Shopping for Themed Weddings
Do you really need a huge influx of china?
You are given $10,000.
Do you –
- a) buy a second-hand Dormobile and doss round the Mediterranean?
- b) pay off a chunk of the mortgage?
- c) invite 300 of your mother’s closest friends to a third-rate helping of coronation chicken and methode champenoise?
The fad of the Themed Wedding.
Every year, thousands of women plump for the latter option when they embark on the orgy of conspicuous consumption that is the Big Wedding. Queen Victoria is said to have started the trouble on a wet day in February 1840 when she walked down the aisle at St James Palace, a picture in Honiton lace. The young Queen’s nuptials set the trend for bigger, whiter weddings, just as the Princess of Wales’ infamous meringue transformed the taffeta industry overnight.
The industry of the Themed Wedding.
Whole magazines now exist to cater for British maidenhood’s insatiable demand for extravagant ideas. Working for one of these titles (Brides, Wedding, What Bride?, Brides and Briding, Amateur Bride, you know the sort of thing) must be rather like Groundhog Day. Every issue looks identical, and because the titles are bought only once or twice, each must contain the full set of bridal advice. Brides magazine (the brand leader with a readership of 332,000) has clearly grown so tired of regurgitating the same information that it now operates 0891 lines to advise on common anxieties. Favorites include “How to seat the top table”; the placements are a perennial worry as big church weddings tend to bring errant fathers out of the woodwork – usually replete with their 25-year-old Filipina concubines. Having shelled out three quid on the right magazine, the bride first selects The Dress, usually a large white lampshade more suited to an amateur revival of The King And I than a register office in Hartlepool. Having made the big decision about “attire” (a word now exclusive to bridespeak), she will then shop for a panoply of tat, the vulgarity of which is exceeded only by its expense – small net bags containing five sugared almonds (pounds 1.75 each) and commemorative garters which can be colour-co-ordinated with the “theme” of your wedding (pounds 16.95).
Magazines encourage a themed wedding in the belief that purple table napkins will “express your personality”. If your personality can be summed up by a purple table napkin, it’s probably time to seek professional help. Purple damask, figured satin and hand embroidery – and that’s just the men. Personally, I would have thought that a groom turning up in a white brocade frock coat embroidered with blue berries (pounds 560) was immediate grounds for an annulment, but the gents outfitters seem to have other ideas and the bridal magazines are stuffed with conceited swains poncing about the lychgates in devoree velvet.
Vanity is everywhere, but it’s not the only sin on display. Greed is there too – run your eye down a wedding list and ask yourself how these grown-up people managed to live together without an electric can opener. Back in the Sixties, wedding presents were a bit hit and miss: two hostess trolleys, four dozen brandy balloons and enough fondue sets to feed the Swiss Army. The rise of the wedding list changed all that. It’s a bit like writing to Santa, but much, much more lucrative. The sudden acquisition of an entire china department may cause you to rethink your insurance policy. Most companies have jumped on the wedding bandwagon and you can even insure against unsatisfactory wedding photographs. Sadly, “unsatisfactory” doesn’t simply mean some spotty Herbert ordering your guests from one side of the graveyard to the other in increasingly curious combinations “Bride’s godparents and ex-lovers this side”.
A glance at the grisly “my Big Day” pages of the wedding magazines reveals that far too many brides fail to realize that the single most important thing about a wedding is the photographic evidence that survives. A fortune could be saved by a smart hairdo, a bedsheet and a couple of yards of white net – all immortalised by a first-class photographer. Who needs a reception? I know. I know. It makes people happy. It makes lots of people happy. Florists (average $438). Milliners. Morning suit rental people ($44.95). Limousine rental people (average $228). The only thing that doesn’t appear to be for rent are the guests, which is a pity as a few second-division celebrities would certainly ginger things up a bit. Nobody would know them but that isn’t exactly unusual. Nobody knows Aunt Olive from Gateshead from a hole in the road; at least celebrities are recognisable. Why suffer your ghastly relations when for a mere pounds 2000 a head, you could have completely strange people like Jim Bowen or Russell Grant?
Indeed, for a themed wedding, it might be possible to theme your event round the VIP of your choice. On 6 November 1896, the VIP was the bride. Consuelo Vanderbilt, the future wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough, sat in her bedroom while the costly cascades of Brussels lace and seed pearls were eased over her shimmering silk underwear. This beautiful romantic picture was somewhat marred by the fact that her mother had locked her bedroom door and posted a guard outside in case the unhappy girl ran away. In 10 years’ time one in three of today’s brides will wish they had run away this morning and their proud fathers will wish they had lavished those thousands on a grand tour or a down payment. If the happy couple separate, the $11,500 spend on the Big Day may prove to be a Big Mistake – but maybe two fondue sets may not be such a bad idea after all.