September 15, 2008 catherinetownsend

The Independent/Sleeping Around

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I am writing about marriage under duress, because I have been drafted as a bridesmaid for the third time this year, and, frankly, I’m running scared. Don’t get me wrong: I love weddings, and hope to have one of my own someday. But what is it about the ceremony that reduces some seemingly rational women into Bride-zillas from hell? This summer alone, I have broken up one near-fistfight over a tea set; dealt with the fallout from a randy best man shagging two different family members; and consoled a 37-year-old woman who went to pieces because she could not be a “flower girl”.

Women like these need to get a life, and some perspective. I grew up in the US deep South, where fairy-tale weddings were a rite of passage. I saw so many girls who grew up reading bridal magazines and then spent years planning weddings that ended up overshadowing the actual marriages.

So I was thrilled when I moved to the UK, which seemed to take a more modest approach. Here, people lived together, entered into mortgages and had children before tying the knot.

Yes, they had lovely services but the wedding was a day that was (mostly) kept within reason. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that over-the-top weddings, much like Starbucks and life coaches, have been making their way across the pond.

At my last “destination wedding”, I spent more than 1,500 on travel, gifts and the fuchsia monstrosity that was the bridesmaid’s dress, all with a smile on my face (even the part where she said, without irony, “You can definitely wear this again!”).

I was holding it together until my girlfriend’s hen night. I showed up and immediately introduced myself to a very fit man who I assumed was the male stripper. It turned out that my friend had read a piece about American “Botox bridal parties” and thought that getting a plastic surgeon in for a few touch-ups would be a fun female bonding experience.

I skipped the needle, and took an extra shot of vodka instead.

Maybe, as one of my girlfriends says, I just “don’t get it”. I have never bought into the idea that my wedding day will be the biggest day of my life. If I get married, it will be to someone who will complement me, not “complete” me as a person.

Perhaps this is because I have passed my mid-twenties and have had many rites of passages in life already: graduating from university, buying my first flat, passing my own career milestones.

But as a society, we are still obsessed with the “fairy-tale ending” even though, in reality, marriage isn’t an “ending” at all. (It can be the beginning of a very long, boring life sentence if you pick the wrong person.)

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a dream wedding; in fact, I have to admit that, happy as I am for my friends, I sometimes feel a twinge of loneliness when I’m the only single person in the room, stuck dancing with the lecherous uncle with the lazy eye.

One day, I hope to meet my Mr Right and make it official.

But if I’m ever lucky enough to find someone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, and who feels the same about me, I don’t think that I will care whether we marry at a drive-through wedding chapel in Las Vegas with an Elvis impersonator as a witness, or at St Paul’s Cathedral.

I’m not sure if I will be laughing or crying tears of joy. But one thing’s for certain: I’ll make sure you can see my expression in the wedding pictures.

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