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Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Truly Royal Wedding

The Right Honourable bishop of London, the Rev. Richard Chartres, in his wedding homily for Prince William and Kate Middleton, stated, "In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding, with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future."

My wife and I will never forget a wedding we attended some time ago that was as impressive to us as  the lavish event millions all over the world witnessed yesterday in Westminster Abby.

The bride, a family friend, and her new groom personally welcomed each of the guests as they arrived at the Eastern Mennonite Seminary chapel. He wore a simple white shirt and ordinary dress pants, she a matching white blouse and a dark skirt. There was no formal processional, no elaborately decorated auditorium, not even the traditional bridesmaids and groomsmen. All of us were to be the wedding party and to join together in the festive atmosphere the couple and their families created for this once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

As we sat down, we noted a cloth covered table in the front of the chapel with a variety of white candles, a visual feast of light and warmth for the ceremony. Next to it was a live tree from a local nursery to be planted after the reception as a symbol of the couple’s new life together. Music was plentiful and wonderful, and included some congregational hymns everyone joined in singing as members of one grand choir. Several brief meditations were personally addressed to the young pair seated in the front row, and as they stood to pledge their vows to each other for life--and as various friends and family members spoke their personal blessings--many of us were moved to tears.

At the reception there was plenty of hot cider and two kinds of hot soup for all the guests, along with a generous slice of zucchini cake, all of which had been prepared by various friends of the bride and groom for the occasion. After the meal, a time of reminiscing and story telling helped us get better acquainted with the couple and to learn more about their after-honeymoon plans, she to take a volunteer service assignment in a church-run program for at-risk families and he to enter graduate school.

I don’t know how much this wedding cost, but with no pearl-studded gowns or rented tuxedos, no expensive caterers or lavish floral arrangements, no stretch limousines or impressive candelabras, I’m sure it was considerably less than the national average of over $16,000 for such productions. Yet there was something about the service that seemed just right. It was less a staged performance than a time of community togetherness, one in which we felt a connection with the couple as real people and with the God who seemed to smile a warm blessing on the whole affair.

It made me wonder whether we shouldn’t encourage investing more of our resources in helping young people prepare for their marriage, and less in exhaustive preparations for a display of wealth out of keeping with the rest of their lifestyle. 

This service represented a different kind of richness, a celebration many of us considered one of the most beautiful ever. An example of a different kind of royal wedding.

     
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