For many their time in Oxford will have ended and, in these first few weeks of true independence, their thoughts will be on how to preserve the remnants of their university careers in, ahem, “normal life.”
For some, this will be a token trip to Park End. For others, perhaps going back to the Bod with their alumni card, just because they can, before realizing why they left in the first place.
But for a few, a select and arguably elite few, will be faced with the prospect of what to do with the other half they have picked up along the way. Some of these couples will have been together for three years, and having navigated the treacherous path of romance amidst the jungle of tutes, bops, and Game of Thrones, it seems a paltry waste to throw all this away. Some might take the opportunity to say “lovely knowing you”, and hop on the first plane to Benidorm; but others will see their relationship as metonymic of their whole Oxford life, and thus there is only one way to capture that perpetually: marriage.
It isn’t something that many Oxford students think about as part of their imminent future. However, you will doubtless have been, or will be invited to a wedding or two throughout the long Oxford vacs and, whether you like it or not, subconsciously picking up tips on what makes a ‘good’ wedding. Here at VERSA, we like to think of ourselves as a sort of first aid kit for life, prepared for all eventualities. And so, ignore what you learned at cousin Herbert and Felicity’s wedding, and listen to us instead.
Our qualifications? I make my Ahmed’s chip-budget by filming weddings, and on top of that have a particularly trigger-happy family when it comes to nuptials. In October I will attend my 18th wedding, of which I have watched 13 repeatedly on a screen during editing. Amidst all the cake, cloth, and confetti, there are some really important lessons I’ve learnt for the potential bride and groom:
1) Hold the stag do over a month beforehand. There are two reasons for this crucial bit of advice. Although it might seem efficient to gather your mates a few days before the wedding and get all the jollies done in one week, it’s asking for trouble. First, in the unlikely but possible case of an indiscretion occurring on your big night out, a month is enough time to cancel the whole thing and only lose the deposits. Second, hanging on your wedding day isn’t cool: I recall one wedding where I overheard the groom telling his aunt about all the pills he was on to control his horrific diarrhoea after a dodgy kebab. Awks.
2) Children: avoid them. This is totally legit — tell your friends you just don’t care about their offspring, not today, not one bit. They won’t understand, but if they refuse to come unless they can bring their kids, they’re not the friends you want. This is perhaps one reason to get married ahead of all your friends, as they will likely be childless. The later you leave it, the more sprogs you’ll have to turn down. Some parents will say “I know children aren’t invited, but everyone always says how quiet and cute Charlie is.” No. Charlie is a little fuck. Rescind this invitation in its entirety, and delete them on Facebook.
It’s not just that children cry — you’ll be crying too so it doesn’t matter. It’s more that they need an entirely separate venue to host them: baby changing area, separate food at dinner, a reception without a scenic but very deep lake. And there will always be one parent who says “Oh, don’t worry about separate food, Jasmine loves steak too!” Jasmine may well love steak, but Jasmine isn’t paying £50 a head for the privilege — you are. Leave them at home.
3) Bridesmaids and page boys: pick the geniuses. Unless you want to have your grown up friends as bridesmaids (and you don’t — you will either insult the friends you don’t choose, or end up with a bigger entourage than Kim Jong-Un), you will be forced to select a small contingent of minors to act as VIPs. The first temptation is to use family: don’t (this is a running theme). If you are related to Brangelina, you can ignore this advice. But for the majority of us, opening this Pandora’s box will leave you open to manipulation by a distant cousin with a particularly ugly and inappropriately young child. They will insist “Jane will definitely be walking by the wedding!” What they might be attempting is to actualize their unlived dreams of following the bride down the aisle, and when the day comes and you consider dragging their crawling child through the church on a lead, they’ll instead follow you carrying the infant, smiling apologetically from side to side, smug as anything.
The best tactic is to go for the veterans. One of your friends will have a brood born far earlier than the rest. These children will be used at all your friends’ weddings, might well be beautiful, and will know far more about weddings than you. The really top juniors will be future actors. Blond, fat-in-the-face, and an expert at walking in a straight line, I was in fact once one of these elite. Aged 2, faced with the prospect of a sister who wouldn’t carry a basket of flowers at the last minute, I stepped in, no fuss caused. Because young me said #FuckTheBinary.
4) Don’t do the conga. Like, why. The conga was a piss-take in 1929 when it first became assimilated into American culture. Its roots are in Cuban political dissent, and at times drove people to heinous acts of violence. Aside from being a disgraceful example of cultural appropriation, is that what you want your wedding to look like? No? Well do you want to make your wedding look like a new year at Club Med? I thought not. Come on, people.
5) The Best Man: don’t mention masturbation. Everyone thinks that they can do it tastefully — no, you can’t. Hitler had more chance of delivering a Religious Studies lesson that would pass an OFSTED inspection. It’s normally because the groom and best man have been at university or school together; often it’s artfully disguised (“John developed his right arm muscles through his skill with his javelin.” Ew. That one is genuine). People tell me “we’re all adults here, it’s fine.” Well perhaps, but firstly most people ignore rule 1) so they’re are plenty of children, and secondly THOSE ADULTS INCLUDE YOUR OWN GRANDMOTHER. No one wants to hear about the time Robert fingered a cat for a dare. If that doesn’t prevent you, remember that I, the cameraman, am recording your every word. One day you will show that video to your children. Picture that moment. Leave the joke out.
6) Everyone: don’t talk about your previous love life. Why it is that every best man and groom wants to include the phrase “my/his dalliances with the, ah, ‘fairer sex'” in their speeches is beyond me. It must take serious insecurity to feel the need to remind everyone that yes, you have indeed got laid, when they have effectively gathered there to celebrate the fact your parents have hired a hotel room for that specific purpose that night. Trust me, the white dress isn’t fooling anyone. Moreover, having just married someone, revealing that your new spouse was not in fact your best shag is a serious error.
7) Party games: this sounds fun, and I must seem like a serious Scrooge to tell you to avoid them. But honestly, what is the point? The classic ones seem to be playing heads or tails just before dinner, or a perverse form of trivial pursuit about the history of the couple. But honestly, just give them dinner. No one will have got nearly as much out of the wedding as you, and now is the time to reward your guests with food, not test how good they’d be on Pointless. Many offer the winner a bottle of champagne — who are you, Bruce Forsyth? Plus, you’ve effectively spent the day being sponged off by your best mates — they don’t deserve any more free booze.
8) The DJ: there are many out there, and the majority are little more than teenagers with Traktor, a MacBook, and a penchant for Bulgarian brostep. If anyone has the cheese DJ from Park End, please invite me. But mostly, make sure you don’t get someone who thinks he’s in Ibiza. Nothing is more awkward than he who grabs the mic and yells “who’s up to get doooowwwwwwnn!” (itself a curious oxymoron) at your unsuspecting in-laws.
VERSA wishes all the soon-to-be-married couples the very happiest of tax breaks.