Weddings | David Mitchell's Soapbox


Uploaded by davidmitchellsoapbox on 23.06.2011

Transcript:
Last time I banged on about the
arrogance of trying to make your stag night unique.
But of course this pales into insignificance
in comparison to the lengths people go to
persuade you that no-one before them has ever really got married.
In the old days neither weddings
nor the forerunners of stag nights
were expected to be unique.
In fact, the opposite - they were codified and set:
everyone who knew one another
got married in due season at the same church
or at least one of the same four churches in the area
- and beforehand every groom got drunk with his friends
in one of the same eight pubs.
There was nothing ‘special’ about the special day,
in the sense of different from all the other special days,
and that was quite right.
It’s supposed to be special for you
not special for everyone who attends.
How could it possibly be?
In some of the summers of your late twenties and early thirties,
you go to weddings more weekends than you don’t.
Having a wedding in it
practically guarantees the "unspecialness" of the day.
You’re more likely to reminisce:
‘Do you remember Saturday the 12th July 2006?’
‘No…’ ‘Yes you do,
it was the weekend after Nick and Helen’s wedding
and before Jim and Rachel’s wedding,
when we had a bit of a lie in in and read the papers.
‘Oh yes! That was a magical day!’
The problem is that these days couples more often than not
pay for, and therefore design, their own celebration;
and this is bound to lead to trouble,
because as with the stag nights,
they begin to see it as a test of their originality
and by association a yardstick for the depth of their love.
This has got to the point where couples write their own vows.
Marriage is becoming an umbrella term
for a wide range of random and mawkish undertakings,
which men and women now choose to make to each other,
in the presence of catering.
Whereas what it should be - and in fact is,
however novel the ushers’ buttonholes -
is a collection of people gathered together
to make a deeply improbable promise
that little bit more likely to stick.
Up until a couple of decades ago, of course,
the brides’ parents had to organise it.
They paid for it, they chose the nature of the do,
if the happy couple themselves hated it, so what?
give it twenty years, and they’d have their chance
to have a wedding exactly the way they wanted,
when they got to impose their tastes on their own daughter.
(Of course, the recent switch has created a cursed generation
- they had their own wedding spoilt by the generation above,
but largely aren’t allowed to ruin those of the generation below.
Still, they’re basically the same guys
who stiffed us on pensions, so sod them.)
The beauty of the old system, though,
is that no-one judged the couple for the wedding;
it was understood that the blame for it rested
with the bride’s mother’s terrible taste
and her father’s short arms and long pockets.
it said nothing about the couple themselves,
or about how ‘unique’ and ‘special'
either their day or their relationship was.
Indeed, they were expected to clear off
from the reception as soon as possible,
allowing the guests to do so also.
Whereas now, having paid through the nose
for a huge party with all their friends,
and having long since exhausted
the novelty of sex with one another,
they tend to hang on till the bitter end,
and do their best to make sure you do too.
I suppose what I’m saying is this:
In the very old days, you used to be told
who you had to marry, and that was a bad thing.
Now, you not only get to decide that for yourself,
but you also get to pick your own do, and that’s also bad.
I won’t say ‘worse’, but I will think it quite loudly.
You ought to have free reign to pick your partner,
but the do should be entirely out of your hands.
(Which is of course still, as it always has been,
the case for almost all grooms -
the power of do-organising has simply passed
from their parents-in-law to their fiancee,
not for a moment settling upon them in its flight.)