Like a scene from Thomas Hardy, green hills and fields all around, sitting on straw bales, we wait for the bride to arrive. The guest sitting next to me reveals that he has seventeen umbrellas in the boot of his car. Most of us have wellies as alternative footwear, but the sun is shining and the sky is reliably blue. The Beatles’ All you need is love plays and we turn to see a little group in fuchsia pink, violet and shimmery turquoise, flowers in their hair and in their hands, tripping through the newly mown grass – the bride, bridesmaids and three little flower girls, with the farmer (the bride’s father) in shorts, followed by an excited collie.
The ceremony is simple and moving. We all sing Annie’s Song, bringing tears to my eyes, and the bride’s six year old daughter reads her own poem, another emotional moment.
The bride gives a dramatic Address to the Cake, the little girls sing and dance. Later, the groom’s band play and we all dance till late. We need rituals to mark important times in our lives and this one was perfectly staged to suit this family. (I couldn’t help contrasting it with the BBC series Don’t Tell the Bride, where the groom plans what he thinks will be the bride’s dream day, often looking more like a nightmare!) As we leave the lights behind to search for our car in the dense blackness of the country night, I feel a new optimism for the future and a belief (or at least a suspension of disbelief) in love and marriage.