Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Asian Wedding


When we came back off holiday our next door neighbours invited us to their son's wedding.

The previous occupants had been Hindu refugees from Idi Amin's purges and when one of their sons got married the festivities were held at home. We looked in: the women were gathered in the front room, the men out back. We still exchange cards at Christmas.

This time it was a Muslim do - middle class, our neighbourhood has been gradually gentrifying. A marquee was in the rear garden for the pre shindigs. One night it was the women playing music and shouting jubilantly, the next the children.

On the morning of the big day suited and carnationed men gathered on the driveway and danced to the drums while the womenfolk watched. Then with only twenty minutes to get across the city, the shiny motorcade moved off. We went for our car and arrived a quarter of an hour late, but weren't worried: the East has a different approach to time and it all gets done anyway.

The function suite is alcohol-free and the behaviour is decorous; unlike at the registry where my wife used to work, where sometimes one had to guard underclass couples from exes trying to disrupt the ceremony and staff would see parties fighting on Broad Street; once a fellow swung his crutch at another and fell over.

The management kept a firm grip on the multitude, walkie-talkies everywhere. We joined the crowd waiting at the door, cameras at work, while the dhols beat inside; our fixer friend Tariq kissed his little grandnephew's cheek repeatedly while the latter stared elsewhere. Eventually we were allowed in, past a table with guava and mango drinks and through a white floral bower into the hall, the DJ playing loud traditional music.

There were some forty tables with colonial-white bamboo chairs. Tariq said theirs was a large family, they had had to cut down the numbers. Women in long frocks were seated to the right of the aisle; some shawled, some not, many in heavy gowns decorated with silver and seed pearls, similar adornments in their coiffures. One, more modern, took a selfie and fiddled with her hair. The men were allotted the garden-facing side, groups of them standing and networking.

Tariq guided us to a table set aside for Friends Of The Groom and arranged for Taf and his wife to join us and another couple. Taf ate his commemorative chocolate and we filled our glasses from the bottles of Coke, 7-Up and water provided.

The couples kept offering us first go at the food: salad, chilli sauce, yoghurt and a sharing dish: tandoori drumsticks, lamb sausages and my favourite, masala fish. The fork is held in the right hand, knife in the left; I tried but couldn't manage. That feast turned out not to be the mains, which was rice, curried chicken, lamb and roti; followed by carrot halva and a ball of gulab jamun with vanilla ice, with milky spiced tea if wanted. And of course, wedding cake.

Tariq dropped by to see we were fine; we shook our neighbour's hand, the groom's father - a sweet man from northern Pakistan. When I first met Tariq I said I was looking up some phrases in the local dialect; he said 'he should learn English.'

Apparently the ladies' loos were well-appointed. One mother in there was changing her two-year-old boy's nappy - formal clothes above the waist - and scolding him for not staying still. There was a separate mirror room, how practical! (Theatres, please note women's need for more provision and do away with the half-time queues.)

The DJ had been asking everyone for ten minutes to sit down so that the bride could make her entrance, which was preceded by three children, one scattering confetti and two heralding Saira with placards, one of which said 'my aunty.' In she came, through a low cloud of dry ice and with fireworks spouting either side, and proceeded to the dais at the end, where her husband joined from the wing; both sat in their ceremonial chairs; more fireworks there and applause.

One imam delivered a homily, in English for these are British Asians now. He spoke of time and mutability, of the brevity of life, the limited opportunities to achieve and the desire for a last chance; of the need to beware of waking up to find one was no longer Muslim, especially with children so engrossed in their electronic distractions. Another gave a shorter speech and ended with familiar prayers in Arabic.

Finally, the grouped photo sessions on the stage, thanks and farewells.

If I may editorialise: formality, friendliness, faith, fidelity, the nurture of children, community, charity and sharing: when the Tories become conservative they may find a growing constituency to which they can entrust the country's future.

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
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