A Brummie Wedding to remember
Hello everybody. The pandemic and its associated limitations have given me time, for the first time in my working life as a Celebrant to ACTUALLY WRITE THIS BLOG! and despite the awful context Globally...what a treat this is for me. I love to write, I love to write well, but that takes time and I never have it,.
I say that I haven't had time to write to you, as though time were something one could grab and quantify and own. We have it, or we don't have it, or someone takes it away. My Mum, who was slightly late for every occasion, didn't wear a watch and always referred to herself as 'DASHING' everywhere (and there is a word we should bring back!) She would always tell me that as you get older time speeds up. She was absolutely right. It 'runs away from us', when people watch their children growing up they ask ''where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday". As I was writing this, I found myself writing about time 'not affording me the chance' and I realised that far from it being something I desire to 'have' or to 'own, time actually 'owns' me and that is a very different thing. It is like an entity or a personality breathing down my neck. Like everyone else I have been forced, and not for the first time, to reflect upon our crazy work schedules, time constraints and exhausting itineraries. For me, at least, lockdown has been something which has made me think about the nature of 'Time', both as a concept universally and as a personal experience. You will have seen humorous GIFs and Memes and read comments over the past couple of months, with people all over the World asking "what day, month or time is it?" I'm not alone in losing a sense of it, and even questioning the wisdom of our being so guided by it. Here in Britain we live by the structures of the Gregorian calendar and it is closely associated with our Catholic religious past. It is a structure, like the Seasons which frames our daily lives, long after the traditions and beliefs that formed it have lost their currency and been lost to our collective consciousness. At one time it was closely allied to Monarchy as well as State and Religious Institution. Time, then, arguably, was on occasion a device, telling people what to do and when. Perhaps our current day 'devices', our I-phones, Androids, Apple Watches and the rest do that job in our present age.. Obviously we can't do with out it! Time it has its uses psychologically. I feel disoriented without it telling me where I have to be and why. I feel strange without the particular days, the Special Days, the relevant and memorable days, the ones you have to remember because they took place at a particular place and time, last year, and the year before that and relentlessly meant something for al those long years. They used to be called Holy Days. Days with a very special quality. All this is really closely connected with tradition and with remembering & marking occasions with specificity, defining and sculpting our experience of our lives collectively and individually.
One year, I went to Istanbul for Christmas, my Mum had recently died and I couldn't face the occasion. At the time it felt great to escape it, to listen to the Mosques calling people to prayer and to contemplate the expansive river Bosphorous forging its way through the centuries, embracing Religious and Cultural changes, oblivious to Santa, Christmas Trees and the obligation to drink and be happy. When I returned home I felt a strange disorientation, a feeling of displacement. Living in the UK, a lifelong resident of an island in the Northern Hemisphere and all its weather and season related behaviours, traditions and language, I felt confused. If you are not from a country with a climate and seasonal changes like ours, this might not make sense. For me it was like Summer not taking place, or the leaves not falling, the weather not 'being on the change'. For a British person this is bizarre and confusing. We'd have nothing to complain about for a start! That year upon my return I kept waiting for something to happen. The colours were wrong and the smell and there was a 'gap' in my experience of time. I haven't been away since, to a country that doesn't celebrate my own tradition at Christmas. It is my tradition and however I feel about the exploitation we are all subject to at that time, it is still mine, it still shapes my life. I suppose I missed it. I missed the regularity of it, the normalcy of it, without that landmark in my year I didn't know where I was in it. That experience of there having been a 'gap' in my experience of time is something I am experiencing all over again now. I was telling Mrinal the other day that it feels to me as though "Time has ruptured". This is when we need the poets, to describe such indefinable and alien concepts. 'Ruptures' sound dreadful, don't they? and they are. Painful, usually, disruptive and shocking. Tearing the fabric of everything leaving us gasping for breath. This is what we are experiencing now. The pain of 'rupture' and the complexity. The loss of control. The breathlessness of sudden change. At the same time, we are experiencing such conflict emotionally, as some of us are reconsidering our 21st century values. There is the awfulness alongside the hopeful. For example, when I read about the hole in the Ozone layer temporarily healing up with the drop in pollution levels, I then felt a sense of 'rapture'. Two words so closely entwined. I hope that this Rupture will turn to Rapture in the 'fullness of time'. Time should indeed be full, but it should be full in the right ways. Full to the brim with the richness of human experience, not full with appointments and constraints and exhausting commitment. Wedding ceremonies, for me, seem to be so much about 'Rapture'. Rapture in it's traditional Christian meaning refers to Time. It is concerned specifically with 'End Times'. The completion of Time, the point at which it all slips into Eternal time. That moment, a point in time where the suffering of this particular point in our 'time' ends, making a mockery of clocks and making way for eternity. The end point of time, in the linear Christian Tradition is associated with 'Joy', 'Ecstasy', 'Delight', 'Utterances of pure ecstatic delight', and the 'carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence'. The reason we use it now in common parlance is because it still carries meaning, long after the relevance of Christianity is for some people obsolete. Well, if you think about it, Weddings do indeed mark the end of a particular time and certainly the involve a great deal of rapture, and always joy and delight. Always. It annoys me in Romantic films when the end of the film is the Wedding. We are associating still, 'The Wedding' with an 'end point', a type of 'arriving' at a destination. No! you are in transition, yes, you are in some ways ending a particular form of your relationship. It is a point of change in the timeline of your story. It is an ending, but only in the sense that it makes way for an opportunity for you to be 'carried to a new sphere of existence'. When you find yourself paying out for flowers, fabrics, delicious food and bizarre things you didn't know you needed (Wedding Favours, for example), remember that. You are marking your Rapture.
I said at the beginning of this blog, that I haven't written it because of a lack of time. I think in addition to that there is a constant pressure from 'business advisors', that any business 'must write a blog'. I didn't just want to write more hot air. There is enough of that already. I didn't want to write for the sake of it, for 'Social media numbers' or 'traffic'. I'm fed up with people describing everything as 'awesome' or creating 7 point lists. I wanted to write something worth writing and worth reading. There are juicy pictures, and fashion and drool-worthy cakes and the Art Forms of Bridal Gowns, Styled shoots, glamorous clothes and gorgeous venues all over the rest of my media. Like you, I love all that. My Blog serves a different purpose. I suppose it is more about examining the human story of 'weddings' as a tradition and my thoughts as someone who enables that for people So my blog is where I get to write from heart about things with meaning that matter. A place to look closely at why the work that I do exists, when set apart from the 'industry'. I didn't want to write something generic or prescribed or formulaic. I wanted it to have my voice. If you are going to book me for your Special Day, you may as well hear my 'voice'! I wanted to write something, that someone might actually want to read, saying something more than the latest wedding trends. Ultimately I am a Wedding Celebrant, talking about Weddings, it seemed important for it to be about you, and not about me. About a wider context than colour schemes, much as I love them.
Perhaps because of all these ruminations, I got to thinking about the importance of communal gathering, as families and friends, and communities. The importance of dates and times that we remember. The good things about marking time and making particular occasions special, memorable. In traditional terms what would have been called 'sacred', or 'set-apart for particular purpose'. I have rarely felt this so keenly. Throughout lockdown I have insisted on making the weekends and Bank holidays different from the rest of the week. I have had time to think about you, about why you are saving and spending so much. Not infrequently my couples are not rich, often you are fairly young, with families. You have nappies to buy and mortgages to pay or you are trying to get secure work. I have never heard anyone resent a single penny of their expenditure. It matters so much. Many of you want it to be the Best Day of your Life. I would argue that it is hopefully just one of many Best Days, but that is a conversation for another day.
I wanted to investigate the idea of 'the Special Day', 'Their Big Day'. What does this mean? and why do we do it? So I got to gathering photos from you, my friends, customers, fellow suppliers and family. I loved it. It's so exciting. I will be introducing you to some of the other contributions over the next few weeks.
This week, I have been asking people to contribute family photographs of their Special Days. It got me thinking about the importance of 'Special Occasions'. That term has always seemed to me to be something of a cliche, but in this context I think it serves quite well. Sometimes, if I'm really honest, I find the Wedding Industry a bit cynical and competitive and money-grabbing. Terms like "it's all about you!" depress me. Nothing ever is 'all about you" as an individual. For a start it is "all about your relationship", and therefore immediately about two people. We are all part of something bigger, if we weren't you wouldn't be having a public occasion in the first place. More often than not my couples tell me that they "want to see all the people they love all in one place". It is never 'all about you'. Perhaps I should do a Blog post called '7 myths you hear about weddings!', but I think I will spare you that. I hear tales of couples being charged infinitely more for venues, cakes, suits and dresses as soon as they say the word 'wedding'. How much is this cake/suit/dress/venue? and the answer is one thing, but "We're getting married, how much is this cake/suit/dress/venue?" is another thing entirely. The same goes for weekends in August versus Thursdays in October. But as Wedding Suppliers (of which I'm one, lets face it) we know that people will pay extra for The Dress, or The Suit, The Venue and that weekend in August. Why? and is it worth it? well, IMHO, yes it is, and here is why...
Meet Lionel and Violet, known with affection as Dezrine and Moss. My friend Yvonne gave me these photographs of them on their Special Day in 1961. I am so touched by them. This is a Brummie Wedding too, which for a Wedding Celebrant who likes to work with the local community, is pleasing. They were married in a Church in Erdington. They clearly had a large Bridal Party and I would put money on those dresses being hand made by family members. They were married 28 years I think (I'll check). Their cultural heritage was Jamaican and Indian.
They're so resplendent in those gorgeous fabrics with those super cool trendy designs. Moss with his sparkling white gloves, the dress hems perfectly aligned. the details thought through and attention carefully applied to every individual. They look happy. When Yvonne gave me these, she said it gave her so much pleasure to see them. It gave a lot of people pleasure. It gave me immense pleasure. It reminded me that Wedding Days really are Special Days for a lifetime. They don't stop being in your memory unless perhaps your memory fails you later in life. Even then it is possible that days like these are the occasions which remain even when everything else falls away. People who find their relationships coming to an end often remember with fondness and joy that particular day in their life. The sumptuous food, the smells, the climate, the blossoms, the fabrics against the skin, the tantrums, the feelings. If you are planning your Big Day, or you have had to postpone it, I genuinely believe that what you are doing is vital. Don't let anyone tell you "it's only a wedding", it is far more than that. I that weren't the case, I would do something else. Thank you for reading. x
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