Wedding ceremony

Reading 1
Reading 2
The Charge
Reading 3
Exchanging of the rings
Reading 4

Dear friends, thank you all for coming here – most of you following long journeys – to witness the promises that Jonty and Lou are making today.

I’m going to start with a bit of an explanation – as you can probably tell, I’m not a priest or an official celebrant, and this isn’t going to be a traditional service. The legal part was taken care of earlier this month, at a registry office in London. But Jonty and Lou have told me that today, sharing their vows and a few glasses of cava under the Spanish sky, is the day they really consider themselves to be getting married.

Today is when these two people, united for a long time in love, trust and hope, are stating their commitment to each other in front of you – the people who mean the most to them. So I guess my role as narrator is to represent not the church or state, but all of you here who love them, both individually and as a couple.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for two writers, Jonty and Lou have spent a lot of time thinking about what today’s words represent, for them, for you, for the concepts of love and partnership, and for the meaning of marriage. They hope that you, too, can find meaning in the readings and vows they have chosen.

Which takes us nicely to the first reading. Here is J— with William Blake’s The Clod and the Pebble.

Reading 1
The Clod and the Pebble, William Blake

Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care;
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.

So sang a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle’s feet:
But a pebble of the brook,
Warbled out these metres meet.

Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight:
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.

Thank you J—. Jonty and Lou have been together more than six years already, and this poem bears witness to some things they have learnt along the way. Blake’s point here is that a love that is entirely giving, entirely self-denying, is as foolish and as unfulfilling as a love that is entirely selfish.

Seen in this light, our next poem carries even more weight. It celebrates the strength of love. It states that, if the right balance can be found, love has a force and majesty that remains unparalleled in the human experience.

I now invite K— to read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

Reading 2
Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixéd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

The Charge
Shakespeare is right – love is a constant, a framework, a backbone, an eternal source of strength. Jonty and Lou are not new to this love. They already treasure a rich store of shared memories: of moments of despair, of excitement and adventure, of comfort and old movies and long Sunday afternoons in the pub.

They want today to be a celebration not only of their commitment to a long and happy future together, but of the more than six years that they have already had. Throughout these years it has been a constant pleasure for me, and I think for all of us, to watch them adapt to each other, to see how they influence and strengthen one another.

But love is a creative force. Jonty and Lou recognise that to insist on permanency in a relationship is to fail to recognise that the only continuity possible is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom. Their love for each other has changed over the years, and will continue to change. They have both learnt to cherish this, and not to fear it.

That, my friends, is why we have come here today. To bear witness to this decision, to applaud the courage that each of them is showing, and to congratulate them on their choice.

I’m now going to take my seat and let Jonty and Lou make their vows.

Jonty: My dearest Lou, you have brought love into my life, and given me laughter and joy. We’ve shared sadness and happiness, jokes and arguments, gone adventuring and talked as old friends for days on end. Even when we fight, I love my life with you. You have made me a better person, taught me to listen more, to shout less and to see all the colours of our lives. I am proud of the relationship we have built together, of all we have done to get to this day. I love you.

Today, before friends and family, absent and present, I choose our life together. I choose to trust you, to commit to you, and to share with you. I promise to be there for you, to be the person you can lean on, and to work through any problems we may face. I vow to join my life to yours, and look forward to our future.

Lou: Jonty, we have built a relationship that is shamelessly, even sometimes painfully, honest. It isn’t always easy, but that honesty gives me a quiet confidence, a feeling that we could share anything, face anything together, weather any storm. It isn’t, of course, the only thing that’s important to me – there are a million and one reasons why I’d like to spend the rest of my life with you.

I love that you challenge me, I love that we read the same books and argue about what they mean. I love that for the first time in my life I would rather travel with another person than on my own. You balance me. You let me see the good with the bad and still smile. We’re still learning from each other, and about each other, and hopefully that will never change.

Today, before friends and family, I choose our life together. I choose to trust you, to commit to you, and to share with you. I promise to be there for you, to be the person you can lean on, and to work through any problems we may face. I vow to join my life to yours, and look forward to our future.

Jonty: Before the witnesses that stand here today I, Jonty, take you, Louise, to be my wife, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forth.

Lou: Before the witnesses that stand here today I, Louise, take you, Jonty, to be my husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forth.

Wahey, they did it! Next up, we have a beautiful piece called Marriage from the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. It talks about the balance a couple can achieve through marriage, and the strength they can find in each other. It seems appropriate now, as Jonty and Lou reflect on the promises they have made and prepare to exchange the rings that symbolise these vows. I’d like to ask P— and M— to read this.

Reading 3
Marriage, The Prophet, Khalil Gibran

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shore of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a harp are alone though they move to the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping,
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Today is not just about the promises that Jonty and Lou are making to each other – it is also about acknowledging the role that we, the friends and family, have chosen to play in this ceremony. We have come here today to bear witness to these vows, and to declare by being here that we support their decision. We are all, now, part of Jonty and Lou’s extended family. So to make things a bit friendlier, we’d like you to take some time to find a few people you’ve never met before, and go and briefly introduce yourself. I’ll call you back to your places in a couple of minutes.

Exchanging of the Rings
Now we come to the exchanging of the rings. These are the gifts that Jonty and Lou will wear forever on their hands as signs that they have fallen in love, in recognition of what Shakespeare calls their “ever fixéd mark”.

Jonty: Louise, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love for you. Let it be a reminder that I am always by your side and that I will always be a faithful partner to you.

Lou: Jonty, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love for you. Let it be a reminder that I am always by your side and that I will always be a faithful partner to you.

You may now kiss the bride.

Our final reading this evening is from A—. We’re finishing with a romantic flourish from Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass – the final book in his Dark Materials Trilogy.

Reading 4
The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman

She sat down slowly, and he sat down beside her.

“Oh, Will,” she said, “what can we do? Whatever can we do? I want to live with you for ever. I want to kiss you and lie down with you and wake up with you every day of my life till I die, years and years and years away. I don’t want a memory, just a memory…”

“No,” he said, “memory’s a poor thing to have. It’s your own real hair and mouth and arms and eyes and hands I want. I didn’t know I could ever love anything so much. Oh, Lyra, I wish this night would never end! If only we could stay here like this, and the world could stop turning, and everyone else could fall into a sleep…”

“Everyone except for us! And you and I could live here forever and just love each other.”

“I will love you for ever, whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead I’ll drift about for ever, all my atoms, till I find you again…”

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight.

Thank you A—.

Well they’ve done it! And now we move on to the most important part of the service – the celebration. There are mojitos waiting for us on the terrace, there is food, drink and dancing to follow, and above all there are two people here who we love, who have just made the most exciting decision of their lives so far. If that’s not a cause for celebration, I don’t know what is.

So let the party begin.

Exit of the Bride and Groom


1 Comment»

  elle wrote @

Names have been ampersand-em-dashed to protect the not very innocent, and to allow me to pretend I am a self-important Victorian novelist.

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