a poky municipal room, a bit scuffed and cramped

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "a poky municipal room, a bit scuffed and cramped" means in the following sentences:

‘It’s beautiful,’ I say. ‘So romantic.’ All the right things. And I suppose it is beautiful, in a stark way. Charlie and I got married in the local registry office. Definitely not beautiful: a poky municipal room, a bit scuffed and cramped.

- Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 8

This is a thriller novel published in 2020 in the United Kingdom. One hundred and fifty guests would be gathering at some remote and deserted fictional islet called Inis an Amplóra off the coast of the island of Ireland to celebrate the wedding between Jules (a self-made woman running an online magazine called The Download) and Will (a celebrity appearing in a TV show program called Survive the Night). The day before the actual wedding day, before the rehearsal dinner, Hannah, the wife of Charlie (Jules' friend), arrives at the island with Charlie. So now they follow Will and Jules (who were on the jetty to welcome them) to the Folly and the chapel, where the wedding will be held tomorrow. While seeing the Folly and chapel, Hannah tries to say all the right things including "So beautiful, so romantic!" all the while thinking that it looks slightly macabre.

(1) In this part, I wonder what "scuffed" would mean in particular.
Does it mean that painted materials were falling off from the walls of the municipal room? Or that the floor was showing wear and tear...?

(2) And I am also wondering how "poky" and "cramped" here are different. I am finding it difficult to understand why the two seemingly similar words are being used, and how they are different. :confused:

(3) Lastly, would it be all right to understand that "municipal room" here is a room operated and managed by a municipal government office and rent for a wedding ceremony, like a wedding space in a city hall? I am wondering because the narrator is saying that she got married in the registry office itself (where probably only paper works are done, as far as I understand), but then says it was a municipal room (seemingly a proper wedding venue).

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    (1). Just ordinary wear and tear. Scuff marks.

    (2). It is more for emphasis than anything else. Both words mean small.

    (3). it is in a local government building. One function of registry offices in Britain is to conduct weddings, and they have a room for the purpose.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Uncle Jack,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So the municipal room was scuffed (showing wear and tear, like scratches on the floor and chipped wallpapers, for example), and was very very small (two words meaning small).

    And the municipal room was located in the registry office (= a local government building with a room for conducting wedding ceremonies)! I couldn't grasp that the registry office was a building (I had thought offices were just rooms), but, realizing that the registry office was a building, I think the mystery is solved. So she got married in the municipal room in the registry office.

    By the way, this is my small question, but, by "the local government", would it usually mean big cities? Or are the registry offices also located in villages? I am just wondering because in South Korea, there is no wedding ceremony venue operated by the government, and the concept seems new to me.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The 'registry office' is the name of the room where civil weddings are conducted. It might be in local government building or elsewhere. The one I got married in was in a lovely old house and the room itself was large and beautiful.
    I would guess that anywhere there is local government will have a registry office for weddings. They have registrars who conduct the ceremony and who will also record or register births and deaths. They conduct citizenship ceremonies too.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The term registry/register office is used for the building (which has other functions as Hermione describes) and the room used for weddings and other ceremonies, much in the same way as "theatre" is used for both the building and the auditorium. Registry/register offices aren't always separate buildings.
    and was very very small (two words meaning small).
    No, the use of two words does not really mean that it was exceedingly small, but that it was unpleasantly small. You might interpret it as meaning poky = small and cramped = the people did not have much room.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Hermione Golightly and Uncle Jack,

    Thank you very much for the explanations.
    Wow, I didn't know that registry offices can be such a beautiful place! It must be wonderful to get married in such a place.
    So the term "registry/register office" can be used to indicate both the building and the room where wedding ceremonies are conducted, and the register offices can exist anywhere where local governments exist.

    No, the use of two words does not really mean that it was exceedingly small, but that it was unpleasantly small. You might interpret it as meaning poky = small and cramped = the people did not have much room.
    Then, though there are beautiful register offices out there, our narrator was saying that she got married in a small and constricted municipal room.
    I think I acquired new cultural knowledge regarding weddings held in the register offices all thanks to you!
    I sincerely appreciate your help, your explanations really deepened my understanding. :)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A similar situation exists here. If you want to get married quickly and easily you can do it at a city building, often city hall. The surroundings might be very plain. A judge or other government official will marry you. There might be only one or two other people in attendance. The ceremony might be very, very short. If having a large, beautiful wedding is important to you, then you are not going to choose that option.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear kentix,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So the narrator probably wanted to get married quickly and easily, having chosen a plain, constricted municipal room.
    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    For folks in my region who are ten years or more older than me, in their 20s you could not live with a boyfriend /girlfriend without being married, and you needed to be very discrete about the fact you were having sex. So there was an incentive to get married quickly and cheaply and be legally able to be a couple.

    I think this was particularly true for young people living in cities without a large extended family. My mother's sister stayed living on the family farm until she married a local young man, and would have had a huge traditional wedding in the tiny local church. All of the food, decorations, and dresses would have been homemade but there would have been hundreds of guests. In contrast, my own mother moved to a large city and later married in a registry office with just a few friends present.

    City Hall or the Registry Office is where you needed to get the marriage license anyhow, and they had and still have a Justice of the Peace to do marriages. They will evrn come out to an offsite wedding ceremony if you don't want a religious officiator.

    These days it's considered OK to live together and even have children without being married. There's more of a trend to postpone marriage until the couple can afford a big wedding event.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear kentix and Ponyprof,

    Thank you very much for the explanations.
    Indeed, Charlie and Hannah in this book were a young couple living in Brighton as far as I know, so I guess they wouldn't have needed to hold a big wedding event for large families.
    It is really informative to learn that the way people hold weddings varies according to generations!
    The good thing about reading a novel can be that you could read the culture hidden in the context.
    I sincerely appreciate your help, I learned many new things all thanks to you. :)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Here the standard is still to have a wedding that has been planned months in advance in a church or wedding venue with numerous invited guests (the number depends on family size and wealth) followed by a reception with a catered meal. It usually includes flowers, music, a photographer/videographer, fancy wedding invitations, etc. Some are simpler and cheaper than others but they have most of those things.

    The purely civil ceremony option is far from common, especially for a first wedding for younger people. For most people it is the event of a lifetime and they treat it that way.

    If you watch old movies the usual reason that people went down to city hall to get married was because their parents didn't approve and they were doing it secretly, or the woman was pregnant and they "had to" get married quickly, or they were divorced and a church wedding was not a good option or some other reason that speed and simplicity was more important than ceremony. Another reason might have been a soldier leaving for war and there just wasn't time.

    I don't think that has changed much. A traditional wedding is still the first choice for most people.

    A local county government website gives information on their procedures. At this time (COVID era) you can bring four guests.

    And here's a question on their site:

    - Does each couple get married separately?​
    - No, it is a group ceremony.​

    You can imagine that is not the dream wedding for many.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I agree everyone tends to prefer a wedding that involves a celebration. Back when women married young and lived at home, the wedding was put on by the young couples parents, appropriate to what they could afford and community expectations.

    Now that marriage per se is not so important young couples often live together and even have children, until and unless they can afford a big celebration themselves

    I really do think of registry weddings as happening more through the first half of the 20th century when young women might be living far away from their parents, or be estranged from them, or not want to participate in their parents' idea of a big church wedding. But there were still strong social norms against living together unmarried. Being married carried many legal and social benefits. You could be arrested in the US in the 1950s for traveling interstate with a sexual partner not your married spouse.

    So there was a strong incentive to get married even if you weren't in a position to have a wedding celebration. That incentive is much weaker even nonexistent now in many communities in North America.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear kentix and Ponyprof,

    Thank you very much for the explanations.

    You could be arrested in the US in the 1950s for traveling interstate with a sexual partner not your married spouse.

    Wow, I didn’t know that even such a law existed back in the days!
    Then it really would have been advantageous for young couples to get married by any means.
    It is very interesting and informative to learn about the cultural background of marriage!
    I really appreciate your help. :)
     
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