Hundreds of guests no doubt mentally bitching about seating, embarrassing relatives, a veil most Londoners would struggle to fit into their shared flats, mental stress about whether it is a good idea to incorporate children and animals into the day, criticism over costs and a sermon you have no control over… and that’s just what your bog standard couple over the last few decades or so has been worrying about in regards to their wedding. So Lord knows what Meghan and Harry were fretting about in advance of yesterday…
Once you reach a certain age you can expect to have your small talk at parties to a certain extent sorted. “So what are your holiday plans this year?” “Well, I have X number of weddings to attend…” and voila, everyone can do that sympathetic shrug and eye roll that shows you know they’ve given up precious annual leave days and weekends and a huge chunk of their salary to go to a gazillion weddings, mostly of distant relatives they dislike or people they barely know because they’re the plus one and the wedding is so huge they’ve made the guest list. And if you’re talking to the soon-to-be bride and groom, expect a manic-eyed ‘oh god we’re broke and may have to live off the ten-tiered wedding cake for the next five years because we’re paying for 200 people to eat and drink off the more expensive but ultimately prettier crockery option’ look. Networking ice broken.
Big, extravagant weddings have long been a thing, regardless of whether the couple in question secretly want it or not. There’s that weight of tradition and expectation pressing down on you. Plus, dozens of reality TV programmes and a whole industry (worth £10 billion in the UK alone) keen to earn their keep through your big day telling you what you need and minimum spend is this so you might as well invite that aunt you don’t particularly like to keep your mum happy.
Is it any wonder then, that when you add the above stresses to the fact that most people approaching wedding age now are the younger end of the millennial range, aka time and cash poor, big weddings seem to be falling out of vogue. Come on, if a millennial couple can’t even afford a house why would they invest £21, 161 (the average UK wedding cost) into one day? That veil*, no matter how big, is not a suitable substitute for a roof. Plus they are too busy working several jobs in this new gig economy to plan the every minute detail of an event.
It’s noticeable that of the weddings I’ve been privileged to attend over the last few years, quite a few of the couples in question had already bought a place of their own. And even then, or because of said mortgage, the guest lists are modest and the celebrations not ludicrously over the top. The happy couples were keen to actually keep their day aa fuss-free a celebration as possible for the nearest and dearest.
In fact, I know a few people who kept the weddings super small for immediate family and best friends, with the promise of a bigger celebration for their wider circle at a later point, presumably when they have more money/time/energy for a party and can get away with not having to pay the wedding mark-up on price most venues and party suppliers slap on. (Although I don’t hold out much hope for the industry to not catch onto this; they will find a way to cash in eventually.)
Now I’m not suggesting there’s a wrong or right way to do a wedding – I love weddings of all sizes. Nor do I think big weddings are going to disappear overnight – tradition and party animal tendencies will ensure that. But, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s nuptials yesterday, with its celebs and royals, may in fact have fittingly marked the end of the extravagant wedding era. Times are a-changing and a gradual decline into smaller more manageable weddings, or in fact a boom in elopements, may become the new topic of small talk.
*I’m aware I sound like I hated Meghan Markle’s veil. I actually loved it. It was in fact the only part of her outfit I did like. I am a sucker for veils, it probably stems from the fact that I was the only girl in my class who did not get to wear one for her First Holy Communion. If I ever get married, there will be serious veil action going on. Which, on reading back sounds a bit dirty. NOT THAT KIND OF VEIL ACTION YOU FILTHY-MINDED PEOPLE.