Review - Wedding bells and towering tubers

15th March 2013 at 00:00

Dav has a large sword. Sam has an enormous yam. Gary has a big dragon. And Vlod has two plastic potties and an oversized syringe.

If one is to draw any conclusion from the first two episodes of A Very British Wedding, it is apparently that over-large nuptial items have remarkable international appeal.

The new BBC Two series aims to provide an introduction to the range of different weddings taking place in Britain today. And so, in episode one, we see Dav and Kami marry in a Sikh ceremony, complete with traditional kirpan, or sword. We also watch Ukrainian Vlod and Latvian Sasha discuss their day with Julia, the official wedding joke planner.

"A wedding can't be very funny if you don't have people who make these jokes," Sasha says. Vlod nods. "It will be boring," he says, pulling two potties out of a box that Julia has sent over from Latvia.

The second episode features the marriage of Gary, whose parents are from Hong Kong, to Cat, whose parents are from Leeds. "I've never eaten rice before in my life," says one of Cat's guests, looking suspiciously at the wedding breakfast.

And then there are Sam and Bibiana, whose families are from Nigeria. Yoruba tradition requires that the groom's family presents the bride's parents with 30 gifts. So Sam's mother goes vegetable shopping in East London. Presenting the bride with a particularly large yam, apparently, shows that the groom has great farming prowess.

As well as their Yoruban engagement ceremony, Sam and Bibiana are planning a white wedding. Their party venue is nowhere near their usual Pentecostal church, so instead they book a Home Counties, Anglican one. "It's going to be one massive, faith-explosion extravaganza," says Sam. "They want to dance?" responds the vicar, his voice unnaturally high-pitched.

Wedding officiants tend not to come out well in this series. When Vlod and Sasha attempt to bring a loaf of karavay, traditional Ukrainian bread, into the registry office, the registrar insists that they leave it outside. "Why? Because rats?" Vlod says. "This is a civil ceremony," the registrar explains, humourlessly.

But there are no real villains here. Instead, the documentary is a charmingly gentle glimpse into the one-foot-in-either-camp realities of multicultural Britain.

Before Vlod is allowed to see Sasha on their wedding day, for example, he must receive a dose of vodka, dispensed from an oversized syringe by a white-coated Julia. "Medical services aren't free," Julia says, attempting to extract money from him.

"They're free in Britain," says Vlod.

"We're not exactly having a British thing here," Julia retorts.

But that is the rather lovely point of this series: to show that, in fact, that is exactly what they are doing.

A Very British Wedding, Wednesdays on BBC Two at 8.30pm. Episode one is available on BBC iPlayer.

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