Couples should avoid the “expensive extravaganza” of big weddings, according to the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally.
As someone who’s postponed their wedding because they want an “expensive extravaganza”, I couldn’t have rolled my eyes more.
Speaking in a Lords debate, The Right Reverend Sarah Mullally called on the government to “encourage couples to understand that marriage itself matters far more than the commercial trappings of a wedding day”.
“The fees for a church wedding or a simple registry office ceremony are very modest indeed,” she said. “But the wedding industry is busily ramping up expectations of what a big day should involve.”
Mullally is, of course, right to some extent. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree that marriage is more important than one day.
But – and it’s a big but – I’m also really looking forward to wearing the frock, scoffing canapés and dancing to Wonderwall. You can take marriage seriously, but still want a hell of a party. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. And after the year we’ve all had, is it so wrong to want a bit of fun?
Becky Westerdale, 28, and her partner Keeton Smith, 29, are also holding out for a big do. The couple, based in Sheffield, have been together for nine years and were originally scheduled to get married on June 5 2021, when weddings of 30 guests are expected to be permitted. They’re hoping for 60 day guests and 90 evening guests, though, so they’ve moved the wedding until June 2022.
“Our wedding day is something I’ve personally dreamt of for a long time,” says Westerdale. “I’ve always envisioned the big party with everyone dancing, hugging and singing on the dance floor, without having to worry about social distancing.”
Considering all the Covid restrictions was taking the “fun” out of wedding planning for their original date. “We’re getting married in a church and were told pretty early on in the year that the chances of us being able to sing hymns would have been quite slim,” she says. “Also, the thought of walking down the aisle in a face mask with my dad was a concern!”
Another perk to postponing is that their new wedding date falls on their 10 year anniversary. When you’ve waited that long, what’s another year?
Campaign group What About Weddings – which has been calling for better government support for the wedding industry, plus clearer guidelines for impacted couples – called the Bishop’s comments “cruel”.
“The wedding sector provides employment for 400,000 people, 80% of whom are women and saying that, after a year of no work and barely any support, they are ‘ramping up expectations’ is frankly cruel,” the group told HuffPost UK.
“No one is ramping up expectations, people just want to get back to work and support their families. Right now, there is a real mental health crisis in the sector coupled with immediate financial peril for many, these comments will hurt a huge number of people, both couples and businesses alike.”
The group also said the Bishop should consider couples with big families, as well as those who opt for a big wedding to honour their cultural heritage.
Nicole Matthew, 27, and Craig Andrew, 30, intend to have between 150 and 170 guests at their wedding, which will celebrate their Caribbean heritage. They’ve postponed twice, from April 2020 to March 2021, and now plan for their big day to take place on August 24 2021.
“Both of our families are massive,” says Matthew. “My partner actually has around 40 first cousins. Weddings in our culture are a big thing and one of the few occasions all the family manage to come together. I’m also the first to get married out of my siblings, so it was really important we all got celebrate together.”
A big wedding is about loved ones, she says, not “the material side of things” as Mullally’s comments suggest.
“We really value the support of our friends and family in our relationship and it is a way for us to give back and share our love with them,” she says.
Family is also important for Owen Pickrell, 28, and Padraig Doran, 34, who plan to have 160 guests at their wedding. The couple, from Brighton, were supposed to get married in September 2020, but rescheduled to May 2021. As restrictions have not completely lifted, they’ve decided to reschedule again and will now have their wedding in July 2022 at The Ash Barton Estate.
“You only get the opportunity to have a wedding once in your life, so you want everyone who is important to you there,” says Doran.
Their guests have been supportive about their decision to hold off for the occasion they want, says Doran – a far cry from Bishop Mullally’s comments.
“You do get people who tell you it doesn’t matter, and to go ahead with a small wedding, but they’re missing the bigger point that we want everyone who is a part of our life there,” he says. “In general though, everyone understands that this year has been really difficult and we should have the wedding we want once government restrictions allow.”
For Amber Annett, 37, and her partner is Mehul Vora, 40, a big wedding gives them a chance to unite their international guests. Annett is Canadian and Vora is Indian, but the couple are now based in Southampton. They got legally married in the US in March 2020 to get their spousal visa underway, but do not consider this their wedding day.
“For us, the celebration with our loved ones has always been the important part, and we agreed beforehand that we would still call each other fiancees until the celebration; and that’s when we would really ‘feel’ married,” says Annett.
Their wedding was initially scheduled for Nov 2020 to coincide with Diwali. They won’t rebook it until they know their families can travel and celebrate safely.
“For us, the wedding is about bringing two families together. I love the quote ‘friends are family that you choose for yourself’, so this includes our good friends as well,” says Annett.
“Having grown up, studied, worked and lived in several countries, this means asking a lot of people to travel, so waiting for travel to open and knowing it is safe is our main hurdle.”
The couple also love dancing and can’t imagine a wedding without it. Annett lived in Scotland for six years, so they plan to have a ceilidh at their wedding. A Sangeet – a celebration with music, dance and a traditional element of Indian weddings – is also important to Vora.
Annett says there’s “certainly some” judgement associated with wanting a big wedding – and it’s time to let it go. “At the end of the day, it’s the couple’s choice,” she says. “People should do what’s right for them.”