‘I think weddings is sadder than funerals, because they remind you of your own wedding. You can’t be reminded of your own funeral because it hasn’t happened. But weddings always make me cry’. Brendan Behan, Richard’s Cork Leg.
Last Saturday we drove 60 miles of mostly country roads to an early afternoon wedding in deepest Northamptonshire.
Slawston is a Domesday Book village (pop. 191) with a small, late-thirteenth-century church, seating on this occasion some 50 people. They included a brass ensemble, and four fanfare trumpeters from the mounted Band of the Household Cavalry in full regalia; both bride and bridegroom are actually in that band. She wore a white dress and stole and he his ceremonial crimson uniform. His best man was a similarly clad, tall, uniformed lance sergeant of Grenadiers, the most senior regiment in the British Army. All this pomp was waiting for me after I had found a space to park in the tiny village, walked to the church but had to retrace my steps, following tied-up balloons indicating the nearest toilet. That was at Black Horse farm (thankfully on the street), in what seemed like a cow barn. Relieved, and sitting back in the pew, I saw the families sorting themselves out along the front pews, the father of the groom praying (too late now!), his ex fussing about as mothers in fascinators ought, and several young women weirdly bare-armed against the unheated December interior.
Reverend Alison carried us all along in a jolly but respectful way, looking and sounding amazingly similar to the vicar of Dibley. No hitches, no lapses all smooth and well conducted. We gave voice to the Lord to ‘forgive our foolish ways’ and became reclothed in ‘our rightful mind’, which is fair enough when you are in church and appropriately, written by a Quaker. To the ensemble’s ‘Earle of Oxford Marche’ by Byrd, the now-spliced couple signed their lives away in the register and processed grandly back up the up the aisle to Purcell’s ‘Trumpet Tune and Air’. All very splendid. Afterwards, sensibly clad ladies of the parish moved amongst us, serving delectable homemade savouries, sweets and mulled wine. Also splendid. And also, time for home. (Although kindly invited to the evening reception and ceilidh, we had declined, citing age, but severely underscored by my own palpable aversion to large-group social events.)
Why the lines from Behan’s little-known play? Well, at the moment Kate and Julian were pronounced by the rev, thinking back on my own three weddings and 45 years of wedlock I found myself scrabbling for a handkerchief.
A smashing afternoon.