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.