Obliged to think about... another wedding

My main emotion on watching the Royal Wedding was relief that Deb and I hadn’t had to plan our Big Day in the knowledge that billions would watch it and millions would comment. No wonder they looked so tense when we had been able to laugh. It was also a relief to have got ours done before theirs, graduating from the not-yet-married couples’ anxieties, ‘Should we do that instead?’ to happily-married couples’ reminisces, ‘Wasn’t it great when this/that/the other happened at ours?’ As I watched a ceremony that often felt bizarrely rigid, I was grateful we were given the freedom by family, friends and state to arrange the day as we wanted it to be.

There was a lot of talk about what this all meant for the nation, and it seemed to me that the phrase ‘proud to be British’ didn’t quite make sense of what people were experiencing. Tim de Lisle was among many who noticed that this was ultimately a fun event. Free to watch or not, to care or not, able to laugh at it or at each other without fear over a long weekend, we were enjoying being British. That seems to me a much more open and happy attitude to have, though whether it will last longer than a warm spring is unclear.

As someone who attends a church which doesn’t require its ministers to wear capes on big occasions, the service felt strange. More annoying was how close the Bishop of London came to explaining Christianity’s great news before reverting to a kind of moralism that wants the grace of God without God. “As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden.” Absolutely right, so we need to look beyond ourselves and our partner to Christ, the great Satisfier of souls, yes? Well, maybe. In his address, Jesus was an example rather than Lord and Saviour, which was infuriatingly insufficient twice over.

There were other signs of the Kingdom of God though. So many watching, cheering, caring – why? Even if you didn’t want to gather with others to watch or talk about this, there’s probably something that you are drawn to, outside of yourself, which also draws you to others. “We don’t know why we do anything”, Howard Jacobson was happy to conclude. Whether he was proposing a subconscious level below instinct, I think this does suggest something innate, something that has been built in to us. The Bible’s story of human history ends with crowds cheering and waving, their focus not on themselves but Another, God. This is the source of all the other, lesser gatherings: we were made to worship together.

I hope to tell our grandchildren that we got married the same year as the King and Queen did, and for that to seem an unimaginably long time ago to them. I hope we’ll be able to show them how good God’s ideas are. And I’m looking forward to telling them, for the mind-numbingly umpteenth time, that unlike William, I watched my bride walk up the aisle to me, our faces fit to bursting with happiness that was just a glimpse of the joy to come.