Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Proper Etiquette for Fights at Weddings

Over at Ambush Predator, JuliaM draws attention to a punch-up which happened at a wedding.

AntiCitizenOne wonders if it has something to do with the benefits culture as both Punch and Judy were unemployed. Mr Punch was drinking, his girlfriend Ms Judy took issue, and when the bar staff intervened, Judy decided to give them a right slappin' an all. The coolly-logical AC1 misses the important thing: this was at a wedding. That means there was a fair chance that Mr Punch was drinking his way through the kitty behind the bar and didn't spend his benefits money on it at all. An aggravating factor is that it was in Essex.

The other problem is: too many people are running EastEnders scripts in their heads.

The wedding becomes a setting for an episode in which these people play the lead role, utterly unable to grasp that a wedding is a pre-set show in which the starring role - the bride - has already been cast. The scene-stealing culprits are usually drawn from the top table.

Note that it was the bride's sister, Ms Judy, who ended up dominating the drama in the Marks Tey example. She dramatized the situation when she decided to abuse the waitress, moving it from "My bloke has had a few sherbets too many" through "Potential domestic" and all the way to "Call the police, she's threatened to murder a waitress". That is exactly what you'd expect in sibling rivalry; your sister will only get married one day in her life (well, you know what I mean) so if you are going to upstage her, that's when it will have to be.

Like any soap drama, the events will be foreshadowed to build up the tension. This usually starts in the wedding shop where any of the groom, the best man, the groom's brother or the groom's father will suddenly take it in their heads to refuse to wear the ill-matched tail coats or embroidered waistcoats, claiming they look soppy.

Of course they look soppy. What has that to do with the price of fish? For reasons I cannot fathom, some men in the modern fashion have got the idea that it is up to them what they will wear. They are confirmed in this erroneous belief by Moss Bross, who offer a four-page groom's checklist which includes:
"3 months to go. By now you should be ready to choose your wedding outfit. Make a day of it with all your ushers and male relatives".
The art of the wedding shop assistant lies in preserving their commission on the sale whilst not getting blood on the stock. There may be forceful exchange of views; one of the ushers suggests Darren looks gay in that weskit. Darren, the groom's youngest brother and pumped with the most testosterone and adrenalin, will offer him a wet punch, which won't do much harm but is just enough to start a brawl.

Meanwhile the staff will endure endless re-runs of ancient Are You Being Served jokes which they never heard before.
"Ere, Darren, ee's free, ee'll measure yer inside leg fer yer."
"Ere, Darren, you wanna behave yerself or Mrs Slocombe will set her pussy on yer."

The groom's father, easily the most miserable of the party, will remember his own wedding day(s) and swear that nobody is going to get him in one of those suits, not until he's in his own box. The staff will go out the back and wonder if they can arrange it.

Eventually the Best Man and Groom will go out in morning coats, probably Ascot greys, and everybody else will have lounge suits (satin shawl collar, one button) and think they look like something out of MadMen. Darren will sulk because having refused to wear a morning coat, he's been allowed to have his way and now doesn't feel as important as the Best Man. Because he isn't.

Meanwhile the bride and her entourage will be trying to pour themselves in to dresses which are triumphs of engineering in satin and steel. There is nothing - and I promise you this is true as I've worked on a bridal show - so determined as a woman who spies a chance to wear a laced bustier. The most punky perforated popsie you can imagine will stomp in wearing DMs and a bad attitude and make straight for the embroidered Elizabethan corsets. She's relatively easy to please; the Goths tend to be a little thinner so they fit in the dresses.

The difficulty starts with the more generously proportioned brides, particularly if they intend to be eight months pregnant at the wedding. There are a couple of designs, known as "covers a multitude of sins" which will cope with this but they don't involve bodices and modom knows what she wants.

She will make for the designs based on the Emmanuel Classic Diana, which was itself ripped-off from Disney's Cinderella. Only, this version has added encrusted Swarovski crystals so it weighs a ton and would cut your hands to ribbons if you brushed them over the embellishment.

This dress only works if you are 19, thin as a whisper, a virgin, and girlishly winsome. It was touch-and-go on the Late Princess, and she was anorexic. Anybody else is going to look like a galleon encrusted with frozen barnacles. Less Snow Queen, more Snow Plough.

While this is going on the bridesmaids will be itching to try on all the bridal gowns for themselves, which is dangerous if any of them are obviously prettier than the bride. She will storm out to reclaim her place as Queen of the Fairies and will instruct them all to be loaded in to sherbet-green or lilac satin.

After a little horse-trading and discussion of how it looks on the photos, this will be sensibly revised to gold sheath dresses, which are surprisingly flattering on nearly everyone if the larger sizes are made as a bodice and skirt.

The mother of the bride will remember her own wedding day(s) and be found in a compromising position with the father of the groom. They have been swigging out of a hip-flask he has concealed about his person. The mother of the groom will be frosty but will save the smack in the gob - for that tramp, you know, her - for the reception, or better yet, the church.

Next out will be the seating plan for the wedding, if there is a formal banquet. This calls for diplomacy, but it shouldn't. The guests are badly infected with the "It's my party" virus, which gives everyone the illusion that this is about them. Consequently you can't rely for one single afternoon on them behaving like mature adults, capable of sticking to discussions of the weather and politely ignoring the tomato soup if they don't like it.

Instead, there will be juggling with name cards so that racists aren't inadvertently set with one's duskier friends. Ancient animosities will be hauled out and polished up to make them as inconvenient as possible. Vegetarians will loudly complain that they are fed up with vegetable lasagne, and anyway, is the cheese rennet-free or is it compromised? When I'm in charge of the world, we'll barbecue vegetarians and then the carnivores can eat them instead of the hog roast. The next florist who has conniptions because their creation has not been placed precisely where they instructed is going to be joining them on the spit and served with a garni of their own rudbeckias and sea holly, I gives yer due warning.

When the family and friends aren't behaving like idiots the support staff will be. Drivers insist they don't know where churches and receptions are, which is a diabolical liberty considering the prices they charge, do what, yer 'avin' a laugh, incha?

No, I didn't believe it either, but I've known weddings where inappropriate sexual advances have been made by pissed blokes towards the bride - or the groom if it is a Lib Dem do - a hotel was trashed, strongly racist sentiments were expressed towards the newly acquired relatives, their morals and parenthood questioned (blimey, hark who's talking) and the police have been called.

The proper etiquette for fights at weddings is: NONE. There aren't supposed to be any fights. If there has been one, somebody should have left earlier or not attended in the first place. Especially if it is either of the happy er, couple.

This leads to the serious consideration: can mere stories about weddings deprave and corrupt? It looks like they can, if they are repeated often enough and if they normalize outrageous behaviour. That means we should not be worrying about obscene publications but about EastEnders.

I want to see the episode where all the guests turn up on time instead of wasting the meal by running off to some other wedding, nobody loses anything, as few women as possible are pregnant in anything other than the most conventional of arrangements, nobody decks their muvver/farvver/bruvver, nobody jumps off a roof and the police, fire and ambulance services are not in attendance. They are called so regularly to Albert Square that they ought to be on the checklist as a guard of honour.

I want to see just one EastEnders wedding video which won't later turn up on Police Camera Action! or the stills grabbed for "Do you recognize this person?" on Crimewatch.


The writer wishes to declare a pair of white stilettos and a white Ford Escort to be taken in to account.


George Speller said...

Great writing. Loved it.

Quiet_Man said...

Ah yes, I can see we've been to the same type of weddings, though I was usually the unfortunate mate of the hire car company owner pulled in at the last minute owing to some crisis and often enough didn't know the area too well.

Woman on a Raft said...

Thank you George, glad you enjoyed it.

I hope, Quiet Man, you weren't the relief driver who turned up in his elegant greys, turned his cap on back to front and said "Right ladies, 'Ang On" and then drove as if re-living his Blues and Twos days.

The bridesmaids rolled back in their seats like a chiffon wave and squealed with excitement all the way to the church.

JuliaM said...


Katabasis said...

Great piece! I have never been anywhere in the world that produces so many d**kheads of such high quality as in Essex. Only the other week I was there for a christening and I was getting eyeballed by the local lads outside the pub for the crime of - *shock* - going to my father's car, taking my shirt off and putting a vest top on owing to the tropical temperatures that day.

In addition my brother also managed to get himself in a prison cell after an altercation with four (apparently recently released) men who seemed to think they could intimidate him and imply they would rape my sister. He knocked one of them unconscious and hospitalised another one; the other two ran off. Thankfully no charges have been made.

Your thoughts about Eastenders and co.'s influence is along the same lines I have been thinking recently, especially observing people's behaviour at the nightclubs. Not having made regular use of a TV for many years now it is becoming increasingly apparent that many people leave their house considering *outside* as an extension to the reality they see on the idiot box.

I was hoping by now a few more people would have learned from Derren Brown, who has showed clearly just how frighteningly easy it is to surreptitiously control someone's likely behaviour and thought patterns with suggestion alone.

Anonymous said...

For "proper" etiquette regarding weddings, icluding the fight, may I recommend "Nanny Ogg's Cook Book". It contains useful advice regarding the correct behaviour should a witch visit the wedding - invite immediately and offer strong drink.

Woman on a Raft said...

Hello Katabasis. As you are possibly aware, JuliaM at Ambush Predator often juxtaposes stories from Essex which shine a light in to dark corners of modern Britain. It's not that she exclusively looks at Essex; it's just that the themes she riffs on repeatedly originate there.

Here's one which dares further comment Councillor’s fury at slur on girls of Colchester

"A SURVEY claiming girls from Essex, particularly Colchester, are the cheapest first dates, has been slammed by a county councillor."

Rubbish. Everybody knows that it is Romford.

Woman on a Raft said...

Thank you Anon, I'll have a look at that. I've always enjoyed Prachett's witches. In fact, I think that was where I started with him.

Looking at the book case, I notice that he has got top billing round here, meaning his books are the ones sitting in the grab'n'go spot, i.e. they are consistently being re-read rather than quietly percolating down the stacks to where the Ian McEwan's novels are imprisoned.

PT Barnum said...

Loved this, laughing and wincing in equal measure. I fear we've been to the same weddings.

There is, also, in my family, the parallel phenomenon of the Funeral Punch Up, traditionally practised to the extent that everyone gets cremated these days, thereby avoiding unpleasantness around (and in) the grave. Now that's nasty.

Woman on a Raft said...

Surely by the time they are dead there's no point in fighting them, Mr PTB? On the other hand, I suppose it makes sense to wait until the odds are a litte more in one's favour.

banned said...

As Katabasis mentions, Eastenders is responsible for man of societies woes, despite being hot on not smoking, not dropping litter or swearing, the programme continually portrays life as one crisis after another and some viewers seem to think tht this is normal, unlike those of us who just want a quiet life.

All Seeing Eye said...

Thoroughly enjoyed that. As a recent-ish Best Man it brought back some memories that I thought I'd safely buried with a combination of single malt and intense therapy.

The one I helped at paled in comparison to one I attended where the groom and obviously-pregnant bride had karaoke at the reception....and she sang "Like A Virgin". You couldn't make it up.

Woman on a Raft said...

despite being hot on not smoking, not dropping litter or swearing,

That is so true, Banned. By rights, half the scenes should be shot in an angry smoking huddle next to a drift of discarded sandwich wrappers, where people say they are going to do things but in the end, do not.

Perhaps the smoking ban is responsible for more aggression being played out in real life than used to happen, when young men could go in to a pub to, in the modern argot "mediate their rage with ritual" i.e. have a right old grumble until it was too late to have the fight, due to urgent business with a kebab.

Woman on a Raft said...

Look on the bright side ASE. By modern standards, getting up the aisle before the baby has been born rather than waiting until the child is old enough to be a bridesmaid or page, is to marry with quaintly old-fashioned haste.

Despite EastEnders claim that it has tackled taboo subjects since 1985, it has stayed away from unspoken ones such as bastardy and the fact - and it is a fact - that a large portion of the population thinks that one should at least try to be married at the point a child is born. It's not always possible, but it ought to be considered.

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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Submariner said...

Ooh, Mrs Raft, you have your very first item of spam! You must be climbing the Google rankings.
Loved the wedding piece, also the fairground piece, by the way.

Furor Teutonicus said...

I was once working in a hotel in central Scotland. We had a "travelers" (Read Tinks) wedding.

AN, the entire party booked the whole hotel for three days....


The police, after the first ten shouts, actually brought a portacabin type "police station" on to the car park and had 5 of them on shift 24 hours per day. (WHEN they were not "escorting" various "guests" to the cells in Livingstone.)

The cost?

Gypoes a couple of grand, the Hotel... 10,000 X2 for two ENTIRELY wrecked bedrooms (One so bad, we could never use it again!), we don't know HOW much for nicked drinks after one (some?) of them broke into the cellar during the evening, whilst the bar staff were "kept busy" by orders of thirty and forty quadruple Wodkas at a time. A hall carpet on one of the corridors set fire to. Plus more which just at the moment I can not remember. But total cost was WELL double what they had actually paid.

GREAT fun.

AndyN said...

Anybody else is going to look like a galleon encrusted with frozen barnacles. Less Snow Queen, more Snow Plough.

Laughed out loud at that, excellent.

Woman on a Raft said...

Indeed, FT, one of the things which has surprized me about Inspector Gadget's accounts is how often the people who most resent the police go out of their way to be in contact with them.

Woman on a Raft said...

Glad you enjoyed it AndyN.

Submariner, I don't know whether to delete it or keep it as a trophy. Glad you enjoyed the piece.

Robert Craig said...

I couldn't quite believe my ears at one wedding when the band launched into Jimi Hendrix's 'Hey Joe'. It was a request from the groom.

Hey Joe,
where you going with that gun in your hand?
I'm going down to shoot my lady,
caught her messing round with another man...

Woman on a Raft said...

Good grief, Robert, wouldn't you think the band would have been tactful enough to claim not to know that one. The world being what it is, you can bet somebody is planning to play that at Raoul Moat's funeral.

I've no idea why "Delilah" is so popular at weddings either, but there's always a drunk uncle who insists on belting it out as a guest vocalist with the dance band. It's not like he even knows all the words before he staggers to the microphone.

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Furor Teutonicus said...

Do you advertise for work by leaving your "Sexy Sady" Calling cards in phone boxes, and scribbled on the back of public bog doors as well?