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When it comes to weddings we should follow Keira Knightley’s example

Sincerity not size is what’s important when it comes to marriage ceremonies

By on Thursday, 6 June 2013

Keira Knightley was married last month (Photo: PA)

Keira Knightley was married last month (Photo: PA)

Did you hear that Keira Knightley was going to get married? No, neither had I until it had already happened. But early last month, she married her partner James Righton in the south of France with the former Miss Knightley wearing a simple white dress that she had to hand. The couple left the ceremony in a Renault Clio.

Notwithstanding that over 120 bottles of wine were ordered for the reception, the family law judge Sir Paul Coleridge praised the Rightons for their decision to have a low budget, low key wedding, stating that he hoped others would follow their example.

Sir Paul added that the cost of weddings in Britain had got “out of hand”. Apparently the average British wedding costs £20,000 these days: more than a new family car, and comparable to the average salary. Also if that is the ‘average’ figure, then many people must be spending more than that.

While it goes without saying that marriage is in a crisis, as more couples cohabit while those who do get married increasingly divorce, and as politicians go about redefining the very concept under our noses, one small thing we can all do to is to encourage more men and women getting married to embrace smaller weddings: where the emphasis is on the commitment made and not on how nice the day is, the best man’s speech, the bouquet, the photographer, or even on how beautiful the bride looks.

For Catholics, that means bringing back a sense of the sacrament of marriage into our weddings, rather than obsessing over having a ‘perfect day’. It also means encouraging our friends and relatives to get married, and not worry so much about whether they can afford a Kate-Middleton-style wedding. Sorry ladies, only one woman every generation gets that.

Years ago at a friend’s ordination, when the Eucharistic Prayer began, I had to remind myself that although I had just seen a man “become” a priest, the real miracle was still about to begin, that of Our Lord becoming present. This is something I try to remember even now when I’m at a Mass that feels ‘stuck on’ to an event; for Catholics everything takes second place to the Mass.

It would also help if rather than seeing marriage as something “extraordinary” or “amazing”, although it is, we could see it first of all as the end for which romantic relationships are intended, and something which all people not called to a celibate vocation can and should aim to achieve – as Saint Josemaría Escrivá wrote in The Way, “a life is such a little thing to give to God”.

In an age of falling marriage rates, falling birth rates and increasing taxes as western governments try to pay off massive national debts and care for an ageing population (a tragic consequence of which is an increase in youth unemployment) more young people simply have to get married in order to counteract this imbalance and they have to have more children, not fewer, even though we’re all feeling the pinch.

Although marriage is coming under attack from many quarters, one small way to work towards this is for more people to have smaller, less expensive and more sincere weddings.

  • haleybop

    Good, Oxfam Vintage have been trending for some time with a range of fine wedding dresses on offer.

  • Frank

    It’s just my opinion of course but I would have been happy enough with beer and sandwiches in the church hall and flowers from the garden (or allotment).

  • Julian Lord

    Sir Paul added that the cost of weddings in Britain had got “out of hand”. Apparently the average British wedding costs £20,000 these days: more than a new family car, and comparable to the average salary

    That’s about what I have to live on for six years.

  • AlanP

    There is no doubt that a major reason for the massive fall in marriages over the last 30-odd years is that people feel obliged to spend many thousands of pounds, in order not to be outdone by their friends. I think the Charles-Diana wedding gave a huge push to that trend. It is so much cheaper to live together unmarried. It requires many more young people to be firm and to stand out against this ridiculous trend. Even the so-called “stag do” (awful expression), which used to be an evening in the local pub, now involves flying abroad for a weekend – ludicrous!

  • $24570317

    The average cost is driven up by the ostentatious British (mainly English) middle class.
    The royals usually set appalling examples about marriage, and other things.

  • ostrava

    A marriage costs whatever the Registrar and the Church charge – the rest is what a couple choose to spend, and it’s their choice.

  • ostrava

    I don’t believe many people set out to imitate the Royals, who marry in the style and manner their public expect. People keep up with their friends, their siblings, and the Joneses; not with the House of Windsor.

  • ostrava

    Now that I read this again: the increase in youth unemployment is caused – in part – by people living longer healthier lives and wanting and being able to work longer, and I cannot call that tragic. If the birth rates were not falling there would be even more youth unemployment.

  • samhille

    Will never forget our sacramental marriage. We were blessed to have a very reverent mass, celebrated by an elderly German priest. Parents, siblings & some nieces were with us. We have been blessed with a good marriage for decades, children too. Simple is best. Many of our peers who had Taj Mahal weddings didn’t make it a half decade. There’s an old saying, do you want a ‘Catholic Wedding’ or a ‘Catholic Marriage’. The sacrament is best.

  • $24570317

    I broadly agree. But, even so, thanks to the royal baby media tosh there is going to soon be a short-lived spike in births.

  • Frank Pells

    Not so because when a population is growing, investors invest in those countries (i.e. Brazil, India) and having an intact family (and extended family) structure in a society allows for governments to spend less on a welfare state, which means they don’t need to tax so much, which means companies have more money to expand their businesses and employ more people. And as someone under 30 who has suffered unemployment in the UK and seen it on a massive scale in Spain, I can tell you that youth unemployment, for whatever reason it occurs, is tragic.

  • ostrava

    There may be, but that will be caused by an activity which is as old as our species!

  • andy

    when people worked in factories, manufacturing, mining, shipping etc, there was work & money. today, nearly every enterprise has gone automatic, requiring a handful of employees rather than the thousands thus pushing profits through the roof. When governments realised this, they increased taxes so the companies went off shore & left office staff only. In most countries that pay unemployed a benefit, you get more as an individual than as a married couple. Divorce began years ago when seniors could no longer afford to live on 1 income, divorce gave them 2 incomes. My children have passed 21 years old. I feel for anyone trying to earn a living to raise children when there is barely enough for the adults. Government taxes & business greed have ‘killed off’ what once was a ‘bright future’. Now we have the homosexual community saying/demanding “they can do it better”. How?

  • Simon James Perry

    Or put another way, it’s a third of a retired Cardinal’s annual income, or at least 350 times less than the cost of Pope Benedict’s 4 day visit to Britain.

  • Simon James Perry

    Well, I don’t think we should be so hard on people spending 20,000 pounds on their wedding. I think many just want to have a splendid Wedding, and even for todays folk a wedding is the one of the most solemn moments in their lives.
    Whilst some will be happy with with a few pints of lager and a beige buffet in the local pub and a Mass cheapened with the standard 1970′s tawdry hymns accompanied badly by some old dear on the organ for 30quid many would like a bit more. Many couples save for years for a wedding. And after all 20,000 on a wedding is better than money spent on all the other crap most people waste their money on.