The last ten days of my holiday were filled with family events and relaxation.  My cousin got married, and a wonderful time was had by all.  The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome and the venue magical.  We danced the night away under the stars while I fielded questions about my single status like a pro.  Let’s face it, after so many years and twice as many weddings, I am a pro.  This time, I got a funny one.

A man my Dad’s age came up to me.  He wasn’t a stranger. 

“I’m glad you’re not attached.” he said. “When my wife is no longer with me will you marry me?”

I laughed nervously.  This was strange, even for me.

“I’m serious!” he said, smiling.

I smiled back politely.

“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, shall we?”

I beat a hasty retreat. 

Later his wife came over to talk to me. 

“Hello!” she said, kissing me on both cheeks.  “Good to see you! Kai sta dika sou.”  This last part means  ‘And at yours’ and is a wish that people bestow upon single people at weddings.  I used the terms ‘bestow’ and ‘wish’ loosely here, sometimes it feels like a gift-wrapped anvil that you have to cart around the whole bloody night.  It is a wish for the single person to finally find and fill the human shaped void in their life as soon as possible.  Anyway, it’s well meant, I guess.  She didn’t leave it at that.  She thought she would translate it into English for me.

“Up yours!” she said loudly. 

I laughed hysterically, not sure if she knew what she was saying and being funny or if she had genuinely just mistranslated.  Either way it was funny.  I was dancing with her son later and dropped into the conversation casually that he should probably tell her that ‘up yours’ is not the correct translation of ‘kai sta dika sou’.  Perhaps next time someone says it to me, I could reply in English, “yes and up yours too”.  Food for thought.

The family wedding got me thinking about weddings in general.  Weddings are funny things.  I mean I like a good wedding as much as the next person, I love to see the personal touches individual to the couple, and I do find it emotional to watch couples so full of happiness and optimism.  It is totally infectious (in a good way).  What I find harder to deal with is the ‘structure’ of the day,  almost as if all weddings have to contain the following key elements in a certain order:

Ceremony (duh)

Entrance to carefully chosen music: with all eyes on the couple trying to negotiate stairs and/or hills without falling over.

Speeches: including amusing and/or embarrassing facts about the bride and groom.

Cate cutting: including champagne drunk with arms linked and feeding each other

First dance: including choreographed routine and carefully chosen ‘meaningful’ song.

These five things are deemed non-negotiable.  It’s like the short programme in figure skating.  All the elements have to be there and then we can start enjoying the rest of it.  But why do we feel so strongly about it?  Maybe the bride doesn’t like cake.  Maybe she doesn’t want to waltz into the room and walk around the dance floor as if she is on sale at an auction.  Maybe the best man is afraid of public speaking. Or isn’t funny.  Or the father of the bride doesn’t enjoy dancing.  Or the groom doesn’t drink.  Whenever I have been to a wedding where one of these elements has been left out, people have complained and criticised.  And that’s another thing.  Since when is it ok to criticise what somebody else does at their wedding.  If you ask anyone, they will tell you it’s the couple’s day.  Their special day to do with as they wish.

And yet, if they don’t perform one of the crucial elements they get a 0.7 deduction on their final scores from the judges and don’t place in the medals.  As judges, we don’t only judge on content but also on artistic elements, were the flowers nice, was there a warm and happy ambience, did we like the bride’s dress, the groom’s suit, the bridesmaids dresses etc.etc.  In Greece, we traditionally give out bombonieres which in the past used to involve either a china or silver pill box containing (an odd number of) sugared almonds.  Now, they have become more and more inventive, and so people feel like they can offer an opinion on that as well.  [As a ‘judge’ myself, I have to say that I prefer a useful bomboniere which I can use and remember the wedding and bonus points if it is easily identifiable as being theirs.  Sometimes, people just put their initials on them, which is fine, but then years later, when the time comes to move house say,  you have several hundred silver boxes with initals on them and no idea whose wedding they are from.]

So, back to my earlier point, if it is a day belonging to the couple and for the couple, why are we – the mere guests – left feeling so cheated by their choices if they don’t match up with ours? It makes wedding planning a nightmare I would imagine.  You spend all your time thinking about what you would like only to have your parents/friends/family/wedding planner point out that your guests might not like skydiving/nudity/paintballing/wrestling etc.  I think that the only thing one should worry about is if everyone you want to be there can make it.  For example, if I was to get married, I would definitely want my Mum to be there.  This rules out getting married anywhere you need to get a flight longer than 4 hours to.  It’s a sacrifice I am prepared to make.  Not getting married in Vanuatu or Tonga will be crushing, I admit, but maybe for the honeymoon…

If common parlance is to be believed, girls the world over dream of their wedding day as the magical day when they get to be princesses and the centre of attention and their every whim is catered to.  This has been translated over the years into a free pass on having to be polite and permission to ditch the your-feelings-are-important-too persona they have to fake present every day.  Whoever told  girls everywhere that they are going to be pampered princesses on their wedding day was obviously heavily invested in them getting married.  Otherwise most mothers would be telling their daughters that they should skip the big wedding and spend the money on a great honeymoon or a conservatory, I assume.  Maybe we are infected by the rose coloured spectacles phenomenon.  You know the one I mean, the one that makes women forget that childbirth is excruciatingly painful and allows them to repeat the experience, often more than once.  I think the Bridezilla phenomenon has happened because we get caught up in the ‘perfect day’ myth.  The most perfect day of your wedding is probably the day after it I’m guessing.  Then, all the stress, the preparations, the ‘who will sit where’, and ‘who can and can’t make it’, the florist being late, the ‘we wish we could afford this or that venue’ is over.  You and your husband/wife can relax and test each other on what you actually remember from the previous day.  I haven’t met a couple who remember the day with clarity, they can only tell you about stuff that appears on the video. 

And that’s another thing.  The photography aspects.  The fact that from the moment you wake up, all through you putting on your underwear, having your hair done, having your make up done, being fussed over while you are getting dressed, there is a person or a team of people photographing your every expression.  You sit on the sofa of your living room in your robe looking wistfully out of the window while the men and women around you mutter stuff about silhouettes and contre-lumiere.  I mean really, on a normal day when you aren’t in a hurry, or don’t have anything pressing, you would be hard pushed to find the time to gaze wistfully out of your living room window in your robe; but on your wedding day, when there are anywhere from 10 to 2000 people waiting for you somewhere and you still have a tonne of stuff to do before then, we have time for these photos?  If I had all the extra time, I would rather be doing the crossword to be quite honest. 

It sounds as if I am bitter about weddings.  I am not.  I do not envy or begrudge people their weddings, but sometimes I get the impression that couples do all these things because it is expected of them. Because it is tradition.  Because Bridal magazines make them feel inadequate and not legally married if they don’t. Because they have been made to feel that they aren’t in love enough if they don’t fulfil certain criteria.  It just isn’t true.  If as guests we like to see certain things in a certain order, then that’s great, but the couple haven’t let us down if they choose to do it differently.  I blame reality TV shows such as Four Weddings. It is a show where four women attend each other’s weddings and grade them on it.  The winner gets a free, all expenses paid honeymoon.  They planted the seed of weddings being about the guests and scoring rather than the couple.  Watching those women snipe at and about each other and judge each other reminds me of why I hardly ever watch reality television.  It’s because I kind of wish reality was different.

In reality, weddings are just one day in the general scheme of things.  We probably all know couples who have had massive ‘perfect day’ weddings, where everything went well including the weather, who are now divorced.  We also all probably know people who had a quiet wedding that we weren’t necessarily invited to and that didn’t involve the GDP of a small country or the coordination of flower girls’ sashes to the centrepieces and they are still together and happy.  The pressure to have the perfect day and be the perfect hosts and make everyone of your acquaintance (like – ever) happy is too much.

Marriage may not be for everyone, but everyone likes a wedding, whatever the format.  Do your thing and enjoy your day.  No judgement from me. 

However, if you are looking for bombonieres ideas, I really need a pretty tape dispenser.  If you put your names on it, I can think of you whenever I move house or wrap a present.  Thanks! 

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