Two months ago, I had no idea what a pea-light canopy was. And if you’d explained to me what one is—a decorative overhead spiderweb-style arrangement of wee glowing lights—I’d have felt confident in consigning it to the vast category of things that the human race is free to find distinctly optional, along with wasps, peanut butter, dental floss and football.
Now, I’m spending great chunks of my life wondering whether I can do without one. I lie in bed long after I should be asleep, eyes saucering into the dark, worrying about it. Pea-light canopies, in other words, have quietly nudged into the late-night heebie-jeebie slot usually reserved for the terrified contemplation of my own mortality.
That, my friends, is what planning a wedding will do to you. You start with the intention of affirming a private, intimate relationship between two human beings and you end up worrying yourself sick about pea-light canopies. That worry is, in a way, a cousin of the death fear. An inexorable but completely unforeseeable chain of logic links romantic love and pea-light canopies. You try to work back—like the guy in the old joke, reading the Bible in search of loopholes—and figure out an escape route, but it’s seamless.
When you start out organising a wedding, you may very well think, as we did: we’re going to do this our way. What matters is the people, you tell yourself, not the paraphernalia. You won’t bother with tons of flowers, fancy table settings, staff, snazzy caterers and one of those wedding-mill venues through which happy couples traipse three times a week or more each summer. We won’t bother with fancy outfits. We won’t knack around with a wedding photographer. We won’t draw up a wedding list—we already live together and have most of what we need: why ask people to shell out for more “stuff”?
So you start from the ground up. You start from the people. You have a lot of relatives, and not a few friends. So suddenly, you’re throwing a party for upwards of 100 people. Fine. So you need a venue that can accommodate them. And they’ll need feeding. And drink. And dancing, obviously. So you cast about for venues that have the facilities to make this possible. And—bang!—suddenly you’ve booked, well, a wedding venue.
And you realise that many of these people, even if you ask them not to, will…