Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Here Comes the Groom

I found myself in a bridal shop yesterday.

I don’t have much experience with weddings. I am married. You all know that I’m married, and to whom I am married. I often think that I am more married than other people. Not many couples live and work together as closely as the husband and I do. We are together, at least in the same house pretty well 24/7. We each have an office, so we’re not exactly tripping over each other, but we collaborate on projects, and I’m his go-to for editing and advice. We each know what the other is doing professionally, we have a private life together, and, of course, there are the dorts and the animals.

We work together, we travel together and we play together.

Marriage is important to us; weddings aren’t.

It’s a bit of a family thing. It took me and the husband twenty-two years from meeting to getting married, and when we finally managed to get around to it, we eloped. Our older dort eloped, too, and so did my parents and my maternal grandparents. Two of those generations even did it legally. 

A few years ago, I interviewed my father, on video-tape. It made for some fascinating film, and one of the stories he told me was of his elopement to my mother. It isn’t the point of this blog, but I really must tell it one day; it’s romantic and interesting and sort of lovely. Pops was a bit of a dude.

Met in 1982, eloped in 2004, currently married 11years and counting
The point, I suppose, is that marriage is important, that relationships are important. Weddings, to me at least, have never been very important. The husband always felt right to me, and me to him. I always felt married to him. I didn’t want or need a big wedding. I wore a dress that I already owned, and which I still sometimes wear; I picked black tulips from our garden and made my own bouquet; there are no formal pictures of our wedding, just a couple of snaps that our children took, because they were our guests, along with our oldest friends and their two kids.

My experience of bridal shops is limited to glancing in windows, and visiting them with my sisters when they were planning their weddings.

I found myself in a bridal shop yesterday for the singular purpose of hiring the husband a kilt. We’re off to a New Year’s party which is tartan themed; my ancestry is Scottish, so we thought it’d be nice if the husband wore a kilt. I’ve been meaning to have one made for him for years, and haven’t got around to it. If you want to hire a kilt, apparently, a bridal shop is the place to do it.

When we arrived in the men’s department of the shop a rather beautiful young man in his late twenties was standing in the room in full regalia, including a powder blue kilt. I didn’t like the colour of the kilt, but he wore it well, and looked very dashing. The bride didn’t like the colour of the kilt either. It wasn’t baby blue enough; it didn’t go with the colour she’d chosen for the bridesmaid’s dresses. The poor groom appeared to be suffering, and the atmosphere was a little tense. 

All the husband and I could do was wait, and the room wasn’t huge, so, I cheerfully offered that I thought the groom looked good in the kilt, that he wore it well. I imagined that a little encouragement from a neutral party couldn’t do any harm. The shop assistant was doing her very best, but it was all rather hard work.

Eventually, after various bridesmaids dresses were compared with the kilt, and various waistcoats were tried on with it, and a lot of photos were taken on the bride’s phone, the groom went into a changing room and the bride went downstairs for a fitting. The husband got his chance to try on some kilts. 

I was talking to the shop assistant and said I’d rather the husband wore one of my family tartans. The store only offered generic tartans that anyone could wear. At this point, the groom appeared in his own clothes. He’d clearly overheard what I’d been talking about, and said that he wished he was allowed to wear his family tartan.

I was taken aback.

I asked about his family tartan and he said that it was red and his bride wanted the bridesmaids in powder blue and his kilt wouldn’t match. He then went on to say that she didn’t really want him to wear a kilt at all, and that he’d only just managed to persuade her to let him try one on to show her what it would look like.

At this point, I was horrified.

Relationships matter. Marriage matters. Weddings, to me at least, don’t matter very much. Of course we all know that weddings matter to a lot of people. We all know that a lot of people take a great deal of care organising their weddings, and we all know that a lot of those people are women. A culture seems to have grown up around women fantasising about perfect weddings right through their childhoods. I hear stories about this sort of thing: little girls tottering around in their mother’s heels with pillowcase veils on their heads… I hear about it, but I don't get it. I wonder how much thought those same little girls give to marriage.

A wedding is just a big, fancy party. Everyone wants to look good for a party, and if you’re the centre of attention, then that dress might be a big deal. OK, so the bride takes some time to choose a dress that she’d never wear under any other circumstances, and that she’ll never wear again, and she spends a couple of month’s wages on it. That’s her business. I guess it’s also her business if she wants to dictate what her best mates and/or her sisters and/or cousins and/or baby daughters wear. Again, I know this happens, but I don’t get it.

What about the groom? As I understand it, most grooms these days are also expected to wear clothes that they would never choose to wear under other circumstances. Lots of grooms and often the best man and fathers of the couple too, now wear morning suits, but how often are they bought? and how often are they tailored to fit? I’m guessing that the answer to that question is, ‘almost never’.

How many brides wear a rented dress to their weddings? I’m guessing that most women wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. And yet most brides expect their grooms to wear a rented suit. How many grooms have any say in what they wear? I don’t know.

I do know that I would never dream of telling the husband what he should or shouldn’t wear. I also have a very strong feeling that most grooms wouldn’t turn to their brides and say, ‘I hate that dress’ or ‘Why are you wearing that white, meringue monstrosity? It’s just plain daft, and it looks hideous!’ How many grooms see their brides in their dresses for the first time when they see them at the altar or the registrar’s table or in the hotel ballroom? How many of those brides have ever worn their hair that way before? or had their make-up professionally done in that style? Most brides look completely different on their wedding day from the way they looked when their groom met them, dated them or woke up with them the morning before the wedding. What an almighty shock that must be for a lot of men who are probably already beside themselves with nerves.

Is it fair? Is it right? Is it reasonable?

I don’t know.

I believe that a marriage is vastly more important than a wedding. 

I think that women, and in particular brides, do a great deal more towards organising a wedding than do most grooms.

This groom did want to do something towards his wedding. This groom wanted to represent himself, his family and his heritage by wearing his family tartan; he wanted to wear his traditional kilt at his wedding. His bride had other ideas.

I can’t imagine organising such a big event, and I’m not sure that most of us are really up to it. There’s a very great deal to do, and most of us aren’t experienced at this kind of job. Most weddings take a year or longer to organise; there’s a lot to remember, and it’s all horribly expensive.

It takes two people to make a marriage work. At various times, one or other of those people takes a break, falls apart, or simply goes off-piste. This happens in most, if not all marriages, and when it does, if the other partner doesn’t pick up the slack, rein things in, work stuff out, forgive, forget or fight to get things back on track, that’s the end of that, and the whole thing ends up in the divorce courts.

I wish this couple all the best for a long, loving, happy relationship, but I think that this bride is making a mistake. This is a man with a mind of his own, and with wants and needs. He’s also a man who’s willing to communicate. All of that seems good to me.

This bride is getting what she wants now, but at what cost later? No one gets all of what they want all of the time. I don’t think there’s a compromise on this. A wedding should be a joyous event, no matter the size or scale of the party. If he gets any kilt, she won’t be happy. If he doesn’t get his family tartan, he won’t be happy.

The problem is, this wedding won’t be perfect. It seems to me that he knows that, and he just wants to get married and have a big party. She seems to me to be going for the perfect wedding; she’s quibbling over his choice of suit, and none of the umpteen choices of bridesmaids dresses was precisely the right shade of blue.

If she finds exactly the right shade of blue for the dresses, what happens when someone gets drunk at the wedding, or something kicks off between a couple of relatives who can’t get on? What happens when the meal’s twenty minutes late or when the microphone for the speeches doesn't work? What happens when the bridesmaid gets off with the best man, or when the father wants to thump the step-father? What happens when the champagne’s not cold enough or the pudding’s too cold? What happens when the flower girl cries or the celebrant gets the hiccoughs?

I’ve been to quite a lot of weddings. I don’t remember a single one where something didn’t go amiss. I’ve been witness to weddings where everyone bigged-up the groom in the speeches and no one remembered to mention the bride. I’ve witnessed a mother-of-the-bride make an utter fool of herself. I’ve even seen a wedding cake take a nose-dive off a table onto a floor. I’ve seen grooms get totally plastered to the utter devastation of the bride, and I’ve seen bridesmaids in floods of tears over wayward boyfriends. I’ve seen screaming pageboys and heard inappropriate sermons from vicars.

There is no such thing as the perfect wedding, but it’s the dramas and the mayhem… it’s the unplanned moments that make a wedding memorable.

It’s hard to relax when you want something badly, and it’s hard to relax when you’re planning something complicated and expensive. But these two could begin with the outfits for the wedding party. This bride could begin by giving the groom his choice of kilt. She could let the bridesmaids choose their dresses, too, and that’d be two fewer decisions she’d have to worry about. The stress of planning this event isn’t just making the groom’s life less fun, it’s making the bride’s life more difficult too.

Marriage is important; a happy, loving relationship is important. A wedding, in the end, is just a big expensive party. It will be a day to remember whatever happens. This bride might one day regret that she didn’t take it all a little easier, and this groom might one day grow to resent that she didn’t.

I do hope not.


  1. Our wedding had several things go off plan. No one noticed because as soon as it started to go wobbly round the edges I kissed my wife, everyone paused to look at us and go awww!, and by the time we stopped my best man had fixed the problem.

    Good rule for the rest of a marriage really: if things start to look a bit wobbly, kiss your partner, and it will probably look better.

  2. Some marriage adjustments required...

  3. We ran off to the mountains in Canada. I wore a black evening dress that I bought with coupons, and the hubs bought a very nice waistcoat to go with a suit he could use for work afterwards. We took photos at local (free) beauty spots and drank cheap wine with our family. We ate off the hotel menu, so our wedding breakfast consisted of everything from local caught salmon to cheeseburgers. My nephews threw snowballs at tourists, encouraged by the hotel staff. We took cable cars up the mountain (I was still wearing my sister's wedding tiara), and then hung out in the local hot pools where I told everyone I was a princess (still wearing a tiara). We all sat in the pub afterwards and ate cheesecake. The entire costs, including flights and hotels for six people, came in at less than most brides spend on their dress.

    I still think I had the best wedding ever.