FIVE YEARS ago I developed a dangerous and overdraft-threatening obsession with wedding magazines. As I planned my big day our spare room literally overflowed with every magazine on the market as I struggled to decide on dresses, flowers, cars, favours and all those little details which make your big day one to remember.
There was nothing I liked more than to sink into a luxurious bubble bath, candles everywhere and look at all the pictures of stunning dresses, amazing floral arrangements and glitzy accessories. It was sheer bliss.
As my wedding day passed, however, I had to reluctantly resign myself to the fact that I no longer had a legitimate reason to bulk buy all those glossy magazines in Eason and, after a painful grieving period, I finally declared myself cured of of my addiction.
My husband breathed a sigh of relief, as did the bank manager and the creaking floorboards of our spare room when I donated my tomes to a friend who was getting married and life returned to a semi-normality.
Four years on from my wedding, I thought I was totally cured but I have to admit I'm on the slippery slope again. You see my sister (known in our house has Yaya) announced her engagement to the lovely Paul last weekend.
She also made the somewhat questionable decision to ask me to play the role of Matron of Honour (though being young, hip and happening I prefer the term Chief Bridesmaid) on their big day- planned for the summer of 2007. Suddenly my wedding radar has been switched back on and my husband is afraid, very afraid. He has caught me flicking through wedding websites and is aware that the magazines are calling me to pick them up again. (Purely in the interest of research, of course).
I've never been a bridesmaid before, let alone a chief one. I've never even been a flowergirl! (I must have been a boot ugly wain!) My experience of walking up the aisle is limited to being the nervous bride- and certainly not the person who is is supposed to stay cool calm and collected.
I'm told the duties of a Chief Bridesmaid include helping the bride organise her big day- and keeping her calm in the run up to the festivities, and as anyone planning a wedding in Derry will know you have to book these things at least two years in advance so my duties have already started.
Fortunately planning my wedding turned me into the organised person I had always hoped to be. I researched every angle of the big day, designed the bridesmaid's frocks myself, chose every piece of music for the service and went to great lengths to order the perfect personalised bubbles for the end of the ceremony (this was back when wedding bubbles were not available in every card shop and market stall in Derry).
If Yaya wants a low down on cars to suit meringue style frocks, or corkage charges in hotels then I'm your gal. I can tell you anything you want to know about balloons, favours and disposable cameras.
Unfortunately planning the big day also turned me into a certified loony tune. I remember with a great sense of shame the hysterical crying I did when a problem occurred with my wedding cake and the hyperventilation which surrounded the revelation that men's suits had been double booked.
Of course the wedding cake turned out fabulous in the end (chocolate, hmmmm!) and the suits were fine but that did not stop my temporary insanity.
I was, I now admit in the fruition of time, a Bridezilla, the definition of which being a woman who has lost the power of rational thought and becomes more of a screaming banshee day by day as her wedding approaches.
I don't know if the above credentials actually make me the most suitable person for the role of keeping the bride calm; but in all fairness to Yaya she did stop me from losing it totally as my own day approached. (Even though she made the cardinal sin of forgetting to straighten the train of my dress just before I walked down the aisle).
I remember at the time trying to remind myself time and time again that the wedding was not as important as the marriage which would follow it. Those are indeed wise and prophetic words; but when you think that the average woman plans her big day from the minute she can walk around the living room in her mammy's high heels with a net curtain on her head preparing to marry Action Man- they tend to fall on deaf ears during the planning process.
The marriage is, of course, more important- but the day should be the best day of your life and it's the one day you get what you want. On what other day can you prance about wearing a tiara and a ballgown showing off your new jewellery? Or ride is a Rolls Royce with a gaggle of servants (bridesmaids) tending to your every need? On what other day can you get the average Derry man to stand up in front of a crowded room and tell the world why he thinks you are wonderful and just how much he loves you?
Is it any wonder we all go a bit doolally when our time comes?
As Chief Bridesmaid (or Matron of Dishonour!) it's hard not to get caught up in that sense of excitement too. Let's just hope I don't bankrupt myself in the process.
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