Anne Diamond on what a white wedding means in moderm times
PUBLISHED: 15:39 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:39 21 February 2014
Is the big white wedding simply a sign of modern day extravagance, or a dream celebration for women who are taking a life-changing gamble?
I got into a lovely chat with my enchanting cab driver the other day – we had a long journey to the Big Brother studios where I was due to guest on ‘Bit On The Side’ and we’d hit the rush hour so traffic was slow.
He was a charming, bright young man, working all the hours he could, he admitted, because he was saving up for his wedding. “I’m not bothered,” he chortled quite happily, “but my fiancée wants a big wedding – so it’s going to cost a bomb!” He reckoned on at least £20,000. “If it makes her happy, then that’s the greatest gift I can give her,” he mused.
Call me a killjoy, but I was staggered. He’d failed to see the irony that, just a few minutes earlier, we’d been bemoaning the cost of living, the recession, and how it was almost impossible for many young people nowadays to even dream of owning their own house. He had actually told me that, with his chauffering, he could earn enough to pay a mortgage – the problem was finding the deposit.
But twenty grand would be a serious downpayment on a home, I protested. Wouldn’t that be better for both of you than a fancy wedding, posh frocks, silly hats and a Coronation Chicken buffet – all for the benefit of others and over in 24 hours?
“Nah”, he said, with a stern stare in the rear view mirror. “She’s always dreamed, since she was a little girl, of a big white wedding, and that’s what she’ll have.” I disembarked at the studio gates, to take part in a programme dedicated to celebrity and human relationships under the spotlight, wondering whether his devotion was an endearing tribute to love or a cynical sign of our celebrity obsessed culture.
Marriage and weddings have never been so big in Britain than at the moment. It’s reckoned that the average cost of a wedding is now £18,000 and that some newlyweds even resort to selling off their wedding presents on Ebay to pay off their wedding day debts.
Is that a sign that we are embracing love and romance, or rather indulging in the trappings of a false ideology – the “perfect” wedding designed for 15 minutes of family fame and a glossy magazine photo spread? Even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has voiced his worry over this. He has warned that the pressure to create the perfect wedding has become one of the biggest threats to marriage itself. It’s emotionally unintelligent, he has said. Marriage is not a fairytale, I reckon he is trying to say. So don’t pretend it is on Day One.
I actually don’t know what to think. I had a pretty rushed wedding, only a few days after I had produced baby number two. It was a very happy day – and even now, I convince myself that I would always have been embarrassed to be the blushing bride in a meringue dress, walking down the aisle to a church organ march. In other words, I persuaded myself that I didn’t want the big white wedding anyway, so I was content with what I got.
Now, as the mother of only sons, I’m really not bothered whether my children have big weddings or not. I am much more concerned as to the health of their long-term relationships. But it might be very different if I were the mother of daughters.
Perhaps there is something wonderful about the celebration of the event itself. What’s so wrong with a girl wanting to be a princess for a day? A woman entering a marriage is, I venture, still a much more life-changing gamble than it is for a man. More often it’s the woman who sacrifices her career for family life, and bringing up children. And if the marriage goes awry she is most often left holding the baby. So why – when it comes to Wedding Day, shouldn’t she want a big fuss? And, even though it might seem more sensible to budget, and invest in the future rather than the One Big Day, perhaps spending on a celebration does at least stress the magnitude of the life change?
I think, on huge reflection, that I should have made more of my wedding day. I was marrying a man who had been married before. We’d had a relationship for a long time (plus two children!). I almost tried to play it down, even though I did really, really want to be married. So I opted for a cosy, small celebration on the back lawn of our fabulous Sydney holiday home, overlooking the famous harbour – with just a few close friends.
I look at my wedding picture often and wonder if I shouldn’t have done a big white wedding. Would life have turned out any different? I wonder. But if you believe in marriage, then perhaps it’s not so very awful to want to make a big deal of The Big Day. Perhaps it makes you respect the institution that little bit more. I really don’t know. But, even though the expense seems ridiculous, I would probably encourage my sons to give their brides the wedding they’d always dreamed of. There’s something eternally important about that.
Perhaps the perfect wedding pictures are something to live up to. I’ll start saving up for my big hats right now. Mother of the bridegroom is a very big deal indeed. Never thought I’d say that about myself.