The wedding was held in an old village-community church. There was a plaque on the door which told of its entry in the Doomsday Book, so I was looking forward to experiencing a piece of history. The church itself was actually very nice, and on the hot sunny day, it was cool and tranquil.
After a quick glance around, and we spotted friends to sit with, and went to take up pews on the bride’s side. There was some chatter going on, and we joined in, commenting on how few people we knew, and generally catching up with people we’d not spoken to for a while. An usher handed us an Order of Service booklet, which I noted was fairly weighty, but didn’t think much of it.
Suddenly the church organ sprung into life, and the wedding march started playing, followed by the arrival of the bride and her father, and about 8 bridesmaids, all dressed in beautiful red strapless dresses. We all stood, and the lady vicar addressed us all, welcoming us to the church and asking us to be seated. She explained that the whole service, including hymns was in the Order of Service so that we could read along with the ceremony.
We sat. I flicked through the TWENTY-SEVEN pages of the Order of Service. It was more a Wedding Manual than an Order of Service, really. The so-called Hymns were not songs I recognised, but, I thought, once the tune is apparent, I’m sure we’ll be able to sing along.
I was so, so wrong.
The service was very traditional – making it clear that marriage should be between a man and a woman – and no-one else – that the couple’s purpose would now be to have and bring up children in god’s light, and that this was it. There was no escape. Interspersed with various lectures from the vicar, we had to stand up and try to sing the ‘hymns’. We gave up. From somewhere behind a pillar some musicians appeared with tambourines, electric guitars and microphones. They stood, with eyes closed, swaying to the music, singing as only emotionally-overcome people can, filling their lungs with the Holy Spirit and praising god. We in the heathen section, stood with wedding manual open, silent. The tune wasn’t one you could pick up as you went along like proper school assembly hymns – oh no, this was quite something else. I used the time everyone else was singing to have a quick look round the congregation. About 85% of the room was singing along and most of them didn’t even need the written words – they already knew the songs intimately. Eyes closed, swaying along, I realised I had been transported back to the middle-ages. This wasn’t quite the historical experience I was expecting! As I looked around, I noticed something else which disturbed me – all the singing women in the church looked the same. Incredibly slim, with long (at least shoulder-length) straight blonde or very light-brown hair. Either the church had a cloning machine, or everyone here was related to everyone else. There were no ugly people, either. Weird.
Anyway, we sat down and stood up more times than I care to remember. After about 45 minutes, Holy Communion was announced, and every row was led off to the front (just like assembly!) to receive their body and blood of Christ like the brainwashed children of god that they were. The heathens and homosexuals (for we had some of those in our heathen section too) stayed put in our pew, and others made disapproving faces at us. I wasn’t bothered at all. We’d been ostracised by the lack of popular hymns already, so I wasn’t going to feel pressured into taking part in some weird cult-like ceremony I didn’t believe in!
Then there were more vows to come, with particular emphasis on there being a marriage of three, like a rope of three strands that is stronger and cannot easily be broken, of bride, groom and Jesus. I wanted to vomit. The remaining bits included the vicar reciting paragraphs, and the congregation reciting paragraphs back – just like a scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. (‘No, No. No – you don’t need anyone to tell you want to do! You’re all individuals!!’ “Yes, we are all individuals” say the multitude in unison…). I was just shaking my head in disbelief that this could still be going on at a time when we understand about DNA and space-travel, but there was no stopping them. Songs and then readings followed, with some of those poor people doing readings, struggling to read. During these moments, with the pressure on and all eyes on the readers, as they stumbled quietly over the bible excerpts, religious children had their say. The ran around, they screamed and shouted, dropped their toys, grizzled and made a fuss, but no-one took them out or told them off. Maybe they were waiting for Jesus to do it. Who knows? I got quite annoyed at that stage. Anyway, musical interludes then took place (more tambourines) while the register was signed, and an hour and quarter after we started, we were finally released. My bottom was numb, and I was wondering whether I might be entitled to some kind of counselling or compensation. After the photos in the lovely sunshine, I hoped we had escaped the religious stuff. I was wrong again.
We travelled to the reception venue, took drinks onto the patio and waited for the final photos to be taken. Then we were ushered into the dining-room for a well-deserved meal. All went well until the Bride’s Father did his speech. Now – Bride’s Fathers’ speeches tend to follow a general format – embarrassing attempts at humour, the odd good joke, lots of praise for the daughter, gaining a son etc. We know the drill. It began this way, and I thought we’d be home and dry. Then he got his guitar out, and sang a song he’d composed himself about his daughter. If it had been me getting married, I’d have wanted the ground to open up and swallow me…..
After the song, things turned to Jesus. I felt the urge to bolt, but I was too near the front, and it was too difficult to escape unnoticed, so I sat and took it, but I was getting annoyed. He was saying with real conviction and almost disgust in his voice, about how marriages of two can seem to work, but they can never really work without Jesus. I glanced across at Badger, who rarely gets annoyed about anything, and could tell he was seething quietly too. It was just too much. A menage a trois works better? Eh???
Narrow-minded, unforgiving people the Christians. I can never work it out.
Still, more religious references to come in the Groom’s and Best Man’s speeches, but these were fairly bearable. I couldn’t wait to get outside and talk to the others, out of the watchful eye of God. (He doesn’t know my name, I’ve not been christened!). The rest of the evening went off like any other wedding, really – dancing, drinking, chatting. You know the score.
As I sat, drinking my diet coke, watching some formally-dressed kids chasing about the grounds and acting like little bastards, a philosophical question occurred to me. Why do the most religious people have the naughtiest children?