A whirlwind of weddings
Several of the guests were naked from the waist down. They were a mixed bag: Action Man, a couple of ponies, a posse of Polly Pockets.
The bride wore a purple bikini top. And a mermaid's tail. She swam down the aisle to One Direction. The matron of honour was a fairy straddling a unicorn.
Bridesmaid Barbie towered over the rest of the bridal party. The groom wore full military regalia, immaculate but
for the epaulette the dog had chewed. The ceremony was to the point.
It was all about the kiss. The happy couple mashed their faces together. It was obviously a love match. We threw confetti.
My five-year-old daughter had decided there would be a marriage the moment she saw the cone of paper hearts and
lavender seeds I'd brought back from a wedding in Masterton the weekend before.
It was just a question of who was wedding who. Ken and G I Joe, I suggested, mindful of avoiding heteronormativity. Cinderella and Rapunzel? She looked at me witheringly. It's Eric and Ariel, she announced. Of course, I said.
It was the fourth wedding I had attended in as many weeks. I wore the same dress to all but Eric and Ariel's. (I was in my dressing gown for theirs.)
I needed to get the cost per wear of my dress down and there was no overlap between any of the guests.
The drycleaner recognised it though. Not again, she said, when I took it back last week. Three weddings, I explained.
Oh, she said, you must be weddinged out. I was and I wasn't. I'm sick to death of that dress but I'll never tire of the sheer joyousness of a wedding.
Sure, they can be expensive, drawn-out affairs, and there's every chance you may have the misfortune to be seated next to the drunk uncle with a passion for collecting mid-century vices. (You can only pray you were imagining that he muttered something about wanting to secure you in one during the best man's speech.)
But even at the worst weddings - where there was only raspberry cordial to drink, or the emcee was bitter and morose after having been recently dumped - I've had a great time.
I love the sense of ritual and anticipation. I cry and I dance and I always eat cake.
Weddings are bastions of all that is rare in modern society. When else do you receive a proper invitation requiring
a formal RSVP? When else do women carry bouquets of fresh flowers and men wear buttonholes? When else do you
witness such intimacy, the most private promise made public?
Love parties, that's what they are.
I've missed them. My husband and I have been married for 11 years this month. Around the time of our own, we
were averaging five wedding invitations a year. It was our age, I guess.
Everyone we knew was getting hitched. Since then there's been the first birthday stage, a wave of 40ths, and just lately, friends' parents' funerals. But scarcely a wedding.
I've missed the memo to save the date. Missed the curiosity, the very revealingness of a registry. (Really, they
want matching black-and-white chevron king-single valances?)
I've missed the thrill of checking out the bride. I've missed the speeches. The crass anecdote. ("And then this one time he took a leak in this girl's hotel room.")
The heartfelt declaration. ("Every wrong turn has brought me here, to this day, to you.")
My daughter is enamoured with weddings. She has been to two. At the first she basked in the glory of being a flower girl. She scattered petals with both purpose and pleasure.
At the second she danced her socks off. That wasn't a wedding, she declared on the drive home, it was a disco. I had to agree.
With six kids between them, the bride and groom were as relaxed as any I've seen. As soon as the formalities were
done they cracked open the RTDs and kicked back. That was the first wedding I went to this summer.
The third had a similar sense of two people who had been through a lot and just wanted to have a great time with the people they loved most.
The second was different. It was in a church. Not just because the couple thought it would be a nice thing
to do, or because they thought it was a charming building, but because for them this was as much a commitment
to God as to each other.
Marriage gave them permission to combine their lives in a way that hadn't been possible as unweds. The momentousness of it took my breath away. In one night, their whole lives would be transformed.
I had shared a bed and a bathroom with my husband for four years before I said I do. These days, to not know what side someone sleeps on, the vagaries of their body clock, seems a huge gamble.
It's easy to show your best side when you are courting and only have to keep it up for limited periods. Whether you got a good sort or an loser was luck of the draw for previous generations.
For most people now, a wedding is really an excuse for the biggest party you're ever likely to throw. By and large
unnecessary, their appeal only seems to grow.
At the second wedding, the church wedding, my husband, a man who is unusually light on his feet, asked my 97-year old grandmother to dance. And as I watched two of the people I hold dearest float across the floor, I thought, this is what weddings are about.