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January 22, 2019

The fellow who spoke his piece instead of holding his peace


Back in my early days as a newspaper reporter, one of my editors thought of a brilliant way to boost circulation and I was assigned to help make the dream come true.

It was really simple, and coming as it did nearly a couple of decades before the gossipy celebrity culture hit mainstream newspapers, quite ahead of its time. The column was entitled, ‘Weddings of the Week’ and the premise was simple yet effective: People love weddings, and will often even attend uninvited just to see how others did it, either searching for inspiration for their own nuptials or just for gossip’s sake, and always for the free food and drink.

My column became the middleman, if you will, helping the reading public vicariously attend the weddings of  all and sundry. With a dedicated team of correspondents around the country, we covered all the weddings we could. It didn’t matter if you were “a celeb” or not. We turned up at your wedding, took pics of the happy couple and got some details of them, such as their names, obviously, and how they met and came to get married.

The column was such a success that we soon had more wedding pictures and stories — often sent in by the couples themselves in a bid to make it into the Sunday pullout and thereby earn the 15 minutes of fame that the artist Andy Warhol had prophesied for everyone back in the 1960s.

While most of the weddings went smoothly, there were a few that provided drama, sometimes enough of it to appear on the front page. 

For instance, there was one wedding, covered by a photojournalist colleague, where in the church when the priest asked if there were any objections to the wedding, a man in the congregation stood up and said he’d been a boyfriend of the bride’s and while he was not against her marrying another, he would like her to refund all the monies he had spent on her when they were courting.

The man was quickly hustled out of the church by people who had been standing near him and the wedding continued. However, as far as the claimant was concerned, nothing would be over until he got his cash back. He somehow managed to make it to the reception venue, where again he complained loudly that the newly married woman owed him for all the dates and outings they had shared.

Eventually there was a threat to call the police and the man left, though now nearly 30 years on, I find myself wondering if the man ever importuned the couple again and how the story really ended.

I got to thinking about this wedding over the weekend while attending a wedding here in Cape Town, where midway through the reception, the groom hurriedly left the venue in a speeding car. Around me there were concerned whispers, but the bride seemed quite calm. When the groom returned 30 minutes later, it turned out that his favourite cousin had been stranded on the way to wedding and the dashing groom had decide to sort out the transport hitch himself. Crisis averted and gossip frozen.

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