When we say that our Meeting was unprogrammed then that’s almost true. It’s certainly true in that we didn’t have a service sheet. But we had chosen a couple of readings that we wanted for the occasion, to be read our respective parents.
J’s dad read another passage from QF&P – number 22:35. It’s a good old one, from 1693, and we did edit it slightly in order to take out the bit about setting an example to your servants (ha!). That particular bit was contextual to the time that it was written, but I think that we felt that the rest of the reading was incredibly universal in its message: that love is the most important thing that you can have in a marriage, and that real love focuses on the right things. Paragraph five is essentially the Quaker version of “for richer, for poorer etc.”. I still cannot get my head wrapped round about paragraph four, but it sounds clever and very Quakerly…
A&Q number 23 is about marriage. It reads:
Marriage has always been regarded by Friends as a religious commitment rather than a merely civil contract. Both partners should offer with God’s help an intention to cherish one another for life. Remember that happiness depends on an understanding and steadfast love on both sides. In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.
Later in the ceremony, nearly at its close, my mother read my absolute favourite poem of all time – A.A. Milne’s “Us Two”. This is one of those soppy things – this poem means a huge amount to me for family reasons and I’d always known that I’d want it read at my wedding if ever I were to get married. And I had it! My mother did a fantastic job of reading it, and it couldn’t have been anyone else to do so.
Out of some of the Quaker weddings that I’ve been to, our Meeting for Worship was probably one of the more solemn occasions. But it was very wonderful, and very moving, and there were some people who stood up and said some fantastic things – including one or two non-Quakers which is particularly special given that I can only imagine how intimidating that must have felt. The only moment when I nearly cried was part way through the Apachi blessing that J’s littlest brother read out. I am surprised that I didn’t when an old family friend read out Don Paterson’s ‘Two Trees’ – you can find the poem by scrolling down here.
Poetry isn’t strictly unprepared ministry. Whatever.