I always knew that I would not be having bridesmaids, even before I became immersed in the wedding world and heard all the dress-shopping dress-fitting expensive-makeup-demanding jealousy horror stories. The traditional role of a bridesmaid is to wear a dress she doesn’t like in a colour she didn’t choose, smile, look pretty, and maybe organise a hen do. So, in other words, dead weight.
I didn’t even have an idea how expensive bridesmaids could be before I rejected the plan absolutely. I wanted to get married: we didn’t need all the frills, and we could and would pick them and choose them! I resent being confined to gender stereotypes, and most of my friends are men anyway, so I felt no obligation to organise bridesmaids.
What you really need on a wedding day is someone who actually does something; someone who could be relied upon to sort things out if they went awry; someone who actually represents your closest friends and has not been preselected on gender, age or marital status!
My best friend, James, has known me since I was eleven; we work well together and share a sense of humour; he’s ‘solid and reliable’ and knows how to take charge of a situation (he’s a teacher!). And, of course, he’s always up for a challenge!
In full ‘teacher mode’:
So, if the groom could have a best man, why not the bride?
James was, understandably, a little confused about his role and responsibilities as my best man, and whilst I didn’t have a specific list in mind when I asked, this is what he ended up doing:
– making ~230 origami cranes
– organising the hen do
– fastening my dress (!)
– taking care of my handbag until the dinner reception (!)
– witnessing our marriage
– announcing us into the dinner reception
– announcing the speeches
– taking care of our honeymoon bag
– doing his own impromptu speech (!)
In fact, the role he ended up with was a pretty good cross between a Maid of Honour and a Master of Ceremonies!
We also considered ushers.
Ushers, unlike bridesmaids, have a point: they meet and greet everybody, direct people to and fro and generally keep the day moving and act as hosts when the bride and groom and their parents are preoccupied (as happens at weddings)… And since we’re flouting the gender roles already, our ushers were not going to be men, and neither were they all going to be from his side.
It was very important for us when picking our ushers to get scary, bossy, organised people. Or people who knew how to be scary, bossy and organised at the appropriate moment, anyway! When you hire someone for a job, you pick the person who is best at the job, and this was no different. Looking back, I am so glad we used this filter, because we do know some completely lovely, totally useless people and, given them the reins, I would have had a meltdown.
In the interests of symmetry, I must point out that we ended up with two men and two women, two of Guy’s friends and two of mine, and two tall people and two short people – but we did not pick them on aesthetics! They do look charming in this picture, though…
Cecily is one of the aforementioned Cherubs and longtime Somerville friend of Guy’s. An excellent cook, we immediately conscripted her for help with the wedding cake and, whilst her abode generally looks like a bomb has hit it, can definitely do scary, organised and in charge! She is also based in Oxford, which came in handy later on, especially for those who wanted to party after the wedding was over…
Tom of the getting-lost-in-the-fog-on-the-Pennine-Way-incident, an old school friend of mine, was also lined up. As a rule, he’s a bit of a bum, but if you ask him to pull his socks up he will take the challenge to new levels. For example, as a postie, he often works on Saturdays. Taking the wedding day off work would have been enough, but Tom took the whole week before the wedding off and came down to Birmingham from where he helped us pack up and transport everything to Oxford and thereon took on the role of head usher!
Oscar is an OTC friend of Guy’s. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – because Oscar is a small but angry man, who takes on responsibilities with a military efficiency! On the other hand, he moved from Oxford to London during our wedding planning, and then forgot the wedding day: he thought it was a week later! Luckily he managed to find out via facebook and his train ticket.
Elizabeth is a Somerville friend of mine. Whilst housemates in our second year, I discovered that the ditzy Elizabeth hid a very scary super-mega-efficient Elizabeth when she took on an Entz Rep position and several other societal roles. She actually acted ditzily whenever I saw her on the wedding day, but stuff got done, so I suppose that was all part of the pretence.
Between them, the ushers did a fantastic job on the wedding day, including
– delivering vases to florists and other stuff to the Town Hall
– setting up the ceremony room
– transporting and setting up the cake
– setting up the cake stand
– meeting and greeting and giving out (some!) of the buttonholes
– organising the music
– organising rickshaw rides and guiding people to and from the drinks reception
– organising photo groups
– saving the cake from collapse (!)
– looking after the hat prize and cards, which then they made sure we took away on honeymoon
– getting the guest book signed by almost everyone
– sorting out what happened to leftover cake
So a lot of stuff!
Now, if only Guy could decide upon his best man…
The trouble he had was that there were three obvious candidates, and weighing up each of them wasn’t easy! He had already discounted his brother for the role, for as children they had an unrivalled rivalry… Now he considered all the responsibilities that went with the office of best man, and decided that there were three major roles of importantance: organising the stag do, giving a speech and being generally helpful and organised.
It was important to him that the stag do was fun and neither formulaic nor calamitous – in an A & E kind of way. As the best man’s duty to set the tone of the stag do, and with the cherubs in full swing, this would be no light task. As for the speech, well, the best man for this job would have to ensure his speech wasn’t too earnest and worthy, but make sure he didn’t do a shabby job of it either (notably, not being embarrassed was absolutely not part of the criteria!). Guy didn’t want to give the job to someone who would find it too nerve-racking. Being helpful and organised was harder: of course everybody had the best of intentions, but some best men would be too laid back, and others simply wouldn’t be able to commit the time. Tricky…
So, after lots of umming and ahhing, his eventual choice was Caz, who is very organised, but very busy: she works in events management. Oh yes, she.
So we had a best man for the bride and a best woman for the groom – neat!
Guy was worried about putting Caz under too much pressure, so we didn’t ask her to do much leading up to the day. However, at the last minute she dashed round to collect lots of wedding stuff we didn’t think we could carry and transport it over for us. She also performed the vital duty of taking the groom for a steadying pint on the morning of the wedding, and giving him his something borrowed. Like James, she witnessed our marriage, and of course took care of the rings. She was very nervous about the speech and said she might not eat much of the wedding breakfast, so we put the speeches between the starter and main breakfast so as to get them nicely out of the way without letting our guests starve. Needless to say, her speech was brilliant.
We decided not to kit out Caz with anything, although we bought ties and waistcoats (waistcoats were from Next Clearance – they have fab deals there) for the boys. James assumed his was hired, and was very pleased to discover he could keep it.
I bought gloves and pashminas for the women ushers, although one of them didn’t wear hers *sad face*.
And everybody got handkerchiefs/pocket squares, which I painstakingly made from excess dress material and ivory satin using my temperamental sewing machine.
I include our readers here, because whilst they weren’t the “wedding party”, we felt that it was an important role and chose people who were important to us and whom we thought would perform well! I will be telling you about the readings later, but here they are:
David – a friend of mine from Oxford.
Narmeen – a friend from Oxford.
Harry – Guy’s brother.
Brian – a friend of Guy’s from Somerville.
There are two more vital roles, and they’re even more important to mention here, because you wouldn’t know that they are two: walking me down the aisle, and giving the father of the bride speech. I have neither a father nor a stepfather to take one of these positions, so I asked my lovely mother to walk me down the aisle (but not to give me away, as I’m not into that kind of thing at all) and my grandfather to give a grandfather of the bride speech (which memorably started with the line, “I first met Rowena when she was one day old…” and taught me a few new things about my infant years!).
Here they both are – I expect you can guess which is which.
We didn’t arrange anything for them except buttonholes, and my mum eventually went for white and navy – to avoid the royal blue which didn’t suit her. She sent me a text the week before the wedding declaring “At 11th hour have dress!” She was especially pleased with her hat (which she continued to hide behind) and how she and Guy’s mum were accidentally coordinated (Guy’s mum had threatened to wear fluorescent pink).