When I first observed and attended English Weddings in the 1970s, folks attended a church ceremony followed by a buffet contributed by everyone present in a local community hall. Attending numbers were conservative, wardrobe choices were unspectacular and many Bridal gowns were passed down through generations or home-made; lace was very popular at the time. Happy couples were waved off with the sound of rattling empty cans on string tied to the back of the car. The bride always changed out of her Wedding dress into a 'going away outfit' before departing for the honeymoon; an evening do was generally unheard of back then. Weddings lacked variation and were predictable; I remember playing "Love Divine" and "The Lord's My Shepherd" constantly for 5 years without deviation; not particularly exciting but I yearned for another way to approach my contribution.
Things changed in July 1991. I was hired, for the first time in addition to my Organ duties in the Church to play at the Wedding Reception for a friend from Sunday School. My brief was to add some beautiful background music for a couple of hours; in reality I played for 6 hours creating a fabulous atmosphere of spontaneous community singing all night long, working in tandem with a very funny Court Jester who was also an amazing juggler. He climaxed his stint with three objects; a burning flame, a frying pan and an egg - the finale being a fried egg cooked in the pan heated by the flame! Truly brilliant, awe-inspiring, and entertaining. Additionally, the Bride was 40 minutes late for her entrance into the church earlier in the afternoon leaving me to fill in by improvising everything and anything on the organ from "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the "Thunderbirds!" As I drove home in the early hours of the morning, I wondered if I would experience a whole Wedding day and night as unpredictable yet exciting as that ever again; there was no band or DJ! In my personal experience of 40 years nothing has matched this ground-breaking Wedding for an unexpected, yet terrifying voyage of discovery. But then again my Sunday school friend, who wore Doc Martin Boots on the big day under her dress was a young ambitious TV researcher called Jo Whiley, now a highly regarded Television and BBC Radio 2 Presenter who married Steve Morton, a successful Pop Manager. Their Wedding Celebrations, like their marriage of 27 years, was a successful but seemingly unconventional collage of unique components that worked perfectly together! But then again, isn't that how successful marriages exist.
Nowadays, I attend numerous Wedding Showcases and Tasting Evenings. These events display everything imaginable for a Wedding day and a great many things one just could not begin to imagine too, but that's another Blog!!! But, the bottom line is still the same; two people get married and a group of people gather to observe and mark the occasion; wearing their best clothes. As long as the guests can share, celebrate and enjoy the occasion comfortably, nothing else matters. I once observed an Evening Wedding Reception (I was not hired to play on this occasion) where the Bride had clearly exchanged a few choice words with her new husband and was sulking in the corner; whilst he drank himself to oblivion with his friends. Nothing could lift the mood despite a proliferation of highly expensive features to enjoy, such as a highly stocked sweet cart, a chocolate fountain, a free bar, with two live bands and a DJ topped off with an extravagant light show and the most deliciously twinkling Dance-floor money could buy. All those treats became irrelevant and invisible because no-one could bypass the lack of atmosphere. It was heart-breaking and I had to leave the scene because it was distressing me.
So, when planning your day, concentrate on that pleasure principle and forget about impressing other people; especially your Wedding suppliers (because we've seen it all before and are more concerned about being paid on time!). Your tastes are your business and nobody else's. Your day, your 24-hour Olympics (as I refer to Weddings!) is your one-off unique day in your image. If anyone is keeping score, they have not got your best interests at heart and do not hesitate to move them on. It is not a competition and no-one is awarding marks; this is not a Reality TV show. It's real-life and the drama playing out with your family and friends is YOUR story. Celebrate who you are and what your marriage will mean and keep that at the centre of your thought process.
How do I work it? I deal with whoever is in front of me as my reference point and apply my repertoire and considerable experience relevantly. I always meet whoever I play for because I cannot feel anything from an E mail; if you are reading this as a couple, you will know that you did not get to this point of choosing to make the big marriage step based on a photograph and descriptive paragraph of each other. You needed to meet (I hope!) and get a real sense of connection. Focus on that and the end result will be more than good enough. Forget about the whole "we're going to be different" vibe; it's not relevant. Your Wedding is unique because YOU are - Never forget that! I've said enough...
Good Luck and Enjoy the preparations!