ETCETERA / Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
I love weddings. I love the dressesand speeches and tears and hats and toasts to the bride and groom. I love the sense of occasion and the public exchanging of vows and the hopefulness of it all.

So it was my idea of bliss to go to two weddings last week. The first one was for my friends Polly and David (v. glamorous - champagne, caviare, marquees - but also romantic, with the bride a vision in a white satin dress, like the happy ending of a fairy tale). The second was for my sister Ruth and her boyfriend Matt. They are a devoted couple who nevertheless quietly resisted marriage for years, and then all of a sudden succumbed, much to my delight.

I started feeling happily tearful the day before the wedding, when we drove down to Matt's parents' house in West Sussex. By 8.30am on the day itself I was even more sentimental - putting on Ruth's lipstick for her (my little sister]) and admiring her dress and Matt's new suit. And then there was the Register Office (more tears) and confetti and back to the house for lunch and speeches (buckets of tears). All the cliches were true: she really did look radiant, more beautiful than I have ever seen her before, and Matt really did look proud and happy and handsome and all the things a bridegroom should be.

Why is it that weddings are so moving? I know that onemarriage in three ends in divorce: in fact, my own parents were there last week with their respective new partners. But on the day itself, whenever I watch friends and relations getting married, I always believe that the union will last for ever - for better, for worse, till death do us part.

This sense of finality might be because a wedding seems like an end in itself: you watch the happy couple drive away at the close of the day amidst cheers and applause, and then that's that: signed, sealed, delivered, man and wife. I can't remember any fairy tales about what happens when the wedding is over, just the ordeal before, and then the prince and princess live happily ever after. No more dragons to slay, no more wicked stepmothers, simply everlasting joy at the palace. Maybe that's why I felt slightly grumpy after my sister's wedding. She and Matt left for their honeymoon, and we drove back to London, back to our own marital home: the place no one ever writes about in fairy tales, where radiant brides turn into nagging wives (and princes sometimes become frogs).

Anyway, the house was a mess: the washing-up piled in the kitchen sink, the living- room floor scattered with a dismantled train- set, and a mound of dirty clothes in the hall. I looked around, and said I wanted to move to the country, to a house just like the one where Matt's parents live. I was forgetting, of course, that they don't have a wedding there every day, that there are not always flowers festooning their walls and chilled champagne in the fridge. Also, I quite like my own house, especially after my husband did the washing- up and then unexpectedly bought me a large bunch of flowers and a ham roll. So although the wedding is over, life at the palace retains a certain thrill after all.