Grace Dent on TV: A Very British Wedding

I don't know why this wedding involves a vodka syringe, but if you actually like people it's a delight

A deeply charming, thoughtful programme about British weddings appeared on TV this week. One which made me quack with laughter, then have a little weep within its all too brief 58 minutes. Yes, I know, TV weddings – I've had it up to here with them, too. Those Big Fat Gypsy ones on C4, less jovial now they've been tarred with the “unethical” telly brush. And let's be honest, BBC3's Don't Tell The Bride is about as cosy to watch as bear-baiting.

I lost patience with Four Weddings on Sky Living, in which four rival brides attended each other's big days, dragging a dark cloud of bonfire-piss with them, then sat about in Monsoon shrugs wrapped around spam-like arms, slagging off the chicken en croute. The winner was given a holiday as recompense for their national humiliation.

Furthermore, benevolent soul that I am, I question the wisdom of any woman who puts Amy Childs and her heroically daft chum Harry Derbridge in charge of designing their big day on Channel 5's Celebrity Wedding Planners. Personally, I'd be wary of putting Harry Derbridge in charge of making a lemon-curd sandwich.

Alas, there's not a lot of love in the room during British TV weddings. But then up popped A Very British Wedding, which has gained excellent, nosey, warm-hearted access to British-based Sikhs, Ukrainians, Chinese, Nigerians and several other nationalities' grand days. This is a fabulous series if you're one of those maverick individuals who gives a stuff about other people and wants to learn more about them instead of sitting on your arse, blaming them for everything. I realise this wouldn't be the most persuasive pitch in a TV commissioning meeting.

Sasha and Vlod from Ukraine were not invited on TV to talk about jobs, migration, money, healthcare or what they have left back home. They were there to discuss love and their plan to have a big, brassy Ukrainian wedding. This appears to involve sharing a big loaf of bread, playing a game that involves a vodka syringe and a bossy sister-in-law dressed as a Carry On nurse, blokes dressed as brides, a fake health check in the street, a shed-load of beer and a game involving a two plastic potties. I don't completely understand the cultural significance of this, nor will I unless I move to the borders of Russia for 12 to 15 years. But I'm having a go; it's good to talk.

There's a great moment in the opening titles when a cheery yet bewildered Caucasian sitcom-type Anglican vicar is standing in the middle of his church, which is packed with hundreds of British African women in full headdress, undulating and clapping. “Oooh, blimey. What's going on there?” he shouts as the service takes another bewildering turn and he struggles to keep up. They're laughing, he's laughing — it's a nice scene. In fact, there is a fine sentiment running right through this show of cultures blending and bending, of new generations forming new traditions. Goodwill; biting our tongues; letting the youngsters get on with it; letting granny have her own way — these happen at weddings worldwide.

Kami and Dav live in Yorkshire and are besotted, gaga, crazy in love and want a big traditional wedding: six weeks separation, dancing sessions, cookery lessons, and a huge, emotional service in a gurdwara (a Sikh temple). Then there's a massive party in a Doncaster sports hall with a full-thrust bhangra band, and an evening of weepy send-offs: mums crying, brothers crying, everyone throwing rice. Kami's dad died four years ago and she misses him at every turn. It's impossible not to be rather choked as Kami leaves her mum's house for the last time to move in with her mother-in-law, with all the uncles and cousins out in the street snivelling, and everyone promising everyone else they'll look after her. I'm not Sikh but I understand every tiny emotion.

I also understand the frustration of Vlod's best man when he is not allowed to carry the large, symbolic loaf of bread into the registry office. “No food and drink in the room,” announces the council official. “Why? You scared of rats?” the best man asks, genuinely. “No. We don't have rats,” she laughs, then sees he's sincere. “But we need to bring in bread. It's cultural. It's, um, religious,” he says. The truth is, he doesn't want to spend the ceremony standing outside holding a white bloomer as big as a Shetland pony. “This is a civil ceremony,” says the official. “There is no religion.”

Many of Vlod and Sasha's family can't attend the wedding due to paperwork, finance or passports. The families chat on Skype throughout the day but it only seems to exaggerate the distance between them. Vlod carries a piece of embroidery he'd made with his mum years ago, which she had posted to him. He leaves the dancing behind and stands outside the reception hall, a hulking Ukrainian builder, and has a tiny cry. “Are you ok, Vlod?” asks the producer. “Yes, yes,” he replies quickly, pulling himself together. And the party goes on.

Ian Beale has pulled another very attractive women on EastEnders. Yes, completely feasible.

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album