It's a Mann's world: Get me to the rock on time
I’m getting married. This will come as a surprise to regular listeners of my Q&A podcast Answer Me This!—on which, for nearly a decade, I’ve heartily advised any poor soul writing to us to ask what their first dance should be, or what budget they should set for their party favours, or whether they should propose so soon into their relationship, that they’d be far better off not getting married at all.
Yet I’m not anti-marriage. Having spent the last 13 years in a faithful, monogamous relationship with a lady who now shares my mortgage and gave birth to my child, I have no difficulty with the concept of commitment, a stable family unit, or wanting to formalise that process.
I’m more accurately described as anti-wedding—but that’s not the whole truth either, as I love attending other people’s weddings. Where else but a wedding dancefloor do toddlers and pensioners share a boogie? Where else but in a father-of-the-bride speech are dad jokes given a decent airing? Where else, except perhaps Buckingham Palace, is the entrance of a cake—a cake!—choreographed for maximum spectacle? Other people’s weddings are brilliant.
"Judaism doesn’t have Hell. Organising a Jewish wedding is the closest we can come to it"
It’s just that I am—or at least I was—anti-MY-wedding. My partner Jenny felt the same. If we could click our fingers one day and somehow find ourselves married, that would be fine: it would simplify our financial affairs, make our son feel more secure and act as a symbolic recognition of our feelings for each other.
What we wanted to avoid was the organisational agony of wedding planning: the contortions of self-inflicted paranoia about our guest list or table plans; the endless bridal shopping; the hours of debate about tablecloths, or entrance music, or B&Bs, or floral centrepieces.
After all, we already live together and have a child, so the pretence that our wedding would mark a significant watershed in our lives as a couple rings hollow. We’re not religious, so have no wish for God’s seal of approval: and, even if we did, I’m from a Jewish family and she’s C of E, so the very process of us staging a religious ceremony might alienate members of our respective extended families who actually care about that stuff, thereby increasing our chances of going to Hell. (Actually, Judaism doesn’t have Hell. Organising a Jewish wedding is the closest we can come to it.)
Most of all, we didn’t fancy standing up in front of everyone—and I mean everyone: friends of our grand-parents, ex-colleagues we no longer see but felt obliged to invite, third cousins we’ve only met twice—to declare our love. It’s not that we don’t feel those things, it’s that we don’t feel the need for everyone to witness it. We think it’s a bit cheesy and a bit scary.
Despite what I do for a living, the idea of giving a speech about why I love my girlfriend makes me feel physically sick. And Jenny’s never been the kind of girl who grew up wanting to marry her Prince Charming in a fairy tale wedding. I mean, clearly. She ended up with me.
I guess what we want, really, is a civil partnership, set apart from the pressure of a “wedding”, so there wouldn’t be such expectation that everyone should attend, or a big deal should be made out of it. But in the UK you can only have a civil partnership if you’re gay.
"Despite what I do for a living, the idea of giving a speech about why I love my girlfriend makes me feel physically sick"
Yet here we are, about to get hitched. There are a few reasons for this: the birth of our son has added a legal reason to unite (ah, inheritance law. What could be more romantic?). The death of my father, earlier
this year, has spurred us on to arrange a happy event. And, when we were on holiday in Marbella last month, we discovered Gibraltar.
You see, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, Gibraltar, despite clearly being in Spain, is British, or part-British, or an M&S franchise or something. So that means we can have a legit, British, non-denominational, registry office wedding there. However, unlike our local registry office in Hertfordshire, we’re guaranteed sunshine and have an excuse to keep the event small—it’s a long way away.
So, in a couple of weeks time, we’re heading off to the Costa Del Sol with a very select group of our most immediate family and some school friends we’ve known since we were ten, for a… holiday. Not a wedding. Just a nice group holiday in the sunshine, of which our marriage ceremony will form a part.
That’s the hope, anyway. Despite all our efforts to keep it low-key, it turns out there are administrative hurdles that must still be jumped: music needs to be played, we all need to be wearing clothes, someone needs to cook the food and someone needs to take the photos. But, in short, we might—might—be about to get away with getting married, without having a wedding.
Read more: How to pay for a destination wedding