Ah the delights of the modern wedding - not marriage, I'm pretty sure the two things are quite separate - but the madness surrounding what Jane Eyre described as "Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had..." Such innocent times.
It was the photos from the new Alexander McQueen exhibition Savage Beauty that got me thinking about weddings. Now I do realise that most mortals don't aspire to looking like a Narnian tree on the big day but McQueen is only exaggerating the way we have decided that modern weddings, and modern brides, have to be somehow unique - a bit ironic given the industrial scale the industry operates on.
It's not just the dress that has to be special/bonkers. The latest Brides magazine genuinely debates the relative merits of a tattoo or a breast-cancer badge as a take-away gift, has over 15 pages on flower choices and some truly insane cake designs.
As a woman who had a white chocolate skull as her wedding cake, perhaps I'm not one to judge, but who other than Miss Havisham on a particularly bad day could see this little number as anything other than a confectionary nightmare? Each year, UK weddings are worth a staggering £10 billion - what's even more unbelievable is that the site I got that statistic from is called Hitched WIFE and the wife bit stands for Wedding Industry Facts and Economics. Yes ladies, I bet you didn't know your real economic value did you?
Can you imagine how much political clout we would have if we just refused to buy into the madness and followed Jane Eyre's advice? Never mind our prospective husbands, we'd bring the whole country to its knees.
I'm not advocating a return to some kind of puritan approach to the ceremony and clearly a bit of effort is important. I truly hope that Rob Stark's wedding planner got the sack after the Red Wedding debacle which surely could have been avoided if they'd just balanced the pre-dinner drinks with a few more canapes.
But, when you consider that the average couple will spend over £12,000 on their wedding which is the equivalent of over a year's mortgage payments (ok a month if you live in London), you do have to question why we are buying into the hype. We all know about (note I said 'know about', my readers are too good to admit to the actual crime) the dreaded Bridezillas - what's worse, it seems the crazy is spreading with some research suggesting that Groomzillas may soon walk among us. Men, this is not a good thing, move away and consider what Ron Swanson would do if he was asked to pick a china pattern.
Why do we approach weddings like toddlers who've found the Haribo stash? It's easy to blame the Disney fairy tale effect when even the Huffington Post is publishing articles called How to Make Your Wedding As Magical as Cinderella's but we're all big girls now so that won't wash. Perhaps, as Blame the Princess has it, girls are over-socialised into the wedding-dream or think that the bigger the show the safer they are from the elephant in the room that is divorce statistics (although clearly a Bridezilla would be worrying about a more bridesmaid-shaped elephant). Whatever the reason, maybe it's time to throw the glass slipper through the glass ceiling and get married like grown-ups.
So there's the rant, where's the recast? So many shows, so many weddings but only one where the women are judged so rigidly by their performance in the marriage market - I give you the brides of Downton Abbey.
Let's start with the dead one - dear old Sybbie (I'm guessing at this spelling as I can't imagine a real human adult actually has this name), conveniently killed off so the writers could make her once-noble son-of-the-soil husband a victim of Stockholm Syndrome
Poor Sybil, you must be spinning in your grave at the way Branson has become 'one of us'. You had such promise with your views on the inefficiency of governesses, your belief in civil rights and your insistence on a career - oh the irony that it was a particularly brutal death in childbirth that got rid of you and your silly notions about women. I, at least, shall honour your ambitions and recast you with Constance Markievicz - the Countess, revolutionary, suffragette and socialist who played a prominent part in the Dublin Easter Rising in 1916 and one of the first women in the world to hold a Government Cabinet position. It's particularly fitting that she fought in the Irish troubles Branson quickly forgot to care about. Raise a stiffened eyebrow at that Lord Grantham.
But at least Sybbie had the good sense to die - unlike Edith who is stuck in the living hell that is being jilted at the altar by one man and abandoned by another, forever to be tormented by pitying looks and waspish words from older sister "I've just popped in from The Walking Dead" Mary. Why was Edith jilted? No idea, he was a bit old or something. Why was she abandoned? Because her beloved Michael (already suffering from the bizarrely gothic mad-wife in the asylum back-story) somehow managed to be one of the 16 people killed in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Surely for that improbability alone she deserved something more than the usual familial show of sympathy...
In deference to the complete misery that is her life (I'm assuming the child will meet with a nasty accident in the next series, Thomas has been a bit under-used lately) and a nod to her writing pretensions, I'm recasting Edith as that jolly woman of letters, Virginia Woolf. Don't get me wrong, I know about the abuse and the early death of her mother and bi-polarity is a very hard condition to manage but those novels - I've tried, I promise I've tried but all that gloom and misery makes me want to send her to Maggie Smith for a good talking to. Chin up Edith, find a room of your own and see what you can do - just don't let your sister in...
Lady Mary Crawley, has ever a more fearsome creature stalked the earth? And yet, despite the vampiric pallor and the caustic tongue she's still beating the suitors off with a very spiky stick - maybe 1920s Yorkshire was a secret enclave of Edgar Allen Poe fanatics.
I appreciate she's had a hard time - darling Matthew miraculously cured of paralysis only to be mowed down while recklessly driving at walking speed, men dying in her bed (presumably frozen to death) and never being quite as good with a put-down as the Dowager.It's a tough life when you've only a huge inheritance to look forward to.
Will Mary succumb to marriage again? I rather hope she won't and that the trail of men reduced to rubble by her nuclear eyebrows and withering words will litter the grounds of Downton for years to come. In hope of that, I am recasting Mary as Dame Edith Sitwell, the legendary English aristocratic eccentric whose talent for a quotable quip is rivalled only by Oscar Wilde "I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty... but I am too busy thinking about myself" And if that isn't enough to convince you, look at the picture of Edith as a young woman.
even if you plan like crazy, something's going to go wrong as these cautionary tales should warn you.
But if you're still determined that wedding madness is the only way to go, there is one option left that might save you a penny or two - get the whole thing sponsored...