Stop press! We have indeed changed our mind. But, as Corporal Jones used to say, ‘don’t panic, Mr Mainwairing’ because our change of mind is about the church, not the wedding.
If you have absolutely no idea who on earth Mr Mainwairing is and are mystified by this YouTube clip that’s because you fall within a certain age bracket. Google ‘Dad’s Army’ or ask your parents to enlighten you.
From the outset, we knew that we wanted to marry in a church. For those of you who’ve known me since my adolescence, you’ll no doubt trace that longing back to my teenage involvement with the Christian Union and my local Baptist church. During my twenties and thirties I steered clear of the Christian label, preferring to describe myself with the more malleable term ‘spiritual’. But those formative years have left an indelible mark upon me and the Christian church increasingly seems to be the most appropriate place to anchor my vague sense of spirituality and to give it some definition and backbone.
That said, in all honesty, had we not decided to get married, then I don’t suppose we would have ever got round to going to church regularly. We treasure our long lie-ins on a Sunday morning. But because we are marrying in a church that lies outside of both of our local parishes, there is a legal requirement for us to establish a connection with the parish in which we wish to be married and this can only be achieved by our attending the parish church regularly. Far from being a chore, however, we are rather enjoying being there. We’ve received such a warm welcome and everyone with whom we have spoken has been so enthusiastic about us having chosen their church in which to marry. And, without wishing to get too heavy in what is, after all, meant to be a fairly lighthearted blog, we do feel the benefit of having a little space carved out of our frantic daily lives so that we can pause and reflect on the possibilities presented by a set of priorities that is different from those which tend to dominate in the world around us. We also like the fact that once a month the communion service is suspended in favour of an informal coffee and croissant morning session. So on those Sundays instead of bread and wine and a blessing at the altar rail, there is an opportunity for a different sort of communion over the breaking of pastries and sipping of coffee – a communion with the other parishioners which can, of course, be a blessing in itself as people listen to one another, celebrating in their joys, sharing in their sorrows and just getting to know one another so that mere acquaintance can perhaps blossom into real friendship.
But,I hear you say, what church? Where exactly is this place that provides such succour for the soul and satiation for the stomach? Well, therein lies the said change of plan. The starting point,-geographically, for finding a church was our wedding breakfast venue, namely Compton Verney in Warwickshire. Compton Verney is a beautiful Georgian house that was rescued from dereliction in 1993 and converted into a very popular art gallery which opened in 2004. So once we had secured our booking there, we needed to find a church within easy reach. We did toy with the idea of getting married at either St Alphage in Solihull, which is near to John’s family home and where we have enjoyed several Christmas services, or St John’s in Knowle, where two of our godchildren were christened and our very dear friend married. Both of these would, however, have necessitated a 40 minute drive to Compton Verney so we rejected them on the grounds that it was just too far to ask our guests to travel. So we started to look around the parish in which Compton Verney is situated and the first church we came across was St Leonard’s, opposite to Charlecote Park.
We spotted it from the road on a gorgeous summer afternoon and parked up to explore but quickly decided that, whilst lovely, its size would have rendered our choir plans even more tricky than they already are – more about those plans another day. So we got back in the car and resumed our mission. The next church we found was an absolute stunner – St Peter’s ad Vincula in Hampton Lucy.
We love the name of the village, but I must admit to being a tad disconcerted when I learned that ad Vincula means ‘in chains’. And there was me thinking that it might have something to do with vines. I was easily fooled by those first three letters. Word association football I suppose. But, setting that minor issue aside, St Peter’s seemed like the perfect church. I say church, but the soaring stone vaults create a cathedral like feel and stepping inside and looking down the aisle towards the altar for the first time was a breath-taking moment.
Having found what we believed to be the perfect church in which to marry, the next hurdle was securing the agreement of the Vicar, Rev’d David Jessett. We both felt really awkward about making an approach. It seemed so cheeky to march into a church that we had never attended and ask to be married there. But we needn’t have lost any sleep over that because Rev’d Jessett spotted us at our first Evensong and immediately guessed the reason for our visit and agreed, in principle, to our being married there. It all seemed so straightforward. So meant to be. So perfect. But (and you can tell that I am building up to a ‘but’), a chance conversation at a church garden party a week or two later threw the proverbial spanner in the works.
I’m now going to employ what I believe the professionals refer to as being a ‘cliff hanger’ by telling you to tune in again soon*** to find out exactly what we discovered that caused such consternation and how we overcome it.
** © orchard5.demon.co.uk
*** © Aidan McRae Thomson
****well, not too soon – I’ve got a wedding to organise and, until 31 May 2012, a day job to fit in, not to mention a ballet exam, pilates classes etc, etc.