’m guessing that this is a religious minefield, surrounded by snipers from both genders – but that comment did seem to confirm my suspicions about weddings. They are primarily for “other people”.
The inspiration to write about weddings originally came from a delightful programme on Sky One, about the “Great British Wedding”. Of course, I am breaking no new ground when I remind you that the purpose of reality TV is to laugh at people who are more common, screwed up or generally clueless than you are, and this was no exception. Five weddings, five couples, from “diverse” backgrounds, with one thing in common – a Napoleonic determination that they would have their “big day” and that it would be the best day of their life. Well, the women, anyway.
The first couple, travellers, set out to have the largest and most vulgar wedding they could think of, and they had an impressive imagination. The biggest dress, a coach left over from Jordan & Peter André’s wedding and several pounds of ringlets, all wasted on a wedding party clad in halter tops and a bridegroom obviously the worse for wear, looking forward to seeing just how far he could push himself. The second couple, tattooed and bravely embarking on their second marriage each, put far more into the hen/stag nights than the wedding. There was, in fact, very little difference between the two events, except that the less classy event of the two (can you guess which one?) was held in what appeared to be a football club, aprés match. Wedding three focused on a delightful lady, funny, warm and intelligent, and her apparent anomaly of a fiancé (mean, humourless and churlish). None of her friends (nor several of his) could figure out why she was marrying him (after all, she had a lovely dog), and the main argument for doing so appeared to be that they’d spent so long together already. But you wouldn’t do that with an old coat, would you? You’d give it to a charity shop, wouldn’t you?
The final two couples were fine examples of “modern weddings”- showcases for the implied taste, and more importantly, money, of the couples. A symbol of success and status, if you will – at least, that was the idea. Really, the purpose of putting these two couples into the same programme was to cause us to laugh uproariously at one (pole dancer with French manicure and orangu-tan, “self-made” businessman, who gets his pole danced on as long as he keeps earning), and feel all warm and fuzzy at the other (posh bird and ex-military groom who kept blubbering at the vows – Awww!).
Lessons learned? Well, it is reality TV, so don’t get your hopes up. In spite of obvious class differences (wedding dresses look terrible with tattoos), weddings tend to be the same, regardless of the health of the relationship between the participants or their financial capacity to stage the most impressive event since the moon landings. They are fuelled mainly by women. Men tend to “go along” with decisions about morning suits, guest lists, menus and flowers much as marketing executives listening to new ideas – Terrific! Do I have to do anything?
Come to think of it, why morning suits? Why do people (usually people who last wore a suit to their confirmation or to court) suddenly dress up as Oscar Wilde? Yet, this is part of the growing “spectacle” aspect of weddings. Let’s have a pool, let’s have a coach pulled by eleven pygmy goats (“No! It has to be eleven!), let’s have an all-pink wedding. Who is this for? As a former wedding guest, I can tell you it’s not for me. My needs are modest – no forests, no beaches (not in Ireland, anyway), no uileann pipes, no meals that begin seven hours after the ceremony (SEVEN HOURS!), and no guest lists so large that you don’t realise that you’re in the wrong one until the speeches (but stay anyway).
I have also been on the other side of the white, pink-beribboned fence, you know. What about the radicals who say “Not for us!” and opt for the low-key affair? Disastrous. Looks mean, apparently. And Mummy’s friend’s cousin’s niece will never forgive you. Class, in this case, equates to money, and plenty of it. If we don’t have the mother of the bride in a fetching bile-green number (McElhinny’s of Athboy, of course – aren’t they just wonderful! The only clothes shop that smells of Ma Griffe and dung), sixteen bridesmaids and matching groomsmen (“If I don’t find a man at your wedding, Donna, I swear I’ll join a convent.”) and a stretch thoroughbred to take the bride to the church in style, there’s just no point. Why? Because it’s your “big day”, probably the only one you’ll ever have. Let’s face it; you’re never going to win the Nobel Prize (not with those Leaving Cert results), you’ll probably never win an Oscar (you’d have some idea by now), be a supermodel or sleep with Colin Farrell/Pamela Anderson (hang on, though…). So, short of becoming a serial killer (and who has the time?) the best way to get your fifteen minutes (actually, it’s more like twelve hours – more if you count rehearsals, hens, stags etc.) is to commandeer an entire event that is “all about you” (although, make sure the mothers/fathers of the bride/groom are clear how this works – there can be some confusion).
I can’t fight this, so I will simply provide a few helpful guidelines to make the event run more smoothly: