On getting married – the big day?

Does a severe economic recession inspire people to save money or to recklessly spend it, to have a good time in spite of the financial problems?

The average cost of a UK wedding is around £22,000. Over at The Cotton Boll Conspiracy, the author tells us that an American wedding costs $28,000 and points out the bizarre behaviour that surrounds a wedding ceremony.

Either way, if you are starting your life out with someone, I would have thought twenty odd grand in either currency could be put to better use than poncing around in a white frock and entertaining a bunch of freeloaders.

If you are rich, however, then it is probably a different matter. But I’m not talking about super rich. Or even comfortably off. I’m talking about people spending a ridiculous amount of money for one day in their life. I could think of a lot of things to do with that money and it wouldn’t be throwing a party. Apart from anything else it would easily keep me for two to three years without having to lift one of my idle fingers to even consider working.

It would go some way towards a deposit on a home, surely having a roof over your head is more important than having a party?

But for those of you who haven’t read about my wedding before, let’s have a quick trip back in the Tardis to the 1980s.

I’d arrived in Sydney with my travelling companion (TC). After a two or three months, I’d met someone who’d turned up at the hostel in King’s Cross and was funny, easy-going and not bad-looking. I was planning a trip to Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia at the end of the week with the TC, so I jumped into bed with the new man a few times before I left.

Traipsing around the south of Australia with TC, I was annoyed to find myself thinking of the new man. I was here to travel not to get involved with anyone. But in fact, I was in quite a rush to get back and see him again.

I’d left him in charge of my big rucksack, and just taken a small overnight bag for our trip down south. I could have left the rucksack in the hostel store, but that wouldn’t have given me the excuse to see him again would it?

When we got back he’d left the hostel. I asked if he’d left my rucksack behind. No. Any messages? No. Hmm. Missing rucksack and no idea where he’d gone.

I wandered into one of the pubs he used when he finished work mid afternoon. He was there. ‘Hello,’ he said, as though I’d not been gone for three or four weeks. ‘Do you want a drink?’ I had a bottle of Coopers Ale. He’d already got one.

He’d moved hostels and found a room that was a four-bunk bedroom, plus its own kitchen and bathroom. I moved in with him. I didn’t pay any rent. We sprayed the cockroaches in the kitchen. There were a lot.

We moved again a bit further down the street for a room of our own with a cooker, and a toilet in the back garden. Height of romance this. A couple of ‘friends’ decided to go up north and asked us to flat sit for them. We said yes. They also asked us to take over the lease. We said no. We still moved in. It was a huge flat and had a view of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

One evening we were down at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, discussing my forthcoming trip to NZ. I had been putting it off a bit, but decided I needed to stop living in limbo due to this brief but enjoyable fling, so had booked my tickets.

‘How about we live together for say, 20 years,’ he said out of nowhere. ‘And after that I get the right to trade you in for a younger model.’

‘So long as I can do the same,’ I replied. Then a horrible thought hit me. ‘I hope you don’t want to marry me.’

‘Oh no, of course not.’

Some time later we asked the bartender for the telephone directory to find out where the register office was in Sydney and explained we had just decided to get married. She looked rather stunned and took a while to find the Yellow Pages. Didn’t even get a drink on the house!

I told him getting married was dependent on him finding a decent flat for when I returned from NZ. I nearly missed the ‘plane as we were too busy chatting at the airport and it was in the days when last calls were individually announced.’Last call for Ms Roughseas’ was blasted all over Sydney Kingsford Smith.

Once on the ‘plane I started talking to the people in my row. They were off to watch the rugby in Auckland. Kangaroos and All Blacks. I bought a spare ticket from them. It was a good start to my hol.

I liked NZ. I liked it so much I spent an extra week there. I sent a postcard to the potential husband saying I would be late back. He didn’t get it so turned up at the airport waiting for me with a bunch of flowers. He sadly turned round when it was clear I wasn’t on the flight, went to one of the pubs in The Cross (King Arthur’s Court) and gave them to one of the bar staff, Hilary as I remember. Bit of a stupid move there, as she’d always fancied him.

A week later he turned up again at the airport. No bunch of flowers, he was rather more discrete and had brought an orchid in a box so he didn’t look quite such an obvious prat if I wasn’t on the flight. But I was. I liked the orchid.

The flat in Potts Point he’d arranged was great. I booked the register office for Friday afternoon when he had finished work. We invited two guests as witnesses. Three other people invited themselves. We were going to get the bus into town, but a friend insisted on driving us and put white ribbons on his transit van.

We hired a car (around 99 Aussie bucks) for the weekend and drove to the Hunter Valley, staying the night in Singleton at a modest hotel/motel. We were back the next day for him to return to work Monday morning on the dockyard.

Comments when we announced we were getting married:

Another lodger in the first youth hostel, 21-year-old Stewart. ‘Why are you marrying that old man?’ Bit unfair, that old man was only 28/29, three years older than me.

A Geordie who knew every scam under the sun. ‘Oh you’ll be doing it for the residency of course.’ (Partner had Australian residency and was waiting for his citizenship to come through).

My cousin came out with the inevitable one. ‘Are you pregnant?’

When I rang home in the few weeks before the wedding, my mother wouldn’t even speak to me.

We’d invited both sets of parents but they’d declined to come, as had my university friend, for whom I’d been a bridesmaid.

My parents did cough up for the frock – at my request – it was scarlet silk, knee length, so I could wear it again. It came from a rather chic boutique in Double Bay and cost around six or seven hundred bucks.

They had, of course, wanted the full traditional wedding for Daddy’s Little Princess. Long white frock, local rather impressive Victorian parish church, and a marquee on the front lawn (we had a big front lawn) with Black Dyke Mills Brass Band playing.

Whenever that had been mentioned in the past I’d cringed. It was the epitome of my father’s working class aspirations and excessive showing-off syndrome. I thought of a potential guest list – my university friends, maybe some family, maybe not, and a few local Yorkshire friends of my parents. It was an accident waiting to happen.

My partner recites the tale of his sister’s wedding. Their mother ruined it. He didn’t want a family wedding either. She promised us a church blessing and a party on our return from Australia. We told she could do what she wanted but we wouldn’t be attending.

Until she died, my mother persisted in asking us why we had got married. She went to her grave, or rather the crematorium, with the question remaining unanswered. We could only tell her that we didn’t know.

But the whole point of it for us, was that it was our decision, to be implemented how we chose. It wasn’t about a big party for parents to revel in lavish display. We’d made a commitment to each other and were going to get it legally ratified. Simple as that. Unromantic? Who can say. We’d done the practical discussions. Neither of us wanted children, I wanted to retain my own name and he didn’t care either way, and I wanted to pursue my career. The bottom line was that it was about us, and not about anyone else.

And this is my criticism about so-called traditional weddings. Not only are they exhibitionist, extravagant and competitive, they are also about status, and how we are all seen in the eyes of others. Or how we want to be seen. We are indoctrinated to think a wedding day is the ultimate day ever. One day?!

Look at the symbolism. You get married in church – you get married in the eyes of god, or whatever the words are.

The virginal chaste maiden wears white. How many virgin brides do you know? Because I don’t know any.

It’s also about worshipping youth and beauty. Women need to look young and beautiful. Make them up, dress them up, and judge them on their appearance. A bit like buying a cow or a horse at auction.

The bride is given away – like a chattel – from previous owner (father) to new owner (husband). In olden days, she wasn’t just given away, the bridegroom’s family had to be bought with a dowry.

Bride then changes her name to that of new owner. How many women seriously even consider keeping their own names on marriage? The whole emphasis on women is that they MUST get a man, they must get a provider (even though one income hasn’t been enough for years now), they must not remain on the shelf gathering dust, and once they have attracted someone, everyone MUST know about it. Engagement rings and parties, wedding rings and ceremonies, and that all important change of status to Mrs Husband’s Last Name.

The current concept of a wedding day is that it is a bride’s day. The big day of her life and she has to make the most of it. Is it really her day? Or is it the day of her parents? After all, they are historically palming off a financially dependent child onto someone else. No wonder they needed a dowry to buy off the new family. A few goats and a bit of cash pale into insignificance compared with a lifetime’s upkeep.

Why else is it allegedly the bride’s day? Celebrating the loss of her virginity? Why don’t we celebrate the bridegroom’s loss of virginity? Haha. Men sow wild oats, women keep their legs together. Anyone who believes that tosh should take a look at the sad marriage of Diana Spencer.

What about the really exciting media discussions of the past about whether or not royal brides will choose to obey their husbands? Why should one spouse obey the other?

I was brought up with all these subtly – or not so subtly – infused messages. And rejected them.

Over at Cotton Boll’s blog, I said I thought the whole shebang of a traditional white wedding was overly patriarchal. In the discussion, CB said that was interesting as it seemed that brides and their mothers drove the whole wedding process.

There is a subtle difference between who organises the wedding (and does the work, yes?) and what the values surrounding that event are. There is no way, in a traditional white wedding, that a woman is a symbol of either power, equality or dominance. Some couples may well get married on equal terms. But the symbolism of the big wedding, compared with a civic union, is not about equality. It is a perpetuation of long-established patriarchal mores.

Just to be clear when I talk about patriarchal values, or patriarchal society, I am not talking about individuals. I am talking about societal normals, rules, traditions, and customs, which are reinforced by men and women from one generation to the next.

Patriarchal society is well-defined on Yahoo answers, so if you want to know more check out this link.

Finally, back to the cost of that big day.

My parents gave us a couple of grand as a wedding present when we returned to the UK. It was cheap compared with what a wedding would have cost. They probably thought they had been deprived with our register office wedding on the other side of the world.

Cost of a wedding back in 1985 (all costs approx and in Aus dollars)

Register office fees – 60
Shoes (bride) – 30/40
Shoes (bridegroom) – expensive
White shirt and black trousers – 80/100
Wedding rings – 120
Pre-wedding drinks for nerves – 15
Meal afterwards for four – 40
Car hire for weekend – 100
Hotel and meals out – 100

Cost to us, no more than 700 Aus dollars.
Cost to parents, no more than 700 Aus dollars for the frock.


There were no stag or hen parties. Although one of the Mafia union dockers had organised a strippers’ show for the wedding day. Partner jumped ship that day at lunchtime. Literally of course. Not only was he working on ships, but they were transported to the island by ferry from Circular Quay. On return to CQ, they all fought to see who could jump off the ferry first before it had docked. Silly macho men.

There was no engagement or engagement ring. I have two now anyway, my mother’s and my grandmother’s, a beautiful half-eternity ring which is now more than 100 years old.

We have both pairs of shoes still, the two wedding rings which we don’t wear, and the clothes. We needed a drink beforehand to steady our nerves (!) so had a quick whisky in a local bar. The meal out afterwards was attended not just by our witnesses, but by the three who had invited themselves so we left money for our meals and the two witnesses only, and left them all to it.

I could be out with the figures, but it’s near enough. At the time it was around 2.2 Australian dollars to the pound.

The biggest current day wedding expenditure costs (in pounds sterling) in one of the links below are:

• catering 3520
• reception venue 3519
• honeymoon 3178
• wedding venue 2157
• engagement ring 2103
• bride’s dress 1346 (doesn’t include shoes or veil)
• champagne 1280

Seriously, I so do not think that is a good use of money. Of course, if you are still together after say 25 years or so, you could always have a party for that if you are financially stable. We didn’t do that either.

UK wedding costs:

Brides mag

Daily Wail

A couple of much earlier Clouds posts on the same theme:

Getting married – changing your name

Why get married

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in family, feminism, life, love, parents, thoughts, WPlongform and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to On getting married – the big day?

  1. Totty says:

    You think that is a cheap wedding? I can beat that! In 1991 I had gone back to the UK for a couple of months to look after Mum who had been diagnosed with advanced Mesothelioma. When the hospital said it was only a matter of days, or even hours, my old man left our dog with friends and came over to say goodbye. True to form, she dug her heels in and died just as he was getting on the plane to return to Spain 10 days later. I phoned our neighbours who were picking him up from the airport, and he was able to book his return flight for the following week before he left the airport. Because of Mum’s particular illness there had to be a post-mortem and an inquest, so funeral arrangements took longer than usual. One morning, as I was heading for the Office to Register the death and get a certificate, he said “While you are there, see if you can book a wedding; I think your Mum would have liked that, and I have brought our birth certificates over with me.” We had lived quite happily “Over the brush” for 25 years, but he was right, it had always niggled my Mum, even if it had been my choice not to marry just because I was pregnant.

    The Registrar was very helpful, and the following Tuesday I raided my Mum’s wardrobe for a black skirt and black and white houndstooth jacket and went to her funeral; on the Friday I attended my wedding in the same get-up, accompanied by a couple of old friends as witnesses, and afterwards we went to the pub for lunch. Total cost; a special licence and a pub lunch for four. We didn’t invite the girls as that would have meant them losing a day’s pay and us paying for lunch for six….so we didn’t tell them where we had been until they came in from work!


    • I remember your wedding story. Stop trying to be top dog!! And aren’t those deaths so strange, just like my mum and my dad when we were to-ing and fro-ing for them. Shouldn’t have been a post-mortem examination if she had recently been seen by a medic though. Mesothelioma? Not asbestosis? Didn’t work for BBA did she? I did a couple of asbestosis related inquests.

      But yes, you top the cheapskate list without a doubt! You had been together for longer than us though. You got married after 25 years, we got married after four months. I couldn’t have borrowed anyone’s clothes in Sydney, nor could he, and I bet in 25 years of brushing, you might have had the odd overnight stay somewhere, a bit like our rather short honeymoon. I said I’d take the classic Woolies brass curtain ring, but he put his foot down on that one.

      Hope you and your bridegroom of 22 years are well, or as well as us oldies can be. I do admire anyone who defies convention., whenever and however, whether it was you living together for 25 years before marrying including having children, or Vicky living with her boyfriend in the 70s. It’s important to make a stand sometimes. And then later, you can slip into conforming. After all, it makes it so much easier with bureaucracy.


      • Totty says:

        I’m very well, thank you, and although the bridegroom is struggling, he is doing his best to last long enough to celebrate his 80th later this year. Fingers crossed we may even make it to our Silver/Unofficial Gold anniversary, at which date we will maybe splash out on a party. As for bureaucracy; I will admit that Spanish Inheritance taxes as applied to those without a piece of paper (in triplicate) to wave, did influence my saying yes….and the fact that I had just inherited a house may have influenced his decision to ask the question in the first place…


        • Best wishes to him for his cumpleaños. Party? We could travel up and gatecrash and camp somewhere nearby. Cheaply. Or freely. We may dine separately!

          It is interesting how pragmatism takes over from those lovely youthful principles. Done my bit, it’s up to the rest of you to fight a few battles now. I’m talking about me incidentally, there. I had a real battle with insurance companies because I refused to sign authorisation for AIDs testing in the 80s. Was I HIV+? Not that I knew of, but I thought it was sheer victimisation. So I dug my heels in. And claimed my underperformed endowments last year.


  2. bluonthemove says:

    Never really “got” this co-habiting thing. Tried it a couple of times but coming home from a hard day at work last thing I wanted to do was have to argue over what to have for dinner or some other domestic issue.


    • Don’t be silly. You have your menus for the week. So, first in through the door from work, cooks what is on the list. If you no longer do menus for the week on a little notice somewhere, first in cooks whatever there is. Second in is grateful and eats. Where’s the problem? Which reminds me, I am in, he is not, I need to cook 😀

      We used to be too busy moaning about work when we got in so that we never had time to argue over domestic trivia. And of course, there was always a restaurant somewhere. Still is.

      Must also now finish cleaning the bathroom. Point is, you have to do all those things (shopping cooking cleaning) anyway on your own. Sometimes it’s easier when there is someone else to share the tedium. There are advantages to co-habiting. Would I do it again? Young me would. Older me would never find anyone appropriate.


      • bluonthemove says:

        Menus for the week, I’d hate the rigidity of that. As for the second point, I’m sure I’ve seen ads for cleaning firms in Gib. Of an evening there is nothing I enjoy more than pouring a glass of wine and setting about cooking dinner, probably why I don’t use restaurants very often.

        Sometimes one over hears couples ̶a̶r̶g̶u̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ discussing the most trivial of things, I couldn’t be doing with all that.


        • It was about planning ahead. Easier to do than spend hours deciding what to cook. Plenty of cleaning firms in Gib. Even more and even cheaper ones from over the border on the black. After all, who wants to pay the going rate?

          Takes me a while to cook too for the same reason. But tbh more enjoyable than going out.

          We discuss/argue trivia all the time. Mostly for a laugh. Sometimes though it can be to avoid more important issues. Politics – what is there to say? Er, nothing. Done that in the past, been fired up and excited and – too old, jaded, cynical. Arguing about trivia can be more interesting than an intellectual discussion about Cameron or Picardo’s latest crap – if an intellectual discussion is possible about that …

          I guess that’s the bottle of Rioja out of the window then 😀


  3. When my daughters begin to get serious with a man, I may just hand them a copy of this post to try to make them understand they don’t have be lemmings and squander the equivalent of a year or more’s worth of salary just to try and compete with everyone else.

    I hope by that point I will have instilled in them an understanding that a wedding is but a single day; a marriage is for life.

    If a bride and/or her family feels their place as a member of society is tied to how big and expensive their wedding is, that tells me that bride’s parents have done a piss-poor job raising her, and that bride is likely rather shallow. But, of course, we live in a society that celebrates extravagant, over-the-top weddings, rather than couples who have been together for 40, 50 or 60 years.

    Great post and good for you for taking the time to weave your own story into the bigger issue. Unfortunately, your brand of common sense seems to be increasingly short supply.


    • Thanks. Maybe I should write the Alternative Wedding Manual.

      For all I am flippant and feminist, the whole point to me about getting married, or having a civil union where countries don’t allow same-sex partners to marry, is about a commitment to a relationship.

      And unless your partner is a drug-addicted, abusive, alcoholic, cheating, lying, murdering (etc etc) nasty piece of work – that applies to both sexes – then to me, saying you will stick with someone is exactly what you should do. Not ‘until someone better comes along’.

      I disagree that it is the fault of the bride or her parents though for wanting an extravagant wedding. That is my point about societal expectations. Peer group pressure. Traditions. All the usual. It takes independent-thinking people to move outside that loop.

      If you as a parent don’t want to see all that palaver that is a step in the right direction.

      Don’t know how old your daughters are, but at my school (posh and private) my schoolfriends were having sex well under 16. You might want to print off my blog post before they get serious!

      As for the personal story, it was too hypothetical to write a post about weddings without giving the account. I met someone on the other side of the world, and within four months I married him in a register office. What more needs to be said? You don’t need the big expensive do.

      It’s not just common sense. There is a lot of pragmatism, independence and thinking involved. That’s what’s missing.

      But thanks for reading through it, after all, it was reading your post that made me post it. You can see why it was too long for a reply to your post can’t you? 😀


      • I’m glad you wrote a separate column – it was definitely worthy of its own piece.

        Yes, you’re right; standing up to societal pressure is the key to stopping such foolishness. There will always be dim bulbs who get their self worth by comparing themselves with others, but that doesn’t mean we have to go along with their inanity.

        My daughters are 13, 12, 12 and 9, so they’re at the age where I’m working to impart why they need to make smart choices, rather than go along with what television, pop culture and friends think is “cool.” It’s not an easy task, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


        • Weddings and getting married are hot topics in feminist discussions for many of the reasons I have stated above, and they can often lead to serious spats 😀

          It’s not just societal pressure, it’s the family pressure when parents and other close relatives don’t want to depart from convention. Had I not been on the other side of the world, I would have been subjected to that too. In fact, I doubt we would have got married as my parents would probably have considered my partner ‘not good enough’. (My mother incidentally loved him to bits, probably due in no small part to the fact that he cooked a full roast pork meal not long after we had been staying with them, whereas my father struggled to open a can of soup).

          I don’t envy you your uphill job with your daughters, but you’re right, they are at a very impressionable age and I guess they can never be too young to be taught to learn to think for themselves. The downside of that of course, is that they may well disagree with you too 😀 But thinking is the important element there, whatever the result.


          • I’ve already begun to tell my daughters that I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but I do expect them to be able to discuss things and present their side. In other words, disagreement is OK, but I want to hear some logic rather than “I want to do it because everyone else is” or some similar tripe.

            If they’re every really going to think for themselves and voice their opinions, especially with men, they need to start by doing so with me. That also means I have to back off sometimes and let them make their own way, rather than telling them how it’s going to be. It’s an interesting balancing act.


          • I wish. My father came out with ‘I’m right so you’ll do what I say.’ Perhaps a case of Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid. In any case when I was married in my late twenties and he was still threatening to hit me when I disagreed with him, I was rather grateful for my new owner (!) who threatened to throw him through the window if my father ever laid a finger on me again. He didn’t (lay a finger on me). My parents wanted me to go to university and were surprised when I came back thinking – possibly for the first time in my life.

            I admire parents who bring up their children to think for themselves, discuss whatever with their parents and shock, horror, disagreements are accepted. Trouble was in my home, my dad was right. Always. May explain why I got married on the other side of the world.


  4. cobbies69 says:

    I come from a large family and my two older brothers, and my younger sister,, all tried to out do each other,,they all had the extra trimmings, because they could say ‘you didnt have that’ – If you were a neutral observer,, you would probably find it amusing.. me I found it rather pathetic,,I was never one for all the materialistic stuff.. maybe because I never had the money,,, but in the end of the day it was their choice.. Again a great read,, 😉 I could probably write a post about them,, but would not…


    • I’m sitting here with my mouth open just thinking about it!! I’m sure it would make a good read. Perhaps you can adapt it for your novel?

      As neither of us are religious, a church wedding would have been totally hypocritical. I think now that there are so many alternative venues, there is a much wider choice of where and how to have a wedding, for example the Botanical Gardens in Gibraltar is a popular location. But even then, I’m sure I’d be thinking what a waste of time – the point is to sign on the dotted line, so why not do it as quickly and painlessly as possible. As you’ve said before, we’re all different. I was lucky I met my partner on the other side of the world, otherwise I might have fallen prey to pressure and manipulation for a show wedding, or a wedding show, whichever way you choose to put it. For us, it was good to start off in a low-key but independent way on our own terms.


      • cobbies69 says:

        This was my point, my older brothers and sister do not go to church,they are not even religious.., in fact they do not even visit our parents resting place,, but they had audacity to have a church wedding,, it was so double standards, and hypocritical..but I did not ruin for them.. as you probably gather I do not have a ot of time for them…


        • I can be a good actress when necessary. Runs in the family. But to act, on what to me is a deeply personal moment, is not something I could do. So no church thing for me, because acting is all it would be. I accept other people do want that huge occasion, and don’t feel a conflict. I would have done.

          I have no siblings. My partner’s sister is divorced (well she will be if she ever gets enough money out of her husband), his younger brother has never got married but living with the same partner for 20 odd years, and his half-bro has loads of kids to loads of women and we lost track of the marriages or not as the case may be years ago.

          His family would make a fine story ….


  5. EllaDee says:

    I love this story, especially the proposal. I find it heartwarming. Love, marriage and commitment for real not for glam and appearances. No surprise you are still together.
    You reminded me that I had the loveliest conversation with my youngest sister last week.The sister who is getting married next year. I rang her to check the wedding date so I don’t double book [there is ANOTHER class reunion proposed for around the same time], and asked if she was ok for cash to make venue bookings etc.
    We’d previously had a conversation that their preference was for a small wedding, mainly friends and close family. I wanted to make sure she’d had a conversation with her parents and everyone was on the same track… her parents tend to get off track very easily. She said they’d talked to both sets of parents. Her words of what she said to them in effect to me were “things aren’t like they were, it’s our wedding, we don’t expect you to pay for anything, If you want to contribute, whatever you feel is appropriate is fine because your ideas of what things cost and ours may be different”. Marriage is important to my sister because she wants to have kids but only after she is married. I think the wedding is important because it’s a cultural thing she’s been exposed to forever, and it’s special to her but she is fully aware that although she wants it to be beautiful, it’s just one day. I’m so proud of her for negotiating the issue sensibly 🙂
    Especially so because I’ve been married twice, for all the wrong reasons – which boil down to inadvisedly acquiesing to the wishes of others. My weddings weren’t expensive but the divorces were.


    • I think proposal is a bit of a mis-nomer! Mind you if someone had come out with the soppy ‘Will you marry me?’ and produced an engagement ring I would have run a mile. So it worked ok for us.

      While I never wanted to get married, the trouble is, at that age if you are both prepared to get married, it does seem to imply a greater sense of commitment than just saying ‘we’ll live together.’ I have to say I would have found it easier to walk away from that. And like everyone, we’ve had the not-so-good times, primarily due to external pressures, especially work.

      Sounds a pragmatic approach to a wedding, and at the same time, making it the day they want it to be.

      I must fish out my parents’ wedding photos and put them on Everypic. I wonder if mine wanted a flash white job because ironically theirs wasn’t much different to mine and they wanted me to have what they didn’t. They got married in church, but my mother didn’t wear white (had a knee length lilac dress/suit as I vaguely remember) and at a guess, my grandmother (a seriously good old-fashioned cook) would have done the catering back at their council house. But living through your kids isn’t the right way to go about something.

      A wedding is up to the individuals concerned. If I’d met someone in the UK, I’d probably have eloped to Gretna Green.

      Have to say we have always had a tacit agreement not to divorce. If things didn’t work out we’d go our separate ways and try and work out the money ourselves without involving solicitors. Easy to say however, when it hasn’t happened.

      I hope your sister’s day is everything she and her partner want it to be. When is it, early or late next year?


  6. Andrew says:

    Having just part-funded a thoroughly enjoyable wedding I have a great deal of sympathy for your views. However (there is always a However) we were happy to leave it to the couple to decide. It was not extravagant but it was a white wedding with Chinese banquet. The format was very different, relaxed and more like a party. Good use of money? Not my call. If the couple decide so then I’m happy to make it happen. My own wedding was not expensive – 70 guests – private club venue. Terrific day – the photos always make me smile. Your approach is eminently sensible but not for everyone. Love the post though and glad it has all worked out so well.


    • Your daughter’s wedding did come to mind when I was writing this and I’m glad it was an enjoyable occasion. I think it is good that you left it up to them to decide – but would you have been quite so happy if they had disappeared without saying anything and suddenly come back married? They never actually said it, but I did get a very strong impression that my parents were not happy I had done the dirty deed on the other side of the world in a register office to someone they had never met. And I did invite them – so their choice not to jump on a ‘plane.

      Cost is all relative, as are situations, jobs, careers, housing etc and what we choose as priorities. If you are earning more than £50K a year and into the hundreds of thousands, then twenty-odd grand for a wedding isn’t expensive. But if you are earning that sort of money (or your parents are) you would probably spend more on a lavish wedding anyway and cost isn’t an issue.

      To me, seventy guests and a reception in a private club is probably a moderate one, possibly verging towards the expensive. Did you do the greet the guest line-up job too? The only two adult weddings I have attended both did that. Very formal. I have been invited to a potted meat sandwich-type reception in a local club, and no, I didn’t go. I’ve been invited to so-called receptions but not the wedding. If I know someone well, and I don’t get invited to the wedding (one was a good schoolfriend from the age of 4 and we’d kept in touch ever since) then I’m not gracing the reception. Ironically it was on the same day as the potted meat sandwiches one. It was also my birthday. Easy option there – attend neither.

      I have to say, if I was going for a traditional wedding, I am sure it would cost far more than £22K. As for spending £1300 on a frock, that would buy very little decent IMO. I was spending a grand on business suits 20 years ago. I would have thought decent material alone would cost a grand before making up the frock.

      It wasn’t just a post about cost though. As with the original post by Cotton Boll (with whom I basically agree) that made me write this (rather than post an overly long comment on that blog) – it’s about why people make the decision to spend so much money on one day of their life. And if they have even thought about why they are doing it. Of course, in theory it’s up to everyone to choose what they want to do. Each to their own, and I totally accept that. But I’m not convinced that people do consciously choose, rather that they go with expectations and the norm.

      Most of my approaches aren’t for everyone 😉


  7. It appears, at least to me, that the parents of the bride and groom are also behind the extreme lavishness. It makes sense. After treating ‘them’ to huge birthday parties, Christmasses and school proms, this is just one more in a long list of ocasions in which parents expect to turn their kids into kings and queens for a day. That’s only part of the issue, of course, it is, I think, a contributing factor.
    My own ‘back story’ has some interesting paralels to yours. This year in Aug it will be our 25th official year, but we’ve been together since ’81. Perhaps the most interesting parallel to me was the fact that the decisions were all our own. That’s why we had a wedding we could afford and why, maybe, it’s lasted. If you look at SOME of those expensive weddings you’ll again notice the heavy hand of parents and others, taking away much of the responsibility for the wedding and, in all likelihood, the marriage.


    • Sounds like we are singing from the same hymn sheet. If I sung hymns. Well I do, but only because I like singing.

      But, as ever, you grasped the point I was trying to make. Society poses its own pressures, and on top of that, family are an added pressure. If I had met my partner in the UK, we wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. So it was good to meet someone on neutral ground and make our own choices. You’ve been together longer than us.

      As for expensive weddings. I do wonder how long they last. Thousands of pounds/dollars/euros blown on a day to be splitting up in a few years time. That’s why I think it isn’t the most important part of a relationship. But, hey, we all have our choices. Don’t we, or do we?


  8. I had my brother do the ‘disco’ and my mate from work take the photographs! The music was rubbish and so were was the album!
    I dread the day that I have to pay for a wedding!


    • Love it! Great honest commentary. So was it a bad do, or was it fun anyway? Sometimes bad music can be fun. Our photos (which I hadn’t even thought about) were taken by one of our gate-crashing mates.

      Maybe you should do a scrapbook post about it?

      Think how many cheap flights you could get for the cost of a wedding …. 🙂


  9. Vicky says:

    What a great read 🙂
    I couldn’t agree more, £22,000 for a wedding!……what a total waste of money.
    I just don’t understand when folk struggle, often going into debt for one day when that money could be put to far better use.
    Our wedding was a register office, much to my parents disappointment.
    No posh frock either, just a burgundy coloured suit, though I did splash out on a hat.
    Honeymoon was a night in the hotel just up the road from the flat we lived in.
    I was back at work on the Monday, T didn’t return to work for twelve weeks though 😀


    • Thanks V. £22K for anything that is just a jolly seems excessive to me. A frock you won’t wear again, an expensive ring, a party, overpriced and mediocre food (has been at the weddings I have attended – mass catering always is), and a rather expensive holiday. Plus embarrassing footage and photos. So not me!

      If money is no object, then fine, go ahead if that’s what you want to do. But for the average person, or couple, in the street, I would have thought twenty odd grand could go a fair way to starting your life together.

      We are obviously the two proverbial bad pennies with regards to weddings and parental expectations. But that is my whole point. It’s not about their life, it’s about ours as couples making a lifetime commitment. Anyway, my parents had already done the ‘our daughter has left home’ thing when I went to university. Not sure if they cried, but they certainly went to the pub that Sunday evening and got rat-arsed. Idiotic, considering I was coming home on the Friday to work on the market on the Saturday (as I did all through university).

      Your last line is wonderful – sends the imagination into overtime if I didn’t know the facts 😀 We only had one night too, the Saturday. I’ll put up some wedding/honeymoon pix on everypic. I thought I’d done it before but I couldn’t see any.


  10. jennypellett says:

    Well, I never had an engagement ring – much to my father’s dismay (he was a jeweller); I bought my frock in two parts – top from Top Shop, bottom from Monsoon – the whole lot cost less than £30. We did compromise and married in our tiny village church (mother in law was a practising catholic, but it wasn’t a catholic church. She was just grateful that her son was doing the right thing). Reception in my parents’ back garden for a few hours before we shot off to Paris. No disco, all quite civilised. That was in 1981 and for better or worse, we are still together.


    • I did have to pull you out of the bin. Again. It is bizarre! You weren’t even in moderation, just languishing in the bin.

      You not having an engagement ring is a bit like me giving up eating meat (my parents sold bacon and ham on their market stall). I’m feeling I was extravagant now with my specially made red silk frock. But still, at least I could wear it again unlike a long white thing that is totally impractical.

      I don’t think venue is important. Whatever works for each couple. Register office suited us, so church never came up as an option, plus, no family around 🙂 being on the other side of the world.

      Paris sounds nice. If I’d got married in the UK it would have been one of my top options. I’ve always loved visiting Paris, I feel quite at home there. You’re four years ahead of us, which means you must be on 32?


      • jennypellett says:

        Yes, this week, actually! As husband is so fond of remarking – you don’t get as long for a life sentence. It’s the humour that keeps us going…


        • Aah 🙂 congratulations. Ours is next month. Mine looks horrified at the thought of anyone else. Much as he moans at me, he did say on Sunday he’s never met anyone else he would have even contemplated living with. I have one huge big attribute, I don’t nag/moan. The list of my faults on the other hand, I wont even get into. Mine also comes out with similar humour.


          • jennypellett says:

            Ha ha, I don’t nag either – I politely remind – or at least, that’s my version.


          • Very discrete of you. I don’t even do that. I figure if he wants to do something he will, and if he doesn’t he won’t. A bit like me. So not much point asking him to do anything, we’re grown ups, we know what needs doing, and we either do it or we don’t.

            His mother was a classic (nagger). Her favourite phrase started off ‘Can you just do this …’ implying it wasn’t a huge task and could be quickly fitted in before whatever else you wanted to do. Too many stories there to recite!


          • jennypellett says:

            Ooh, but probably humorous ones!


          • Here is the infamous MiL post, I think it covers just about most of her more annoying moments in our marital history. http://wp.me/p22GQH-41


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