The best kind of wedding to attend is one that is not your own. The second best kind is one where there are no kids invited. I have terrible memories of a wedding I attended some years ago where the couple had disgracefully had a child out of wedlock some years before and without any hint of shame allowed said toddler to roam all over the altar during the ceremony, knocking over flower displays and almost toppling the holy candle.
Sadly that wedding was my own and said child, now almost 20, still expresses regret that she didn’t burn the place to the ground. Perhaps this is why I think kids shouldn’t be at weddings, or to be more accurate, my kids shouldn’t.
After two years of not going anywhere or doing anything, we would have accepted any wedding invite, but the no kids stipulation on the one that popped through our letterbox was just the icing on a multi-tiered cake.
When our youngest expressed dismay that we were leaving him in the care of his church-arsonist older sister, pleading with us to bring him, we were able to show him the invite, where it clearly stated, no kids. We are so sorry, we lied, we would love to bring you, but sadly we have to drive off up the country to a beautiful castle for the night without you. Buh-bye!
As anyone with kids will testify, you will never leave the house when you should have, resulting in us running very, very late. I’d love to say I enjoyed the journey to the wedding venue but aside from noting that there are a lot of Laois hamlets with names like post-punk bands — Spink, Wolfhill, The Swan — the rest was a blur. But we made it — sweaty, arguing, stressed and late, but not the last to arrive, and that’s all that matters.
Weddings are a great time to reflect on our own experience of married life. I tend to drift off and go a bit Philip Larkin, musing about how our lives all contain this hour.
When we try to work out what year we were married we have to work off the age our daughter was when we shuffled up the aisle. When we want to work out how long we are together, we take our daughter’s age, add nine months of pregnancy, then add a very brief and fun-filled six months to that.
We did just about everything wrong — I was still in college when we had our daughter, and looking back I think we’d both accept we were too young and really knew very little about life. I’m not saying I have an honorary doctorate from the university of life now, but back then I was especially immature and naive.
‘You can track your relationship by measuring how deep the ravine on each side of your mattress gets’
I knew even less about marriage than I did about having kids and yet blundered into both with a cheerful ‘how hard can it be?’ If I were to give a speech to my younger self on my wedding day it would probably be quite the downer, less about the Oxford definition of love and more like Red’s third and final parole hearing in Shawshank Redemption.
My advice would be to forget the usual stuff about never going to bed angry — I would tell young Bill to instead prepare himself for going to bed angry a whole bunch of times. Chances are that whatever you were arguing about was at least in part fuelled by a lack of sleep, so a good night’s kip is the best way to deal with it.
In fact, I would recommend any young couple get the biggest bed they can so that nobody ever has to angrily sleep on the couch, they can simply wriggle right out to their respective edges and feel like they are a world away. That way, you can track your relationship by how deep the ravine on each side gets.
If you get more than a hillock in the middle, it might be time to get some help. It doesn’t have to be counselling, even read a couple of books — Esther Perel’s Mating In Captivity is a good motivator to keep that mid-bed moraine flattened. Take nothing for granted. Not them, not yourself, not your own personal history, because all those things that draw us together can just as easily become things that push us apart.
But the most important thing is there is no one definition of marriage, what it should look like, or what its functions are. We’ve made it this far through a wonky kind of love with a side order of stubbornness, but if we could both go back we would change a lot, not about each other, but ourselves. And we’d try to enjoy it all a little bit more.