My Iranian dad refused to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day – Meghan Markle's family drama has nothing on mine

He came down, my father, eventually, wearing a canary yellow suit. It looked like it had been made for him – had he been a 6ft, stocky man. My father is 5ft3 with a petite frame. The suit swamped him and you could see it from the moon

Shaparak Khorsandi
Saturday 19 May 2018 12:14 BST
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This is not yet another column about Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Well, it is a bit, seeing as I’ve mentioned them in the first sentence. I’m not usually one for big displays reminding the world there is a family in Britain who, by dint of their birth, will always be regarded as more important than the rest of us and their children more adorable than any of ours. That said, I’m quite into Harry. He’s outgoing and entertaining and best of all, he is marrying someone whose family appear so brilliantly dysfunctional and dramatic that they make his own look like The Waltons.

This is the most normal thing any member of the royal family has ever done. It’s marvellous to see the stiff upper lip in full effect as a statement was released to say that “Ms Meghan Markle has asked his Royal Highness the Prince Of Wales to accompany her down the aisle”. I like to imagine Charles was actually pacing the carpet as the family gathered for a summit on what to do and saying: “Oh for goodness’ sakes, you can’t rely on the bloody Yanks, can you? I’ll bloody do it.”

I hit some serious dad-related snags on my own big day too. I’m not saying that my father didn’t get into the spirit of it; I’m just saying that on the morning of my wedding, he invited some people I had never met to our house for a breakfast barbecue and was still in his pyjamas when the car came to pick us up for the ceremony.

We’d already had a bit of a skirmish when I had caught my dad out on the street, first thing, inviting the Iranian neighbours – who had just moved nextdoor, and who I had yet to meet – to my wedding. Iranian culture is very “the more the merrier” and “a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet” and “I’ll invite random people to my daughter’s wedding if the mood takes me”, but I did not want to have “My Big Fat Iranian Wedding”.

We Iranians are an exuberant people who will generally dance, sober, at the drop of a hat and enjoy nothing more than getting a rabble together for a party. I remember being at an Iranian get-together in Germany in my teens when the police were called because it was so noisy. Somewhere in my piles of old pictures, there is a photo of the two German policemen with their arms outstretched and their hips in a twirl as we taught them Persian dancing. But I did not want rambunctious chaos on my wedding day.

My Iranian ancestors turned in their graves as I went nextdoor and, as politely as could, told the new neighbours that my dad was out of his tree and there was no room for extra guests at my wedding. They were very understanding. Relieved, I think.

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I tried to carry on my stressful – I mean special day. My aunt did my hair and makeup, my best friend poured champagne, and once I was in my beautiful frock, my big brother, my comrade-through-childhood, entered in his smart suit and saw me, his baby sister, in all my wedding finery, and said: “Shap! Do I look OK?”

I threw a hairbrush at him.

I ended up screaming at my dad to get ready. We were late. I sat on the step in my dream meringue, thinking how glad I was that I was marrying an English man whose family would have been ready an hour after they woke up and who would not have dreamed of doing anything outside of what had already been planned.

He came down, my father, eventually, wearing a canary yellow suit. It looked like it had been made for him – had he been a 6ft, stocky man. My father is 5ft 3 with a petite frame. The suit swamped him and you could see it from the moon. I banned the suit, made him change and marched him into the car with my mum and brother, with steam coming out of my nostrils. Less princess, more dragon.

In the car, I told my dad that he had to walk me down the aisle. My father had been to a few British weddings but he’d always been late and missed the ceremonies, arriving just in time to catch the party afterwards. So he had no idea what I was talking about and I had to explain.

The tradition of “giving away” a bride doesn’t exist in Iranian culture. He arched an eyebrow: “I give you away? Like you are property? You are not property to ‘give away’!” En route to my wedding, I had no time for feminism and was about to combust before my brother, now recovered from the hairbrush assault, said: “I’ll do it, Shap – it’s not Dad’s thing.”

So in the end, my brother walked me down the aisle, my father changed back into his canary yellow suit after the pictures were taken, and the neighbours nextdoor came to the evening do.

I had a quiet moment with my dad halfway through the day where we sat far away from everyone together and I said: “Dad, what was this morning all about?” And my little father, in his actually very gorgeous suit, said: “I don’t know. I just couldn’t really believe you were going to get married. It all felt too strange, too conventional for you.”

He was right. I wish I’d let him invite whoever he wanted, I wish I had wedding photos where we were all upstaged by his suit, I wish there had been more wild Persian dancers because it was, after all, my father’s big day too.

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