This morning one of my grandnieces, Ursula, married Gilbert in what was billed as a “Winter Wedding”. The wedding took place three thousand miles away. I was at the ceremony, not physically, but electronically. The church where the wedding took place has a webcam, so I attended the ceremony on my computer, full screen.
My own cousin was the officiating clergyman, and as he welcomed the participants and guests at the beginning of the ceremony, he also greeted me, because he knew I was watching. It was gratifying to hear that greeting, and I hoped it would make the bride and groom feel as if I was actually present for their big occasion.
I was impressed by the ceremony and the way the various participants played their part with quiet confidence and relaxed formality. Mentally I was comparing it with weddings at which I have officiated in my different missions.
When I was in Santiago, Chile, I had one central mission and four satellite missions. There were weddings at the central mission every week, on Saturday afternoon. The satellite missions had weddings once a month. The number of weddings at the central mission was always greater, because it covered a bigger area.
I remember having to officiate at 8 weddings one Saturday before Christmas. That was the most I had on any one day. I mentioned it in a letter to a colleague who was on mission in Japan. He said he smiled when he read it, because that would equal his total for the entire year.
It was a challenge to officiate at several weddings in quick succession. The groom and the guests were usually there on time, but it was understood that the bride would arrive late. In fact I have known of weddings where the bridal party kept driving around killing time, in order to arrive late.
I learned to use that waiting time for a purpose. The guests always came with little bags of rice to shower on the couple as they exited the church door after the wedding. It was a nuisance, because in addition to being a waste of good food, it messed up the entrance for the next wedding party.
So I used to coax the guests to bring their little bags of rice to the altar, where we could have it blessed while they were waiting for the bride to arrive. When I got all the bags of rice on the altar, I would tell them how this rice was their way of wishing the bride and groom abundance and prosperity. Then I would tell them that many poor people came to my door during the week asking for food. So I asked the guests to leave the rice with me for the poor, rather than scatter it on the ground at the door of the church. It always worked.
As I attended the Winter Wedding at my computer this morning, I secretly applauded all the hopeful young couples who give themselves to each other in marriage. Last April the Bishop of London spoke movingly at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey. He reminded them that by saying “I will” in marriage, each one promises to help the other become the best that they can be.
He said that marriage is intended to be the way a man and a woman help each other become what God meant each to be. The Bishop quoted Saint Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire”. That is a worthy project for the bride and groom at any wedding, even a Winter Wedding.