The new wedding rules

Pippa’s ‘no ring, no bring’ pol­icy was just the be­gin­ning. Suzanne Har­ring­ton brings us the ul­ti­mate mod­ern wedding sur­vival guide

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Feature -

SO YOU’RE do­ing it. Go­ing for it. Here it comes, the most stress­ful — sorry — the most spe­cial day of your life. The one that takes three years to plan, costs more than a small house, and passes in a blur. And has more rules, tra­di­tions and height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions than a pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion. Your wedding day. Ex­cept now, there may be new rules as well as the old ones to worry about. These days, can you plan what you like? Or does the weight of tra­di­tion re­main as heavy as a col­laps­ing wedding cake felled by a drunk un­cle?


The re­cent mar­riage of Pippa Mid­dle­ton and her hedge fund man­ager took a par­tic­u­larly hardline ap­proach to the guest list — some­thing called no ring, no bring. As in, no boyfriends, girl­friends, or part­ners. A wedding or en­gage­ment ring was re­quired on the fin­ger of all plus-ones, which meant Prince Harry’s girl­friend Me­gan Markle was only half in­vited, and — con­fus­ingly — to the wrong half. The cer­e­mony, not the re­cep­tion.

Did Pippa and Posh Chap cre­ate a new wedding day rule? Or break an old one? It’s not as though they couldn’t af­ford an ex­tra goats cheese tart­let. Were they afraid Markle, with her Hol­ly­wood sparkle, would up­stage every­one else? Never mind the fu­ture queen of Eng­land be­ing there — she could hardly be ex­cluded, be­ing Pippa’s sis­ter — but would an ac­tual Amer­i­can movie star have up­staged all other be­ings, no mat­ter how royal? Clearly Mr and Mrs Pippa thought so. Me­gan was rel­e­gated to church only.

Of this tac­tic, Bride magazine re­mained firm but diplo­matic: “Brides-tobe, both halves of a cou­ple should re­ceive the same in­vi­ta­tion for your wedding day, so ei­ther make room or make other plans!”

Writer Grace Dent was more forth­right, calling the no ring, no bring thing “hideous non-in­clu­sive gold plated bridezilla bull­shit”.

“You’d never get away with that in Ire­land,” says Clare-based wedding plan­ner Sa­man­tha Hard­ing.

“Not in a mil­lion years. Wed­dings are about love and romance — no ring, no bring is ex­clu­sion­ary. I don’t un­der­stand it and have never come across it.” Pippa, love, you screwed up.


Just as Lemmy’s fu­neral was livestreamed from an LA chapel, you can livestream your wedding onto so­cial me­dia so the non-in­vited — that is, the world — can share in your joy.

Is this OK? Or fur­ther proof of the de­cline of Western civil­i­sa­tion? “I had one bride who live streamed her speech with the whole wedding party be­hind her,” says Hard­ing. “She had a selfie stick and live streamed it onto her Face­book feed. Some peo­ple were hor­ri­fied. Most were fine with it.”

Michelle McDer­mott of Dream Irish Wed­dings says cou­ples man­age their own wedding so­cial me­dia, with 80% of her clients “very so­cial me­dia savvy”, us­ing wedding-related hash­tags etc. Al­though in re­tal­i­a­tion to the In­sta­gram­ming of ev­ery nup­tial mo­ment, the un­plugged wedding — no so­cial me­dia at all — is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

Also, guests post­ing pho­tos on their own so­cial me­dia pages be­fore the new­ly­weds have had a chance to upload the first photo is a bit like guests tak­ing to the dance floor be­fore the bride and groom have had the first dance.

Not quite the thing. Al­though not as bad as elop­ing with the bride.


Not if you have a “fes­ti­val wedding”. In­stead of wad­ing through three cour­ses of pre­dictable plus speeches, where the rigid chess-like seat­ing plan has re­sulted in you mak­ing small talk un­til your teeth hurt in­stead of hav­ing a laugh with your pals, you can dis­pense with the whole idea of sit­ting down. You can go ad hoc. No more sal­mon-or-beef, no more wa­tery veg.

“In some wedding cir­cles, it’s con­sid­ered a bit naff to have cater­ers,” says Hard­ing. “In­stead, you can make a ‘street’ of food vans at your lo­ca­tion — maybe you’re at a di­lap­i­dated old cas­tle with stunning scenery — where guests can graze, and min­gle, and in­ter­act more. And it means you can in­vite every­one, be­cause you’re not wor­ry­ing about costs per head like you would in a ho­tel. And there’s no wash­ing up.”

Street food does not mean burger vans (un­less you’re be­ing mas­sively ironic, and even then it would need to be mas­saged wagu with chips triple fried in truf­fle oil). No, fes­ti­val wed­dings would have street food like paella, falafels, waf­fles, and a makeshift bar serv­ing all kinds of chal­leng­ing cock­tails. “It’s more con­tem­po­rary, and more fun,” says Hard­ing. “Less re­stric­tive.”


No. Es­pe­cially if you are Amer­i­can. Ire­land is a hugely pop­u­lar wedding des­ti­na­tion for Amer­i­cans, on ac­count of our rugged scenery, fall­ing down cas­tles and abbeys, and pubs full of craic.

They don’t even mind the rain. “Amer­i­cans ap­pre­ci­ate Ire­land is green for a rea­son,” says An­nie Byrne of Ais­linn Events.

“More than half of them have never been here be­fore. They come for the old ru­ins, the ro­man­tic scenery. It’s not for bud­getary rea­sons — there can be a Game of Thrones in­flu­ence.”

“I had a hun­dred Cal­i­for­ni­ans lined up for pho­tos on the Cliffs of Mo­her re­cently,” says Hard­ing.

“I got a lot of grey hairs that day.”


Apart from say­ing “I do”, the role of women at wed­dings has tra­di­tion­ally been to show up and shut up, rather than hav­ing a voice. This is left to the fa­ther of the bride, the groom, and the best man, who do the speeches. The ladies just smile and wear nice frocks. Not any­more.

“I did 21 wed­dings last year, and all the brides spoke,” says Hard­ing.

“Women do make speeches now. Since the Celtic Tiger, tra­di­tions no longer mat­ter as much. The new trend is ba­si­cally all bets are off.

“Any­thing goes these days, be­cause that’s what the brides want. Wed­dings are be­com­ing less about tra­di­tion and mis­ery, and more about fun.”

So if your mother hates your flo­ral ar­range­ments, and your nap­kin rings don’t match your brides­maids’ shoes, you can bin the whole lot and have your wedding in a teepee, or­ches­trated by a shaman, with flow­ers in your hair in­stead of on the table, be­cause there are no ta­bles, just friends wan­der­ing against a back­drop of gor­geous wild land­scape, nib­bling paella and chur­ros, be­fore you livestream your evening to a so­cial me­dia site of your choice.

Or not.

These days, it’s en­tirely up to you. Do what you like. It’s your day.

Pippa Mid­dle­ton and her hus­band had a ‘no ring, no bring’ pol­icy, mean­ing guests’ plus-ones had to be en­gaged or mar­ried.

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