It’s more than 30 years since I’ve been to a wedding and a very long time indeed since I’ve been to an old-fashioned one – in a church, with the old vows and trappings.
Today our neighbours Barbara and John got married and theirs is a love story that – as Barbara’s son said in his speech at the reception – really is an affirmation of life. Because Barbara and John are not in the first flush of youth, nor even the second. They are in and around the eighth decade and, both having lost their lifetime spouses, decided that their late life romance should be celebrated in the traditional way, with a traditional wedding ceremony.
Very sweet it is to see them holding hands; to see Barbara’s simple but elegant engagement ring and, now, the gold bands on both their third fingers. Sweet, also, to see their two families suddenly united with apparent amicability and warm tributes to the bride and groom from both sides.
Most of the wedding ceremony was according to the King James version of the Bible – a relief to we oldies who appreciate elegant prose even if we are not religious. Three of the four hymns were equally traditional. One of Barbara’s son (a noted musician and teacher) played the organ and there was a trumpeter too, sending the bride and groom back up the aisle with Clarke’s Voluntary in fine, traditional style.
But there were modern touches too, surprising to those who no longer go regularly to church. Our Archdeacon is a woman, and nothing at all like the Vicar of Dibley, being slender and elegant and warm of voice. Martin Honeybun, friend to many of us and who presided over the ceremony, is the kind of Rev who makes even non-theists like myself think kindly of his calling.
Most surprising of all – people clapped! After the readings, after the vows and stuff. Clapped! In a church! MIrabile dictu!
The little parish hall was packed for the reception, the food was sumptuous and the wine flowed as freely as the tea urns – and it was only late morning! Even more surprises, some parts of the speeches were quite raunchy – a lot raunchier than those I remember from the weddings of my wild youth. The Christians all laughed their heads off – only a couple of we non-believers showed shock when Viagra got a mention!
I’m not usually a fan of weddings – I live in the wedding capital of south-east Queensland and today most of them are all about the show; expensive ceremonies with little to say about the real commitment of marriage.
However Barbara and John’s wedding is one I’ll long remember for its warmth and optimism. It really IS a triumph of good hope over the vicissitudes of experience to unite in marriage so late in life. They make a lovely couple so I wish them all the happiness in the world for however many years they have together.