PC 41 Weddings and the institution of Marriage

OK! OK! I know I am not the greatest example of the lasting strength of marriage but maybe that gives me a different slant on this institution, just as we prepared for a family wedding in deepest Dorset. So it’s with slight trepidation that I write about this social event.

Some of you may be single, some may have been married for a short while, for some it may seem for ever, to the first person you ever met, to someone you ‘courted’, some of you may be on your second or even third marriage. No one starts a relationship believing it will only last for a specific time; it’s always going to last forever … and ever! Maybe some of you have taken advantage of more liberal laws that allow same-sex marriages, and we know of one such couple expecting their first baby next week. It’s a funny world!

It seems that marriage as an institution is still the aim of many, remaining socially the ‘thing to do’. A modern habit is to live together for months, even years – to try it out, so to speak. Imagine if, after a long courtship, you got married and you suddenly found you were not compatible; he/she squeezed the toothpaste in the middle/end, left the loo seat up/down, didn’t imagining empty the rubbish bin, taking her/his iPad to bed, left their clothes all over the place. Am I admitting to pet hates here? Ooopps!

We heard that my nephew and his long term girlfriend had got engaged!! How exciting this news, wondering when they were getting married, where, imagining the flowers, the whole ceremony …. that lovely film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” comes to mind ….. everyone in their best clothes, gorgeous food, champagne, speeches .… and awful jokes from the best man.

The invitation indicated ‘morning suit’ or suits, a nod to the ‘younger’ generation perhaps, although it’s obvious they like making an effort too. I suppose I have a predilection for ‘dressing up’, having been seduced to join the army for the dress uniforms (well, not really!!), so I looked forward to the prospect of wearing a morning suit and all the accoutrements. Some men turned up in suits, but a couple looked as if they were wearing their gardening ones ….. and I wondered what they would wear to a more formal occasion? Am I missing something here? Did they want to appear ‘different’, perceiving themselves as rather ‘above’ the social convention? It’s not that they were not educated ….. maybe an unconscious need to ‘cock a snoop’ at the rest of us, who had made the effort? There was a nice story from an Army chum who had been Officer of the Watch at the Tower of London when the Queen dropped in for supper; well, she has to eat somewhere! One officer was wearing his soft mess shirt and not a stiff one. The queen remarked on it: “Oh! Stiff ones are for more formal occasions.”!! I think dressing up for a wedding is de rigueur!

The small church in the village of Abbotsbury, a mile or two from the coast in Dorset and nestling under an escarpment, was the location for this wonderful celebration. Abbotsbury dates from the C10th and had a thriving Abbey until it was dissolved by Henry VIII; a huge barn is all that remains of the abbey, but on a hill overlooking the village stands a lovely little chapel used by monks for private contemplation. Nowadays Abbotsbury is famous for its swannery; started 600 years ago as a source of food for the monks, it has a large colony of mute swans, and is an important nesting and breeding ground.

Time before the service to gather one’s thoughts, admiring the wonderful flowers and looking at the other guests, wondering who they all were!! The church had a large wooden board above the altar with the Ten Commandments written in gold letters. Made me think of a discussion with Celina’s father about when to use ‘shall’ and when to use ‘will’ in English! The Commandments are all ‘shall’! But I was intrigued to read that, whereas numbers 6 to 10 start “Thou shalt not  ……”, the one concerning taking another’s life read: “Thou shalt do no murder.” Rather quaint wording for a serious subject!

The bride’s parents’ initials are ‘H’ and ‘H’, and my nephew and his now bride’s – H&H, or H² as it was written on their wedding invitation. The vicar made much of this, and added Hope and Hospitality in his homily about the benefits of marriage and how these two could embrace hope and hospitality in their union. The bridesmaids and the page boy and girl looked gorgeous. H² exchanged the traditional vows: “…… for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love cherish and (maybe?) obey, till death do us part ……..”. It’s good to have a faith and a belief.

All too soon the dinner, the speeches and the dancing at the reception were behind us, the live music group was packing up, the newlyweds departing and ‘mwah mwah’ everywhere; it was time to wend our way back to our Bed &Breakfast, The Old Rectory in Winterbourne Steepleton – doesn’t that sound just wonderfully English? And it was!

My father’s father married three times, my father married three times, and me? Well, yes, following the family tradition, but I really really didn’t set out to!! “Rather be an “incurable romantic than love’s loser with an estranged wife” as Cosmo Landesman says. Funny world, innit?

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com

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