The other day, my good friend called, she works in radio and wanted a sound bite from me about a story that had just crossed her news desk. This story was, as she knew it would be, right up my alley. For two reasons, firstly it was weird and secondly because it concerned my favourite place in the world, bed. The story was the regaling tale of a 49-year-old British woman who had made plans to wed her duvet in a lavish ceremony; she had even hired a wedding planner. Now aside from a nagging sensation that this piece of Manchester may be getting a better reception than I had, I can see some of the pros of this union. For instance, I imagine that a soft quilt filled with down and feathers is not terribly naggy when it finds yet another empty courier package hidden at the bottom of the recycling bin. Nor for that matter, is it likely to act as if it had full-blown Ebola if it sneezes a few times. It’s warm, cuddly and doesn’t judge what you watch on Netflix, I bet it never even considers the phrase, “Kellie, not more Conversations with a Killer”. However, despite the positives of these nuptials, I can’t help but feel it’s a little strange to marry any item of bedding and indeed anything without a pulse (there may actually be more specificity needed in this statement, but I’m going to leave it for now).
While I was hunting for the news item mentioned above, I did what any self-respecting researcher does, and I asked Uncle Google. When I entered the words “woman marries” into the search engine, before I had a chance to continue, these were the top search suggestions:
“woman marries” … train station
“woman marries” … ghost
“woman marries” … dog
“woman marries” … Eiffel Tower
And, without doubt my favourite, “woman marries” … herself and cheats on herself.
If you go to couples counselling when you cheat on yourself, do you get a discount? If you are telling your story on The Jeremy Kyle Show, do you throw the chair at yourself? Who gets the dog if you separate? So many questions. But all this got me thinking about, how one person’s whacky is another person’s hum-drum. I began to look at how people observe marriage customs around the world, and I’ll tell you, the duvet began to look reasonably pedestrian. With that in mind, I bring you a small taster of the weird and wonderful world of weddings.
First stop on our conjugal tour, South Korea. Often a destination on a tour of the off-beat, the South Koreans do not disappoint in the marrying stakes. Once the wedding ceremony is over, the groom’s mates (well, they were mates prior to the high-jinks I’m about to describe) remove his shoes and socks, bind his ankles with rope and thrash his feet with dead fish (maybe a sole? Who doesn’t love a good fish pun?). This practice is thought to help the groom become strong enough to (offishally – I am stopping now) enter the bonds of matrimony. I am a believer of preparation preventing poor performance, but I can’t help thinking that my husband would have to be hit by a really big fish … in his junk – to even begin to be ready for this forever.
Off now to Scotland, where the theme of – doing something so awful to one of the intended, that anything that occurs during the marriage will seem mundane in comparison – continues. The Scots are a hardy lot, my Grandfather considered oats with salt and hot water a treat and felt that the only excuse for a sick day was if your head happened to fall off. This bit of pre-wedlock fun certainly supports my theory of the stalwart nation. Delightfully labelled, The Blackening of the Bride, it’s kind of like a hen’s party crossed with a stoning crossed with the 17th Century stocks. First the bride to be is taken unawares by a gaggle of her friends. Then she is pelted with rotten fruit, vegetables, meat waste, basically anything stinky and filthy. Next, she is doused in buckets of rancid milk and paint. To finish off this day of rank merry-making, she is taken for an evening of drinking and then left tied to a tree. Ahhhh nothings says bridal like being hungover, covered in waste, bound in the street whilst smelling like blue cheese kept in a used sports sock. Scotland the Brave indeed.
The last leg of our mini tour takes us to France, that bastion of sophistication, class, taste and… wedding toilets. In a ritual more wee wee than oui oui, guests do a post-reception clean up. They gather all the left over and partially consumed food and drink and place it all lovingly into a chamber pot. This is then delivered to the newlyweds, who are forced to ingest the contents. Who needs a cake?? To be fair and to save myself from the wrath of any angry Francophiles, this is an old-fashioned custom, which more often than not has been replaced by simply distributing chocolates and Champagne, served… out of a toilet. Viva la France.
I must hasten to add at this juncture, some adage about residing in glass houses and not chucking missiles. We had donkeys at my wedding, as my husband is a man obsessed with our hee-hawing equine friends. They were dressed in hats and had a bow tie and flower leis. One of them made a fairly aggressive bid for my bouquet, a small fight ensued and it was bride 1- Donkey 0. I guess that no matter if you want to marry your duvet, bind yourself spiritually to the Eiffel Tower or dabble with donkeys, in the words of Jack Johnson, “It’s always better when we’re together.”