Belfast Telegraph

Why Pippa’s wedding won’t compare to mine

By Frances Burscough

With Princess Pippa’s wedding causing a Middleton media meltdown, I’ve been recalling my nuptials from 30 years ago. Let’s start on the day we got engaged  ...

I had imagined scenes of jubilation; champagne corks popping, cheers of excitement, tears of joy, maybe followed by an impromptu firework display in the back garden amid a spontaneous gathering of well-wishers. Or at the very least, some kind of celebration to mark the occasion. Even a cup of tea and a slice of Mr Kipling’s would have been nice.

Instead, when we announced to my parents that we had decided to get married, dad slowly put down the Peugeot brochure he’d been perusing and said: “So I suppose that’s the end of that then. No new car for us again this year!”

Now this may sound a bit harsh, but my dad did have a point, bless him. Ours wasn’t a normal family of two point four children: there were eight of us, FIVE of which were daughters. And in those days, 30 years ago, five daughters meant five weddings to pay for, because it was still the unwritten rule that the girl’s family coughed up for the lot.

By the time of my announcement, mum and dad had already forked out for three weddings (two sons and a daughter), and I imagine the novelty had just about started to wear off. In fact, it must have seemed like no sooner had he started saving up again to replace that battered old Opel Commodore in the driveway with a proper family saloon, than it was all snatched away again to be spent on flowers, froth and frills.

As a result, I felt obliged to try and keep the costs as low as possible. Fortunately, I was never one for social conventions, so breaking a few rules didn’t bother me or my (ex) husband-to-be.

My approach to the whole shebang was simple. I decided to ignore a lot of the traditional matrimonial conventions and concentrate on the aspects of the wedding day that I felt were most important. In my case, this meant 1) looking as much like Madonna as possible — remember, this was the mid-Eighties — and 2) having one hell of a party, fabulous food and loads to drink. Everything else was secondary.

For a start, I designed and made my own dress. Not too difficult as I was a fashion designer in those days. I used French lace, just like Madonna wore in the Like a Virgin video, and made it sexy and curvaceous, rather than in that dolly-doily style fashionable back then. No fairytale wedding for me! I was far too cool for any of that nonsense. It was also mid-calf length and a two-piece, so it was pretty avant-garde at the time, but I was happy and comfortable and I felt that was all that mattered. Instead of bridesmaids, I was accompanied by four flowergirls — nieces and friends — who were all of the same age, and I made their dresses myself too.

Neither of us liked morning suits or preposterous top hat and tails, so the groom and groomsmen just wore their best suits and we provided the button-hole (such generosity!)

I also designed the invitations, order of service, place settings and menus and got them printed up at work for free, which was a great saving. One auntie did the flowers, another sang in church, one brother did the photographs, Nuptial Mass was said by a relative, and one sister did the wedding cake while another made the evening buffet.

All of which saved enough money to have one humdinger of a party with 150 guests at our favourite restaurant. It was a blast and, to this day, many friends still say it was one of the best they’ve ever been to.

I forgot to mention another big saving we made; this was on the car. I didn’t bother with a limo, or even a chauffeur. Instead, dad drove me to and from church in the battered Opel Commodore.

He did have tears in his eyes as he walked me down the aisle, but I imagine this was because there were three more daughters still waiting eagerly in the wings.

Magical Maxine’s at the Peake of her career

The mark of a great actor is how versatile they are. That’s not just the ability to perform in a variety of different accents, but to transform yourself in every possible way, taking on the mannerisms, foibles and physique of a character until is becomes real.

If anyone can do that it’s the superb Maxine Peake, who’s been on TV all week, starring in the real-life drama Three Girls. Playing the part of Sara Rowbotham, the sexual health adviser who fought tooth and nail to expose the paedophile ring that had been operating for years in Rochdale, she really nailed it with her feisty, fast and furious portrayal of an embattled professional taking on the authorities alone.

That in itself was a fantastic performance, but add that to her repertoire of memorable characters, including the brilliant barrister Martha Costello QC in Silks, the slatternly Veronica in Shameless, a piercing Myra Hindley in See No Evil, and even the title role in the National Theatre’s Hamlet, and you begin to see my point. The funny thing is, in most of these she kept her Bolton accent. A proper no-nonsense Lancashire lass, just like yours truly...

This week I'll ...

Mostly be immersed in estate agent’s brochures and websites after finally putting my house on the market after 25 happy years in Bangor. I’m hoping for a place in the country where I can grow my own veg, pick fruit off my own trees, entice every bird out of the sky onto my feeders and make friends with all the local wildlife. Remember The Good Life? Well I’m going to be either the next Margo or Barbara, depending on how successful I am. Watch this space!

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