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My big fat registry office wedding

Posted by Simon Parke, 16 February 2018, 11.05am

It’s her wedding… and understandably, she’s nervous.

Only this isn’t the bride – it’s Susie, who’s taking the service.

She’s talking too much and scribbling details on post-it notes, which she sticks in her service order, while the registrar, Mary, a calmer soul, fills in our forms.

‘There seem to be a lot of people out there!’ exclaims Susie.

We’re in the registry office, Shellie and I, it’s our wedding day, our guests are gathering in the hall – and Susie is nervous.

Outside, it’s the worst weather in the history of the universe; the sort that brings out the inner Noah in everyone.

‘We should probably build a boat…and gather some animals.’

Yesterday was bright and sunny, and golden sun is forecast for tomorrow – but today the rain lashes at the windows, driven by 60 mph gusts of wind…while buckled brollies drip crippled in the registry office stands.

Someone says ‘It’s the weather in your heart that matters.’

Yep, tell that to the photographer…but when Shellie walks in to Adele singing ‘When the rain is blowing in your face…’... everyone laughs.

Though Susie is not laughing, too tense to laugh and she messes up her opening paragraph. She’s doing her best to smile a lot, but struggles to do that and read her lines.

‘I’m sorry – I’ll go back and start again,’ she says.

And her second attempt is better, slightly, though she’s soon having problems with the word ‘solemnly’ in the vows.

There are several attempts made – ‘solemny…solly…etc’... as we drift, like a car across ice, into Rowan Atkinson/Four weddings territory.

She finally gets it out – solemnly! - but her nerves are now transferred to Shellie who has similarly problems with the word.

Why can’t we just ‘declare’? Why do we have to ‘solemnly declare’? Is anything gained by this?

I’m also noticing Susie’s physical performance. She has lined us up in a way that blocks her from the guests…which is a problem.

She tries to rectify this, on and off, by suddenly moving to her left, to get a quick sighting; or bending like a tree in the wind, her feet staying still, but her upper body and head leaning past me.

‘How can someone who does this job not have thought this through and found a better place to stand?’ is a question playing on my mind, as I stand up front on my wedding day, in my smart charcoal-grey suit.

The verbal wheels come off again in the marriage vows, with Susie cocking up the words around the giving of the ring. She’s desperately consulting her post-it notes… though maybe the wrong ones.

Her desperate smile remains while we await the right words.

But all is forgotten as we sit down to sign the register. Yes, we have made it to the signing! Praise be! What can possibly go wrong now?

Though I sense a further cloud on the already cloudy horizon.

I watch as Mary, the registrar, moves over towards my brother Andy, who is my marvellous best man, (and also controlling the music from his phone. Genius.)

‘Is this music from Mozart’s requiem?’ she asks.

‘It’s Berlioz,’ he says. ‘The shepherd’s farewell.’

I have chosen this because when I heard it as an 11-year-old, it was the first clue that there just might be love and kindness in the world.

But I knew the risk.

In our preparation meeting, the slightly Hitler-esque man handling our application had told us that we weren’t allowed any mention of ‘God or angels or anything spiritual’ in the music or reading.

And I must confess my first thought was, ‘Oh no – not another Kahil Gibran reading! Kill me now.’

‘We need to pass your choices,’ he said.

But for reasons outlined, I wanted the Berlioz and I really don’t warm to being told what to do - and so we sneaked it in on Andy’s miraculous phone. But Mary, the registrar, has noticed something amiss.

‘Is this music from Mozart’s requiem?’ she asks.

‘It’s Berlioz,’ he says. ‘The shepherd’s farewell.’

‘You do know that, technically, this music is not allowed.’

I’m now wondering if she’s going to rip up the freshly signed marriage certificate…which would make for an unusual wedding photo.

‘Well, no one’s going to hear the words,’ says Andy casually, like some trained UN negotiator… and Mary, after a moment’s pause, decides to take it no further.

And so remarkably, despite my lack of qualifications, we are married.

And as I look back on the day, none of the above matters, but the bit about love and kindness, for it held us throughout, spilling all over the place in a hundred different ways.

And Susie and Mary were part of that, kind spirits both of them.

Susie did later apologise to Lisa, Shellie’s best woman.

Lisa, slightly concerned for her, asked her if she was all right.

‘I’m fine, but I do apologise - I was just a bit nervous. This is only my fourth wedding.’

(One can only speculate what happened at the other three.)

But as I say, love and kindness trump words, every time and everywhere, and when I think of the day, that’s all I know.

Amid tempestuous storm, cracked words and soaked clothes, the power of the heart – the power of many hearts – utterly and beautifully prevailed.


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