As Kate and William’s celebrations were coming to a climax at Westminster this morning, I was en route to Dumfries and Galloway to conduct a wedding for another couple, who as one of their guests told me, had “met in a palace, live in a castle and were now about to get married in an abbey”.
It was a long drive so I tuned into Radio 4 which allowed me to hear the cheering crowds in the Mall, the excitement about the dress, the beautiful choral singing and the sonorous voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury pronouncing the happy couple husband and wife, and it gave me time to think about the similarities and the differences between the two ceremonies.
Some of the differences were obvious. Mari and Gareth don’t own their castle, but work for the National Trust for Scotland and they entered Sweetheart Abbey as commoners. In place of the million spectators along the royal route, they had a happy crowd of onlookers leaning over the fence. Not only were there no hymns or prayers, and no ambassadors from Middle Eastern regimes of dubious reputation, but the abbey had no roof, so there were lots of brollies in case the weather did its worst. (It didn’t).
But there were more important differences. Although the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had written a prayer for their ceremony, Gareth and Mari had written all of theirs; not just the vows, which they spoke from memory, but their reasons for marrying and their thoughts about what marriage means to them.
And while Rowan Williams was speaking on behalf of God, I was speaking on behalf of Mari and Gareth. So I could tell that their family and friends recognised their words and thoughts as they listened to me, and to their various friends who were also involved in delivering the ceremony.
But there was undoubtedly some big similarities as well. We all feel uplifted when two people declare their love for one another in public. And when I stopped off for a cup of tea at the cafe across the road, I heard the waitresses coming back in saying, “Wasn’t that a lovely dress!”