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
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?
IS ‘NO RING, NO BRING’ A THING?
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.
CAN I LIVE STREAM THE DAY WITH A SELFIE STICK?
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.
DO I HAVE TO SIT NEXT TO THEM FOR 6 HOURS?
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.”
DOES IT HAVE TO BE IN A BORING HOTEL?
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.”
MUST ALL WOMEN REMAIN SILENT THROUGHOUT?
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.
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.