The second bombshell, just like the first, approached with stealth, exploding into that volatile emotional landscape of a bride-to-be without so much as a single warning siren. The first time we’d received news that threatened to tear apart the very fabric of our wedding plans – namely that St Peter’s ad Vincula didn’t have a full set of bells – we’d been sitting in a garden at the Hampton Lucy summer fete sipping tea. This time I was visiting All Saints Sherbourne with my friend Mrs Ottywill (aka Kate), herself a young wife still in the first flush of marital bliss. It was all going swimmingly well: I’d successfully negotiated not one but two dual carriageways, taken the correct exit at a monster of a roundabout and had arrived to find the church open to visitors. So there we were, admiring the fine architecture and generally enthusing about the lovliness of the church when I happened to spy something about a water project on the notice board at the back of the church. Now at that moment I thought I’d received a sign. A sign? I hear you say. Yes, a sign, a sign directing us with regard to our choice of wedding favours.
To grasp why I drew such an apparently random* conclusion you need to understand that John and I had been grappling with that thorny issue of wedding favours for some weeks – well, I’d been grappling and John had been listening whilst performing some technological wizardry on something prefaced with the letter ‘i’.
In the days when tradition dictated that guests be provided with a small bag of sugared almonds, it was all so straightforward; the only decision to be made was about the colour of the bow on the bag. Nowadays it’s a whole different ballgame. Yes, there are still sugared almonds, but type ‘wedding favours’ into Google and you’ll be presented with a bewildering array of seemingly endless possibilities. From candles in the shape of snowflakes, ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of kissing fish and heart shaped soaps to packets of seeds, oak tree saplings and little glass jars of honey, jams and jellies every possible taste and budget is catered for.
There are even companies that specialise in supplying wedding favours. One such company, Fabulous Favours, categorises its wares according to type, colour, season and theme (beach themed favours, butterfly themed favours, casino themed favours, ‘Best of British’ themed favours, drink-related favours, eco-themed favours).
And the bewilderment isn’t confined to the choosing the actual wedding favour. Oh no! For as every style conscious bride knows, as much care and consideration must be given to the way in which the favour is presented as to the choice of wedding favour itself. I kid you not when I say that literally hours and hours could be devoted in pursuit of the perfect packaging: there are organza bags, there are cardboard boxes (Eco or non-Eco), there are miniature buckets, there are teeny weeny suitcases and there are transparent plastic containers in the shape of cats and dinosaurs and cars and pigs and teddies. And so it goes on and on.
So you can see why, when I saw mention of a water project at All Saints, I thought it just had to be a sign, directing our wedding favour money towards assisting with a water-related cause. As it turns out, I think perhaps it was, but not in quite the way that I had originally thought. For I had assumed that the parishioners were trying to raise funds to help a far-flung village, suffering from drought and a lack of clean water, half-way across the globe. I got that wrong. The focus of the Project was much closer to home: it aims to bring water to All Saints church itself so as to enable kitchen and toilet facilities to be provided. The inner Bridezilla stirred from her slumber at such news. And she sat blot upright, wide eyed with horror, when further investigation revealed that the first phase of the said project will necessitate the digging of a trench to channel the water to the church. A restless night ensued as Bridezilla tormented me with visions of JCB diggers vying for space with our beautiful vintage vehicle* in the church car park and me, dressed in my bridal gown, trying to negotiate mounds of rubble and heaps of bricks scattered along the pathway to the church entrance. My H2B, who clearly didn’t appreciate that a Bridezilla does not come pre-programmed with a sense of humour tried, unsuccessfully, to relieve my distress by joking that there would be effluent free-flowing through the graveyard and that our guests would go home with Bubonic Plague. He said it would make a change from sugared almonds.
The next day we went to the morning service at All Saints which just happened to include two babies being christened and one adult baptism. The church was full to capacity and, having time to reflect, I realised something that I already knew but hadn’t really felt with any great conviction before. All Saints Church isn’t a stage set, frozen in time to provide the perfect aesthetic backdrop and photo opportunities for dream weddings. It is a resource for a community of people with all sorts of different needs and, in order to meet those needs, it must be able to provide what most of us would agree are fairly standard amenities. People need to have easy access to a toilet and facilities to make a cup of tea without having to walk down the lane to the village hall. As I mulled this matter over, I started to feel thoroughly ashamed at my initial selfish reaction. Exit Bridezilla. Phew – always good to see the back of her.
As we returned to the car, John and I discussed the Water Project further. We agreed that whilst we naturally hope that the trench digging and building work won’t coincide with our wedding, our response should be one of support***. So we have decided that instead of giving our guests wedding favours or making a financial contribution to a national or international charity, we will make a donation to the All Saints Water Project fund. Given that one of the main aims of the Project is to provide toilet facilities, I think a pun could be made out of the fact that our wedding favours aren’t standard. But that would involve using vulgar language which lies well beyond this Bride-to-Be’s lexicon. I leave it to your imagination.
Join me next time when we’ll take a trip to South Kensington and find out why MoH and my most stylish of friends, Mrs Adams, were both reduced to tears a fortnight ago.
*Bethan Hopkin (wife of Father David Hopkin – of the parish of Penistone in the Diocese of Wakefield – and mother of my God daughter, Ella) this one is for you: my use of the word ‘random’ is deliberate, inserted in an effort to ‘get down with the kids’ as you advised. I’m sure I’ve heard young people on the train use it. Please note that I have also managed to amass a grand total of 49 friends on Facebook, have a Twitter account (which I have used on at least two occasions to date) and possess a pair of UGG-like Boots. Is that sufficiently ‘down with the kids’??
**Ok, I confess to not having yet procured such a vehicle, but it will be vintage and it will be beautiful.
*** We have since received reassurances from both Rev’d Jessett and Mr Hill, one of the All Saints church wardens, that weddings will be taken into account when scheduling any building work and, from what we have been told, it doesn’t sound as if the work is likely to pose a major problem anyway. So no need for anyone to bring a hard-hat or those boots with reinforced toes to the wedding. Could have made for an interesting ‘Bob the Builder’ theme though.