Weddings on hold as World Cup fever grips grooms

Women come a poor second to soccer, writes Kate Watson-Smyth
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WOMEN across Britain are discovering that what they had long suspected is true: that if a man must choose between a woman and football, football invariably wins.

As the "lads" feverishly colour in their World Cup charts and plan their lives around pubs with big screens, women are having to contend not only with second-rate television and a rush of so-called "chick movies" at the cinema - but having their weddings postponed as well.

Louise Selby, a wedding-dress designer, has no orders at all between 10 June and 12 July (the dates of the World Cup for those who have had the good fortune to be on Planet Zog in recent weeks) and is planning to go on holiday.

"It is unheard of for me to be able to go away at this time of year as it is normally the busiest time for weddings," she said, "but this year I have nothing at all.

"I will still average the same number of dresses over the year but instead of making them in June and July I am really busy in August and September.

"It seems extraordinary, but I can only assume that it is because the men don't want to get married and have to go on honeymoon when they can watch football."

Glenis Hamilton-Wright of Hamilton-Wright Design in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said she had had only one booking for July, but 29 for August. "Normally I would do about 15 every month, but the World Cup has moved everything around," she said. "The only bride who is getting married in July had to ring Fifa before she booked the reception to find out if England would be playing that day if they qualified."

This seems to bear out a recent survey which found that men would rather watch football than have sex with the woman of their dreams.

One man who is getting married on 11 July said he had been aware that the wedding would clash with the World Cup, but not that it would be the day before the final. "But it has turned out all right as we will be in France anyway so we won't miss it," said Mark (not his real name).

So while his fiancee fondly imagined they would spend the first day of their honeymoon wandering hand-in-hand along the white sands of Corsica, they will be trawling the island for a big-screen television.

And Mark is taking no chances with his stag weekend. He and his pals are off to a holiday camp where they can concentrate on the football.

"We have called it the World Cup Mardi Gras and we are going to watch every single match and drink lots of beer," he said. While Mark is glued to the screen, Julie will be left to make last-minute arrangements."We've done everything, it's all arranged," said Mark. Julie gave a hollow laugh at this but conceded that Mark would be of little use. On balance, she preferred to have him out of the way, she said.

For anyone not obsessed with soccer, whether awaiting nuptials or not, the prospects for alternative entertainment are not good. Television channels have lined up a series of second-rate films and dire sitcoms.

A spokesman for ITV, which is showing the premieres of Kick Boxer III and On Deadly Ground, said: "We have a very strong summer schedule and see it as a very good alternative to the World Cup." The comment was much the same at the BBC.

Nor is there any escape at the cinema. The summer's big releases have been delayed until after the World Cup in favour of films for girls which they can see after a spot of shopping while the boys watch the footie. An insider at 20th Century-Fox, which is releasing the ultimate chick flick, The Object of My Affection, starring the ultimate chick, Jennifer Aniston of Friends, said the company was also re-releasing The Full Monty to coincide with the World Cup.

"It is being done for the girls so that while the men are at home watching football, they can go and watch real men take their kit off."

A spokesman at Wembley Stadium revealed that it had no major concerts planned for the next few weeks because it did not want to clash with the football.

"We are still open for bookings but the promoters have been put off because they don't want to run up against a major match. It just shows what an effect this can have on the whole country," he said, as if we needed telling.

The Rolling Stones, who are booked to play at Wembley in August, will certainly need no reminding. They played there in 1990 during the World Cup semi-final between England and Germany, and were greeted by the sight of thousands of fans trying to dance to their music while listening to radios for the latest score.

Their publicist Bernard Doherty, who would like to point out that he did not arrange that concert, said the Stones had taken that into consideration this year. He said: "The Stones will always sell out but they like to watch the football as well and they certainly don't want a repeat of 1990."

The organisers of Meltdown, a series of concerts at the Royal Festival Hall between 20 June and 5 July, have capitulated and agreed to erect several large television screens so the audience can enjoy both music and football.

So there you have it. The only alternative is rent a cottage in the country, throw the television out of the window and pray for 13 July.