Weddings. Don’t you just love them? And with ‘the big one’ happening across the way in just a few days’ time, anyone with any little bit of romance in their soul will be all misty-eyed and wistful. Brides-to-be will likely record it to watch again and again as they plan their own big day – they’ll switch and change and mix and juggle to bring it all in on the budget. And, as reported in The Journal (www.thejournal.ie), that budget – even in these straitened times – is coming in at an average of €23,500.
I have to say, it makes me smile and wonder. At an average of €23,500 odd for the day out, that sum would have bought a small farm when I tied my marital knot. When I read about wedding planners, videographers and the like that are the essential companions of the modern bride, I wonder if I’m really married at all. My day out way back 31 years ago was a haphazard, unplanned affair by comparison.
I was the fifth in my family to enter the institution and the third girl. There wasn’t, therefore, any high novelty factor. Been there. Done that. My sisters were fed up being bridesmaids so I called on one of the soon-to-be-hubby’s sisters and my best friend to do the honours. There was none of this giggly lunching, weekending and girlie days away on the hunt for bridesmaid dresses. Fabric and patterns were purchased and delivered to willing hands in the respective locales. They were on their own after that. In fact, the bridesmaid’s dresses caused a minor panic on the morning of the nuptials in that they got mixed up – one b’maid was 5’ 10” and the other 5’2”. Both went into a tailspin and took a full five minutes to realise they were each wearing the other’s dress. So much for keeping the bride calm. I almost had to slap them out of their hysteria.
My own dress cost £40 (approx €50). Himself and myself were in Dublin one day and I decided to have a look for a wedding dress. I dispatched him to a city centre pub with the paper and I started the trawl. I went into a few of the trendy bridal boutiques, had a look around, surreptitiously looked at the price tags and staggered out. On to the department stores. I found it in Arnotts in about five minutes flat. Saw it; looked at the price; tried it on; bought it. No big deal. “What about a headdress or veil?”, the assistant asked and showed me fussy, fake flowery things that cost as much as the dress. I decided to do without.
What I did need, though, was a new bra. I’m not talking about sexy, dental floss lingerie that is now factored into the cost of a wedding. I’m talking about something that would do the job on the day. The top and shoulders of the dress were filmy lace and a body couldn’t have straps showing. There followed my first, flesh-toned strapless bra. Whether it was it or whether it was me, it didn’t feel right and I was terrified it would let me down, so to speak, on the day. Way back then there was none of this invisible tape that holds things together – I went to the altar with large wodges of Sellotape on my bosom.
My wedding shoes were flat sandals that I dyed. I can’t remember how much they cost but I’m sure I was as circumspect with that purchase as with the frock. The footwear had to be flat as I’m tall and the dress was just about floor length in my bare feet. Bottle of dye and all was sorted. I think I probably wore them to work for a few weeks beforehand to break them in and get a bit of value out of them. They weren’t going to be wearable afterwards, really.
The wedding car was my father’s car driven by himself. I was actually very lucky here. The car was new to the point that the cellophane stuff was still on the seats. It wasn’t deliberately purchased to coincide with my nuptials – it just so happened that it was there in time. But I thanked God fervently that it worked out that way as the previous car (which would have been utilised had it still been current) was an awful sight. My father used his car as his office. He was a publican, local politician and half-hearted farmer. The previous car, a big, mustard coloured Peugeot 404 was full of papers, baling twine and worse. The new one was navy, clean and still with the new car smell. A month later and I’d have been in trouble.
The heavens opened on the morning in question. My sister drove me to the hairdressers but, when I was done, I couldn’t raise anyone to come and pick me up. No mobile phones then. I waited for a break in the cloudburst and legged it up the town with a newspaper over my lacquered-like-cardboard hair. The rain had implications for the photographs too – it was so wet when we got out of the church that everyone scarpered. Therefore, I have no family groups in the album (to their delight) but I do have an hilarious shot of a dreamy looking bride and groom in soft focus gazing into, supposedly, the blue yonder with misty edges on it. We were actually looking into a butcher’s window. I always get a giggle out of that. Videos weren’t in vogue then either but somewhere in my sister’s attic is a 2-minute run of 8mm film showing myself and my father entering the chapel. That was high-tech at the time.
What we couldn’t have bought or planned was the success of the day. Families mingled, friends were made and grannies got tiddly. The local hotel did us proud and, without any pre-arrangement, dished out the sandwiches in the (very) early hours. We left for our honeymoon the following day after being carried down the street on a gate that several of the lads had taken off its hinges for the purpose. We were manhandled onto said gate in high glee with little thought to personal safety or new clothes. I had to stop in Longford to buy new tights which raised an eyebrow – a dishevelled young woman covered in confetti looking for tights.
So, by today’s standards, it was a miracle that it happened at all. How did we ever manage without a project manager planning and organising the whole affair? How did we all manage to get to the church on time? How did we manage to actually enjoy the day ourselves? I don’t know – but we did. It was easy. Thanks be to God we didn’t know any better.