John Bishop has survived his daughter’s wedding — barely

2010-10-19 00:00

WE had a family wedding the other day.

The event was one of those life-changing, character-building experiences which falls neatly between birth and death. Instead of a Magistrate’s Court quickie — the instant, zip in, zip out wedding so popular with the father of the bride — it was a traditional, old-fashioned affair with all the bells and whistles.

Watching the build-up from an average distance of 10 metres was an education. Only the World Cup could match it for preparation and anticipation.

The catalyst was the wedding proposal.

Once this was a spontaneous question posed at the drive-in, usually during intermission ... or in the labour ward at Grey’s. The rejection level, at 48,5%, was unreasonably high but the recovery rate was quick.

Today the marriage proposal, by all accounts, is conducted like a military operation, involving cunning, Drakens­berg peaks, hundreds of roses or messages in bottles on lonely beaches.

Rejection, it seems, is not a consideration.

Now please keep this to yourself, but the wedding is largely an event of the women, by the women and for the women. They seize on it with the enthusiasm of a puppy devouring your most expensive shoe.

Occasionally, well twice, you may be asked for an opinion but be prepared to respond to vacant eyes and closed minds. Decisions have already been made. And so you spend lonely months clutching the remote and cowering away in a dark corner, emerging only to sign the occasional cheque and answer in the affirmative.

Years of dreaming and months of planning finally culminate in an explosion of organised chaos in the month before the day and PMS becomes a problem. PMS, for the uninformed, is an abbreviation for Pre-Marriage Stress. The Americans, as they would, call it Pre-Marriage Syndrome.

The symptoms are obvious: extreme bossiness, finger-pointing and weight loss. Treatment involves hefty doses of chocolate and retail therapy trips to the mall.

The merry-go-round of activity becomes a frenetic whirl as the day looms. Debates on dresses, wedding cakes, flowers, menus and guests lists are endless. Manicure (nails) with gel extensions, pedicure (feet) with gel overlay, waxing, make-up (including trial) and hair styling (including trial) are squeezed into crowded days.

Across the divide, the guys in the wedding party nip down to the nearest outfitters and borrow a suit. It fits perfectly first time (when breathing in). One fellow did have his hair trimmed, but he was from Durban. We’re sorted, hey.

But what really confirmed the difference between the sexes was the party weekend.

The hens went north to a Ballito cottage, travelling with plans, pre-cooked meals and taped video messages.

The bulls travelled south. There was talk of swimming, touch rugby and fishing. We arrived at our cottage on the Saturday morning with beers and biltong, and had to send out for toilet paper. No one budged for hours. We did not even see the beach.

There was a brief, unsuccessful sortie to the nearby pub to watch the Springboks lose again. We did not even stay to the end because our sour hosts, after taking our money, asked us to leave the premises. Forthwith. It was a misunderstanding.

In Ballito, meanwhile, all went according to Plan A. The gals, aged between 22 and 65, decked out in matching leopard print, set out to the popular local nightspot. They were armed with challenges and props (well, just the one, a plastic penis which was to be used as a microphone — don’t ask).

They were a hit and when they left in the early hours of the morning, clutching their plastic mike and happy memories, the staff and patrons even came out to bid them fond farewell.

And so to the blur of the big day. It all went off swimmingly, although there is a grumpy billy goat living near Boston who might offer a contrary, more jaundiced view. He found himself suddenly sharing sleeping quarters with five of the wedding guests (game rangers) and was kept busy chasing late-night revellers around the room as they staggered back to their beds in the early hours.

Finally, smothered in a duvet, he went home to the range, his job done.

Butting Billy had provided a chaotic but somehow fitting end to a year of organisation and meticulous planning.

And, yes, the wedding — and all who sailed with her — did confirm the stereotype. The marriage, in a curious way, was a celebration of all those delightful differences.

Vive la différence.


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