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Hallo again to all.

Not long ago we attended a secular wedding ceremony held on top of a gentle hill, just outside the hilltop barn in an apple orchard. Had it started to rain, the barn was big enough to hold everyone, but it didn't start to rain until it was time to go indoors anyhow. It was a lovely event; everyone involved was delightful and the heartfelt joy was pervasive.

Regulations for weddings vary from country to country. In some countries one may hold non-church weddings only at approved premises. In other countries there is no regulation, so we have on occasion read about marriages performed in hot-air balloons or underwater in diving gear or in pastry shops.

The officiant at this wedding was a woman who had bought through the mail a license entitling her to perform weddings in that province. We discovered that the people sitting next to us at the wedding supper were her parents, and at one point she came over to our table to visit. She was a delightful and conversational person. We asked her about her affiliation, and she couldn't recall the name of the church that had sold her the ordination. We suspect it might have been something along the lines of this USA-based by-mail ordination agency. She said she'd gotten herself licensed to perform weddings entirely for the purpose of this wedding of two of her dear friends, and that she had no plans to officiate at any more weddings in the future. She said that the government gave her 5 days after the wedding to get the signed paperwork to the appropriate registry in the county office.

The wedding vows were crafted by weaving together lyrics from various popular songs. If we recall correctly, the recessional music was from Bob Dylan's 'Shelter from the Storm'.

We had read about and heard about secular weddings, but had never before attended one. Our friends of a marrying age have preferred high-church settings with organ and choir and priest and Eucharist. Our own wedding ceremony was taken verbatim from the then-current Book of Common Prayer. This wedding and its ceremony were absolutely outside our experience, so we spent quite some time reflecting upon what we had just seen and heard.

On the long trip home after the wedding (apple orchards are rare in urbia) we thought a great deal about whether and how God might have been involved in that wedding without having been invited. It seemed unfathomable to attend a wedding and not hear the bride and groom say:

I take you to be my wife/husband,
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part;
according to God's holy law.
In the presence of God I make this vow.

There was no mention of having or holding or richer or poorer or sickness or health anywhere in the ceremony. For that matter, there was no mention of God anywhere in the ceremony (but somehow we expected that). There was no Lord's Prayer or any other prayer. At the end, they were certainly married and everyone there felt the joy of it. We remain convinced that God was right there among us, even without having been acknowledged, and that the vows that the bride and groom did make, manifested as pop-song lyrics, were absolutely made in the presence of a living God and were every bit as sincere as those from the Book of Common Prayer. Not in a theist or pantheist way, but the God we Anglicans understand.

See you next week. For better or for worse, in sickness or in health.

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15 June 2014

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