"Too many weddings," grumbled my father. It wasn't the fact that the wedding season was upon us that irked him but rather, that I was always the wedding guest and never the bride. I adore going to friends' weddings - there is something really wonderful about seeing your closest pals at their happiest - but have never felt any pressing need to take the plunge myself. Telling my father I am off to buy another big hat, frock, or some floral tat to stick in my hair for the occasion, is always a precarious balance though.
On the one hand, I am sure he hopes (and I don't discourage him from doing so, for the sake of peace) that if all my friends are happily married, I will feel some immense peer pressure to join the clan. On the other, it is just another reminder that this (to his mind) over-the-hill youngest daughter, gaily gadding about her single life without a care in the world, has yet to settle down. So how to respond to the complaint about too many weddings - stop going to them altogether? Order my friends to stop getting married immediately as I have reached my full quota of weddings? Do you see my dilemma?
It's even more nerve-racking telling my father they are in the family way. I over-compensate by playing indulgently with my pals' babies in front of him, professing loudly how cute I find them so he doesn't think I am entirely averse to the idea of having any myself. "All babies are sweet," he responds sternly. "Not the ones that look like Shrek," I think to myself but decide not to say aloud. But I have to confess to being moved recently at the wedding of a dear and longstanding friend, for which I flew back home to Britain earlier this month.
A small town on the English Riviera in south Devon was transformed over the course of a weekend by an invasion of Irish and Indians in equal number. Locals gawped as a trail of chic Indian women in flamboyantly coloured saris and elegant chignons strolled through the streets. Some might have wondered why the couple decided to have both a Roman Catholic and a Hindu ceremony. Let's be honest here, neither faith feels compelled to wrap things up quickly and both ceremonies easily hit the two-hour mark.
For some of the Indians, it was their first time in a Roman Catholic church. The hymns, the choral singing and the Communion might not have been part of their language. But when the priest read a beautiful and oft-repeated passage from Corinthians, it was clear some messages are universal, irrespective of colour or creed. "Love is patient, love is kind," he said. "It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
It was the turn of the Irish the next day to enter an unfamiliar world. The same twee English country hotel which had hosted the wedding reception was given a facelift with an elaborate mandap (apparently there is a company which transports them around Britain, complete with carved elephants and dramatic drapes) while shimmering gold curtains were festooned everywhere. A fire was lit in the middle, filling the chintzy ballroom with musky smoke, and incense replaced the smell of roses.
The bride had swapped her white gown of the previous day for a lavish red sari. But she somehow made sense of it all when she stood to say: "Our marriage does not exist in a vacuum. Our faiths are an important part of our lives and will be in our children's lives and we wanted you all to be a part of that." I might have blamed the incense for my watering eyes but I cannot deny the lump in my throat at the time. From what might have seemed two immiscible strands of religion and culture, the couple had found a happy medium and involved everyone in the process. If marriage is a compromise, they seemed to have struck the perfect note.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm eager to follow them down the aisle. I'm simply not saying never. Just don't tell my father. firstname.lastname@example.org