How you can arrange a more meaningful wedding day.

The average wedding.

Today, weddings have become big, big business. It is supposed to be the most important day of your Iife ... if you are the bride. Forgive the cynicism but, and the divorce statistics will no doubt support me on this, have you ever thought that perhaps this really is not the most important day of your life? Maybe that's when you have a child, or maybe it's even the day you die.

To the groom the wedding day is often an ordeal to be got through in the hope of having his washing done, eating something other than chips and Pot Noodles and 'the rest' on tap, so to speak. And if you are the groom you may be lucky enough to have your future father-in-law bankrupt himself to hand his baby girl over to you.

If you are unlucky enough to have to foot the bill yourselves you had both better have good jobs as today the average wedding in the UK costs £18,500. Why? Because they see you coming. Everybody wants a slice of the action and prices take a hike because it is that much vaunted 'special day'. A wedding cake, a mere cake, alone can cost on average £370. For heaven's sake what's in it? For that price I'd want diamond encrusted currants?

And, of course, no modern wedding ever has less than two parties these days, the not-quite-separate events, the day 'do' and the evening 'do'. This is something I have never quite understood. Don't they want to get away on that honeymoon to St Lucia or Bali? Do they really want to hang around until the bride gets so drunk she trips over her dress, hangs weeping round the neck of the bloke who rejected her and makes a complete arse of herself?

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An expensive wedding does not ensure love.

In post-war Britain my mother and father walked 50 metres, or yards as it was then, from my grandmother's house to the village church to get married.

My mother wore a neat, tight grey suit beloved by those trios of singing girls the Second World War made famous, and a tiny hat of brown feathers with a veil. My father wore his naval uniform. They had drinks and sandwiches in my grandparent's front room and were photographed staring solemnly at the camera, cigarettes in hands.

It was a grey December day very close to Christmas and there were few guests. My father rejoined his ship next day and my mother thought the beautiful Yorkshire village she had come to was Paradise after the grime of Manchester. It was the beginning of an intense love affair that lasted nearly sixty years. And all without the aid of obscene expense and ostentatious frippery. It was a marriage with true meaning, after a quiet and discreet wedding.

And I know what I'm talking about ...

As anyone who has read my profile will see, I am no stranger to this wedding business so I am becoming quite creative at arranging them. Even if I were incredibly wealthy I still would not hand the arranging over to a 'wedding planner' which is just a fancy name for an over-enthusiastic event organiser.

As I see it if your wedding plans have become so unwieldy that you have to turn your 'special day' over to someone else to organise then it is no longer 'your' day and you need to downsize. You will be unable to do this if you have invited a stranger into your day and you will invariably be swayed by at least some of her suggestions, which could make it even more overblown.

If you really want to make it a special day use your own creativity. Keep it small and keep it meaningful.

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So, why not design your own wedding?

Most of us have heard of the dreaded 'wedding abroad'. This is where the guests are supposed to witness the happy couple get married in Bali or Goa or at a safari lodge in Kenya or whatever.

This seems fairly creative but unless you foot the total bill for accommodation for your guests you may find some of your friends are either unwilling or unable to pay the airfare to join you. It would certainly keep the riff-raff out ... or maybe not. And again it would be hideously expensive.

I simply don't believe that it is necessary to indulge in conspicuous consumerism to make your special day special.

Can blokes do romance?

Hmmm, occasionally. Writing purely from a woman's perspective here I think it's not so much a lack of motivation on the part of some so much as the lack of imagination. But, girls, if you have the imagination all you have to do is to get him to sign up to your idea. This is usually easier before you are married than afterwards so you shouldn't have too much difficulty.

If he is not willing to humour you before marriage you might like to have a rethink about the whole thing.

When I got married to my latest Mr Right we got up before dawn on Midsummer's day and watched the sunrise standing in the centre of a neolithic stone circle. Long known as the Merry Maidens, this ancient ring of stones was just down the road from where we lived in the far west of Cornwall so it seemed a shame not to use it as it was right on our doorstep, so to speak.

We took a matching pair of long-stemmed scarlet coloured cocktail glasses and drank fresh spring water out of them (water seemed more in touch with the spirit of the place than wine) and then offered the rest as a libation to nature and the ancestors, who were probably muttering into their beards and wondering what the hell we were doing. We then managed to make our vows to one another without too much giggling and embraced.

There was only one witness to this little ceremony, another sun watcher who seemed to disappear in and out of the stones around us. I believed he was a shape-shifter, but when I told my newly acquired husband he thought I had said 'shirt-lifter' which meant something entirely different and sent us off into giggles again.

Now this illustration of mine may seem a bit irreverent for a solemn exchange of vows but, for me at least, it had far more meaning than the 'legal' ceremony we had a few days later. It probably doesn't have quite the same meaning for my husband as when I have suggested that we renew our vows in the same way he mutters something unprintable about dawn. All I remember is the beauty of the light, the mystery of the stone circle, laughter and the warm glow of our own loving words.

Imagination is the key.

Okay, so I didn't look like a princess but I didn't act like one either. An expensive wedding can be either a selfish imposition on one's parents or a crippling debt that can strain a marriage from the word go. So what I am urging here is an alternative and something infinitely more creative.

Why not stand on the beach of a deserted cove at dawn and make vows you have written yourselves? This doesn't have to mean you will be 'living over the brush', you can go to the register office to have it legalised later. Why not have your reception in your own garden and make it open house for all the neighbours as well as your friends, a sort of a street party without needing permission from the council.

Or what about exchanging vows in some iconic spot, on top of the white cliffs of Dover, or above the Grand Canyon if you're in the U.S? Or getting married by a druid at Stonehenge at the Midsummer Solstice celebrations? Or out at sea on a dolphin cruise before adjourning to a lively pub? Or in a vineyard? Or in a ruined Celtic chapel? Or beside a holy well? Or on the ramparts of a castle or in its great hall or keep? Or on top of a mountain where you are closer to the Gods? Or even in the village church with a marquee on the village green so that you can walk there?

The only limit is your own imagination and the possible refusal of permission in those cases where you might need it, though even here you might find the authorities more understanding than you think.

Having made your vows somewhere meaningful you can catch up with the legal stuff later. One of my close friends did in fact 'jump over the brush' and then had a ceilidh in a marquee in a field on their farm though I'm not sure they ever did bother with the legalities, seeing them as meaningless after having already pledged themselves to one another in their own words.

If all this seems hopelessly down-market and less than glamorous then this is obviously not for you. But I defy the true romantics amongst us not to be interested. If you and your intended have decided on an unusual venue and you have both written your own heartfelt vows you will definitely have a wedding with a difference and this will make your 'special day' truly special. It will not only be a day to be remembered but also one to be treasured, forever.

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