A gen­tle plea for re­straint

The se­cret of the clas­sic coun­try wed­ding is qual­ity over quan­tity, says Giles Kime

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THE sky’s the limit when plan­ning the mod­ern wed­ding. Quite lit­er­ally—why stop at im­mor­tal­is­ing the happy day with pho­to­graphs of the happy cou­ple and guests when you can have a bird’s-eye view of the venue shot on a video cam­era teth­ered to a drone?

The pos­si­bil­i­ties for up­grad­ing ev­ery other as­pect of a wed­ding now ap­pear to be in­fi­nite. Why have a stag night in your favourite Lon­don restau­rant when you and 12 of your old­est mates could go boar hunt­ing in Morocco? And there are no lengths to which you can’t stretch your­self: a cus­tom­made web­site out­lin­ing ev­ery de­tail of how you met, a so­cial-me­dia hash­tag, three changes of out­fit—the list goes on.

The fact that the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­quired to achieve this lo­gis­ti­cal feat would flum­mox the pro­duc­tion team be­hind Ben Hur shouldn’t hin­der you. Af­ter all, this is your ‘Big Day’. How­ever, the ques­tion you should both ask your­selves in the small hours of the night is how many of your plans are nec­es­sary? Start with the essence of what you’re do­ing and work out­wards.

In ev­ery cul­ture, the con­cept of mar­riage is pre­cisely the same: the union of two peo­ple. The way that’s per­formed and cel­e­brated varies dra­mat­i­cally in dif­fer­ent parts of the world—in Ger­many, guests break china; in Mex­ico, they pin money to the bride and groom’s clothes; and, in Swe­den, fe­male guests kiss the groom.

Thirty years ago, the es­sen­tials of the clas­sic Bri­tish wed­ding were the cer­e­mony, a re­cep­tion (ei­ther stand­ing or seated) and pos­si­bly a party in the evening, al­though this was the ex­cep­tion, not the rule. That model has been sub­se­quently en­hanced by the nup­tial equiv­a­lent of an arms race that has left the event so elab­o­rate it’s easy to for­get that, at its heart, is a very sim­ple and im­por­tant ex­change of vows.

COUN­TRY LIFE’S call to pare back the Bri­tish wed­ding is noth­ing to do with par­si­mony and ev­ery­thing to do with cre­at­ing wed­dings that don’t look like an ex­cuse for a party and two week­ends away with your friends. Be warned, how­ever: any tai­lor or in­te­rior de­signer will tell you that care­fully con­sid­ered sim­plic­ity isn’t cheap. They will also tell you that it re­quires dis­ci­pline and high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als.

A size­able army of adult brides­maids and ush­ers, a ring-bear­ing pug and the strains of Aretha Franklin’s Say A Lit­tle Prayer can’t fail to dis­tract from the solem­nity of a cer­e­mony that is—how­ever you look at it—a very se­ri­ous un­der­tak­ing. And it’s hard to think why a girly hen week­end in a villa in Ibiza would be more mem­o­rable than sup­per in the private din­ing room at Mor­ton’s (save for the ar­rival of the bill).

Re­mem­ber, too, that, al­though you might have de­cided that any­thing as bor­ing as a bud­get won’t stand in the way of your dream wed­ding, the cost of even the most mod­est three-day week­end, cel­e­brat­ing the last of your sin­gle days, is un­likely to leave much change out of £1,000—quite an in­vest­ment at a stage in life when many of your friends will be clock­ing up half a dozen week­ends a year.

How­ever sim­ple or lav­ish the mod­ern Bri­tish wed­ding, the only es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent is a big help­ing of sin­cer­ity—and a lit­tle less triv­i­al­ity.

‘It’s easy to for­get that, at its heart, a wed­ding is a very sim­ple and im­por­tant ex­change of vows’

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