Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I read the news today ...

Have you ever noticed how blinkered we are most of the time? Before I was expecting my daughter I never really noticed mums with babies and buggies. But once I was pregnant I saw them everywhere.
It’s the same with weddings. Now that the daughter is a just-got-engaged adult, I can’t seem to escape from them. Every time I pick up a paper or log on to the internet there’s a new story.

Fewer couples chose to tie the knot
The number of adults choosing to marry is at its lowest level since records began, according to new figures. Some 244,710 people wed in 2005 - the lowest number since 1896 - and, as the number of unmarried adults rose, it was the lowest marriage rate since 1862. (Source

Five per cent of people consider a final fling
A survey of more than 2,000 people carried out by wedding website revealed that five out of every 100 would consider having a final fling before the big day. It also discovered that 26 per cent – more than one in four – had skeletons in their closet and planned to keep it that way. (Source

My daughter and fiancĂ© are clearly not in the first camp. It’s to be hoped they are not in the second either. In any event, the wedding plans appear to be under revision. They have completed the deal on the house they are buying together and moved in at the weekend. The daughter phones.
The loo is blocked, the washing machine can’t be plumbed in yet, they need to get the dogflap fitted urgently and the tv aeriel seem to be on the blink. She hasn’t got time to think about weddings. But perhaps Easter would be a better time than the summer because then they could go ski-ing for the honeymoon. Oh, and have we bought our new fridge/freezer yet because they’d like to come and get our old one. Oddly enough we have. Galvanised by the prospect of being without one altogether (it’s hard to deflect a daughter with a fridge/freezer in her sights) her father has surfed the internet, made two trips to what is depressingly called the retail park, and bought the one that ticked all his boxes. It was reduced by £200 but, more importantly, it dispenses chilled water and two different kinds of ice at the push of a lever. Or at least it will if our plumber ever turns up and manages to connect it to the mains water supply. But that’s another story.

When they come to collect the fridge/freezer - not to mention a sofa, two pairs of curtains and all my spare coat hangers - I try to raise the topic of an Easter wedding, aware that the timescale now appears to have shrunk. However, I gather that the Auntie Question has yet to be resolved. How many aunties do you invite? And how many cousins? Whose day is it anyway? The bride’s - or the families’? These are the kind of negotiations best settled without the intervention of a third party, especially one whose only contact with aunties, uncles, cousins and so forth was at Christmas when I accompanied my father to drop off the obligatory presents. I change the subject.

A couple of days later the daughter rings. Her best friend (the chief bridesmaid-to-be) is coming for the weekend and has suggested they look at local wedding venues. The daughter is not keen. ‘I’d rather just go off and get married in Las Vegas.’ Without aunties, presumably.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stunned by the venue

My daughter - she who is getting married – calls. They have decided they want the ceremony and reception at Ashton Court Mansion in Bristol, the city where they live and work. The venue (I’m getting the hang of wedding speak) has a special meaning for them. It’s where they walk the dog.
Not being a dog owner I’m not sure why this is so significant. Indeed, walking this particular dog has always seemed to be more of a nightmare than a dream date since it often involves altercations with other dogs, not to mention their owners, and a great deal of running round in circles on one of those very long leads (the dog, not the dogwalker).
Nevertheless, I check out the website, talk to the man who will be footing a large chunk of the bill, and pick up the phone. My daughter has told me that even though they don’t want to get married until July 2008 – 18 months away – it is necessary to book the venue as soon as possible. Vicky, who is called the Ashton Court Mansion Sales Co-ordinator, confirms this.
However, as they are offering money-off deals for some dates this year (Fantastic room hire offers for all 2007 weddings booked during January) I suspect booking a wedding venue is not unlike booking tickets with Easyjet or Ryanair.
To be sure of getting the day you want at a reasonable price you have to book as far ahead as you can. But if you are prepared to be flexible – not insisting on a Saturday, for instance - you’ll probably get a much cheaper deal nearer the time.
The daughter is not interested in being flexible. I make a provisional booking and agree to send a deposit of £1000.
Then we hit a snag. The daughter says the booking form she has specifies a minimum number of 100 guests. We were planning to have 50 to the ceremony and sit-down reception and about 100 to the evening party with a buffet. I call Vicky back to check.
“Oh no,” she says. “The minimum I would consider on a Saturday in July would be 80 for the reception.”
I am rapidly going off the idea of Ashton Court Mansion. There is almost certainly going to be another wedding going on at the same time. The wine list I have seen is uninspired and overpriced and the corkage charge is horrendous - £12.50 plus VAT per bottle of cava, for God’s sake. The grounds are open to the public until the evening and if we want to be sure we don’t have gatecrashers we will have to hire our own security.
We would have to supply and bring everything apart from food, drink, table linen, cutlery, glasses and crockery. That would include flowers. The cake. Favours (don’t ask).
And I have done some more research. The venue is run by Sodexho.
“Actually,” I tell Vicky. “I think I would rather my daughter’s wedding wasn’t done by school meal caterers.”
She bridles. “We are Sodexho Prestige. We do the catering at Blenheim Palace and Royal Ascot.”
“Exactly,” I say.