My partner knows that I am not the most punctual person so told me that we needed to leave for the wedding at ten, but knowing that we would be on time if we left at a quarter past. I was ready to go before ten so we set off before ten. We had arranged to pick my son up en route, but of course we were early there so we had to pick him up as he was walking to our planned rendezvous.
As we arrived we drove past a car, and I glanced over and thought, “Oh, good, Dad is already here”. I was instantly hit by the thought that since dad died many years ago, it must be my brother. He does look like our dad these days.
I had attended the baptism of Charlotte and James’ daughter at church where the wedding was to take place, so was familiar with the type of ceremony. I can’t say it appealed to me as a Quaker, and I was sharing the experience with a philosophical Taoist/Buddhist and a Pagan. As the service progressed I realised that one of the songs was sung to the tune Morning has broken’ and was now ‘come to a wedding’. It didn’t feel much like a hymn.
‘I vow to thee my country’ which is sung to a melody from Jupiter, Holsts’ Planet suite had been re-written to something about the love between the couple. I didn’t feel happy with singing the words so hummed to a lovely tune. The other hymn was All things bright an beautiful.
If I found the christening ceremony unsatisfactory – a serious lack of silence – I found the wedding ceremony difficult. Not only was there no silence, but there felt to be no serious important message. It felt to be all fluff. This is a solemn promise to be there for one another for the rest of their lives, an undertaking from the congregation that they will uphold this young couple in their promises. Instead it seemed just a marking of their love – important yes, but surely marriage is more than love, it is about commitment and promises made (in this case) in front of God.
It felt a rushed preliminary to the reception, a perfunctory part of the deal. I didn’t feel that this was the fault of the family, but a failing of the church. It was made worse by the fact that the reading from Corinthians was one that I know well because Oswin used to read it occasionally.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
It felt wrong to me – this was like a clanging cymbal without the depth of spirituality, with mention of God pushed aside.
It is possible that I may be mistaken in this, though, and that the wedding service meant a huge amount to others, and that it was just me who felt a lack of the presence of God in the church.
Charlotte looked beautiful as she hurried to the front of the church: I found tears in my eyes as I saw her. My heart was full as I heard the young people say their vows.