Readers of this blog may have picked up on the forthcoming nuptials for my son. Two years ago my daughter wed a delightful young man. In the run up to that event I imagined an alternate scenario which led to a series of posts, under the above title. In anticipation of this year’s event and maybe to bring back memories for anyone who has been the parent of a wedding, I’ve reworked the diary, though I’ve retained the fact it is a daughter whose wedding is anticipated. I hope you enjoy…
This is entirely fiction. Completely. Utterly. Except for any true bits
Weekend takes something of an unexpected turn when we, the First Of Her Name and I are called into the garden. First Born in tears, boyfriend grinning manically and Male Heir looking like he’s found out who his father really is.
First Of Her Name insists I ‘do something’ while she milks the concerned mother bit. I’m about to suggest ‘pub’ to the men when First Born wails and waves hand at us.
I assume that means approval of the Pub option and am heading for garden gate when I’m called back.
‘I’m engaged.’ Seems the waving thing is to display this bit of grit that’s been embedded in a gold band. Make approving noises until it’s apparent First Of Her Name is now in tears.
Offer sympathy and am belaboured about head. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
When I admit I didn’t know it was coming, belabouring shifts to boyfriend (now upgraded to The Fiancé). ‘Why didn’t you ask permission?’
He points at me. ‘He said not to. He couldn’t keep it secret.’
Belabouring returns to its original target, viz me when the Male Heir confesses he knew. Oddly belabouring continues about my person while he is forgiven his trespasses.
First Born whispers to First Of Her Name and they go indoors. Through the French doors we mere males watch as a flip-chart and spreadsheet are magicked from somewhere and marker pens uncapped.
Many emotions compete: none of them are especially worthy. Hands rest on my shoulder. Fiancé and Male Heir ease me away, like I’ve been staring at a car smash and I should know better. In unison they say: ‘Pub’.
On our way it occurs I am now Father of the Fiancéd. A FOF. That actually feels quite good.
Male Heir ruins moment. ‘You’ll soon be an In Law.’ I exchange a look with the Fiancé. I think we both know who is going to be the Lesser of Two I-Ls.
First Of Her Name announces three line whip for this evening. When I query the timing (Champions League semi, etc) the words I’ve been dreading but I knew were coming are uttered. ‘Wedding Planning’.
7 pm: Convene in reconstituted dining room, now to be known as Centre of Operations (Wedding). When the Fiancé points out the acronym, he is belaboured about head. Then it is my turn. ‘What have I done wrong?’ ‘You were about to laugh.’
This is both unfair (how could she know?) and true (I was). Take punishment like a Quisling husband should.
9 pm: Brain awash with facts and statistics and flow charts and mind maps and lists but one specific item holds front and centre. The Wedding Estimate. Apparently this is ‘reasonable’ but ‘subject to known and unknown variables’. Male Heir says ‘So were London Olympics’ and I lose consciousness at thought of spending £9.35 billion on a wedding. When I come to, the room is empty and the table cleared. Everyone has gone to bed. My eyes finally resume their ability to focus. On the flip-chart someone has written: ‘Pillock’.
Stay up and spend next three hours googling ‘how can I hide my assets off shore’. We can all do some planning.
The First Of Her Name has not spoken since I rose at 7.32 pm. This is not a good sign. When I tentatively prompt her with: ‘Anything untoward, Light Of My Existence?’ she points me to the Operations Centre (Wedding) formerly known as the dining room. On the flip-chart two words to curdle any robust gut and send chills through a man’s spleen have been scratched, no scoured on the surface. ‘Guest List’.
I knew this was coming but like my A level results and my inguinal hernia I always hoped somehow I might be able to sort sleep past them and wake to find them already history. This area has more red-lines than a dyslexic’s spelling test. The difficulty is, of course to try and identify which particular red line has unexpectedly gone straight in at number one. A discrete check of the previous sheets on the flip chart indicates it might be a relative issue.
I make coffee. I take her hand – loosely since I may need to move quickly if I say the wrong thing. Taking a deep breathe, I offer, ‘Aunts?’
A nod. Okay, let’s narrow the field. ‘Joan? Marjorie?’
Two shakes but equally my fingers are still attached. ‘Great Aunts?’
A nod. Then ‘Doris.’
Great Aunt Doris is a torturer, formerly for the Inquisition and as a member of the Waffen SS, if Great Uncle Nesbit’s testimony can be relied on as the repository of family history. She came to our wedding, pronounced herself ‘disappointed’ at me, offered First Of Her Name to pay for a gigolo ‘so you don’t have to wait two years to divorce the maggot’ and left, having cut herself a slice of cake before we’d had the speeches.
I offer: ‘It’s probably for the best if she doesn’t come.’
My guard must have dropped as I register the change in colour of my fingers before the pain hits. ‘Cretin. First Born insists on her coming with her new fancy man. She said she wants to know why we’ve cut Doris out of her life.’
Later, in A&E the Fiancé rings me to check on the extent of my injury (bruised tendons, three weeks of minimal use and no squeezing which the junior registrar insists on demonstrating by the use of an obscene gesture). The Fiancé explains that First Born googled Great Aunt Doris and found her listed as the third richest widow in Rutland. The invite and the possibility of a place in her Will are, he insists, unlinked. Still processing, this news when he adds: ‘First Of Her Name says she won’t come if Great Aunt Doris does.’
Momentary vision of cancelled wedding, money back and a summer free ruined when I punch the air and have to have broken hand re-triaged.
Visit the chosen venue. Palladian columns at entrance, fresco pained on ceiling in reception. The place oozes class and old money, clearly kept afloat by new money: viz, mine. Have to sit down. Offered glass of water.
Discussion with venue manager over numbers they can accommodate. Many smiles when the words ‘easily 200’ are bandied about. Have to sit again. Offered tea and biscuit ‘for the sugar’.
Catering can be provided from their own chef or they can arrange for a Michelin starred winner to be employed. If that route is chosen, a percentage uplift will be needed as a sort of chefage – like a corkage only vastly bigger. Decide it is easier if I simply stay seated. A flunky appears and offers to carry the seat ‘in case I need it again.’ Whiskey is proffered.
Find First Born in earnest discussion with First Of Her Name, while venue manager stands to one side trying not to look like a lottery winner. I don’t ask but she instantly overshares. ‘They are debating whether to allow the chef to chose the wines. Apparently he is famous for his flights.’ I overshare that I may have lost mobility as my leg function appears to have ceased. My request for ‘significant opiates’ ignored.
Flunky calls me an Uber which takes us to local pub. Phone rings. First Of Her Name asking my whereabouts. In background Flunky suggests I say we have ‘taken flight’.
I do what has enabled our 29 years of marriage to endure: I lie. Convincingly. First Of Her Name is not fooled. ‘Get back here. Now. Or you’ll be giving First Born away by video-link from rehab.’
Call at work from First Of Her Name. ‘Call her. Sort it.’
Mind in turmoil I call the First Born. ‘Hi sweetness. Mum told…’
That statement is undoubtedly in the top five most dreaded. Agree, and it will be played back to the First Of Her Name with all the belabouring consequences that inevitably ensue. Disagree, and the reparations demanded by First Born will make the debt born by the Weimar Republic seem chicken feed. Dissemble, and either consequence is left open to be exploited at a time seen fit by First Born. There is only one possible response.
‘She wants to change the invitations. If we do, the printer can’t guarantee they will be ready in time to send out. Can you talk her round, daddy? She listens to you.’ The call is terminated.
In some parallel universe perhaps, I think.
‘She asked me to arbitrate.’
‘I’m still fact finding.’
‘More fool you. She wants to ruin the whole event.’
‘Is this the point where I ask how? I thought wedding invitations invited you to a wedding and asked for an RSVP. It’s a simple provider of basic information.’
‘Did she miss something? The date? Venue? Oh god, she got your name wrong.’
‘She said there wasn’t room for the most basic piece of information. Without it the risk of chaos is enormous.’
‘Nowhere to send the RSVP?’
‘SHE FORGOT TO SAY THE MOTHER OF THE BRIDE WILL BE WEARING TAUPE! Imagine if someone else does.’
‘Er? Taupe? Is that a sort of hat?’
Fitting day. The Fiancé, The Best Man, The Male Heir and me are to have our suits fitted. There is a light-hearted feeling as we arrive at the tailors. It is an invitation only business. We ring the bell, exchanging banter when the blind on the door goes up and, horror The First Of Her Name is framed in the glass.
‘This is fun,’ she intones. The Male Heir kisses the proffered cheek, the Fiancé instinctively ducks and the Best Man shakes her hand. I’m left to lock the door.
Male Heir asks if she should be there, voicing a question both I and I’m sure the Fiancé would like to ask but neither of us need any further punishment after the shock of seeing her there.
‘But darling, imagine the mistakes your father or that one might make without me!’
The tailor, a gratuitously tactile gentleman with over long fingers takes our measurements. Long discussion with First Of Her Name over apparently oversized testes on the Fiancé which are to be remedied by the application of spanx.
Momentary kerfuffle as Fiancé tries to escape, thinking his Jacobs* are to be panel-beaten by the MOB to fit the suit. The First Of Her Name produces an example of said spanx and explains how these instruments of torture will eradicate the problem of the side on which the Fiancé dresses and ensure the ‘line of the suit’ is not compromised. Unlike said testes. Fiancé remains unconvinced of the efficacy of the plan.
‘You show him.’
It takes me a moment to realise it is I to whom she is addressing this direction. Much hilarity from the Male Heir and Best Man at prospect of me and Fiancé having to try on spanx. Comeuppance ensues when First Of Her Name tells them they will be required to wear their own set if we are all to avoid any VPLs on the day. From the glances exchanged it seems fair to assume none of us know what it is we will be avoiding.
Later, in the Pub Best Man suggests this must be something like a VPN and is to avoid Hello! stealing the images. Hopes briefly raised that the cost of the wedding might be about to be offset by selling the rights though why anyone would buy them is a mystery. Hopes dashed when it is revealed this is a joke. Agree with Fiancé that we may as well have third pint as it is unlikely we will be able to pee standing up for much longer. On the plus side, my hernia seems sorted.
*rhyming slang: Jacobs short for Jacob Cream Crackers, viz knackers
Told to meet First Of Her Name in town ‘to help me chose.’
Terror grips all morning as I speculate what it is I am to help choose.
In normal circumstances our marriage has remained steadfastly democratic: if we are to acquire anything new, be it a sofa or fridge or wall paper, we are both involved in the decision process thus:
- The First Of Her Name determines three possibilities;
- I am asked to choose which I think works best, having regard to all elements -viz, style, cost, suitability, availability etc;
- I choose and communicate my decision as de facto head of house to the chief operating officer;
- The COO informs me if I have chosen correctly; and
- If I have not I am given a further two opportunities.
In the case of the Wedding, these arrangements have apparently been suspended. At 3pm I am summoned to ‘Williams, Millinery’. Heart sinks quicker than a concrete crouton.
I am presented with three hats. The first appears to be a felt representation of the Shard. Decide on humour. ‘I suppose the periscope will help you see who is objecting to the Wedding at the back of the Church.’
After stopping nose bleed, I view number two. It is circular in a startling red and is what is described as a fascinator. ‘What does it remind sir of?’ says the grammatically ignorant flunky.
The urge to say ‘a placenta’ is all but overwhelming. With my mind blank, I fumble for anything that might avoid further violence. ‘A Bakewell Pudding?’ I volunteer and begin to weave to the left.
To my surprise The First Of Her Name turns on the flunky. ‘I told you!’
We appear to be left with the last one. It is in a rainbow of stripes with a wide brim. It is completely wrong. She puts it on and her whole face is hidden from view. I look at the flunky. He nods; I nod.
‘Perfect,’ we both intone.
She emerges smiling. Everyone is happy. All expectations have been met.
She buys the periscope.