It's finally here, the day you've long been waiting for. That stunning white dress and that horse-drawn carriage, the toll of the church bells and the applause of your wedding guests. Finally, it's the day of your wedding.
For every bride and groom on your big day then there are several feelings that happen. There is hope, that your guests will enjoy the day as much as you will. There is stress, in making sure everything goes to plan at the last moment. Anxiety when all eyes are on you, embarrassment when you forget every move to the first dance that you've rehearsed for weeks before, relief when you can finally relax and enjoy yourself, and then sadness when the big day is all over.
So imagine the shock and anger that comes with finding out that one of your guests has gone behind your back and dished the dirt on your big day? How awful!
Allow me to be honest in saying that my own wedding was questionable at best. I managed to catch my wedding dress on my Dad's stairlift, get a dirty oil mark on it and spend the rest of my wedding day trying to conceal the stain from the photographer. I forgot to clean and paint my nails on my big day which shows up horrendously in a close-up photograph of our ring. My Mum forgot to tell us that she'd sewn the rings to the ring cushion to stop our page boy from losing them, and then the palaver that followed when it took four people to get our wedding rings back off of said cushion during the ceremony. The groom's car getting lost, one of the groomsmen was late and the music wouldn't play, and that's just the wedding ceremony alone.
Did it get worse? Just imagine our DJ's attempt at excitement as he revealed that our wedding toast was a £2 bottle of fizzy plonk. Trust me, it was painful and a reminder for me that, as much as I adore my parents and am extremely grateful for all they give me, I really did give them too much say over the final budget. Lesson learnt ladies, sometimes you really do have to stick to your guns!
So like I mentioned, if any of my guests wanted to list my wedding as a complete shambles, it's probably going to be up there. Hopefully our vow renewal in 2023 is going to go better!
But alas, that's not why I'm here.
As I read this BBC article last week, I was horrified at the idea that anyone would shame somebody's big day. People plan long in advance for what their perfect wedding is going to look like, and the idea that anyone would trash talk it is bad and incredibly hurtful. I shook my head at the article, but then I realised that I've done some wedding shaming of my own, and it was possibly, just maybe well-deserved.
I first met Clare and Brian* on a night out. Clare didn't speak to me much and preferred to get drunk, but Brian and I hit it off right away. Clare was an old college friend of Matt's so they had some back story, and that was fine with me. Every time my glass was empty, Clare would get me topped up again. Brian liked to mock and tease and I got in on it, mocking him every time he drank his beer with his pinky finger up - just like the way us Brits are famed for drinking our tea.
On the way home we saw Clare sat on the steps outside a restaurant. She had her knees tucked to her chest and she was crying, and Brian was on the other side of the road. It turned out they'd had an argument, and Brian had spat in her face and stormed off.
After that I lost all of my respect for Brian. I have no respect for abusive men and he was, in my eyes, now an abuser. I later found out that his Mum was unwell, he had major depression and was now on treatment. He started to seem better, so I gradually forgave him and moved on.
Clare and Brian got engaged in Las Vegas and set about planning their grand American dream wedding in Florida, complete with a beachside venue and a chance to swim with the dolphins. We were all sent invites to the big day and anyone who said they couldn't go was no longer to be considered a friend. Their engagement was fraught with ups and downs, with Facebook relationship statuses changed to "single" when they'd fought and then "in a relationship" and "engaged" once they'd had publicly-announced make-up sex, eaten fast food and moved on. If it sounds cringy, it's because it was.
Before too long Clare realised that her dream American wedding was both unaffordable and unobtainable. Not to be outdone she set about a hotel wedding closer to home, here in the UK. It would be, she insisted, "the best wedding ever", and our friend Beth's wedding - and my own - would pale in comparison.
On the day my husband and I turned up to a simplistic chain hotel. Far from any grandeur, the foyer boasted comfortable seating with a barman who served us drinks. Holiday-goers came and went as we sat and sipped beer and cocktails.
We were eventually called through to take our places for the ceremony. Once in the room we noted sixty or so chairs laid out and covered in white chair covers with deep red organza bows. In the centre of the aisle was a red, tired-looking runner which led to an arch made of red and white balloons.
The ceremony was short, sweet and simple, and afterwards we were shuffled back out to the bar so that the venue could be transformed for the dinner. As we stood around sipping our Bucks' fizz I couldn't help but notice how often Clare hoisted her dress back up over her cleavage. One wrong or sudden movement, it seemed, and her boobs would spill out. Surely she could have splashed a few hundred on alterations?
Dinner started with a tomato and basil soup which felt powder-based. It had begun separating, and rather than the velvety smooth cream of tomato soup that I know and love, it left a furry, grainy coating on the tongue. The roll it was served with was stale and needed the soup just to soften it.
After the soup came the chicken dinner. Far from some elegantly prepared chicken breast, we were each served a roasted chicken leg, two pigs in blankets and vegetables. The potatoes were dry, the runner beans were slimy and the gravy was lumpy and tasteless. I felt bad for not clearing my plate until I noticed that I was far from the only one.
Then came dessert, a chocolate brownie with barely-vanilla, icy ice cream. I like vanilla ice cream, but it had to be among some of the worst vanilla ice cream that I have ever had. Had the menu been under one of our pub reviews, we agreed it probably would have only earned a measly two stars.
After dinner we were ushered out into the grounds for photographs and more sitting around while the evening venue was created. I popped back to the bar and Tina, another of Clare's friends who I had long fallen out with, asked me to fetch her bag. Knowing that she was possibly using this task to mock and belittle me with some of her other friends, I conveniently "forgot" her request - I was ugly and retarded according to her, after all.
When we got back indoors the room had been transformed once more and there were lots of tables with balloon weights and edible chocolate casino chip coin decorations. Brian and Clare couldn't go to Las Vegas, so they made Las Vegas come to them. That was, admittedly, a rather nice touch.
There was no evening buffet beyond some precursory sandwiches, which were far from enough to feed all of their wedding guests. People sat around in the lobby, talking among themselves and socialising away from what should be a happy occasion. Guests were pretty evidently bored and hungry, and more than two hours before the party was meant to end, many had already left for home. The DJ didn't read the crowd, and the only two people to dance throughout the night insisted on marching on the spot to the same rhythm and through every song. I was happy that they were having a good time, but some of the remarks that others were making weren't nearly so pleasant.
We invited Brian and Clare to our wedding, but Clare came with her Mum instead. We didn't socialise all that much. though I do remember that Clare didn't bring a card or a gift, despite us taking a card and a gift to her wedding. Even our engagement gift from her was a balloon stack decoration from her engagement party. Those were strange times indeed, though far from her worst transgression. Clare got that by attending my 20th birthday party, standing up and loudly announcing that she was bored and inviting my guests to leave the BBQ to go into town.
Brian and Clare's marriage lasted all of eight months before splitting, and it was then that I found out that Clare didn't want to go through with the wedding in the first place. Brian had always been abusive, she told me, she just didn't want to tell anyone. Everyone was aready looking forward to the wedding and she didn't want to disappoint.
I supported Clare for a long while after that, and I really cared about how she was doing. I'd invite her for coffee a few times, and just sometimes we'd even catch up. I was sad that she felt she had to go through with the wedding, but I understood it. She must have been in a difficult place, mentally.
Then she introduced me to Jake.
I didn't like Jake right away he was obnoxious and opinionated and thought that I should lighten up more. I've always been a fairly sociable person, but I don't need alcohol to do so. According to Jake, if you didn't drink alcohol then you were ruining all the fun, and Clare took sides with him. I was rather annoyed that she'd do that after all I'd done for her.
There was the occasion after that when I tripped over an exposed cable, twisted my knee and ended up on crutches for four weeks. Clare and Jake invited us into town for Jake's birthday. I'd already explained that I couldn't do a bar crawl on crutches, but if she let us know where they were planning to land up and a time they planned to get there, then we will meet them there. The time came, and I'd had no update on where they were. We waited a while but it was getting late, so I text Clare:
Are you at Lloyds yet? x
No. Still at the Grain Barge xxx
I knew it would take a while for them to get to central Bristol, so in the end we decided to cancel.
No problem, we'll leave it for now then and catch up soon? Enjoy your night x
I anticipated that we would rearrange a catch up soon without a problem, but I couldn't be more wrong.
What ensued was a barrage of abuse from Clare and Jake. According to them we were false friends, a letdown and flaky, even though they failed to keep to our arrangements in the first place. As midnight rolled into the early hours, the calls kept coming in,
"If you don't want to be our friends, just say.."
We did want to be their friends, but not like this, not if they were treating us this way.
Clare and I aren't friends anymore, but that has little to do with that fateful night. After a kitchen fire in 2016, I was advised to set up a GoFundMe page for £1,000. Lots of family and friends wanted to contribute something to help us get back up on our feet and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them. I shared the link to our page on my Facebook and within moments, Clare commented:
You wouldn't need that if you were insured lol
Enough. I didn't need her criticisms or her judgements. I'm a firm believer that "judge not, that ye be not judged" and with a few swift clicks and presses, she was gone from my life. No Facebook, no phone calls, nada. Not being insured was a very costly mistake, but even with insurance, it's still nice to know that some people care.
Clare's wedding really was the worst wedding that I have ever been to, but I don't hold that against her. I hold her behaviour against her, but I admire her for going through and giving me the "worst-best wedding" story that I love to tell. We're different people with different opinions and very different lifestyles, and I won't be the kind of friend that caves in to her peer pressure. I hope she's well and I hope she's happy, but after last time, I'm also exceptionally grateful that she won't be inviting me to another wedding.
*Names have been changed.