I have not followed the events leading up to the only wedding happening in London this week. But I am struck by how exalted Prince William and Princess Kate’s relationship and ceremony have become. Over the last month, I’ve changed the radio station in my car, turned the channel on the television, and scrolled down my computer screen as the news has reported, promoted, and surveyed the events leading up Friday’s wedding.
I must say that I hadn’t considered blogging about the big deal around this wedding before reading Katy Shrout’s article over at Religious Dispatches. Dr. Shrout poses several good why questions in her essay. She surveys a quick history of the last century and a half of white weddings and discusses how we’ve come to stuff our faces with multi-layered cakes and how brides came to love things like tiaras and creampuff dresses. More pointedly though, she deals with the myth of feminine upward mobility, which I’ll come back to tomorrow.
To be clear, I am happy for the couple. I think the decision to marry is a serious and joyful one. I’m happy they’ve chosen to wed. I’m happy. And I’m not sure that my happiness extends to the press coverage of their engagement and all the snapshots and videos and commentary promised to trail from their marriage service. The press has dealt with the superficial and chosen to stay above the water of what marriage really is, what marriage really takes. They haven’t hinted at the harder choices ahead, the significant losses to come–and aren’t all of them significant, even the little ones like leaving an apartment you liked for a bigger one or buying a different brand of toothpaste because that’s what she likes or because that’s what was on sale? The press hasn’t mentioned the highs and lows of the couple’s life together. I’m not surprised. I’m not that naive.
I haven’t seen two straight weeks this year without talking personally to at least one couple looking toward “the altar,” readying themselves for marriage. I’ve spent the same months walking with a husband and wife through the dark nights of marital trouble. It’s been a weird and somehow normal existence. Looking ahead with some and looking backward with others.
After our Easter service I met one of the engaged couples for the fourth and final session before their day, and we talked about their ceremony. We’ll meet once, at least once, months after the wedding, but that was the last time we would meet to discuss their decision to marry and what comes because of it. We’ve spent hours talking about communication, grace and personality, family history seen through the lens of genograms. We’ve talked about the massive role that Jesus has in their relationship and how their relationship is “sacramental,” though I didn’t put it exactly in that word.
As a pastor, I hope that the royal couple, the one in the UK–has gotten counsel, that they’ve explored to their best efforts the mystical and material union that is marriage. I presume they have. They are, after all, royal. They have advisors, including all those priests at the amazing cathedral that is the Abbey. They are making a decision with international implications, just like the couple in my church frankly, though our couples in Chicago aren’t getting press coverage. I hope they are making a big deal about their marriage and not just their ceremony.