The whole wedding scene has gone too far. This year, couples and/or their parents will be spending an average of £16,000 for the pleasure. Hiring out castles, buying matching dresses and suits for those close to the bride and bridegroom, and for lots of couples paying the cost of wedding/bridal consultants/planners who jostle on the web to offer advice, and who, for a percentage, take the strain and make sure things go ‘just right’.
And as if to stress the excesses of the business, to help with the costs and if one is a celebrity, magazines will pay the happy couple hundreds of thousands of pounds for the pleasure of being invited to the event and then getting exclusive rights for pictures taken. In 2008, OK magazine is said to have paid £2.5million for the photos of Coleen’s marriage to Wayne Rooney.
Yes, there is something lovely about ceremonies and in particular about weddings. Sharing with close family and friends appeals to me and a wedding I went to recently, which was on an altogether different scale, was particularly special.
It took place at the end of March in a tiny village in eastern France. It was a Saturday and for the ceremony proper, which was to be held at the town hall and officiated by the ‘Maire’, we were asked to arrive by 3.15 that afternoon. At 3.10pm, and after a relaxing cup of tea, we set off down the little hill. We were bound to be late. Normally the walk would take 5 minutes but today it would be at least 10. One of the witnesses had recently suffered a serious leg injury and still walked with difficulty.
The procession was very modest. In all there were just five of us – the bride, the bridegroom, the two witnesses and me, the photographer. We were dressed in our everyday clothes and to the outsider it would have looked as if we were out for a stroll. No one lined the road, no one was waiting for us outside the town hall – nobody else knew!
The door of the town hall was closed and, after knocking three times, the Maire arrived a bit puffed and wearing her badge of office – a broad tricolour ribbon draped across her chest. She led us upstairs to an office on the first floor. Throughout the proceedings the participants stood around a table with the couple and the witnesses on one side, and the Maire and her deputy on the other. As photographer I simply hovered. After ten minutes, and with no speachifying, the formalities were over, kisses were exchanged and it was back off up the hill and home for a glass of wine or cassis..
Once we were back at the couple’s home, the atmosphere was of joy and warmth. They looked radiant. After living together for over 30 years, during which time they had created a most beatiful home together, their relationship had suddenly changed. One could detect a new intimacy. Taking the marriage vows had dissolved a very fine layer between them and suddenly the two had become one.
Despite, possibly because of, its great simplicity, for me the marriage had been especially moving. Unlike many weddings, there wasn’t the usual noise and hubub and bank of smiling faces. That afternoon, disregarding the jobbing photographer, there were just four close friends – and it worked. I imagine that most couples would want to share the event more widely but there is always the risk of the wedding being hijacked, as can happen when the numbers of invitees rises excessively or the ‘wrong’ people attend. There was no such risk last week. For me, I had witnessed a gloriously discrete wedding that had gained greatly from its lack of razzmatazz.
And by the way, this wedding will have cost next to nothing – in France the ‘service’ is provided free by the municipality!