CONSIDERING that now a lot of couples are taking the living together route, rather than a marriage ceremony, I am amazed at the memorable and highly professional service you get if you saunter down a church aisle these days.

I recently went to a wedding of a friend of our son’s, at the Register Office, in the former Mansion House, in Newport.

The service was brief, shorn of the hymns, lessons, etc, but no less solemn for that, and all in the company of a happy throng of family and friends in intimate surroundings with contemporary music of the couple’s choice.

Once away from the lift-off area, it was down to Caerleon for the reception in the former Caerleon College, now a branch of the University of South Wales.

This might sound like an advert for the place, but I have to write down a few words about this seat of learning, which now hires out rooms for occasions like weddings, etc.

The oak-panelled everything gave the occasion the right touch of class, with the staff smoothly serving and clearing away the courses. I was very impressed.

It was a far cry from some of the weddings I went to in the Sixties, where it felt more like a stiff, royal occasion, with best suits for the men and ladies in flowery dresses or a Crimplene two-piece suit, and also fresh from an early appointment at the hairdresser.

After the ceremony it was a long sit-down reception with even longer speeches, being careful not to upset the bride’s mother, and the reading of the cards.

Once away from the formal part, the happy couple were into their holiday togs and ready to be taken to Newport station for a week in London, or somewhere hot, well, British hot.

This style was kept up through the 70s right up until about twenty years ago, with only the honeymoon destination being somewhere really hot.

Today, much of the ‘pomp’ has been changed for a more user-friendly experience, with the newlyweds staying till the bitter end, as the disco or band played the last song.

The only significant change has been the cost of the festivities.

When comparing prices from years ago, all things are relative, I know, but for a few hundred pounds back in my youth you got a Broadway production, whereas today, you can get the same and not much change from £20,000 and upwards, which could go toward a deposit on a house.

But some people are sticklers for tradition, and it seems that no matter what the price, the bride’s ‘special day’ still has to have all the bells and also whistles in place to make it memorable moment for everyone.

Nigel Corten