I go to a lot of weddings, and therefore they are a subject on which I feel I can speak with a certain amount of authority.
I’m twenty-eight and recently graduated, which both put me squarely in the demographic which is most likely to be getting married and having babies and therefore most likely to also have friends who are doing those things. As a server at the altar of the Lord, I spend a not insignificant number of Saturday afternoons hustling around a cathedral looking for stray stoles and unpaired black shoes and then watching two people whom I’ve usually never met before make vows to one another. And as an ex-chorister in the Church of England and as the stepdaughter of an ex-churchwarden in the Church of England, I’ve spent a lot of Saturday afternoons in various churches around the land riffling through hymn books and handing out service sheets and choreographing bridesmaids.
So, you see, this is a thing that I know about.
The things that I have seen at weddings include (but are not limited to):
- In almost all cases, guests who avoid going into the church until the last possible moment, as though by actually approaching the door they risk being forced back by a blast of garlic fumes.
- A registrar who took so long with the signing of the register that the pre-prepared playlist of over twenty minutes ran out and we turned, for Plan B, to Whatever Beth Has On Her iPod.
- Terrible bridesmaid dresses.
- One photographer who brought a video camera with him so large that I presumed he had liberated it from the BBC while on his way to the church and then proceeded to park it directly in the path that the happy couple would need to take.
- Men who have clearly never worn kilts before.
- A priest and a server sitting in a car in the main street of a one-horse town in South Lanarkshire failing despite two mobile phones and a sat nav to work out where the wedding they were supposed to be going was to be held.
- A father of the bride who quoted Josiah Bartlet in the opening of his speech.
- A page boy and a bridesmaid who came down the aisle in a motorised car.
- A groom who wanted an Entrance Of The Groom and duly had it, to The Dambusters theme tune.
- That everyone in England always chooses All Things Bright And Beautiful because they think that everyone will know it.
- That nobody sings anyway.
- That some people are a bit daring and choose Lord Of The Dance instead, having apparently not paid any attention to the words when they were doing their choosing.
- A priest who got the middle names of the couple mixed up.
- A priest who carefully balanced his stone on the cairn that the couple was building, and, like Jenga, made it collapse.
- A registrar whose pen ran out.
- The odd bridesmaid who was apparently never told that being a bridesmaid would involve doing things.
- A guest who appeared at a really quite posh venue wrapped head-to-toe in a tartan rug which she had walked through the town market dressed in due to a far away car park and general lack of umbrella. (Me.)
- Happy tears.
The social change in the last ten years that has more than any other made the difference to support for same-sex marriage has been civil partnerships. An odd thing to say about a law that at the time I thought still perpetuated a second-class of citizenship for the LGBT community. There’s an extent to which I still believe that’s true — if I didn’t, I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of equal marriage. My fear then was that this would mean that equal marriage might never happen, because legislators would think it unnecessary. And there are some legislators who do say that. But it is to the surprise and delight of eighteen-year-old me, civil partnerships have turned out to be overwhelmingly a force for good, because they sweep away the old prejudices about gay relationships. Because where before the only thing the general population had to think about same-sex relationships was about gay sex, now when people think about same-sex relationships they think about two men or two women pledging vows to one another in front of their friends and their family.
They think about weddings.
And it is that that has changed the world.
You will see in that list of things that I’ve told you about weddings, I haven’t told you which ones were the weddings of opposite-sex couples and which ones were the civil partnerships or blessings of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. I bet if you read back through it, you won’t be able to tell. I bet if you try to guess, you’ll get some of them wrong. The ceremonies that are put together by the opposite-sex couples who I’ve seen make promises to each other are not substantively different to the ceremonies put together by the same-sex couples who I’ve seen make those promises. And the love that I see shared by the same-sex couples who come together to vow their lives to one another is certainly no different to the love I see shared by the opposite-sex couples who make that vow.
It is my hope that on Tuesday we will see that no difference enshrined in the law of Scotland.