Friday 26th June, 2020, was the day I was meant to marry the woman of my dreams in a palace! I couldn’t quite believe it but the invites to Lambeth Palace were going out.
Then distant murmurs started circulating of a virus in a region of the world I’d never heard of. The protein-based virus spread to our planned honeymoon destination, northern Italy. We debated whether we should still go once the lockdown was over to support the local economy. It took a UK-wide ban on any gatherings beyond two-person funerals for the gravity of the situation to hit home.
But this isn’t a ‘woe-is-me: my wedding is cancelled’ article, quite the opposite. Apart from anything else, others have suffered far more because of COVID-19. As a final year medical student my fiancée has seen the suffering and impact first hand.
Yes, we may have to pick which parents can attend our wedding. Yes, our exotic honeymoon location may be our flat. Yes, there have been moments of tears and stress. But we are joyfully looking forward to whenever we marry.
But this isn’t a positive thinking article either, I’m not advocating an ‘always look on the bright side of life’ philosophy satirised by the Life of Brian. As if all the effects of the virus could be negated by finding a silver lining.
This is an article reflecting on how times of crisis reveal what really matters to us and where we find our security. Before the virus, our wedmin spreadsheet spanned a glorious 103 rows (yes, I like admin). Each row used to be important. Now we are stripped back to the barest of essentials; my brothers and best man haven’t made the guestlist. Our wedding will most likely be with a vicar, two witnesses and a livestream.
It leads to the obvious question: why not wait? Well let me put the question another way, should we lose a year of marriage in order to wait for a picture-perfect wedding? Should we let how a wedding ‘should be’ rob our friends and family of a reason to celebrate in this dark time?
The answer to those questions were obvious to both of us. The virus has made us wake up to the unquestioned value we put on possessions and unspoken pressure to have a ‘dream’ wedding. We overvalued the extravagant excesses of the ever-expanding wedding industry.
For us, a year of marriage is much more than a year of living together. It’s not just because of what I’ve previously shared. We see marriage as a binding lifelong commitment and our wedding day is the beginning of that. Why would we put that on hold? The vows we make before the living God, ‘in sickness and in health’, are powerful. The value we put in them far outweighs having a palatial wedding and is not equivalent to sharing the rent.
Yes, we’ll have to save the hugs and my two left feet for a later date. But right now we have an opportunity to have a wedding that isn’t dictated to by the consumerist trappings of every wedding ‘essential’ blog.
Whether we get married in a palace or just in the presence of parents, the vows and commitment are the same. But our security isn’t just in the vows we make to each other. Our security is rooted in another lifelong vow that cannot be cancelled, sold out or locked down: God’s unconditional love. When the creator of everything says, ‘I love you no matter what you’ve done, no matter what happens’, it brings a peace and joy no pandemic or suffering can touch. A peace that endures and outlasts the trials and tests of this life. A peace that the shop shelves reveal is more absent in our nation than 3-ply toilet roll.
Yes, we’d prefer a palace to a living room reception. Yes, we’d prefer a more capacious guestlist. But right now we feel deeply fortunate to have a God-given freedom from the pressures and anxiety that has gripped our nation.