Until fairly recently -- when we decided it was altogether too much work when we were supposed to be enjoying ourselves -- B. and I had a system for scoring weddings.
This was a percentage grade, based on numbers out of ten awarded for the following:
1. Ceremony venue, including decoration and the like
3. Appearance of principals, including costuming (with points deducted for any bridesmaids below the age of 12, and any page-boys whatsoever)
4. Unobtrusiveness or nonexistence of photography
5. Reception venue
6. Quality / quantity of food
7. Quality / quantity of drink
8. Wit and brevity of speeches
9. Quality of entertainment
This was always subject to alteration and refinement -- there were certainly times when we conflated 1. and 5., and others when we expanded 6. and 7. into four independent categories. We may have sometimes included inappropriately faffy criteria like "general ambience".
Indeed, part of the reason the system didn't work terribly well in practice was that we could never keep our criteria consistent from one wedding to the next, and that unless we wrote the scores down at the time (and before we'd come to a full appreciation of point 7.), we'd never remember those either.
In any case, we didn't grade either of the two weddings we were at last week. At the first it wouldn't have been appropriate, since the bride and groom had done the whole thing on a shoestring, squeezing in at the nearest church on a Tuesday, hosting the reception in their flat and garden, and asking all their friends to contribute food, drink, flowers, hairdressing etc according to ability.
And at the second we'd been very strictly forbidden by the bride to do anything of the kind.
But -- and this is the point towards which I'm rather vacantly meandering -- both events would have scored highly, according to any version of the system.
If we had been scoring. Which we really weren't, honestly.
Tuesday's bride, Z., was one of the very oldest of my old friends, whom I've known since we were in the region of six (me) and ten (her), and to whom I apparently endeared myself for life by telling her her leg-warmers looked like "mutant tights". Indeed, I was down on the order of service (I read the prayers of intercession) as "Read by Phil Hallard [sic], Z.'s oldest friend". Amusingly, her husband W., whom she met through their mutual passion for Civil War battle reenactment, is about eight years younger than I am.
I'm not going to detail Z. and W.'s performance in each criterion, but all were pretty impressive given the circumstances, and some (the decoration of the garden, for instance) were remarkably accomplished. The veggie food was limited in scope, but not so in quantity (and B. and I had managed to find a rather nice Lebanese café round the corner for lunch, so we weren't desperate). I'm the only friend from those days whom Z. has kept in touch with, so people I knew -- her parents aside -- were a bit thin on the ground. And we had to leave to get a train back to Bristol before the entertainment got under way... but still, the whole occasion was very wonderful.
It was also one of the gayest weddings I've been to, with the best man, numerous guests and (not particularly covertly) one of the clergy all being of the dorothyophilic persuasion. Apparently W.'s stag night involved his friends taking him to a gay club "to keep him out of trouble" -- a potentially risky strategy, I'd have thought, but one which evidently paid off.
As I've said, Z. led us in procession through the streets of North London in her bridal gown, receiving appropriate honks and whistles from spectators en route. Which is very her.
Friday's bride, M., was another old friend (but not as old as Z., and also younger). She's still in touch with many people I ought to be better at keeping in contact with myself, and whom it was desperately lovely to be able to see and get drunk with again. The ceremony was in our home town of Worthing, with the reception afterwards within sight of Arundel Castle, so that added nostalgia value as well.
M.'s new husband is a very nice chap (as indeed is Z.'s), so it was pleasing to see them so happy to be together. And M.'s father suffered a very severe stroke a few years ago, so it was very heartening to see him able to walk up the aisle with her, and later to propose a toast.
The food (veggie included) was very nice indeed, and either the disco was a particularly splendid one or else I was in an almost unprecedently good mood. I spent large swathes of the evening dancing, anyway, which as B. will testify is generally something I do only if a medium-to-high voltage is being run through me. The rest of the time B. and I spent sharing a table with the next couple who are due to get married[*], with frequent congenial visits from the Chief-Usher-cum-M.C., one of the bridesmaids and various others.
Anyway. I realise most of you don't know any of these people, and I don't mean to bang on. The point is, both were hugely enjoyable occasions, where I got to see people I love being very happy, and was therefore happy myself.
And all without any need to run a sweepstake on the duration of the speeches.
[*] Of the three weddings I'm going to this year, all are this month, and all are on weekdays. I'll let you know how the last one went after Bank Holiday Monday.