Yesterday my wife and I went out for a very nice meal at the Falcon in Painswick. Everything was just about perfect: the ambience was just the right balance of posh, but not too posh; the staff were friendly, efficient and pleasant without being obsequious; and the food was superb – again on the posh side in terms of presentation, but very tasty and not too stingy.
I was very pleased that everything went so well, because this wasn’t just any old meal, this was a special meal: this was celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.
Ten years! Where does the time go?
Our wedding certainly doesn’t feel like it was that far back in the mists of time.
Our wedding was not a traditional affair with big meringue dresses and mourning suits: far from it. You see, my wife and I had, some years previously, mutually decided that we were absolutely, positively not getting married.
We had both been married previously and didn’t really see the point. We got into a relationship, fell in love and agreed that we would spend the rest of our lives together. Everything was going along nicely and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. After 5 years we even had a ‘not getting married’ ceremony where we went away for a romantic weekend and I gave my not-wife a diamond eternity ring.
What is the point of getting married we thought: neither of us were religious, so felt no need to be married in a church that we disagreed with in front of a God that we don’t really believe in; and as for civil ceremonies, that is just about legalising the union and, as far as we were concerned, the law could keep its nose out of our personal feelings for each other.
When pressed to explain this to people I was generally met with one of two reactions:
a. (mostly men) fair play to you, wish I could have gotten away with that, or
b. (mostly women) but that is not the only reason to get married: what about love?
And it was this second reaction that I really had a problem with. It was impossible to convince these people that if you really love someone all the other stuff is unnecessary.
So what changed? How come we are now married? Well, our views didn’t change, but a family bereavement made it clear that being married in such circumstances significantly eases the legal processes. There are ways around it, but it requires the service of solicitors and much legal paperwork, and after all that we still weren’t convinced that we would cover all the bases. It just seemed easier to get married – in the end, the law won.
We agreed that this was just a legal formality and were determined that nothing would change as a consequence. The event would be low key, my wife would not take my name (although she has since) and things would continue as before. Maybe it was just a superstitious concern borne of the fact that our last marriages hadn’t worked out so well.
And so to our unconventional wedding.
We’d had the conversation over Christmas and immediately after the festive season I rang the registry office to ask when the first available date was. January is obviously not a popular time for weddings, so I was able to set the date for 11 January 2003.
Before being married you are called in to talk to the registrar. This was a short meeting. I seem to recall that there were questions to check that we were serious about the commitment and then a discussion of arrangements:
“How many people will be attending”
“Including us? Six”
“Will you be exchanging rings?”
“Will you be wanting music?”
“This is going to be a very short service…”
In the end we relented a little – we re-used my wife’s not-getting-married ring as a wedding ring and, just before the wedding I rang the registry office to ask about music:
“We decided against having music at the ceremony, but might change or minds – can we have anything we like?”
“No, we aren’t allowed to use anything religious”
“Oh, religious will not be a problem…”
So I arranged that we would bring some music to play whilst we signed the register.
On the day only four of the six wedding guests knew what was going on. We had enlisted our best friends as witnesses, but we had only told my parents that we were taking them out for a meal.
We picked them up and, once in the car, said: “we just have to take a detour into town before we go to eat, is that OK?”
“Yes, of course, where are we going?”
“To the registry office. We’re getting married.”
Laughter followed by stunned silence as they realise we’re not kidding. They were delighted but complained that they hadn’t had a chance to make any preparations. Exactly the point, we said.
And so we got married. We wore our best jeans and, at the insistence of her “bridesmaid”, my wife had bought a new top.
And the music that played as we signed the register? The Clash, I fought the Law and the Law Won….