Nightwatch: On wedding etiquette
There comes a time in every adult's life when they have to ponder the Great Questions: Whatis my primary purpose? What's my place in the grand scheme of things? Where am I going? And, of course, there's the real clincher: what kind of wedding guest am I?
I had cause to ruminate on that very philosophical nugget last weekend at a family wedding, and it's one to which I will no doubt return in the years to come. Because, where once all I had to think about were hysterical, sexual innuendo-laden cards for 21st birthdays, now, due to the pesky passage of time, I have to grapple more with gift registers, Plus Ones, and increasingly mad hats blocking my view in churches all o'er the land.
I'm fine with that -- more than fine. I love weddings. In fact, I can recall a period when I came of age in Kilkenny where my friends and I would gatecrash and/or exploit any tenuous connections to a wedding just to get into the afters.
These days, however, I have more to think about than just which bridesmaid I should make my friend/ chat up to gain us entry to random hotel residents' bars (I was, ahem, never much use in that regard).
I have a big, extended family, and I don't see many of them for good stretches at a time. In some instances, they mightn't have even seen me since I was a child or, heaven help us, a teenager.
This meant that this recent family wedding was doubling as a sort-of coming-out party for me -- in the Jane Austen sense of the word, that is -- where a mysterious young man, last seen as a weird wee bairn sporting a bowl haircut and crooked fringe, struts into the ballroom, boldly re-introducing himself, flustering the guests, causing them to whisper excitedly to one another behind their hand-held fans.
In short, this was my chance to establish in the collective family mind an image of myself as a suave, slick, sophisticated raconteur, dispensing bon mots and witticisms with ease and panache. A noble ambition, I think you'll agree.
So how did I fare? Erm ... I always knew this party was going to be epic. For starters, it was -- quite literally -- a fairytale wedding, with our Snow White exchanging rings with her own Fantastic Mr Fox.
What's more, the couple are young and fun, meaning the majority of their guests were too, creating more leeway -- as well as dangers -- for the more self-conscious guest eager to make a good impression but all too aware of his predilection to get slurry and shouty on two sniffs of just-corked wine.
The day started well. I had a snazzy new suit (no bride was going to upstage me). The ceremony was beautiful. In a discombobulating break from Irish tradition, there was no post-ceremonial excursion to the nearest watering hole, but rather a civilised jaunt back to the hotel for tea and biscuits ... on the side of hot whiskeys.
Despite, or perhaps because of, two hours of solid soakage, I had great fun at my table during the meal, but found myself getting more raucous as the speeches commenced. And from that point on is when my nascent wedding guest identity -- apparently -- began to materialise.
Yes, it turns out -- predictably -- that I'm the boozy uncle-type propping up the bar, solving world problems and making all sorts of plans, until tanked enough to rampage onto the dance floor, conducting bad waltzes and moshing with my jacket tossed aside, shirt untucked and tie wrapped around my head.
I know this for a fact because my cousin reminded me in bleary-eyed detail -- replete with recreations -- over breakfast the next morning.
"Oh Jeebus," I groaned, head in hands. "So there were no bon mots? No witticisms?" She thought for a second, before bursting out laughing. "Well ... " I looked up hopefully. She continued: "At one stage you saw a fiver on the ground, and leaped on it, and picked it up, cheering and showing it to everyone. You were so happy. You even had a victory dance ... "
Yep, when it comes to formal occasions, I'm class with a capital K. Please, form an orderly queue with the invites.