As I walked along Hammersmith Road to the convention centre, Kensington Olympia, a faltering bundle of nerves, I scanned my brain for excuses not to enter the palatial structure. Fortified by a cocktail of stimulants, I still felt lacking in brass for my foray behind enemy lines. Twenty-one and male, I had been doubly inoculated from the mysterious world of weddings. My only experiences were the odd episode of Bridezilla or Cake Boss, highlight reels of caricatures resplendent in white, crazed by the slightest deviation from plan on their special day.
I nodded to the security guard at the industry entrance, hoping my hastily ironed shirt and spectacles would appear journalistic enough to forgo investigation. “Alright, fella?” he nodded back. I stammered that I was here as press - “Where’s your pass, then?”. I informed him that I didn’t have one. Sneering, he huffed “Haven’t got one, eh?”.
Fallen at the first hurdle, a day without a wedding convention, however would I manage?! Imagining the disappointed look on my editor’s face, and pulled by the allure of the promised free champagne, I adopted a regal expression – “They’re expecting me inside, would you like me to call the press office?” “Just go on in, mate,” he said, already disinterested and turning away.
Ecstatic with my success, I grinned to myself as I listed all the events I could bluff my way into with a laminated pass and a firm handshake. A whole world of free events and alcohol lay ahead. Then I recalled I was about to walk into the National Wedding Show and my mood came crashing back down.
I navigated my way to the press office and secured my official laminated press pass. I began pinning it to my shirt. “You don’t need to actually wear it, love,” smiled the coquettish girl on the desk. I blushed as I fumbled with the pin and it fell to the floor, any illusion of professionalism irreparably shattered. Her smile widened as she bent to pick it up and kindly fixed it in place for me. I mumbled some thanks, before fleeing the scene to begin my first circuit of the stalls.
I snaked my way around the centre: an orgy of ivory, powder pink, starry eyed brides to be, and infinitely resigned mothers. As I wended my way through, I looked for a kindly, yet bored salesperson to give me some dirt on the debacle. I tried to rehearse how the interview would go in my head, hoping to move from bland questions about the convention itself to the worst excesses of weddings. I settled on a stall occupied by a friendly looking blonde woman surrounded by images of the big day occupying all sizes of frames. “I suppose these must be your doing?” I jeered, attempting to regain some composure after my earlier humiliation. She told me about how it was her first time at the convention, but was here both as a vendor and with fiancé in tow. She said she’d been to over 180 weddings, yet couldn’t possibly plan her own. I glanced at the adjacent stall, a luxury Harrods spa day for the bridal party, and wondered if they squeezed that in between the ceremony and the reception.
"What makes the perfect wedding?”, I asked.
“The best was one of the first I went to,” she began, “it was officiated at a registry office, then they went to the pub, the dress was from New Look,” she smiled fondly.
“And your own?”
Her face changed, a wild look creeping in from the corner of her eyes – “Oh I don’t know, there’s just so much to choose from!”
I backed away slowly, making sure to maintain eye contact, thanked her for her time, and wished her the best of life’s fortunes.
Continuing my circuit, I passed a rentable ice cream truck, a rather jolly singer belting out covers of Adele, and a gentleman wandering the centre in a tux minus the trousers and shoes.
Momentarily, my eye was caught by a classic Mercedes convertible in black. I was accosted by the vendor – “You missed all of the beautiful models come in at twelve,” he leered and began his spiel. Bored, I cast my eye over the area, the “Grooms Room”, complete with bottles of gin, a pool table, and handmade leather shoes from Hungary. Disappointed in myself for succumbing to such heteronormative marketing, I started towards the shoes. Made vulnerable by the glorious footwear, I was assaulted by the salesman’s pitch there too and handed what felt like my fiftieth business card of the day. I disengaged and pointedly emptied my pockets of business cards in the bin a metre away. Satisfied with my display of passive aggression, I decided I’d seen enough of weddings. That is until I’m eventually roped into attending one.