Friday 19 December 2014

Maia Dunphy: Why is a wedding all about the guests?

How have weddings become all about the guests instead of the couple?

Maia Dunphy

Published 27/06/2014 | 02:30

Maia Dunphy and Johnny Vegas on their own wedding day.
Maia Dunphy and Johnny Vegas on their own wedding day.

I recently attended a wedding fair for the first time in my life. Allow me to qualify that for a second (in case my husband is reading this and assumes I'm looking for inspiration for my next wedding), and add that I was there as an aide-de-camp for a bride-to-be friend. I've always viewed wedding fairs in the same way I view circuses. Not modern day circuses with contortionists, magicians and acrobats. I mean the bad ones of yore with mistreated lions and dancing bears. On hot plates. Being poked with sharp sticks. Those kind of circuses.

I never even considered going to one prior to my own nuptials three years ago, my reasoning being that if wedding paraphernalia existed that I wasn't aware of in the first instance, chances are we didn't need it. And when my friend and I stumbled across a stand offering tiny soaps and bog roll monogrammed with the couple's initials for the big day, I realised I had been right all along. "But just think how charming your guests will find it!" squealed the sales assistant like an over-enthusiastic shopping channel rep on helium; "Don't forget, it's not just about you on your big day anymore, it's about finding ways to make your guests smile!"

Really? I beg to differ. A wedding is surely about a couple surrounding themselves with people they love to celebrate a pretty monumental commitment. And trust me, no matter how good the food, how great the music, how lovely the speeches or impressive the fireworks, there will always be the naysayers (regardless of what you leave in the bathroom for them to wipe their backsides with).

We've all heard their murmurs and asides – heck, you may even be one yourself – but there is always at least a handful of these "wedding bashers" at any marriage ceremony. The ones who nudge you in the church as the bride walks in and whisper "Oh she was brave to go strapless", who announce to the table that if they were in a restaurant, they would send this food back, or nod to the flowers and say "sensible they saved money on the arrangements" (which was a comment I heard at my own wedding). I once sat at a table beside a girl who complained that attending the wedding we were at had cost her €200 between the gift, babysitter and her outfit, so she expected to get at least the value of that amount back.

The phenomenon of the wedding basher is a relatively recent one. A couple of generations ago, when people never went out to eat, didn't have wine at home, and only ever dressed up for mass, being invited to a wedding was a big deal. It was a great occasion; you were fed, watered and could let your hair down more than at the only other gathering to get dressed up and drunk for, which was a funeral.

But the times they have a'changed, and these days everyone's a critic. Your wedding day will need to be bigger and better than the last one the wedding basher attended. Except the truth is, it doesn't, because what all couples need to be aware of is that some people will never be happy.

There will always be someone who doesn't like the food, or thinks there isn't enough of it, whose nose is out of joint that children weren't invited, who is really surprised you went for white, who thinks you had too many bridesmaids, or who is surprised at the lack of wedding favours (it's a wedding people, not a 10th birthday, you don't need a party bag).

So what can or should you do about these ceremonial fun-vacuums? The answer is nothing. Chances are you won't be privy to their miserable musings, and if you are, or hear them second hand, just remember that calling them out on their behaviour will only ruin your day. Remind yourself that they are there because your Mum/Dad/spouse-to-be had to invite them, smile through gritted teeth, and go dance to Come On Eileen with the people you really wanted there.

But for any imminent brides or grooms who already know who their wedding basher might be, can I suggest contacting those wedding toilet paper people and asking how much they'd charge to put their photo on the loo roll? Go on, give them something to really complain about.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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