Last Friday morning I set my alarm clock for 4:30 am, got up, made coffee and sat glued to a television screen watching the pomp and pageantry from Westminster Abbey as Prince William married Kate Middleton. From the spring boughs decorating the Abbey, to the colourful outfits and ‘fascinators’ or other headgear worn by female guests, to the breathtaking beauty of the bride and the resplendent military garb of the groom and his best man — all scenes took the viewer into the fantasy land of royalty and the surreal lives of kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, earls and ladies who trace their ancestry to various conquerors or other nobility. Commentators repeatedly proclaimed the romantic love existing in this now-famous couple. Various screen shots showed two happy-looking young people especially when they drove from Buckingham Palace in an antique Aston Martin convertible complete with “JUST WED” on the license plate. Truly, this was British royalty at its best. It was enchanting to watch this beautiful ceremony — a fairy tale wedding.
The meaning of this ‘royal’ wedding
But what is the meaning of this ‘royal’ wedding? There is no doubt that Prince William as the future King of England faced much pressure to secure a wife thus ensuring a legal union for procreation of children to succeed him. As pragmatic and unromantic as this may seem, marriage to a good woman of the right age and in good health remains an unwritten expectation for male members of the royal family. Many such marriages are arranged without any requirement for romantic love. In fact, usually some link to gentry is part of the job description for a partner in a royal marriage; as a ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton has become one of few exceptions.
In his address to the wedding guests, the Archbishop characterized the wedding as signaling a ‘day of hope’ and commitment leading to a life ‘full of promise’. I’m sure that people around the world would share these wishes for this couple especially as their lives become more complicated.
Every photo of the royal couple during their courtship, at the engagement announcement and at the wedding shows a young couple in love with each other — laughing together, sharing moments of tenderness, and looking like best friends. There is an aura of hope and romance about them. My wish is that it will always be so — for them and for their countless well-wishers.
Is not every wedding a ‘royal’ wedding?
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her memoir Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage provides both a historical and contemporary examination of the institution of marriage. She acknowledges both the romantic and the pragmatic aspects of marriage — traditional North American marriages, same-sex marriages, arranged marriages, second marriages — the whole range of marital unions. Gilbert thoroughly investigates various aspects of marriage but leaves the reader to make their own assessment of the intimacy that comes with long-term committed relationships.
I did not have a fancy wedding but, for me, it was a ‘royal’ wedding. It happened on Labour Day weekend with an evening ceremony in a small town Saskatchewan church followed by a supper for about 100 guests with the usual speeches and toasts and dancing to end the evening. I wore a long white gown and my husband wore a hand tailored suit. Our honeymoon trip included a stay in Jasper and a few days on the West Coast.
Our wedding was over 40 years ago and much has changed in those years. I cherish the joy and sublime happiness that I felt on that day. Yes, there were butterflies and the anxieties but those are long-forgotten. I realize that — for many people, the romance and joy of their own ‘royal’ wedding ended in divorce, or death, or a marriage based on settling for less than anticipated. I know that I was blessed with a marriage that grew and evolved and changed as each of us grew and evolved and changed.
As I watched Kate and William’s wedding and remembered my wedding day, I also remembered the many weddings of friends, relatives, co-workers that we have attended. Each of these weddings was a celebration of a relationship. Weddings signal the undertaking of a different social and legal status. Self transforms to ‘other’; what is real and important in life changes. The happy emotions experienced at weddings have a contagious hopefulness — for the couple and for all who are there to wish them well.
Everyone loves a happy ending
We don’t know the outcome of the fairy tale wedding of William and Kate. As with other couples saying “I do” and promising to love each other unconditionally and throughout their life times, we hope, as I’m sure they do, that their promises, hopes and aspirations come true. As readers are aware, life can deal difficult times. Marriage partners help ease the tough times and share the joy of the good times — such is the pattern for long-lasting unions.
We try to shape our own lives using clues from the lives of others — seeking out happy endings and hoping for our own happy ending. For me, I wish just that for Kate and William — a happy ending — with the same hope and romance that was theirs on the wedding day.
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