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Music for the marriage service as a dignified and prayerful celebration

16 May 2014


From the Revd Julian Hollywell

Sir, - I enjoyed Colin Baldy's attempt not to be a grumpy old man when lamenting current trends in wedding protocol (Comment, 9 May).

I know him to be a fine church musician, and he has in no small way contributed to making St Mary's, Maldon, a place of liturgical excellence and inclusion, both of which are an inspiration to the wider Church.

Although he denies it, however, he is making the mistake of assuming that the criteria by which we judge dignity or prayerfulness are absolute. They are not. Even in a contractual sense, the couple are paying a fair amount of money for the occasion; so to me it seems more than reasonable that their wishes are given credulity.

We, too, are a church of inclusive Catholic heritage where the liturgy is taken seriously. We, too, have a very busy summer programme of weddings, which will range from the traditional (by far the majority) through to the more modern, and a sprinkling of the eccentric. A most enjoyable wedding last year involved our all learning the children's song "Mr Cow, how do you say to the Lord, I love you", along with the bride and groom's young family. Was it dignified? I would say resoundingly, Yes.

Dignity and prayerfulness have very little to do with whether the bride came into Beyoncé or whether she was persuaded to choose Handel instead, let alone the order of the procession or if there was a procession at all. (I rather warm to couples who choose to start the service together.)

Prayerfulness and dignity are engendered when we who officiate treat those gathered in what is their parish church with respect, and when, as priests, we communicate both the joy and the importance of the occasion in a way that people can relate to, rather than intimidate them with what they should be experiencing.

On the Saturday before last, I married J. and R. There were no hymns, the music was all modern and secular, played through my iPod, there was quite a lot of clapping, as the couple were very nervous, and their friends and family wanted to express their love and encouragement, and the couple asked me to select a reading as my gift to them, because they didn't know much about the Bible.

I will have a wonderful year, and we will have done our job well, if all the other weddings conducted at the Parish Church this year feel as welcomed and are as uplifting and Spirit-filled as theirs.

The Vicarage, Gascoigne Drive
Spondon, Derby DE21 7GL



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