“How long will you keep me?” I asked.
You shrugged. “Forever, of course.”
Lucy Christopher – ‘Stolen: A Letter To My Captor’
I really bloody hate weddings.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good finger-buffet as much as the next person. There’s a lot to be said for a well executed vol-au-vent – a vastly under-appreciated comestible creation, if you ask me – and a free bar is never going to be looked down upon by anyone round my neck of the woods. But the whole palaver of a day-long ‘celebration’ put on to witness the decision of two people to promise that they’ll never have sex with anyone else again, for the rest of their lives? I’ve just never really seen the appeal.
This isn’t a criticism of marriage itself. Far from it. For all my outpourings of postmodern cynicism, I’m actually a firm believer in the age-old institution and I’m delighted that the majority of the western world has finally cottoned on to idea that same-sex couples should be just as entitled to a lifetime of misery, as heterosexual couples. No, my objection isn’t to the notion of marriage – it’s bloody weddings that I can’t stand. Barring the obligatory smattering of maiden aunt types, who cry at everything from Countryfile, to the SNP’s Mhairi Black giving that speech to the House of Commons, most of us if we’re being honest, find them insufferably dull too.
From the moment you receive the invitation (and assuming you don’t have a really good excuse for not actually attending) you the guest, are expected to RSVP with enthusiasm, pick out and purchase an item from the pre-selected gift register (3rd-5th cheapest from the bottom, if you’re clued up and quick enough), find an outfit that manages to look as though you genuinely care enough to make the effort – but are in no way attempting to show the bride up – and then agree to give up an entire precious Saturday off work (a Saturday you’d otherwise be enjoying spent watching back-to-back episodes of classic Robot Wars and eating toasties, in your pants), to attend an event that could range anywhere from low-key and intimate, to the kind of opal-encrusted, opulent, one-upmanship you’d expect from Mr & Mrs West. (I’m talking about Kim & Kanye here of course – I’ve no idea how much Fred & Rose forked out for their special day.)
But regardless of which end of the spectrum said wedding is likely to hover closer to, the whole shebang is basically going to boil down to you having to sit through a tedious church service (despite neither bride nor groom having set foot in a religious building since Uncle Jack’s funeral in 2006) where even the most militant of atheists among us will still find ourselves desperately trying to decide what octave to aim for, as we attempt to recall the tune to hymns last encountered in our old school assemblies. After that you’ll be off to an insipid, mass-produced carvery dinner (spent sat next to someone you don’t know and will naturally take an instant dislike to) where you’ll sit through excruciatingly abysmal speeches somewhat akin to hearing Ed Miliband recite Vogon poetry. Then, to top it all off there’s the ubiquitous shit disco. Because when you’re damn sure you’re never going to be able to cater to everyone’s musical tastes, it makes perfect sense to get someone to play stuff that appeals to absolutely no one’s musical taste, amirite? If you’re lucky there will be that free bar, in which case you’ll probably just order yourself Pinot Grigio by the bottle and get so shitfaced that you end up getting off with one of the groomsmen to ‘Careless Whisper’, whilst some fat DJ in a Bermuda shirt mumbles incoherently over the saxophone solo.
Weddings are shit. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always put a greater emphasis on actually ‘being’ married, than the notion of ‘getting’ married; which is almost completely at odds with how most women seem to approach the whole idea. Their ‘Big Day’ (and it always is ‘their’ day, because no self-respecting groom could give two shits about colour schemes, themes or learning how to perform the closing routine from ‘Dirty Dancing’) is treated with the kind of reverence and spectacle normally reserved for a B-list celebrity’s funeral. Never mind the fact that the average UK wedding costs just under £21,000 (about three times the amount you’d need to put down a deposit on a first time buyer’s house). If the local Premier Inn’s banqueting suite isn’t decked out to look like something from a Siegfried & Roy extravaganza, then Bridezilla will be throwing a shit-fit before anyone can mutter “mazeltov!”
If/when I ever get married, the whole affair will be the most simple, clandestine and briefest procedure I can legally get away with. None of my family will be there, the witnesses will be whichever anonymous passers-by could be roped into participating at the last minute and all my puff-pastry preferences aside, there won’t be a vol-au-vent in sight. Don’t mistake my ambivalence towards ceremony for an indifference towards commitment though – like I said, I think it’s the ‘being’ married, not ‘getting’ married, that’s important. But chances are, you’re not like me. Your potential other half is probably nothing like me. Your ‘Big Day’ is going to see you or your parents fork out a considerable amount of money, for an event that very few will truthfully enjoy – irrespective of how cunning and subtle the photographer you hired is working at making it appear otherwise.
But…ladies and gentlemen, there is now a new option on the scene for those who are willing to bet on their shacklement being a success. Sure, we’ve all heard that an estimated 42% of marriages now end in divorce. But everyone ‘knows’ that theirs is going to make it, right? And why not? If statistics are to be believed then you’ve got just over a one-in-two chance of making it all the way from ‘being way too pissed to consummate your marriage on your wedding night’, to ‘occupying side-by-side burial plots sometime in the not too distant future’. So why not take the ultimate gamble and put your money where your spouse is?
Before now, if you wanted to place an actual bet on you and the missus managing to stay hitched, you had to brave the despondent throng of sallow faced revenants at the local bookies as you tried to figure out how to complete the chit using the world’s smallest pen. Because nothing says ‘true love’ like enduring 20 wretched minutes in a room that smells like Bovril, whippets and despair, just to stick a tenner on your upcoming nuptials. But we’re in the 21st Century now folks and anything that can be done online, is done online. So across the pond in the land of burgers, bibles and guns a somewhat cynical sounding little start-up called SwanLuv is willing to bet $10,000 that YOUR marriage, isn’t going to go the distance. With phrases like “Everlasting Marriage Deserves to be Rewarded” sprinkled all over their site, the company basically offers you and your significant other $10,000 to spend on your wedding day, on the proviso that should you divorce you have to pay it all back plus interest. Sounds pretty sweet huh? Because you already know that when you tie the knot, it’s gonna be forever. Right?
Stay the distance and you ‘n yours will get to keep the $10,000 that SwanLuv paid up front, in order for you to have that dream wedding. Granted, that’s only £6,700 in real money (which isn’t all that much when you consider that the new Mrs Frank Lampard spent £10,000 on her frock alone) so your dreams need to sit somewhere between bargain-bucket-chic and modestly mediocre; but you should at least be able to hire the local Methodist church hall, deck it out in bunting from DealZone and still have enough left over to give everyone a roast chicken dinner and somewhere to dance along to ‘Come On Eileen’ in the evening.
Testimonials on the site feature couples gushing about how much they appreciate the “pay it forward mentality” of SwanLuv, and how “the concept of the site is hopeful for love.” They’re obviously not in it for the money; no, SwanLuv are merely helping to facilitate the romantic ambitions of financially frustrated lovers, who just want to cement their commitment to one another – for free. Kind of like a ‘Make A Wish’ foundation, for the terminally besotted. And in case you’re wondering what happens to all that money that these philanthropic financiers recoup when those 42% of failures have to pay it back, don’t worry. According to their site “100% of the money collected from members who are later divorced is used to provide funds for future couples’ dream weddings. SwanLuv keeps the dream alive.” So you can take comfort in the fact that whilst SwanLuv aren’t actually profiting from the demise of other marriages, your three-tiered fruit cake and ivory-ribboned Bentley all came courtesy of the fact that Mr & Mrs Foret of St Paul, Minnesota were no longer able to sit at the breakfast table together, without wanting to stab one another in the eye with a butter knife. Nice. Now I’m not one for believing in karma, but I’m not sure I’d want my marriage being funded by some other poor schmuck’s failed attempt at forever.
It doesn’t mention anywhere in the small print whether or not the contract becomes invalid if one party goes to prison, or whether you’re still obligated to repay the money if you actually do kill your spouse over breakfast; but there is a clause that states how divorces resulting from abusive relationships will require only the abusive party to repay the $10,000 and I can’t see THAT little caveat being exploited at all! I’m almost 100% sure that SwanLuv aren’t going to have a few dissatisfied wives turning up with some expertly applied MAC pigment powders around the eye-sockets, claiming that they aren’t responsible for repaying any of the $10K. Nor do I think for one minute that there will be any ladies sat smirking to themselves 5 years from now, safe in the knowledge that hubby can’t ever run away with someone who doesn’t berate him for playing on his XBox in the evening, because her decision to be a housewife left them with a very limited single income. I’m sure the brains behind this novel little Seattle based start-up have already thought about all the potential fraudulent exploits that future ‘smug-marrieds’ might dream up, so my cynicism is probably entirely misplaced.
I still can’t see myself ever going cap-in-hand to these guys though; asking them to pony up the fundage so I can have a chocolate fountain, a slow dance to Westlife and the opportunity to dress like meringue for the day, just isn’t my style. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t apply and give it a go yourselves. SwanLuv (so named because swans are known to mate for life) are taking applications via their website now and will be using ‘online data and algorithm software technology to quickly assess applicants’ with a view to distributing the first hand-outs after they officially launch in February 2016. If getting yoked to ‘her indoors’ is important to you, but you just can’t afford the cost of getting her up the aisle, then why the hell not? Maybe it’ll give some couples a greater incentive to work on their relationships; or maybe it’s just going to turn the already precarious process of permanently pairing off into an even greater minefield, for those who might want out at a later date. Getting married IS a gamble, but that 42% failure rate is on the decline. So if you fancy your odds as much as you fancy your fiancee then fuck it. Have your flutter, have your flowers and have your finger-buffet but please, whatever you do, don’t send me a fucking invite, however close we are.
(Even if you are having vol-au-vents.)