I had the amazing privilege of solemnising my first wedding a couple of weeks ago. I genuinely could not have asked or hoped for a more lovely couple and congregation, and it was a joy to play a small part in the new life were were choosing and vowing to start together.
I am still slightly coming to terms with the fact I actually married them – that I pronounced them man and wife, and signed the registers and certificates. I feels like the first “proper” legal thing I’ve done as a Clerk in Holy Orders (aside from Ordination and Licensing).
Anyway, before I met them I took a straw poll about whether or not I should mention that it was my first wedding. There seem to be two schools of thought here.
The first says “No – what the couple want and need is a confident and competent presence, who will guide them through a major life event with a minimum of anxiety and stress.” This is the same argument that applies to pilots on their first flight, or surgeons on their first procedure. It’s not necessarily helpful for people in your hands to know you haven’t done it before.
The other school of thought says “Yes – be completely honest, and recognise that it’s (hopefully) the first wedding for all 3 of you, and you’re in it together. Take the whole thing lightly, work through it together without feeling the need to have all the answers.” This is a similar argument to a magician or stand-up’s first gig. It can help bring people on your side, and release any pressure or tension, allow for some humour and of course makes any little hiccoughs part of the occasion. It is meant to be a joyous as well as a serious and solemn affair.
I think part of the problem is that it’s very easy to equate “I haven’t done it before” with “I don’t know what I’m doing” – whereas in reality this relationship doesn’t necessarily hold at all.
In the end, I opted for the first position. Be a calm, non-anxious presence who would instil confidence in the bride and groom, and enable them to relax, enjoy the day, and fully enter into the solemn vows being made – no need to let them know it’s my first one.
It all went beautifully well at our meeting – I answered all their questions, went over the vows with them, etc (they had already done marriage preparation, so it was more about getting to know them and planning the service)… Until I was just standing up to leave, when the groom asked “So how many weddings is this for you?”
It all worked out for the best; I was actually quite relieved they knew, as I felt it took some of the pressure off me, and they felt that it made the day even more special, knowing that it was a special day for me too (if that makes sense).
In the end it was a lovely service, which I’m certain was legally correct (which was my top priority!!), I was able to share something of the love of God with those present, and it went more or less according to plan.
Just as a postscript, as the mother-of-the-bride arrived at the church before the service, she took me to one side and said “Don’t worry – I’m sure you’ll be absolutely fine.” 🙂