Jennifer O’Connell: ‘I had a black eye on my wedding day’

My eye was fused shut by a mosquito bite. It was the best day ever

Erica Stoll and Rory McIlroy had an Irish wedding – with a disappointing lack of bridezialladom. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Erica Stoll and Rory McIlroy had an Irish wedding – with a disappointing lack of bridezialladom. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

 

Who doesn’t love wedding season? It’s the best and happiest time of the year, when those getting married obsess over the merits of confetti bars and chocolate fountains, and the rest of us enjoy a good sneer at their hipster pretensions.

Having been let down by the distinct lack of bridezilla-like antics surrounding the wedding of Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll, hopes are now pinned on Pippa Middleton – Prince William’s sister-in-law – who is getting married later this month. The early indications were promising when it was reported she had issued a “no ring, no bring” rule to her wedding guests because, “sources revealed”, she didn’t want to be upstaged by Prince Harry’s not-yet fiancee Meghan Markle.

As a feminist, I feel the need to protest that the concept of the “bridezilla” is insulting in the extreme

Meanwhile, Country Life magazine has been bemoaning such vulgarities as couples setting up a hashtag, or having their dog as ring bearer. “There’s something about weddings that can turn previously right-thinking women, of good judgement and taste, into a monstrous hybrid of Medea and Violet Elizabeth Bott, ” the magazine sighed.

As a feminist, I feel the need to protest that the concept of the “bridezilla” is insulting in the extreme; a sneering, small-minded misogynist construct. I would, if only I believed it. Look, I know no one sets out to be a bridezilla. No woman ever imagines she will become the kind of person who invites her friends round to spray-paint tealight holders, or who falls out with her sister over the best way to tie a ribbon on wedding favours. And yet County Life is right, there really is something about an impending wedding that turns otherwise reasonable humans into the kind of oddballs who can be found collecting images of live goldfish centrepieces on Pinterest.

I was determined not to be precious about my own wedding. I had my dress made by a woman in Bray for less than the price of an overnight in a nice hotel. I didn’t have a veil. I didn’t have a bridesmaid, just one friend to be my witness, and another to do my make-up, and lie to me how about flawlessly lovely I looked. (More of which later.)

Jimmy Choos

I did decide to have my wedding in Italy which, on a scale of 0 to Pippa Middleton, is probably about an 8. As the day drew closer, and more wedding magazines had been consumed, I flew to London and spent the money I had saved on the dress on a pair of cripplingly uncomfortable Jimmy Choos. But I was saved from fully-fledged bridezilladom by something that happened on the morning of my wedding.

I woke up, opened my eyes, and took a moment to reflect on the occasion.

Only I didn’t. I woke up and opened one eye. Just the one, as the other wouldn’t actually open.

My dream wedding was over before it even got out of the blocks.

I decided I was having one of those anxiety dreams, in which you’re in the middle of some important event and discover you have no legs, or you’re naked, or you only have one eye. Further investigation revealed that I was not in fact dreaming, my eye had been fused shut by a mosquito bite on my lower eyelid. As luck would have it, I’m allergic to mosquitoes. My skin swells up and turns a crimson shade that matched none of the colours in my wedding bouquet.

So, yes, I was destined to be the bride with the shiner. Aside from antihistamines and lashings of concealer, there wasn’t much I could do about it. My dream wedding was over before it even got out of the blocks.

Probably as a result, I had the best day ever. I highly recommend the prospect of a black eye in your wedding photos as one way to stop worrying about the quality of the table centrepieces. In fact, it was good preparation for marriage and adulthood. For all the times, in all the days and years to come, that I would imagine life showering me with confetti and rose petals, instead it would give me a poke in the eye with a mosquito’s proboscis.

If my children decide to get married some day, I will have only one job. That will be to persuade them not to sweat the little things

Fourteen years on I can’t actually remember my bridal bouquet or any one of the 11 courses served at dinner. But I do remember all those tender, lying faces, when they looked into mine and said that, yes, now they looked closely, they could maybe see a teeny weeny little swelling. Hardly visible. But maybe put the sunglasses back on, just in case. I remember dancing until I dropped. I remember my husband giving me a piggyback to our hotel when the Jimmy Choos came off. As Robin Williams says in Good Will Hunting, that’s the good stuff.

So if my children decide to get married some day, I will have only one job. That will be to persuade them not to sweat the little things. No one, including them, will be able to remember the hand-painted tealight holders or what their first dance was or who sat beside auntie Florrie or whether the sugared almonds were wrapped in tulle or burlap or whether the bridesmaids matched the table centrepieces or whether they did manage to fit into a size eight.

Oh, and if they’re getting married abroad, I’ll remind them to pack DEET.

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