We love a fairy tale wedding, and judging by our reality TV (Married at First Sight), we take marriage seriously. (Sure, we won’t have marriage equality on the grounds that it disrespects the tradition of marriage, but we’re happy to watch shows where brides score other brides’ weddings out of ten (Four Weddings) and two couples duke it out as their marriage deteriorate before our very eyes (The Seven Year Switch).
As impartial, unsentimental observers, they can spot the telltale signs of conscious uncoupling from the get-go.
Here are the warning signs wedding staff notice:
The longer the limo the shorter the shorter the marriage
Australia may have Geoffrey Edelstein as our patron saint of for flashy short marriages, but no one can really beat Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, whose $30 million dollar wedding resulted in 72 days of actual marriage.
Wedding celebrant Jon von Goes has seen this first hand. “The industry creates a lot of fluff and expectations, but no one gives a shit about the bows on the back on the chairs,” he says. “But have you ever heard anyone say after a wedding ‘great night, the flowers were fabulous’? “In my experience, the more fluff, the more that focus [on what the couple means to each other] gets lost.”
“The best couples are the ones who want to celebrate their relationship and that’s the most important thing – when they understand that their relationship is way more important than their wedding ceremony and reception.”
Couples who treat their partner as a wedding prop
Treating the wedding as more worthy of respect than the person that they’re going to marry is not as uncommon as it sounds. We’ve all heard the Bridezilla’s battle cry (‘This is my day!’) and wondered if they think they’re marrying themselves.
As a wedding reception waitress in my early 20s, I’ll never forget getting too close to the picture perfect couple — white teeth gleaming as they posed to sign the certificate for the photographer — and overhearing the bride hiss at her husband through clenched teeth to “hurry up and f***ing sign it so they can get the shot!”
But “partner as prop” is not just limited to the brides. I’ve seen more than one groom and his mates check out the bride’s derrière and high-five each other, and wondered who would break it to the groom that he’d married a real life female human … not just an arse.
Couples who don’t plan it together
You could always tell the weddings where the bride ended up having to plan the whole thing herself.
The weddings themselves often look amazing, but there’s a weird dynamic between the couple. The groom ends up looking like he’s having a great time as the guest at someone else’s wedding, whereas the bride is so exhausted by the time they get to the reception, she ends up spending good chunk of the night crying and drinking champagne in the bathroom with her bridesmaids.
Planning a wedding together is like marriage bootcamp — you’re forced to resolve all your differences in taste, entertainment and food, while negotiating each other’s tricky relatives. If you make it to the wedding, you’ll know if your partner is on your team.
Be cheap about the wrong things
It’s true. Say ‘wedding’ within cooee of a florist, caterer or photographer and the price will automatically go up – sometimes up to four times more.
Here’s a tip: when choosing which corners to cut, always invest in the humans.
A bunch of flowers worth more than the person whose job it is to entertain your 300 guests for five hours is a dangerously false economy. Ditto spending more on the cake than the person whose job it is to legally bind you as a couple.
So where should you invest?
“You need the celebrant, venue, food, music and booze,” says wedding veteran von Goes. “A party will work if you’ve got those five things, everything else is second tier.”
Marry too soon
Just because a four-hour engagement didn’t bode well for Pam and Tommy Lee, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Having said that, there’s a vibe at certain weddings, where you can just tell that everyone in the room thinks the wedding is a bad idea. Nine times out of ten, it’s because the couple got engaged too soon.
I overheard one bride admitting (after several champagnes) to the bar staff that she decided to propose to her now-husband because she found the perfect dress on eBay and didn’t want it to go to waste. (To be fair, the dress was very nice.)
What’s the rush? Shotgun weddings are no longer a thing now that Jon Snow is the patron saint of bastards and we no longer live in the dark ages.
Other bad reasons for rushing: Because you didn’t know what else to say after a great orgasm, and because getting married was on your bucket list for turning 30.
Neglecting your bogan pride
There’s nothing more awkward than an ultra-formal ‘thee and thou’ wedding for the couple who are more comfortable watching the footy in slankets than quoting wedding vows in Latin.
I lost count of the number of couples smiling awkwardly through string quartets, when you just knew they’d have had a much better time dirty dancing Kath and Kel-style to their favourite Guns ‘N’ Roses song.
Be true to you. As long as you and your partner feel comfortable, everyone else will too.
Reconsider basing your romantic moment around death or breaking up
Think about it. Wedding singer and civil celebrant trainer Juliette Hughes says her three most requested songs are:
Hallelujah: a beautiful song about breaking up
Con te partiro: a beautiful song about death
My Heart Will Go On: an earworm about shagging once then sliding away into a watery grave
“I beg them not to, but what can you do?” she says. “When one in three weddings ended in divorce, I’m not saying it’s the cause, but come on. Omens, people.”
Know your danger zones before you get to the aisle
Everyone has a few wildcards among their family and friends, and smart couples assess the trouble spots (Uncle Donald’s wandering hands etc.) and do their best to mitigate them.
Ditto entering the wedding (and marriage) with a good understanding of your partner’s trouble spots.
“I’ve met with couples and thought ‘what’s going on here?’, but mostly after spending time with them I start to get the dynamic and get an understanding in to why they’ve decided to get married,” says Mr von Goes.
“If they’ve got something good going on the party will go off — if not the party’s not going work.”
If your partner has a bad side, find and accept it before the wedding and give your marriage a fighting chance. For, as Ms Hughes says of her 20-year wedding experience, “It’s the unnamed demon that is powerful”.
“Life can hand you some real curves; I don’t judge people whose marriage doesn’t work. Some problems defy human ability to solve them and people can be much better off apart. That said, my Catholic best friend just celebrated her golden wedding anniversary to her beloved atheist husband. It all comes down to shared values and emotional honesty and caring on both sides I think.”
If only that made good reality TV.