On love and clutch bags

I am not tired at all. Nor have I been in my dressing gown since about 5pm.

I have to admit, I’m the worst sort of wedding guest. I’ll joyfully accept the invitation to your matrimonial shindig, and arrive on the day in a new dress, ankle-breaking heels and maybe even lipstick. I’ll neck Champagne, eat lukewarm salmon and stumble ineptly around the dancefloor. I’ll weep openly at all the speeches – even the funny ones, because isn’t it just so lovely that everyone’s saying nice things, and oh God, aren’t human beings just wonderful, and isn’t love amazing?

So I’ll do all of that, and I’ll wish you all the best for your lives together – but I won’t ever be repaying the favour. At least, I don’t think I will.

I’m too much of a Wedding Scrooge, you see. Too many things about marriage and weddings irritate me. The way it’s only the woman who wears an engagement ring, like a tiny metal lasso. You’ve been caught and tamed, woman. The way it’s still a talking point when she doesn’t take his surname. (DB and I had a great conversation about this recently; on hearing my idea that, when the time comes, we double-barrel, he said “God, it would be such a faff to change my passport, my driving license – all the paperwork…” Cut to me doing a slow handclap with steam coming out of my ears.) The way you’re supposed to be fine about spending ridiculous amounts of money on one day. If I ever find myself dropping more than £300 on a dress, I want it to be a dress I can wear EVERY BLOODY DAY OF MY LIFE. Not for a measly few hours. Clutch bags – can anyone explain to me what the point is of a bag that can only fit a debit card, a tampon and an eyeliner pencil in it? The sheer amount of flowers that seem to be involved – some of us have hayfever that, on high pollen count days, verges on flu. Have some respect for my histamine levels, I beg you.

And yet, and yet. Like most cynics, I suspect I’m just a frightened romantic. Scared that I’ll never be able to afford to do it. Or, as is more likely, that I’ll drive away the man who’s most likely to want to marry me at some point in the next five years with my mood swings and sheer madness (hi, DB!). I joke. Ish. In all honesty, the more I think about weddings, the more I want to elope, and have nuptials that are more Gretna Green than Babington House.

Having said all that…

Being “the wrong side of 25” now means that the wedding season of my life is slowly hitting its stride. This weekend, DB and I went with the rest of his family to Hornsea for his older brother’s wedding. And really, it couldn’t have come at a better time. A break from the real world, the news, the political Chronicles of Narnia we seem to be living through has never been so welcomed. And so I suspended all matrimony-based cynicism for a couple of days, and realised a few things. The following are just a handful of the truly bloody brilliant bits about weddings.

  1. Getting ready. A wedding is like Christmas for a make-up lover; carte blanche to go nuts on the spendy counters in large branches of Boots. You can really go to town on your face for a wedding. Pile it on. Do lips and eyes. Because a) when it comes down to it, unless you’re the actual bride, darling, no-one’s looking at you. And b) any accusations that you’re going overboard or are, in the words of boyfriends everywhere, “taking aaaaaaaages in the bathroom” can be demolished by firstly saying sagely “well, it’s got to show up in the photographs” and secondly – when that’s met with a blank look – “it’s a wedding, duh, I’ve got to make an effort. Do you want a bit of bronzer to make your cheekbones pop?”
  2. Big families. They really come into their own at family gatherings. I’m one of three, but there’s canyon-sized age gaps between us; we’re hardly the Railway Children. DB is one of five, and barring his older brother, they’re all within about four years of each other. At first, this was intimidating – they all have the same sense of humour and the same taste in everything and are all scarily clever. Now, though – now I’m the standard tag-along to their family events and a semi-regular occupier of their sofa and kitchen table – it’s great. I feel like an honorary member of the best gang in town. Striding along the promenade in Bridlington on Saturday, all coincidentally in varying shades of blue, we were like a middle-class, law-abiding version of the Peaky Blinders. “The Brolly Carriers?” someone suggested, waving the massive umbrellas we’d brought with us to protect our outfits in the quite likely event of a downpour. Yeah, sure, that’ll do.
  3. Women over 40 and toddlers are the best dancers at weddings. What they have in common, these two groups, is that they don’t give a shit. Small children hear music and just have to move. Jump, wave their arms, run around. Women who’ve reached a certain age have done their time when it comes to worrying about impressing other people, and now they – quite rightly – just want to have some fun. Jump, wave their arms, run around. It is the most joyful and heartwarming thing in the world to see and I would urge you, the next time you’re hovering at the edges of a dancefloor, to make like a mum on her fifth G&T and just go for it.
  4. Emotions. The only times we abandon our cardboard-stiff, starched-and-pressed upper lips are when David Bowie dies and at the weddings of our nearest and dearest. Normally-stoic, silent dads make speeches that reach Shakespearean levels of eloquence. Mums and grans stash entire rolls of Andrex in their handbags for ease of eye-dabbing (real women know clutch bags won’t cut it). Young, whippersnapper males get “bits of dust” in their eyes in the cleanest of venues. Young, whippersnapper women like myself well up every time someone starts a new sentence, and at the briefest glimpses of the bride. And groom. And flower girls. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and we ride it with abandon.
  5. Love. Nothing is more life-affirming or worthy of a toast than the sight of two people you love, sort of like, vaguely tolerate or barely know publicly promising to try and stay together until one of them ascends to the great cheese-and-wine-night in the sky. That’s the thing – you don’t even have to know the couple that well, or at all, to want to cheer them on as they say “I do”. The statistics are against them, and life is long and relentless and difficult a lot of the time,  and any endeavour that involves two human beings at close quarters for years on end is going to require hard, hard work. You cannot help but get caught up in the sheer optimism, the bold declaration, the brazen hope. Weddings are a laugh in the face of cynicism and world-weariness, a fingers-up to doom and gloom, a spit in the eye of life’s crueller twists and turns. A gleeful “maybe this won’t work out, but dammit we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”

I could change my mind about the whole eloping thing, you know…


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