Photography by Constantinos Tsiliacos
I love weddings, but I’ve never been one to break out the tissues and weep during the vows. Sure, my lower lip may have trembled slightly when my cousin walked down the aisle wearing the same look of grace and elegance that our grandmother showed in her wedding portraits 60 years earlier, but in general I’m far more likely to grin till my cheeks hurt than burst into tears. So imagine my surprise when that’s exactly what happens at the wedding of someone I’ve only met a few times – a colleague of my fiancé.
It’s a glorious summer Saturday, and fiancé and I are seated near the front of London’s Temple Church, taking in the medieval loveliness of the sanctuary. Cream roses and periwinkle hydrangeas decorate the altar and morning-suited ushers escort the last of the aunties and grannies to their places of honour. It’s a beautiful scene, and as the bride makes her grand entrance to the strains of Wagner’s Bridal March, we all rise and exchange approving winks and glances. Cue my usual grin.
But as the ceremony gets underway, I’m struck by the poignance of every gesture – from the couple’s choice to unlock arms and clasp hands instead to the groom’s eager “I will!” while the vicar is still reading the declarations – and my simple happiness deepens into something stronger. By the time the vows are exchanged and the two are faithfully pledging to love and to cherish each other “in sickness and in health”, I have real tears in my eyes – a wedding first for me.
So why now, I wonder, after all the wedding ceremonies I’ve been to in the past? Why not during any of my four runs as bridesmaid, or when two of my oldest school friends said ‘I do’ to each other, or even when I stood alongside my dad and stepmum at their wonderful wedding? Why here, at the marriage of two casual acquaintances? And that’s when I realise: it’s because I’m different now.
When you’re single and searching, a certain wistfulness hangs over other people’s weddings – wonderment that these loved ones of yours have found such complete and total happiness, and hope that you’ll someday find the same (at least until the first few glasses of chardonnay kick in). But when you’re suddenly ready to make that kind of commitment yourself, the energy changes. ‘Till death do us part’ is no longer just a pretty piece of poetry – it’s a serious promise for the future. Sitting there at Temple Church, those words become real to me, conjuring up visions of our married life, from the aisle to the end. And that’s what brings on the tears.
The weepy spell passes, fortunately, as we exit the church and wave the beaming couple off in a fancy white Rolls. At the reception, we sip white wine and applaud the newlyweds’ first dance, then take to the floor and test out our own moves – practice for our big debut in a few months. Drunk on the joy of the day, I’ve got my wedding grin back and I notice my fiancé’s wearing one too. It’s a serious business loving someone this much and preparing to announce it to the world – but for now, at least, it’s time to celebrate.