Chaos is to weddings what flour is to bread – you can’t really have one without the other and they’re both going to disagree with your auntie Vera’s digestion.
But of course weddings are chaotic. Think of the ingredients: estranged relatives, booze, uncomfortable shoes, a complicated schedule, the need to feed large numbers of guests, public speaking, drunk people and logistics. Even, apparently, if you’re a photogenic millionaire with a decent run up time.
You see, according to news reports (and I use these words loosely), Nicola Peltz Beckham is considering having a second wedding because she now associates her first purely with “rows, issues and tension” after a fall out with a wedding planner. To which I say, welcome aboard Nicola. Welcome to being an adult in the world, with a family and friends.
I’m not a particularly avid follower of the Beckham family – in fact, the last time I saw a picture of David Beckham it was in the window of an opticians in Paris, where I was surprised to discover old golden balls now looks like an extra from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – but it was interesting to think how even a lifetime of preposterous wealth cannot insulate you from certain realities about human interaction.
For instance, perhaps disagreeing about what you wear; feeling stressed out by the scrutiny of other people; getting overwhelmed by travel arrangements and not knowing who to invite to your party. It’s quite reassuring, isn’t it, to think that you can dedicate your entire life to the ceaseless, ravenous accumulation of money and status, only to discover on the big day that you can still have a truly shit time.
As someone who got married last year, on the single hottest day of the year, with divorced parents, caterers who turned up late and at least one incident of a child gliding out into the Thames on a slowly deflating rubber ring, I believe that the wayward bits are sometimes the most fun thing about a wedding.
In a fruitless attempt to reign in my somewhat unpredictable father, I asked him to sing a song, rather than give a speech. A song, I reasoned, can only ever be three minutes long, tops. Only for the man himself – wearing his shirt from his ill-fated wedding to my mother – to launch into, what, 10 minutes of rambling, out-of-tune ukulele playing, shouting about a taxi and incomprehensible, sweaty singing? I started heckling about five minutes in. After seven minutes, his sister tried to get him to stop. My little sisters left before he’d finished. But at least three friends have told me that it was the funniest wedding speech they’ve ever witnessed.
Similarly, sitting inside a scout hut during a 40 degree heatwave was so boilingly unpleasant that after about an hour people were actually starting to pass out. Children were screaming and at least one guest turned the colour of well-cooked steak. And so, reluctantly and guiltily, I cut my own speech, opened the doors behind me and let the gasping throng run out of building, to dive straight into The Thames. Almost all the children were naked, there was duck shit everywhere, I was seeing people I’ve known all my life in their swimsuits for the first time and it was almost certainly my favourite moment from the whole weekend.
Oh sure, people fell over. Toddlers had to be rescued. My £3 eBay bikini didn’t really fit. But as the early evening sun glittered across the surface of the river, my ex-boyfriend (and wedding DJ) played some of my favourite songs and the bigger kids did somersaults on the dinosaur-shaped bouncy castle on the grass, I knew how lucky I was.
Also, let’s be honest here: a chaotic, tense, slightly disappointing wedding is the perfect introduction to married life. As Shakespeare said, what is wedlock but an age of discord and continual strife? Over the course of your marriage there will always be people who get cross about chairs and people who have fallen out and people who turn up late. There will always be disagreements about meals and toilets to be cleaned and someone’s children shouting. There will almost certainly be things you’ve forgotten and smashed crockery and things getting lost in the long grass. So you might as well get into the swing of things straight off the bat.
I’m not one for spreadsheets, or the daughter of a billionaire, and in most of my wedding photos I look like a spaniel that’s caught up in a pillowcase. But perhaps that’s why I had such a good time at my own wedding. It wasn’t just a big day; it was a chaotic day. A fun day. An affordable and silly and hastily-planned day. And most of the people I love most in the world were there to make the mayhem with us.
Nell Frizzell is a journalist and author. Her latest book, Holding the Baby: Milk, sweat and tears from the frontline of motherhood is out now.