There comes a time, usually somewhere in your mid twenties, when your friend mentions the word "fascinator" in a serious context and you don’t assume that it’s a bad use of grammar or a clever euphemism for recreational drugs. From then on, your life will be punctuated by the increasing demand to attend weddings - territory fraught with the complications of registered lists, bridal wear, and the sort of passive aggressive seating plans that were best left in the hands of your most bitter high school geography teacher. Wedding season is always something of a tricky time to be a human being, let alone a feminist. Nevertheless, it’s unavoidable. You will be expected to wish your friends and family well at various themed ceremonies, looking resplendent in pastel florals as you try to drink your overheads back in free cava. Now that gay marriage is to be legalised, it's looking as though we'll be attending even more weddings. You may even, one day, wish to plan your own. And, in light of a couple of recent marriages (somewhat mercifully, not our own), we’ve decided to put together a helpful guide to coping on even the most saccharine of Saturdays.
1. "It's your day"
Do not, under any circumstances, utter this phrase. Not only is it frequently used to excuse any megalomaniac tendencies that may be manifesting themselves on the part of the bride, but it's factually inaccurate: not only is it the groom's day too (gender equality should cut both ways, FYI), but the whole performance also belongs to the hundred of spectators (sorry, wedding guests) who have forked out hundreds and hundreds of quid to watch a lady in a lampshade cry.
2. "Giving away"
Once intended to signify the transaction of goods (woman) from one owner (father) to another (husband), the "giving away" shenanigans have become an almost compulsory nod toward patriarchal tradition (one Vagenda reader sent us images of actual father-of-the-bride cufflinks that were nauseatingly engraved with the borderline incestuous words "I loved her first"). It's understandably a conundrum for many brides who feel that they'd like to involve their fathers but aren't too keen on the whole "being treated as chattel" shebang. Happily the French seem to have found a solution, whereby the groom is given away too, but by his mother. Not a dry eye in the house, and equal too.
I mean, who cares about the pink seashell cupcakes? Photograph: kristen_a on Flicker via Creative Commons
3. The speeches
In case you hadn’t noticed, women aren’t expected to open their mouths publicly at weddings, even while the best man is encouraged to riff about laddish days gone by to his heart’s content. If there is no female presence during the speeches, we encourage you to offer your own services, preferably after a cocktail or three at the open bar. Everyone will look upon this as a loving and noble attempt redress to the feminist balance for the sake of the bride and her future. Probably.
4. A whole new way of doing fashion
This is where you start to come across magazine quizzes that ask ‘What’s your wedding style?’ The answer is always, always boring, a mixture of "muted shades" and "classic florals". This quiz is a conspiracy to once again box you in according to the size of your clutch, in a slightly different context to how they did it ten years ago ("What’s your fresher style? Preppy, cutesy, or boyfriend?") and will do in ten years' time ("What's your wifestyle?") The answer never comes out as "slutty", "commitment allergic" or "horny and jealous", not to mention that rarity of wedding "looks" - "the sassy, cool bridesmaid". If you've been lumbered with those duties and found your tentative suggestion that you pick your own dress instantly rebutted, then there's not much you can do except suck it up and disable Facebook tagging.
Releasing doves is an example of a silly thing to do at your wedding. Photograph: Getty Images
5. The running commentary
Remember what we said about the day also belonging to the guests? This is where it really comes into its own. As an attendee, it is your God-given duty to comment on and assess everything from the decorations to the music. Indeed, critiquing the minutiae (aka slagging off the "disappointing" quiche and declaring the stepmother's tears to be counterfeit) is the most enjoyable part of the whole experience.
Whether you're the betrothed couple or the guest, after today you probably won't have any, which is why those in the latter group shouldn't feel too bad about stumping up for...
7. ...The present
Either opt for some mid-range kitchenware or, if you're really cheap, a scented candle with a conveniently unmarked label. Some people just all-out ask for cash nowadays, something that is seen as something of an affront by traditionalists but is eminently appealing to anyone who'd rather have a roof over their heads rather than fifteen fondue sets and a knock-off George Foreman.
8. The honeymoon
Considering that the average "stag do" now seems to entail a fortnight of playfighting with a cohort of strippers in a gigantic vat of vodka jelly in Vilnius, the honeymoon should either be defiantly short or unashamedly lavish. An overnight stay in the local Travelodge with fish and chips is appropriately hipster; as is a year-long round the world trip culminating on a cruise through the Galapagos Islands where you each save a giant turtle. Accept nothing in between.
Friendships have ended over what kind of flowers should go in the bouquets. Photograph: Marcel030NL on Flickr via Creative Commons
9. New technology for old tricks
Yes, the You and Your Wedding iPhone app really exists. Brides-to-be can now access real-time updates to this year’s trending centrepiece and the "perfect tiara makeover". It may be the making of you or your best friend’s wedding, but its existence leaves the impression that it could also potentially ruin your life. We've heard stories about group Pinterest boards set aside for brainstorming wedding ideas that have become so aesthetically conflicting that they have ended friendships. Don't be that person.
10. The crazy little thing
No, not the pageboy attached to your ankles by his milk-teeth or the pug with the ring around its neck, but LOVE. Granted, there are some dos where it's so painfully apparent that it's more about the day than it is the longevity, but it's those other weddings, the ones where you can tell that the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom) love one another to the point where they want to climb inside one another and reside there forever, those are the ones that make the heart swell. Either that or you're more pissed than you thought, innit.