Greeting and salutations from the trenches of Weddingsville. Population: me. As I tap out this blog with the last on my strength at 3am this Sunday evening, I have no fewer than 24 tabs open on my laptop browser. Some pertain to work, some to my social life (did you know there was going to be a Spice Girls exhibition at The Business Design Centre next summer with tickets going for a rip-roaring £10? YOU’RE WELCOME.) but most, I will grudgingly concede, are to do with my wedding. Yeah, yeah, our wedding. Sure. He’s chosen his favourite red wine and did an impressive fifteen wax invite seals but Woody’s role in this shindig has, to date, been distinctly “board member”-esque, in that I seek his sign-off out of professional courtesy as opposed to actually expecting or wanting constructive feedback. It’s worked well so far.
I’m knee-deep at this point, people. Seven months to go and we’re in OK shape, I think, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still breaking out into cold sweats over table cloth choices and dreaming of giant, fanged peony bouquets chasing me down the street. I have my excellent (if occasionally officious) mum at the helm who could, given a free rein and an early retirement, easily pull TWO weddings together in under a month without even breaking a sweat. She’s particularly great at sweeping up the things that I don’t necessarily care about (see: aforementioned table cloths) and just getting them done. In another life, she’d have made an excellent MP. She also keeps the beadiest of eyes on my spending, at one point physically shutting the laptop on my feverish fingertips during a weekend at home to prevent me from clicking ‘BUY’ on 220 dinky engraved nautical compasses bearing each individual guest’s name and table number. I know. I’m off the reservation. Send help.
So. With the material elements of the thing mostly sorted out, this weekend we hot-footed it back down to Devon for something I genuinely never thought would be in my diary: our Marriage Preparation Course. Or, “marriage counselling” which Woody kept mistakenly referring to it as which it is categorically not, since we are not yet married. And we don’t need counselling (yet).
The MPC (it was never once abbreviated all day) is an afternoon spent in the church with your vicar and a few other couples who are to be married at that church, talking about marriage. It was actually very interesting. And I feel that, if you’re going to exploit a religious building for its aesthetic beauty for your Instagram feed, you need to play ball. Plus our vicar (a Father Daniel) is super nice and young and groovy (for a vicar) and it was not tedious to sit and chat with him for a few hours. He also raised some pretty meaty stuff: have you thought about how you would you both support one another if you had a disabled child? How often do you switch off your phones and ask each other about your day? Did you know that you can cheat on your partner with your job? It was all really very pertinent and I’m glad we went. I left feeling challenged and thoughtful, which was no doubt the intention.
However, I did become acquainted with something slightly more unnerving during that pleasant afternoon in the church. Something unexpected. Something…almost sinister. Sitting in that semicircle of blushing brides-to-be and (mostly bored) grooms-to-be, I noticed an entirely new district of Bridezillah County. Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your consideration, The Buddy Bride.
Now we’re all familiar with a Bride-” or “Groom-zillah” (let’s not be old-fashioned, we ALL know a groom who’s been a complete bellend on the run-up to his wedding day). Someone who becomes so aggressive and demanding during the planning of their wedding that they drive their friends and loved ones to purchase one-way tickets to the deepest, darkest corners of the Congo just to avoid any further confetti-strewn trauma. We’ve heard ‘em all: the bride who issued a weight-gain warning email to her fourteen bridesmaids, the groom who demanded a £2,000 stag to Vegas, the woman who stabbed her wedding planner through the heart with a sterling silver Vera Wang wedding cake knife for suggesting roses instead of lilies (hey, it COULD happen). If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid such monsters in your social circle, then bravo. You’re one of the lucky few. But most of us know one or two perfectly nice, normal, rational people who have gone completely fucking tonto during the slog of their engagement. If you want a truly funny 4pm video break today, devour this offering from Stylist and cackle knowingly at the accuracy.
Anyway, The Buddy Bride. The Buddy Bride (or TBB) is a super-strain of Bridezillah which I had not seen in the flesh until last weekend. TBB has all the demanding, high-maintenance, twitchy-eyed mania of a Bridezillah, but she uses emotional warfare to get what she wants. TBB does not simply hire suppliers like florists, musicians or vicars…no, no. Any basic bitch can do that. She holds exclusive auditions for the honour of being involved in her wedding. But if your audition is successful and she signs on the dotted line, you are now officially part of Team Bride. One of her inner circle. Whether you like it or not.
Let me give you an example. Woody and I arrived at the church and sort of hovered by the door waiting to be told what to do. The vicar then ushered us in, we had an awkward greeting (do you kiss the vicar in greeting, like you do a friend? Hand shake? Bear hug? WHAT’S THE PROTOCOL?) and sat ourselves down with a cup of tea. The next moment, a pretty brunette girl came swishing through the vestibule door, a buff, bearded fiancé trotting in her wake. “DAN.” she trilled, air-kissing the vicar on both cheeks, “SORRY we’re late. We were meeting with our caterer. She’s soooo good but she’s not the quickest. How’s Frances?” She must be local, I thought to myself. She knows his wife’s name. They must live in town, they must actually attend church occasionally. I felt a slight blush of shame that we ourselves didn’t go to church more.
But then, a second glossy, brassy woman arrived, also trailing her husband-to-be. The same thing happened. “SORRY, Danny. Are we late? Got stuck in traffic.” She gave the vicar an enormous hug, that he seemed not to be expecting, and sat herself down next to me. “Carrie.” she turned to me, introducing herself and extending her hand for me to shake. “When are you getting married?” It was an abrupt line of questioning, but hey ho. What else did we all have in common? So we struck up a conversation. Flowers, little bridesmaids, hymns, blah, blah, blah. But when I asked, “So are you local?” she told me that, no, they weren’t. They were from Guildford but had always wanted to get married by the sea (the church we were all booked to be wed in is a very picturesque, very old one in a pretty sailing town in Devon).
“Oh,” I was puzzled, “So…how do you know Father Daniel?”
“I don’t.” She breezed, “We’ve just spoken on the phone.”
I didn’t understand. She had embraced him like they were the oldest of friends. Who was this over-affectionate nymphette who hugged men of the cloth like they were girlfriends meeting for a gossipy brunch? I didn’t trust it.
As we went around the circle introducing ourselves, it transpired that indeed virtually nobody was local, as is so often the case with modern church weddings. I mean, we aren’t local either, but we weren’t flouncing about like we were at a cocktail party. So nobody genuinely knew Father Daniel as anything other than the chap who was performing their wedding ritual. Yet some of the brides were interacting with the vicar like he was a favourite employee, cackling over in-jokes before breaking off into bouts of seriousness: “Daniel, that reminds me, where are we at with the Orders of Service? Did you get my second draft?”
When Woody and I looked into getting hitched in Devon, we were grateful (as non-local, seriosuly lapsed C of E-ers) that ANYWHERE would marry us. We were told, understandably, by several polite-but-firm Reverends that we did not have any links to the Parish, therefore could not be married there. Fair enough. So it was a huge relief when this church welcomed us and our 200-odd guests. We practically handed over a blank cheque we were so delighted. But these brides seemed to feel, not only that it was quite literally their God-given right to be getting married in this church, but that they were doing the church a favour. It was stunningly bold. I was both revolted and kind of impressed by it.
This bizarre client/supplier pageant culminated when the afternoon drew to a close and a mysterious visitor appeared at the vestibule door. A man in his mid-forties hovered in the doorway, a sheaf of sheet music in one hand.
“Ah, Trevor.” Called Father Daniel, “Guys, this is Trevor, our organist. I expect a few of you might want to talk to him about playing at your wedding?” As one, four of the brides’ heads snapped towards the church door where the unsuspecting Trevor hovered.
“ACTUALLY.” It was Carrie, my glossy-haired neighbour. Her voice prickly. “ACTUALLY, sorry Daniel, but I called Trevor last week. He’s here to give us,” At this point she grasped her fiancé’s hand, waking him up from what I expect was a very sound slumber. “…a private performance.” It was a tense moment. Every couple there wanted to consult Trevor. After all, what was an elegant church wedding without a fucking organist playing you out to The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba? He was in all likelihood one of the few – if not the only – organist within a ten mile radius and this smug cow was pre-hogging him. Personally, I felt that seven months was plenty of time to book in Trevor’s services. He was on my list, sure, but I hadn’t bothered to sort it out yet. It felt like an after-Christmas job. Maybe even something I could palm off on Woody. And I had no intention of cornering him today, not with this kind of competition.
The blonde on Woody’s right was the first to dart up out of her seat, pulling her boyfriend to his feet as she did so. “Well, actually, we need to talk to Trevor too. Sooner rather than later really. As our wedding is in April…” Oooo, a trump card. Blondie’s wedding WAS earlier than Carrie’s, pre-booked organist or no. But Blondie wasn’t the only one making a power play. “ACTUALLY,” A strapping ex-Etonian jumped up, a twigletty redhead in a Barbour at his elbow, “We’re hoping he’ll play Swing Low Sweet Chariot for our processional. I do just need to check that he knows it. We won’t need him long.”
At this point, all three couples (save for ourselves and a bewildered-looking pair in matching waterproof sailing jackets) began to close in on the unwitting Trevor. Soon, he was surrounded. They were all talking at once, like a flock of well-dressed seagulls.
“Trev! We spoke on the phone…”
“Twenty-second of May…”
“BAH bom bom-bom bom-bom-bom…”
“Do you have an email address I can have?”
“Played for the England Under Sixteens, you see…”
At one point, I feared for poor Trevor’s safety, such was the clamour for his services. We didn’t stick around to crash the “private performance” but I do hope he made it out in one piece. Being smothered by pushy engaged couples would be a heinous way to go.
It hasn’t actually occurred to me to “audition” anyone involved in our wedding. I mean, who the hell am I to judge a decent bit of organ-playing from a raggedy commotion of clang-y noise? I’m tone deaf. I am the very last person who should sign-off on that kind of thing. We had a little taste of the food (naturally) but apart from that, we’ve approached our wedding suppliers with a reasonably SAS-style attitude: get in, get out, stay alive.
Maybe I should have auditioned the bridesmaids? Put them through a gruelling mock obstacle course of faux wedding scenarios: Tossing The Bouquet (like tossing the caber, but instead of a tree trunk it’s an expensively arranged bouquet that they have to catch using dramatic dive tackles), Dress Wielding/Bride Counselling (they compete to see who can best hold my huge dress while I pee and cry), Groom Wrangling (they have to prevent a hired actor – representing The Groom – from scrambling out of the window the night before the wedding).
I mean, THAT would sort the wheat from the chaff, eh?