Watching this wedding on television from the comfort of my own home, I couldn’t help but be reminded on my own British-American wedding. I, too, omitted obey. I, too, walked down the aisle without my father. I, too, was an American bride with at an overwhelmingly British wedding. Granted I was NO WHERE near as much in the public eye as the (now) Duchess of Sussex, nor did I handle any of it with as much grace, poise and courage. Nor did I want to though, as I am not suited for a life in the spotlight. Still, I couldn’t help but get nostalgic over the whole pomp and circumstance of the affair.
When you marry into someone’s family, you also marry into that person’s culture. For people of the same nationality, this is no big deal. An American and a Brit getting hitched is not so exotic or extreme as other romantic pairings I have encountered but they still have cultural differences that people often dismiss. No where is this more evident than in a wedding. For my husband and I, our wedding was a collection of oddities that best exemplified not just our two different cultures and nationalities but also elements of the culture of the country in which we met, fell in love and got engaged – China. We brushed off suggestions for a ceremony in the local C14th church with a reception in the palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born. Instead we chose the humble little church next to the fish n’ chip shop on High street. In lieu of a cake we carved a suckling pig and fed the top and tail end to each other. No guestbook for us, instead guests just signed their congratulations on this bottle of Scotch whisky. As a parting gift, people were to take home little gift bags of crackling from the suckling pig.
Still, the whole affair was predominantly British. The ceremony was short and sweet with all religious elements kept to a minimum. My husband wore a kilt, the ladies in the church wore hats. I was driven to and from the church in a vintage car. I, alone, walked down the aisle to the Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’ played by a seemingly out of place harpist whose former gigs included playing the nuptials of celebrities. Everyone would later comment that she seemed displeased to be in this no-frills church playing for such a small audience. I’m afraid I was too caught up in my own nerves to notice or take offense. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed asking her to attend my little wedding in a place that still had community event posters up on the wall.
Following the church ceremony, everyone congregated for lunch down the street in what was an elegant but low key affair. Guests blew bubbles and dined on sophisticated versions of British classic recipes: black pudding and scallops, duck, roast pork, beef brisket and smoked mash with horseradish powder. All was washed down the Taittinger champagne, a French Sancerre and a bitey red. Dessert was served on Scottish slate with tea or coffee and a slice of sugary tablet. When we left, we were pelted with bird’s seed and cheers.
I’m fairly sure that to my non-British side of family and friends who jaunted over to Scotland for my nuptials, thought the whole thing seemed mildly interesting and quirky in the way that all British things seem to Americans. I wish I could say the same was thought for everyone on my husband’s side of the aisle and his British friends and family. To them, I’m fairly sure it was all just a bit of an odd spectacle: maybe a generation gap was assumed or perhaps it was chalked up to the fact that the bride was American and not privy of this country’s customs. The country which by marrying this man, is also marrying into.
Some of my wedding decisions, such as foregoing a more grandiose ceremony complete with historical setting, or even just the gift bags full of crackling, were met with bewilderment and disbelief. Why? Why choose that? I imagine the same bewilderment, disbelief and confusion was given to the American preacher, Michael Curry, at the Royal Wedding or even when guests heard the gospel choir sing ‘Stand By Me’. For an American, it was a triumph to hear and witness his sermon. For a Brit, it broke custom and protocol – it didn’t cause offense and it certainly wasn’t anything related to race, it just made people squirm a bit because it was out of place. One simply doesn’t show his passion and devotion to religion and love in a church! Doesn’t he know? The youth these days….maybe it’s an American thing…Who knows?
Happily for me, and also for the Duchess it seems, even though eyebrows might have been raised about some things, my new family was very supportive. Despite my weird little requests, they helped to give us the wedding we wanted.
When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, a wedding is only a small part; the pretty part. This part celebrates the beginning of the union and all the dizzy punch-drunk love aspects of it. However, marriage is hard; harder than parenting I find because I knew some of what to expect with kids but not with a committed relationship. Marriage humbles me everyday in its obstacles and challenges. I fail at it more times than I like to admit. A wedding has the potential to revel in grandiosity but love and marriage don’t. Love and marriage entail late nights with one person preparing a bottle and another attending to a crying child at 2AM. It’s watching hours of cycling documentaries on your spouse’s birthday despite thinking your brain will atrophy from the boredom. It’s Chinese food and beer in front of the television on Thursdays because the week has been difficult. It’s a life together through all of its ups, down, triumphs, joys, pain, heartache and challenges. And for all individuals, regardless of religion, gender, sexuality, nationality, customs and cultures, I wish them success in their union and lots and lots of fire.