So very happy for you both

Your wedding's supposed to be the best day of your life. So why do friends and family behave so badly, asks Hester Lacey

WHEN YOU GET married, particularly if you are the bride, one phrase that you hear over and over again is, "It's your day! You must have exactly what you want!" But this mantra comes from the wedding professionals who want to sell an extra tier to the cake, or a pounds 150 tiara, or a deluxe leather- look photo album, or any of the other accoutrements that suddenly become indispensable to the success of the whole frilly circus.

Those closest to you, however, are loose canons when they turn up at the church. Last week, Anneka Rice's younger sister Juliette got married, in decollete white with a big veil. However, the one that made the front pages was Anneka, in a clingy, eye-catching salmon pink number and flowery hat, as the tabloids noted her "good impression of a happily-single woman as the ceremony took place" and observed that her little sis had beaten her to the altar, while all she has to show are "two very publicly failed relationships".

Of course, Anneka didn't set out deliberately to steal her sister's thunder. Pinching the limelight from the bride is a mean trick. Liz Hurley hotly denied any such thoughts were in her head when, wearing a red dress split to the hip, she accidentally flashed her sparkly knickers in front of the photographers at the wedding of Henry Dent-Brocklehurst and Lili Maltese earlier this summer. But guests who turn up with their own agenda which includes rather more than decorously toasting the bride and groom is the stuff of legend.

Three of the guests at Maria Brown's wedding turned up in ostentatious scarlet. "They obviously thought this was a suitable display of scorn for the whole event. One of them was one of my sisters who, I later discovered, had just been planning to announce her own wedding when I announced mine and felt I'd stolen the show. One was my new husband's sister who was very cross that he was marrying anyone because she's that sort of sister. And one was a friend whose boyfriend kept refusing to marry her. The annoying thing was that all made a great show of thinking weddings were terribly silly and old-fashioned and yet they were all married within a year."

At least, however, they all kept their traps shut, she says. "I also went to someone's wedding where there was a best woman. The subtext of her speech was that getting married was a very unfeminist thing to do and implied that the bride was now `lost' to her female circle. It was really only barely this side of decency."

Other acts may be an even more deliberate form of sabotage. Even supposedly platonic friends can turn nasty, according to one of this summer's top- rating films, My Best Friend's Wedding, starring Julia Roberts, who turns up at her old friend's wedding determined to snaffle the groom and get to the altar herself by hook or by crook.

Old flames are the most likely sources of a dangerous hidden agenda. "I certainly had my own plans when I went to my old boyfriend's wedding. I should have been the one marrying him and I was as flirtatious as I could be," says Anna, 30. "I was so pleased to see that the bride didn't look very glamorous; her arms looked like mottled sausages and she had the most hideous make-up. Nothing came of it, but if he'd turned round before the ceremony and said `Let's get out of here' I'd have gone like a shot."

And then there are the well-meaning but equally maddening: the parents, or future parents-in-law. Because they are forking out, they see it as their day as much as the happy couple's. "When I saw our wedding list, as drawn up by my fiancee's parents, my jaw dropped," recalls Richard, 36. "It was mostly people I'd never even heard of, all their friends - it was as though they were grabbing the chance to have their own wedding all over again. They were paying, so my fiancee thought it was fair enough for them to have quite a lot of say over what went on but my heart just kept sinking and sinking. They even vetoed our choice of flowers for the registry office." By the time the big day came, he says, he was wishing they'd opted for a beach-side ceremony in the tropics with no guests at all. "It was a very strained affair. I felt like a spare part."

Weddings, says agony aunt and Relate counsellor Suzie Hayman, author of You Just Don't Listen (Vermilion pounds 8.99), are an emotional minefield. "Weddings are about families, and it's understandable that a lot of people feel they have a stake. But just because it's understandable, that doesn't mean it's excusable."

The reason why weddings are particularly fraught, she says, is because they are simultaneously a time for beginnings and endings. "It's the ending of childhood and beginning of adulthood for the couple, and it is the official end of other romantic possibilities. For the parents it can signal the beginning of old age, friends can feel it is the ending of a special relationship, siblings that they have been left behind. The whole thing acquires enormous emotional freight."

This, she says, is partly the reason for the "look-at-me, look-at-me" stance of the thunder-stealers. "I honestly think that some people are not consciously aware that they are doing it, and it is down to a lack of self-confidence, a feeling of competitiveness and jealousy. You find it much less in married people, more in people who are with their partners and wish that they could take the same step. And those who flirt at their old flame's wedding are saying, `I had him first and I can get him back any time' . Again it's a way of bolstering low self-esteem."

The classic, she says, are the take-over parents. "I get so many letters about this," says Suzie Hayman. "But for the bride's mother in particular it is the end of an era. It's a ritual that takes their child out of their control, and they want to control that ritual." The best way to deal with runaway mothers, she says, is to give them their head - up to a point. "If the couple can talk it over and say, `As long as we are happy in our relationship we'll let her do it' they can feel good about recognising the feelings behind the behaviour."

As for the thunder-stealer, she admits that there is "not a damn thing to be done - except not let it worry you. What is really important is your private commitment. It might sound soppy," she adds reassuringly, "but if you're in love it doesn't matter what anyone else looks like."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor