OPINION: Lockdown has shown what is important on your wedding day - Fr Gary Waddington
Here comes the bride! Or rather, for the last year, here hasn’t come the bride!
Over the last year and a bit, one of the many groups of people who’ve been massively impacted by lockdown are couples wanting to get married.
The necessary restrictions have forced many of them to plan, re-plan and plan again: only to find, despite their best efforts, their day is still in tatters.
They have my sympathy. Like everyone else, the best laid plans have come to naught.
Yet in the midst of all of that I’ve noticed something fascinating.
For the couples who have chosen to go ahead, on a much less grand scale than perhaps they had first planned, there’s been a tangible sense of relief.
When couples come to see me to make the arrangements for the service they’re going to have, there’s two questions I tend to ask them. The first is “why are you getting married?”
That might sound a bit obvious, but it’s always interesting that some really struggle to say why, where others, without missing a heartbeat reply “because we love each other and want to make the commitment that marriage brings.”
The second question illuminates the first: “and do you want a marriage or a wedding?” It’s why the couples who have been married during the pandemic express relief.
Should we ask our second cousins or not? Will Sue and Peter from work be offended if we don’t ask them, even though Jill and Jack are coming?
Four bridesmaids are fine, but wouldn’t 12 be better?
What about the flowers, the dress, the cars, the venue, the drinks, the meal, the disco, the honeymoon, the photographer, the wedding list of presents... on and on the list of requirements goes...
At its heart, a marriage service is extraordinarily simple, the expression of commitment between two people in love, for life.
These are words which sound easy, but are not always easy to live out.
They have a depth which is immense, and implications which are complex. No wonder the adage is ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure.’
For those who have married during the pandemic the liberation has been to be freed from an industry (for weddings have become a massive industry) which ever more demands more consumption and cost.
Like many parish priests, there is a sinking feeling when we hear the phrase: ‘we’ve booked the reception, we’re wondering if we could book your place for the service...’ or it’s not so distant cousin today: ‘we’d like to get married there, the photos will look lovely on Instagram’.
Pandemic weddings have freed couples to explore what’s important, and what’s not.
For many, the pressures to turn their wedding day into a little more than a free bar for everyone they’ve ever met, have been alleviated.
Perhaps that’s a challenge we all face: why for so long, did we spend so much, on stuff we’ve found we didn’t need, and didn’t want?