Cheer and loathing

At least bad behaviour at weddings makes the day memorable.

ALTHOUGH REGISTRY records show that weddings in Britain are 20 per cent down this year, the rash of celebrity knot-tying, which climaxed in the long-awaited nuptials of Posh and David yesterday, might make you think otherwise.

Although there will no doubt be a lot of raking over of the dress, the suit and the bridesmaids' outfits after the Beckham/Adams production, what won't be found in the pages of Hello! or OK is any hint of the way in which weddings stir people up to behave in the strangest ways.

For every person who wishes the couple well and who manages to enjoy themselves with a genuine feeling of goodwill in their hearts, there will be another whose emotions are rather less generous.

My second wedding was a case in point. It was wonderful, nerve-wracking, emotional and hilarious. It is the one day in your life when hundreds of people tell you how nice you look (even though you probably have never looked less like yourself) because they don't know what else to say. This awkwardness is to do with the temporary star status which forbids you from just hanging out and getting drunk with your best friends until the evening disco, and is part of the reason why some people cannot help wanting to lob the canapes at you as soon as they see you beaming happily in your fancy clothes.

A wedding is, after all, a display of unashamedly ostentatious happiness that is bound to bring out the bitter and twisted cynics.

When the 12-hour celebration was over and we lay in the business suite of the Meridian hotel five minutes from our house, it struck us how strangely some of our guests had behaved. It wasn't just that some people got so paralytic that they burst into tears and vomited. I bear no ill- will towards one guest who went round hugging people so enthusiastically that he managed to fell two women carrying plates of food. I was also fine with what seemed like dozens of people going off to have sex in the garden of the strange run-down mansion we hired for the day.

Much more irritating was Dan's ex-girlfriend who came in a pale cream silk bridal dress with no underwear on. And the other ex-girlfriend who had decided that this was a good time to tell my husband that she forgave him for everything and tried to snog him. Then there was the flame-haired actress who came in a white mini-dress ("Sorry love, I came dressed as the bride!"), took my stepfather's place at the table and leant over to ask me what I had taken to keep me going - in full hearing of my grandmother.

All this pales into insignificance when I recall the person who gatecrashed our sit-down do for 250 and thought it would be funny to phone my first husband during the speeches and say "Guess where I am, darling! I'm at your ex-wife's wedding."

Longer and more costly weddings offer the greatest opportunity for people to behave badly. Like the tired and emotional cousin of a friend of mine whose speech dissolved into a rant of barely concealed dislike of the groom. To everyone's amazement and embarrassment he could not help telling everyone how the groom was a "spoilt brat" and a "jammy bastard". As the laughter got thinner and a couple of hecklers told him to sit down, he was gently led out of the back of the marquee into the dark night.

At another country wedding I went to, a friend of the bride was so clearly having trouble letting her old pal have all the limelight that she kept reappearing in different and more glamorous outfits as the day went on. By the time everyone left in the wee hours she was wearing an outfit that would have made Danny La Rue proud.

There are the whisperers too, who don't do anything noticeably dramatic to spoil things but start a mood of negativity about the way the wedding has been organised. There are those who cast aspersions on the durability of the marriage with little hints about "troubles" last year and how "worried" they've been that the big occasion would be called off.

After we had got over the initial irritation at our guests' bad behaviour, we started to realise that wildly dotty guest behaviour is the mark of a particularly successful wedding and is one that is likely to stay in the collective memory much longer than a trouble-free occasion. And we forgive you all - apart from the gatecrasher with the mobile-phone - with all the smug blissfulness of a happily married couple.

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