5) Star Wars IV-VI
In 2005 I started a 3 year part-time Master’s degree through the Open University. This ran over the calendar year, so my long break between years was from Christmas to the start of February. Just before I started the 3rd and final year, Terry whisked me off to New York for a romantic break away. This coincided with our 6th anniversary, in January 2007.
New York in January is absolutely bloody freezing, so we wrapped up warm and went for a walk in Central Park. Terry proposed, I accepted. Our faces ached from the combination of smiling and minus 11 degree weather.
Having been together for 6 years already, and having lived together for about 4 and half years of that, we didn’t really want a long engagement. We briefly considered hopping over to Las Vegas while we were already in the US, and getting it done and dusted on the spot. (I don’t know if you can still do this, but you used to be able to get married at the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton and someone dressed as a Klingon could be your best man. I still contend this would have been pretty awesome). But we though there was a significant chance Terry’s Mum would actually kill us, so we decided it was best to have a proper wedding in the UK.
Then I remembered I was going to be spending most of my free time in 2007 writing my thesis. Even simple weddings take a substantial amount of organisation, and I really didn’t want to be distracted from my studies. (In the context of the similar situation as described above, I now realise that I perhaps over-prioritise academic merit).
As a pair of feminists, we were determined to avoid many of the patriarchal trappings of wedding lore. As a pair of geeks we wanted to put our own creative spin on the proceedings. As a pair of cheapskates we quite liked the idea of doing this as economically as possible. And as a pair of cool, irreverent, non-traditionalists we really fancied sticking two fingers up at as many wedding cliches as we could. Starting with the whole concept of arranging a wedding.
“Tell you what,” I said, through chattering teeth as we strolled through a frozen Manhattan, “how about you sort it all out, and I will show up on the day and say the right name?”
For all the weird chauvinistic overtones of traditional Western marriages, from the giving away of the bride to her husband as through she were property, to the hymnal cutting of the cake with a massive sword, the wedding industry focuses on the woman. It’s your special day, we are told. Your chance to be a princess. Everything is about you. Your dress, your flowers. The groom is relegated to a supporting part, and countless hours of film and TV have normalised this sidelining. Let her have what she wants if you want any peace and quiet. She’ll turn into a Bridezilla, and this is normal. Just let her get on with it. Your job as the man is to show up and say the right name.
(This is of course hugely hetero-normative. Sadly equal marriage would still be 5 years in the future. I speak from the perspective of a straight, cis, woman, and don’t intend this commentary to ignore all other forms of partnership, only to recount my own experience).
So, sod all that we decided. Terry can initially have creative control and as and when we come to the big decisions, we’ll discuss them together. As it turned out, there were only a few small details where I had practical concerns. And so it was on 26 January 2008, we got married in Newbury, Berkshire, in a Sci-Fi and Fantasy themed wedding with the happy couple and guests in fancy dress. Taking pride of place, Terry wore a full replica Darth Vader costume, injection moulded from the on-screen original. We walked down the aisle together to the Emperor’s theme. The tables were named after various Star Wars locales, and in place of centrepiece flowers, we had individual Star Wars Lego sets for the guests to build. Various guests dressed in other Star Wars themed outfits, and following the ceremony we engaged in a mock light sabre fight outside.
If that wasn’t surreal enough, it turned out one of the guests had called the local newspaper and gleefully informed them that a couple of nutters were having a Star Wars themed wedding at the nice hotel in Donnington. In a single concession to tradition, we decided that getting a package deal from a hotel who could provide the venue, food, rooms etc. was the easiest and sanest way to do things, saving us the brain-ache of coordinating the logistics ourselves. So the duty manager (who must have thought we were all quite mad), discreetly approached us during the reception, and to his credit, with an entirely straight face informed us that a couple of journalists were outside asking for an interview, and I did we want him to tell them to get lost? Instead, on an adrenaline and bubbly high, we garrulously invited them in. We chatted away happily on camera about our inspiration for the event, and a few other guests got interviewed as well. We didn’t think anything much would come of this, until a week later when Terry’s phone rang with offers to sell our story. Over the next six months we successfully made back about 10% of the cost of the wedding in royalties, our wonderful wedding was featured in diverse publications across Europe, and we got a free wedding video out of it.
The wedding industry feeds off telling anxious and impressionable couples that they are in competition with other couples to have the biggest, most glamorous yet unique day ever. If you manage to show up and say the right names, then achievement unlocked. Anything else is just gravy.
If anyone reading this is getting married; I hope you enjoy your day as much as we enjoyed ours. You don’t owe anybody anything else.