In my book ‘Table for One - Anecdotes of a Single White Female’ I devote an entire chapter to the increasingly beyond-the-bounds-of-sense ludicrous beast of a thing we call the wedding industry.
I shadowed a friend of mine who owns a wedding dress boutique for a couple of days whilst researching the topic and trying to get to the bottom of why I was so irritated by something which appeared to have no bearing on my life. As I traipsed around endless soul-destroying wedding fairs, listened to streams of women with a manic glint in their eye banging on relentlessly about their desire to feel like a ‘princess’ as they poured themselves into identikit bodices and contemplated the completely inexplicable allure of the chocolate fountain, it suddenly dawned on me what so thoroughly got my goat.
You see, the multi-billion pound industry that has sprung up around what used to be the relatively simply affair of nuptial-undertaking isn’t just exploiting brides and grooms with heads full of Disney style fantasies and overdraft facilities, it’s making a mockery of us all. The amount of time, energy and, most crucially, cash which we must all expend in celebrating the fact that someone we know has been lucky enough to meet someone with whom they enjoy having sex and can spend a hefty chunk of their day without wanting to smother is, frankly, astronomical.
I believe it was Carrie Bradshaw of SATC fame who first contemplated the expectation placed upon single people to celebrate the lifestyle choices of their be-coupled friends. She, however, limited the totting up of expenses merely to gifts. I don’t have an issue with the gifts. Gift buying is lovely. I enjoy the idea that my married friends’ houses all contain a scented candle that wouldn’t be there but for the grace of me. It’s slightly more difficult to feel as magnanimous about the engagement parties (I swear engagement parties didn’t exist ten years ago. You’re engaged. It’s all horribly romantic. Shouldn’t you be holed up somewhere shagging? Why do I have to be involved?), hen weekends (no longer limited to a night. A weekend is now requisite to celebrate one’s forthcoming marriage. And it’s usually in a horribly expensive spa. Or Dublin), weddings abroad (thus your wedding now dictates the time and location of my annual holiday. Thanks for that) and, heaven help us, the baby showers (what are we, American?).
The worst weddings are the ones where guests have to buy their own drinks. These are also usually the ones where you’re reminded on an hourly basis that the soiree you’re attending cost in excess of twenty grand and the lace on the bride’s dress had to be hand-woven by Lithuanian imps and then flown over in a private jet on a silk pillow, cradled lovingly by an international diplomat. Yet mysteriously this astronomical budget couldn’t stretch to acknowledgement of the fact that I’ve schlepped cross country (or cross-Europe) to spend a day repeating the phrase ‘oh rah rah doesn’t she look lovely?’ and to be interrogated by your relatives about my single status and therefore deserve at the very least to get horribly drunk for free. Not least so that the alcohol can provide a gateway to that special and rarely visited corner of my brain that actually enjoys the ABBA/Greece Megamix/Michael-sodding-Buble your DJ is insisting upon playing.
All of these events I am emotionally blackmailed into attending, based on the premise that it’s a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing, when all the statistics suggest that a hefty proportion of them will end in divorce within a decade (at which point I shall no doubt be beckoned to the relatively new and equally hideous phenomenon that is the ‘divorce party’).
Last week, when the government announced a tax break for married people (because apparently all the other financial rewards that come hand in hand with the married state-of-being weren’t sufficient), a lot of people, including The Independent’s Ellen E Jones, spoke very eloquently about how the gesture endorsed marriage as a superior way of existing and questioned the fairness of that. (Of course, that was the point of the entire thing – a token to appease far-right, UKIP-py type Tory backbenchers by throwing a bone to British people who represent a 1950s ‘traditional’ domestic set up and leaving the rest of us in no doubt that our lives are not considered to be of equal value).
My first thought, however, was this - two hundred pounds a year isn’t nearly enough to cover my annual celebrating-people-I-know-finding-love-incurred expenses but, David Cameron, it might have helped.