One of the things I miss in our current parish situation is taking weddings. It’s rare in our neck of the woods these days, but when I was previously in a country parish with a pretty church, I used to have a clutch of them each year.
Some of them stand out, and none more so than the marriage of two television producers. The groom was also profoundly deaf, as were some of his friends, so we had someone to sign the service.
I turned up in plenty of time on their big day. I had prepared everything carefully as usual, and was aware that the ceremony was going to be filmed and recorded, so it all needed to go right.
Before the service began I was fitted with a microphone for the recording, then I went outside into the porch and joked with the best man and bridesmaids as normal. A sound man came belting down from the gallery. ‘You might want to know’, he said, ‘that everything you say is being picked up by the microphone’ … ahem.
Then the bride arrived, a lovely girl looking stunning in a very expensive silk dress. She stopped in the porch to get herself and her bridesmaids organised for the big entrance, and just as I was about to go into the church and ask everyone to stand, she squawked. Her blue garter had fallen down and was round her ankle …
The sidesman was waiting to throw open the door. I told him to turn his back while said article was adjusted.
Finally we were under way. All went well until we got to the vows, when she completely broke down and cried and cried. I halted proceedings, put a hand on her shoulder and waited until she’d calmed down a bit… it’s not unusual for either bride or groom to get choked up but she really did go to pieces, bless her!
Then there was my talk. I never give long talks especially at things like weddings, and this one included a couple of my usual jokes … which needed extra time for the signer. This resulted in most of the congregation chortling a few seconds ahead of those who were hard of hearing…
So far, so good, I thought … now for the signing of the registers. I glanced up into the sanctuary and froze. For some reason, I had completely forgotten to put the registers out, and they were still in the safe in the vestry at the back of the church.
Such occasions have to be carried off with aplomb. During the hymn I walked calmly down the aisle into the vestry – but my sidesman immediately knew something was up, and rushed in after me. ‘What’s the matter?’ he said. Conscious of my microphone, I couldn’t tell him – but made throat-cutting gestures and started throwing everything out of my handbag to find the safe key.
They were all written up, thank goodness – otherwise the fat would really have been in the fire, and the wedding would not have been legal. Bearing the registers as if they were the crown jewels, I paraded up the aisle as if this was absolutely normal.
It was only afterwards, as we church folk cleared up when everyone had gone, was I able to sit down and fall about laughing.