Four dresses and a drone - are weddings getting out of control?

By Claire Heald
BBC News

  • Published
Drone photographing married coupleImage source, SHUTTERSTOCK
Image caption,
Duck for the drone, darling!

Three or four dress changes, a bevy of bridesmaids, photos taken by drone and its own #weddinghashtag.

The modern wedding has begun to take on the look of a vulgar "arms race", a lifestyle magazine has warned.

Country Life has urged people to rein it in a bit - saying weddings, and their constant cataloguing on visual social media, may put couples under pressure to spend big.

They also place guests under duress to pay for the hen-do; the stag weekend; the day itself; a present or honeymoon contribution; and a new outfit.

"The whole thing has got rather out of hand," editor Mark Hedges observes.

Figures from the close of the 2016 wedding season put the average cost of the UK wedding at £27,000 and that rises to £38,000 in London.

Website Bridebook looked at 20,000 UK weddings and found 4% of those held in the south-east of England cost more than £100,000.

Considering the latest figures from the ONS show there were 247,372 marriages between opposite sex couples in England and Wales in 2014, and 4,850 same sex couples tied the knot, it is certainly big business.

There were also 111,169 divorces in the same year, and while the average UK annual income stands at around £27,195, the costs are substantial to most, and unrealistic for many.

Image source, Country Life

Country Life's good calls for a perfect day:

  • A reliable (and sober) best man
  • Small canapes: you shouldn't have to struggle to eat them
  • Morning dress for men, hats for women
  • Subsidising the costs of a lavish hen-do/stag party
  • Always ask a father's permission
  • Not royal? Then more than six bridesmaids is "excessive"

And its pitfalls:

  • Children at the reception
  • Strapless dresses (brides and guests)
  • Any guests you dated within the past three years
  • Dutch courage before a speech
  • Asking bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses

The magazine's Rosie Paterson believes there is a trend for "very elaborate showy weddings" that detract from the real purpose of the day.

She says: "I've seen a few friends go through the planning process, and not necessarily enjoying it. This is our gentle plea for restraints for weddings to come back to what they are really about - the wedding itself."

Weddings abroad from Mexico to Vietnam, stag dos in Europe or Las Vegas, wedding styling or themes poached from celebrity wedding culture or reality shows like Don't Tell the Bride. They all feed the fire, she says.

When weddings are then posted on Instagram or Pinterest, with their own hashtag, she adds, it may be an outlet for creativity, but: "You're suddenly looking at how everyone else is doing it. There's the ooh and aah of a giant party, but you are not, in fact, looking at the commitment. "

Image source, Shutterstock
Image caption,
Not royal? Leave most female friends seated

Mark Hedges adds: "Everyone sees what everyone else has done and feels they have to do better.

"They don't need to do better, they just need to get married and have a very special, sometimes simple, day. It should be fun, it should be delightful."

Then there's the "nightmare" of the three-day extravaganza, says Hedges, culminating in that "sorry, sorry day afterwards, when everyone's probably got slightly sore heads, wondering why they can't go home".

But is advice from a middle-to-upper-class lifestyle magazine on how to keep it real a bit rich?

People have always been competitive. Bridezilla is no new phenomenon.

Idealised images, in a vast range of wedding magazines, have been around for years.

For nuptials organiser George Watts, known as the Wedding Fairy it's all relative and based on what individuals want to achieve with, as he puts it, "their big day".

"Some people might want to host their wedding in a two-star Michelin restaurant, some might want the local country pub. At the end of the day, it's the couple's choice," he says.

He is currently planning a client's six-figure celebration, "£100,000 plus, it's a huge wedding". And he says there are more choices available than there were 20 years ago.

Image source, SHUTTERSTOCK
Image caption,
With this French bulldog... I thee wed

"I deal with so many couples, particularly brides, who have dreamt of their wedding day all their life. They've saved for it all their life, their family have. So why not put on a big day exactly how they want to?" he asks.

"Instead of just the standard cake, flowers and dress there's so many more elements that people can bring into their day to make it their own, make it memorable."

Perhaps, as the 2017 summer wedding season looms, it is all to plan for.

Take the last letter in today's Telegraph, from one Wendy May of Hereford, which ponders: "Sir - My son and his family are attending a wedding next weekend. The best man is a dog.

"Is this a common occurrence, or a new fad?"