An aisle underwater, pink plastic tablecloths as a canopy, guests bringing their own grub: Kate Fox couldn’t have asked for a nicer wedding day.
Kate eyes up the artful pink plastic canopy
I had a small, pink wedding. In a lighthouse. I blame Jane Eyre. She famously started a chapter: “Reader, I married him”, and described a tiny ceremony with Mr Rochester and a housekeeper in attendance. Okay, I didn’t necessarily want to marry a posh, blind bloke with a burned hand and a mad wife in the attic, but I first read the book when I was seven, have reread it at least 20 times since and it set my template for marriage forever.
My mum married my adoptive father in a grey velvet skirt suit in a registry office. She was probably originally destined for a big white wedding, but after having twins by her married boss, it was off the agenda back in 1978 and I thought their wedding Polaroids were cool. The big white dress was for Cinderella, or for Princess Diana and we all knew by the early nineties how that had turned out.
Kate learns how much the average wedding costs these days
Nonetheless my 20s were a whirl of spending money I didn’t have on the white weddings of friends. I couldn’t imagine the rituals of top tables and speeches, hours of photographs and discos with random relatives for myself. Also, I knew if I ever did have, or was given, the £18,000 that is now the average cost of a wedding, I’d want to spend it on a house deposit or time to write a novel or a round the world holiday – something that would last a lot longer than a day. A poet friend’s pub wedding with an amazing buffet brought by the guests showed a new way forward.
Kate Fox chose to walk up the causeway rather than down the aisle
A day before the Coalition entered their marriage, my husband and I spent £250 on a room above St Mary’s Lighthouse, £250 on a registrar, £100 on my fuchsia Monsoon dress, £150 on his suit hire, £70 on rings, £30 on a bouquet and some buttonholes and a fiver on some pink plastic tablecloths I still tease my husband about after he pinned them to the ceiling in an attempt at an artful canopy. The guests brought beautiful cakes and sandwiches and random Pringles. One friend agreed to be official photographer. My husband and I both spoke and other guests performed songs, poems and readings. We laughed a lot, especially after the hairy moment when it turned out the lighthouse keeper had miscalculated the tides and the causeway was still underwater when I was due to walk myself up the aisle. I can’t imagine how an extra £17,000 could have made a nicer day.
I am, however, now obsessed with Don’t Tell The Bride, with its voiceover confidently announcing, “Every bride wants control of her big day”. They’re always shown mooning about in stately homes, over chairs with clothes on, while the groom scouts a gay sauna, car scrapyard, leprosy colony or other completely inappropriate location. Ridiculous I think… but somehow never get bored of the moment the camera captures them looking into each other’s eyes and saying their vows. A mixture of embarrassed and hopeful and relieved and overwhelmed. Whether it’s under a mansion’s marble ceiling, a dusty registry office roof or a fiver’s worth of pink plastic, there’s a strange and heartening democracy to a public “I do”.
Kate’s friend Amanda Smith brings cake to the party
Kate Fox kindly shared the beautiful poem she and her husband, Alfie Crowe, wrote for the post-service gig.
May you find a shining light to guide you home from the sea
May you find sweet berries in the shade of your favourite tree
May your sea views be panoramic
May your carrots and your relationships be organic.
May you find that smile in the morning, in your bed
and that sweet voice speaking gently in your head
May you sometimes be cut off at the causeway, reconnected by the tide,
May you watch Deal or No Deal, Coach Trip and Corrie on the settee, side by side.
May you find your bride, your partner, your groom
May you find that special place, your own amber room
May you be nourished by each other and the generosity of those who don’t count the cost,
May accepting the new into your life allow you to remember, but let go of whatever has been lost.
May you have friends around you who really care
May you never fly with Ryanair
May you forgive them when they don’t email or phone back for ages
but know that you’re indelibly written in their life’s pages.
May you find great conversation, with laughter at the end
May you find a lover, someone to talk to, a friend
May today illuminate how we are, how we’ll help each other to be,
a safe haven, a lighthouse, constant as the sea.
Standup poet who's been poet in residence for Radio 4's Saturday Live, Glastonbury Festival and the Great North Run.