“But you’re the mother of the bride!” My friends all chorus as I contemplate a pair of $300 shoes that just might go with the frock that took far longer to find, and cost far more than the one I wore to my own wedding. “Buy whatever you want!” Of course sanity (and parsimony) prevailed and in the end I wore my ten year-old shoes that, according to the lovely bridesmaids, are back in fashion and – bonus – are so painful, they are hardly worn! But now as I look back on our daughter’s wedding (more like gaze mistily at the photos with a soppy smile and a swelling heart) I realise that all that worry about frockage was completely irrelevant. (Try telling that to the companies that continue to festoon any page I open on the internet with big lacy draperies that look great on the stick thin model, but make the average middle aged woman look like a pair of curtains, or shiny pink satin sheaths that risk the wearer looking so much like a sausage she might be mistaken for the food.) No, it’s the other stuff that’s such fun: doing the rounds of the bridal shops with my sister, quaffing prosecco while the bride comes in and out of the change room stunningly swathed in a succession of creamy frothy creations. Then it’s the shoes (six pairs bought, five returned) the headpiece, the earrings, the make-up, nails, hairdo all needing serious experimentation and providing a wonderful excuse for buying lots of heinously expensive bridal mags to be discussed endlessly over yet another mother /daughter/auntie boozy lunch. Not all glitz and glamour either…try carrying a big bridal bundle in all its packaging on to the tube, then on two buses in the middle of rush hour. And all those decisions! Flowers? Acres of peonies are still invading my dreams (not such a bad thing.) Photographer? I had a few reservations about Alessandro, whose signature snap is the bride in the ocean. However we’ve seen a few of his pics (see below) and so far not a drowning bride in sight. What about table settings? Eighty-five lemons, each with its own hand-written leaf? Why not? No, it’s not all lolling about leafing through glossy mags. There was work to be done and everyone was there to help. They also serve who only stand and iron the gorgeous bridesmaids dresses, who fill organza bags with sugared almonds (exactly five if it’s health, wealth, happiness, long life and fertility you’re after); who cut and distribute individual green leaf name cards, and who blow up five inflatable kangaroos brought by the Bells all the way from the Australian Geographic shop at Indooroopilly in Brisbane. (Yes, it’s true!)
So this perhaps is the point of it all. It was a magical weekend because our daughter Thea and her gorgeous new hubby Simon had gathered so many people who love them, and wanted to help make it all fabulous, (and as a bonus provided us with such a lovely family to join up with!)
and Auntie Maria reduced us all to mush with her beautifully rendered Songbird, while multi-lingual cousins Fergus and Shona had scoured rural Italy for electronic equipment for Kat the DJ. And how can we forget bridesmaids: Visnja the detail gal; Greer, on the make-up for us all (in between feeds for three month old Hardy), and Caroline forensically organising the tables before leading everyone in a massive dance-off. And the groomsmen and best man were as handsome as they were handy, taking care of everything from the rose petal shower to the obligatory and witty character assassination of the groom, with elegance and style. And what’s a wedding without acupuncture for the morning after? Well done, Cara. As well, everyone had made the most amazing efforts to be there…planning their leave, booking flights, wrestling with Italian ticket queues, all the while juggling babies, frocks, suits and glasses of Aperol Spritz. And did I mention massive kudos to all those Aussies (thirty at last count) who thought, hmm…wedding in Italy? Sure, count us in. Yesterday morning on Woman’s Hour (BBC radio 4) there was a phone in prompted by the national trauma of bridezilla Kirsty getting jilted at the altar by love rat Tom Archer*. Many callers felt the wedding money should be used for more everyday expenses like the mortgage and child-care, but I couldn’t disagree more. How many opportunities do you have to gather all the people you love together for such a joyous three-day party? It’s a bit like the Olympics of life. Where would all those wonderful athletes be without them? Just running worthily round and round a track. Yes they were expensive, but there are sometimes more important measures in life than just the fiscal – ask anyone who was caught up in Teem Gee Bee 2012, or Sydney 2000. OK, I know I sound horribly first world and privileged, but surely we all need moments in life where we come together as a group united in a purpose. So I discovered that the role of MOB was to watch and listen as the weekend brought together all the elements of my life that are most important. If bringing up a family is anything to me, I can die happy knowing that our daughter is an amazing, capable and beautiful gal who’s found a gorgeous soul mate, and our son Tom is as caring and loving of his sister as any parent would want, not to mention a hilariously funny MC, under whose smooth chat everything flowed seamlessly. And lastly good old hubby Bob brought the house down with a truly fantastic Father of the Bride speech that was as tender as it was funny.
As for me, I spent the day with a beatific smile on my face. It’s still there, actually. And I was rendered inarticulate by happiness. I know…me! I couldn’t think of a single sardonic thing to say! All these lovely young people came up to thank me, and I had to shake my head. Thea and Simon did it all, with a spreadsheet and a budget and the acumen to find an amazing venue, pin down every detail – in Italian; track down a designer gown, and to stitch together a headpiece on the tube! I can only take credit for giving birth to our own two kids…they’ve done the rest. And that is all a parent can hope for. In the beigeness of life, as we limp blindly along hoping we’ve done an OK job with the lives that were entrusted to us, through all the effort, all the anxiety and all the joy, we need times when we stop and celebrate it. And to have it all come together in one stonkingly amazing weekend is something I can’t put a price on.
* Surprised by Joy – title of a poem by William Wordsworth…I know how he felt!
*The Archers – An Everyday Story of Countryfolk legendary long-running radio serial that is part of the fabric of British life.