Steeped in Realism
William and Kate get married.
by Everett Wilson
May 1, 2011
The front page of our daily paper did its best with the old news of William and Kate's wedding, coming as it did a full twenty-four hours after the event. Everything had already been described and analyzed in great detail in a continuous loop, outdoing even coverage of the Super Bowl. So our paper chose to go Deep, as in "Really Deep" when spoken in reference to a commonplace fact unfamiliar to the speaker. The paper said that the wedding was "steeped in tradition and symbolism."
Actually, it wasn't. I will grant the tradition, since the ceremony was in the archaic but sublime language of the English Book of Common Prayer, the setting was grand, the royal standards of musical and military precision were in good working order, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was more dressed up than the bride; but I won't grant the symbolism. There was very little of that—the exchange of rings, and the wrapping of the couple's hands with the archbishop's stole. I don't wear a stole, but I put my hand firmly over a couple's joined hands when they kneel for prayer.
That's not being steeped in symbolism. It is just the way we do things. For the last thirty-five years the lighting of a unity candle has become commonplace, but William and Kate didn't even do that. I have officiated at many weddings more cluttered with symbolism than theirs, in chancels cluttered with far more bodies.
What I witnessed, and I watched it live, was steeped in realism, not symbolism. With the prompting of the archbishop, the couple entered into an oral contract, under oath: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The wedding itself was over in about fifteen minutes. Then the couple sat down and joined the congregation in singing the hymns, and listening to the lessons, the choir, and the homily.
That oral contract was the main event. If you want a church wedding, you had better be serious, because in a real church you will have to say some dreadfully demanding things. You had better mean them. In The Last Battle, Farsight the Eagle ponders the fate of Rishda Tarkaan. "There goes one who has called on gods he does not believe in. How will it be with him if they have really come?"
You can laugh in a church, but you can't mess around.
About the Author:
Everett Wilson officiated at his first wedding 51 years ago.
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