Wedding Talk

Comment: Why do older couples have smaller weddings? Because they have a better sense of what's important in life

Older couples have been through the friendship culls and realised that the old adage about counting your true friends on one hand is probably true, writes Katie Byrne

Gwyneth Paltrow and TV producer Brad Falchuk tied the knot last week in an intimate wedding reception at the actress's Hamptons home.

Details on the top-secret event are sparse but, at the time of writing, we know that it was attended by just 75 of the couple's closest friends and family, who dined in marquees erected in the back garden.

There are even fewer details on the dress, but it's fairly safe to assume that the actress didn't wear a $300,000 diamond tiara like Catherine Zeta-Jones or rock a 20ft train like Celine Dion.

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Paltrow, remember, is 46 years old, and as she said herself in the months leading up to the wedding: "I gotta dial it back."

The actress added that she's "too old to have a big wedding and a big ole white dress" and while that might sound like she's kowtowing to the age-appropriate brigade, her past form would suggest that her reasoning is much more practical.

This is the woman who raves about vagina steam-cleaning and extols the virtues of 'conscious uncoupling' with a straight face. If she wanted to wear a confection of tulle and arrive by horse-drawn carriage, she would do exactly as she pleased.

Granted, she probably had a few trivial concerns about dressing for her age bracket, but her small backyard wedding would suggest that this was about more than optics: a woman gets to an age where she feels like she's too old to dress up as a princess, but she also gets to an age where she feels like she is too old for unnecessary fuss and drama.

It's telling that older brides and grooms choose to have less extravagant weddings at an age when they can finally afford all the trimmings. We've been led to believe they opt for low-key affairs because they feel like they ought to be guided by the watchwords of grace, maturity and dignified good sense. Nonsense. Older couples go for more pared-back weddings because they have a better sense of what's important in life.

At this stage of the game, they've usually been through the milestones of birth, death and illness, so even the most romantic wedding rituals seem tawdry by comparison. They've also learned to suit themselves. The words 'need', 'should' and 'must' are not part of the older couple's vocabulary, which is why they often buck tradition and rip up the rulebook.

Take Angelina Jolie, who wore a veil embossed with doodles drawn by her children when she walked down the aisle at the age of 39. Look at Julianne Moore who was 42 when she married director Bart Freundlich in the backyard of their home in Greenwich Village. The actress wore a simple lavender-coloured Prada dress, while her husband wore an ivory suit and matching purple tie.

Tina Turner wore a theatrical green taffeta and black tulle dress by Armani when she tied the knot at the age of 73. And let's not forget Helen Mirren who opted for a beaded Cossack jacket and silk skirt when she walked down the aisle at the age of 52.

Mirren and husband Taylor Hackford only invited 16 people to their wedding in Scotland, which isn't out of the ordinary for late-in-life brides and grooms.

This isn't because they do a merciless edit of the guest list. No, it's because they've been through the friendship cull that happens at a certain age and they've realised that the old adage about counting your true friends on one hand is probably true.

It helps of course that they get to sidestep the wedding wave of the early 30s, and with it the territorial clashes over venues, the fights for dates (there's a queue, b***h!) and the brouhahas over stolen ideas (that were originally pinched from Pinterest). Broadly speaking, 20- and 30-something brides and grooms stage events while 40- and 50-something couples throw parties. And with a little more life experience - and a lot more weddings - under their belt, they know that crystal centrepieces, 10-tier cakes and painstakingly crafted wedding favours do not a party make.

We've all heard women worry about the ignominy of being - whisper it - an 'old bride', but if they can get beyond the fetishisation of physical youth and the needless rush to be first down the aisle, they might just come around to the idea that older brides make bolder choices, which often make for a better day out.