There comes a wondrous time of life when everyone you know seems to be standing with their back to you, solemnly facing a public official, entering into the most magical legal contract: one which is sealed with a kiss and followed by fun yet formulaic frivolity. That time for me is 2013: a year in which I’ve eaten more wedding breakfasts than I’ve had hot dinners and I’ve drank enough fizzy white wine to sink a cream-coloured, ribbon-decked Rolls-Royce.
Each weekend thus far has been a blissful blur of reckless hen dos, feckless outfit buying, and ultimately being blessed with the chance to attend the best day of someone’s life. It doesn’t matter that marriage has monopolised my weekends and my wallet this year, because it doesn’t get much better than seeing someone you love, tying the knot in the name of love, surrounded by the people they love. You could well-up just blogging about it.
As I’m now a hardened wedding connoisseur, I feel at liberty to witter on ad nauseum about dos and don’ts for making your big day shine… but as a young(ish) spinster with no experience of actually planning a wedding or, heaven-forbid, actually paying for one, I best refrain from comment, other than my ‘one big tip’ which is the point of this blog…
Get your guests involved!
It is logistically logical that delegating tasks to your nearest and dearest will give them an extra emotional investment in your big day and frees you up for important pre-marital tasks, like practising the first dance or culling colleagues from the evening invite list. It is also an absolute honour for a guest to be asked to play a special role in the shenanigans, whether it’s helping you pick your shoes, folding two hundred personalised napkins or holding your hen’s hair back in an Estonian toilet cubicle.
I’ve had the privilege of assisting some of my best friends with their nuptials and doing so led to experiences I will cherish forever. The biggest honour of all was being asked to write (and orate) a Reading for my friends’ wedding back in March. I am developing a soft spot for the spoken word and so I initially jumped at the chance. Weeks then passed without me composing a single sentence, whilst I gulped down the reality that this might be the most difficult thing I could possibly choose to write!
Here’s the conundrum: write something unique about love, that hasn’t been said before, and is personal to the couple, without being a “…the first time I met <<insert bride’s name here>> …” type speech. A Reading, I have learnt, is something to give a little bulk and gravitas to the ceremony and simply needs to balance a lightness of touch with poignancy on affairs of the heart. Crikey.
I began by investigating the canon of regularly rehearsed readings. I was dismayed to discover that I would effectively be sharing the bill with the likes of Milton, Keats, Wordsworth and the artist formally known as Shakespeare. Oh dear. But I buoyed myself in the face of such competition with the knowledge that I have 2 distinct advantages over the Johns and Williams of history: (1) I happen to know the happy couple and (2) I am alive and kicking in 2013 (despite the aforementioned fizz overload).
I wanted my reading to express the hurly-burly of nuptial planning: a time in which you can become side-tracked with the right shade of satin-sheen on an envelope, or suffer night sweats about whether to provide cutlery with your evening buffet. I wanted to capture all of that preposterous preparation but also make a pointed reminder to the real purpose of the day. (No, not just an excuse for a big party.)
So, with a little bit of further ado, I want to share my reading with you. By way of strictly relevant pre-Reading reading: Neil and Rachel became Mr & Mrs Smith in Manchester’s deconsecrated Gorton Monastery, amidst a massive party that would put Hugh Heffner to shame. They chose to marry on the 23rd of the month because 23 had coincidentally been a significant number in both their lives. A marriage made in Manchester had to contain some musical heritage and, as they’re both Stone Roses fans, Rachel walked down the aisle to the gentle melody of, “This is the One”. Your final prefacing fact is: never one to do things by halves, Rachel would receive not one but two wedding bands from her groom, to add to either side of her whopping engagement ring and thus making 3 rings in total.
With all this in mind, my writer’s block was smashed with a light-bulb moment which gave me the descending numerical structure of my reading entitled “23 to 1”. I then spent hours desperately shoe-horning in every statistical reference I could glean from Rachel before she started to wonder why I was taking an overly obsessive interest in the minutiae of her marriage.
It is meant to be read out loud (and proud) and despite the nervousness beforehand, it was the most uplifting feeling that creative writing has given me to date. Here it is:
23 to 1
“This is something I wrote for today, it’s called 23 to 1.
2013. March. Day 23
Gather all those closest to you; come one, come all; get thee to the monastery!
This is the exulted, EXTRAordinary extravaganza that was born with a simple question back on Bali’s balmy beaches, on the 22nd of May. Could they have anticipated back then the enormous elation of what they would create? Could they have predicted the lengths they would go to in their perfect planning of this auspicious day?
For this is the glorious culmination of something started way back in the thumping techno tent of a 21st birthday. Nearly 20 years of friendship ultimately led up to today’s incredible occasion which has been painstakingly picked for the pleasure of the masses.
Through many merry months of organisation and research,
through 19 frenetic weeks of deciding just what constitutes a ‘dream day’?
there has been a process whereby
18 venues were ruled out,
starters were selected, colours were chosen, flowers were favoured
and the whole event was neatly coiled up ready to spring into delight.
The big busy build up saw the bride-to-be pampered in a party palace, chock full of hens but only meant to sleep 17;
whilst the stags blissfully stagnated in a competitive pool of poker pals.
The preparation has led to intimate and intricately detailed discoveries, such as knowing, exactly who is a vegetarian these days, realising that they prefer chaise longues to chesterfields, and finding that their best man’s collar measures a size 16 and a half. So many things were learnt as they hectically hurtled towards the day.
So after the joy of gracing 15 tables with the love and laughter of fabulous family and friends gathered from far and wide
And after the 14 tried-on gowns that didn’t quite make the cut
And after the 13 baked-in cake-tins to feed so many smiling faces
they find themselves ready to indulge in 12 hours of sheer celebration
Soon to be followed by 11 nights of Mexican consummation
For this is the pinnacle of 10 months of preparation
And those last 9 nights of nervous anticipation
After using 8 books of stamps to circulate the stylish invitation
And having already spent 7 years in unwedded jubilation
They now find themselves here, in Pugin’s masterpiece: a 6.5 million pound deconsecrated restoration
But what is it all really 4?
It’s for the forever life, for the together life, and for the cosy nights of married life. It’s for the promises to care, for life, represented in the unbroken circle of eternity that is the ring on your finger, for life (or 3 rings, in some cases)
Because once we’ve filed away the invites, loosened the bridal hair and devoured the last cake crumbs,
when we strip back all the pretty paraphernalia,
the truth is, that this is just a day about 2 people
standing in front of their loved ones, committing themselves to love,
and we are gathered here today so that they can tell the world,
This is the 1.”