Weddings are such personal affairs, no? When my better half and I got married, our dear friend Wayne Sleep performed a special commemorative dance in the registry office to our wedding song. It turned a few heads admittedly, but not many, as most guests knew what to expect having been to numerous ‘theatrical’ weddings over the years. It got me thinking about all the times I attended weddings around the world, and I had no idea what to expect. So, here a few tips for those of you who find yourself travelling to foreign climes for a wedding in the not too distant future.
First things first. Look at the weather and decide what you are going to wear according to where you will be, not where you are living. Sounds obvious I know, but I will never forget attending my first summer wedding in Rome. A three piece wool suit at midday in forty degree heat was not one of my wisest sartorial decisions. Speaking sartorially, weddings are where women get to shine, and us chaps sadly slither in to the background. That is just how it is. No ifs, no buts. Deal with it and dress appropriately. And yes, that means a good, simple well-cut suit. Nothing less, nothing more. No one wants to hear people whisper, “There’s Clayton again in his pink velvet dinner jacket, jahasra”, as you make your grand entrance. If like in Rome, the heat gets too much and you would like to remove your jacket at any point; it may only be removed after seeking permission from the ladies at your table. And if they kindly agree, please remember that sleeves stay down and cuffed at all times. You must remember that you are a guest. One assumes that at no point will you be asked to help wash the dishes.
Another little tip is that within the first thirty minutes of arriving at the reception, seek out the bride, the groom, and all respective parents to offer congratulations. If you do not know all the parties involved, this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce yourself. But remember to keep conversation light and brief. Do not under any circumstances repeat my friend Adonis’ recent behaviour. A few weeks ago at a rather grand wedding, he had slightly too much bubbly, and witnessing the interesting ensemble chosen by the bride’s mother, politely enquired, “so what have you come as?”. Mortified.
I know how busy everyone is, but if you have time to research any strange customs that occur during wedding ceremonies in the country that you are visiting, all the better. That way you won’t get a shock like my Aunt Petula did when we were staying with artist friends of mine in Cuba. During a rather unusual dance I have to say, all the male guests suddenly started pinning money on the bride’s low cut dress as she gyrated across the floor like a Paceville pole-dancer on a busy Saturday night. Poor Aunt Petula, her jaw nearly hit the floor. It transpires weddings in Cuba are decidedly different to weddings in the Cotswolds, who would have thought?
Being unaware of certain cultural customs means that one particular wedding remains emblazoned on my mind. I was once in a touring production of Starlight Express, and we had a short spell in South Korea. I was very kindly invited to attend the wedding of one of the chorus girls, Kok Woo Sung, who we all fell in love with. But no one more than Barry, the sound engineer, who was the fateful groom that day. Everything was fine and dandy until midway through the ceremony, Barry was suddenly tied down, his shoes removed, and the soles of his feet were repeatedly beaten with sticks and dead fish. All the while the guests were aggressively asking him general knowledge questions. Picture Trivial Pursuit, the Fellini edition. I nearly intervened at one point, as everyone else just sat there watching. Luckily, the old man sat beside me held me back just as I leapt up from my seat, informing me that it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, as it improve’s the grooms memory. As Barry could undoubtedly do with some help in that department, I left them to it. This wise old man man was ninety-seven and had the memory of an elephant, so one can only assume it works.
Despite the heat, the most romantic custom I have ever seen was the night before the wedding I mentioned in Rome. The groom and his friends set up a beautiful table under the balcony of the bride to be. There were cascading displays of flowers, chandeliers, fabulous food, and wonderful wine. I had no idea why we were eating in the middle of the street, until the groom suddenly jumped to his feet and proceeded to serenade an empty balcony. Within a few moments the bride to be was standing above us with the groom below singing at the top of his lungs, arms open open wide, imploring her to marry him . He was then joined by the entire table. Admittedly, the fact that said table consisted of opera singers who usually perform at La Scala gave the whole affair an added frisson, but hearing dozens of men singing one of the most beautiful songs ever written meant it was genuinely one of the most memorable evenings of my life.
So, just like a boy scout, being prepared to a certain degree is indeed marvellous. But sometimes not knowing what to expect means that we are surprised beyond our widest dreams. So those of you with weddings to attend in far flung places this year, do a little bit of research, but travel with an open mind, and an equally open heart. But please remember, no matter how carried away you are with the proceedings, it is never appropriate to do The Funky Gibbon.