Second in an occasional Honeymoon Hotel-inspired series comes this: how to be the bride of everyone else’s dreams.
Everyone loves a bride. Not everyone loves a Bridezilla. But like BO and really sleazy boyfriends, no one tells you until it’s, well, too late. Here are a few hints, garnered from extensive wedding attendance and a year of lurking on wedding forums…
Tell people what shoes they’ll need
I love a formal, morning suit wedding. I also love a relaxed lounge suits and cocktail dress wedding. I particularly loved the fancy dress wedding I was at last weekend because it allowed me to indulge my
not so covert longing to dress up as Joan Holloway from Mad Men. But I wasn’t so keen on the wedding that turned out to involve a two-mile hike through a park to reach the reception, or the one that took place in a field only recently vacated by a herd of cows because I’d brought shoes for the church service and the reception. I had no idea about the middle bit. Like so much in life, it all comes down to shoes. If your guests are confident they have the right shoes, everything else will be fine.
But don’t go mad, telling people what to wear
No one wants to feel they’ve been summoned to appear as an extra in someone’s lavishly produced promotional wedding video. ’50s theme fancy dress!’ or ‘black tie’ dress codes are fun, and allow guests to go as far as they feel comfortable with the theme. ‘Everyone has to wear the exact shade of the Pantone paintcard attached’ or ‘Come as characters from Starlight Express, inc rollerskates as we are recreating the finale for the group photo, ‘ is not fun. Especially if your guests have to travel on public transport to get there.
If you want money for a wedding gift, please don’t write a poem asking for it.
Somehow, it just makes it much, much, much worse. The English are only just coming round to the idea of the wedding list, let alone badly-scanning requests to ‘a few pounds into our wishing well please pop’. If you absolutely have to ask for cash for your kitchen extension – and it’s risky, considering this will immediately make the guest think of how much they‘d like a new fridge and how the cost of that stacks up against two nights in the only hotel left in town in mid-July – then just say so. Offer to put commemorative plaques on each individual unit, or have the wedding list at Howdens so guests can pledge a pull-out vegetable drawer or some easy-close components. So what if you have to roll fourteen pan drawers into one basic kitchen carcass kit (lovely) – at least Auntie Barbara can fondly imagine you enjoying the handy fan extractor she ‘bought’ you.
Apply booze and time Maths to wedding dead zones
I would really love some mathematically-inclined wedding planner to come up with a sliding scale for booze + time / photographs. That period after the ceremony but before food is a dangerous one for wedding atmos. If you don’t circulate enough champagne/beer while you’re having every possible permutation of group photo taken, then your guests mill around gradually losing their joie de vivre and hitting the red on their chit-chat reserves. Circulate too much champagne on empty stomachs (because there’s never time for lunch before a wedding), and you come back from your ‘bride + ushers + dad, no bridesmaids’ shot to find an entirely different party is going on from the one you left ninety minutes earlier. Don’t let your photographer faff about, or else give your guests something to do. A photo booth, or an ice cream van, or a spontaneous tug-o’-war challenge or something. There’s honestly only so much conversation guests can make with your second cousin, especially if they’re regretting their choice of shoe. One of my favourite ever weddings solved this problem by loading the guests into vintage Routemaster buses, with mini bottles of champagne on the seats, and drove them around central London until the bride was all done. Best. Wedding. Ever.
Please do a seating plan for dinner, even though it’s a headache
One of the major charms of a wedding – as Hugh Grant will testify – is the chance for singles to mingle. And also for marrieds to observe their partners in flattering formal garments, on their best behaviour, looking personable. Even if you argued all the way up about whether the M6 toll road is good value or not, it’s hard not to fancy your husband in morning suit, being nice to someone’s aged aunt. This happy state of affairs is best achieved by a seating plan which breaks up couples – forcing them to talk to people they don’t know about something other than whose turn it is to clean the fish tank – and subtly lets singletons know from the off who is actively unpartnered, and who is just hoping their wife isn’t looking.
Casual ‘sit where you like’ free-for-alls require guests to take the initiative and talk to people they don’t know. In my experience, this is a risky strategy and usually results in clumpage which even the most intrepid mingler will struggle to infiltrate.
Be aware that while throwing a wedding is expensive, attending one is also not a cheap do.
Weddings are the pinnacle of parties – and when they’re thrown by your friends, you’d walk over broken flutes to be there. However, it’s no longer a case of putting on your Sunday frock and walking down to the local church, then on to the village hall for trifle and misguided snogging of an usher. Most weddings I’ve been to lately have cost me the best part of a European minibreak, once you’d factored in travel, two nights in hotels, a gift, taxis, etc. Don’t even start me on hen nights. One modern convention that boggled my mind while researching Honeymoon Hotel was the way some brides expect the gift to ‘cover the guest’s plate’, ie, your gift should cost about the same as what they’ve spent on you. What? Apart from the £300 you’ve spent to get there in the first place?! One of my friends, during a summer of intense marital activity amongst his social circle, got so exasperated by all the summons to remote locations, mid-week, with exorbitant present lists to match, that he sent the B&G a generous cheque for £250 and stayed in to watch the cricket, on the basis that that made everyone happy. Weddings should be about sharing a moment of celebration, and metamorphosis, and faith in human nature, with the people you love most in the world (and your relations) – it’s not merely an excuse to upgrade your toaster.
Throw the bouquet.
But arrange beforehand who’s going to get it. Have you seen international rugby line-outs? Like that. Bit of teamwork from your bridesmaids and you can easily punt it into the hands of your lovely friend who’s just been dumped. I’m sure she’ll let you have it back after. In the interests of equality, maybe the groom could throw something designed to indicate imminent betrothal too? It would certainly make things easier for the bouquet winner.
Have you got any suggestions? I would so love to hear them….!