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A wedding story…NOT

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Some years ago I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter for a story she was doing on being left at the altar. Why me? I’d never been on either the giving or receiving end of such a dastardly deed. The genesis of the interview was a conversation I’d had several days earlier on the subject with her editor. He’d mentioned it and I related my experience once removed. Small wonder that the reporter was having trouble finding someone who’d ‘fess up to being dumped at the altar, embarrassment notwithstanding, who’d want to relive the pain and humiliation.

 

An acknowledged cynic, marriage is usually one of those topics I avoid in polite company. It causes too many problems and I’ve often to defend my position,  tiresome. Yet here I was being interviewed not because I’m an expert on marriage, rather for being in the right place at the wrong time or something like that. In my long and varied career I had a  stint as a Communications Officer in a Government Ministry responsible for conducting and recording marriages.

 Marriages used to take place on given days and it was not uncommon to come across several couples waiting on the benches outside the Marriage room. Lots of stories, as an inveterate collector of stories I used to find time to stop and talk whenever possible, on several occasions I even stood in for missing in action witnesses. It wasn’t sheer macosiousness, more a desire to understand people and what made them tick. To anyone claiming that civil marriages are impersonal I’d say see for yourself. People choose to have a civil ceremony for any number of reasons, religious differences, money, whatever. Some people still turned up in full dresses, families in tow; singing, grinning grooms, little kids with their parents, we saw it all. The people at the Ministry try to make it as nice as they can and different Registrars have their own innovations. One would invite you to hold hands with your partner and look them in the eye while reciting your vows. But it’s never all business, how can it be. This is about people’s lives.

 

That’s why this particular story stood out so. Busy morning, the contrast was startling, the previous couples obviously happy and these two so not. He changed his mind as he was walking into the room. The whole business had been arranged, he was sweating, she however, did seem to want him. There was much arguing outside the door while we all stood around helpless. I’m not sure if it would have been better for her to be surrounded by family and friends. Hopefully she would never have to see us again. I marvelled though at the clerks who at the moment of truth went into action to offer comfort and support to this total stranger. I know every effort was made to make sure she was comfortable before the next marriage took place. I also know that even though the prospective groom showed up weeks later with another young lady he was shown the same professional courtesy.

By far, most of the people choosing to marry at there do. Even in my jadedness, I still appreciate the occasional slice of wedding cake and pictures that used to turn up on my desk from people I’d so briefly met. What is it about weddings that make us suddenly friendly? One of the best memories I have of my time at that Ministry is of the couple that married in full regalia posing for pictures on the back steps of the building as they would have at church. The radiant bride all in white with yellow bouquet, head thrown back looking up at the groom who looked like he’d won the Lotto. How could one not be moved by all that hopefulness. Whatever the case, we wished them all well.

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Written by coffeewallah

May 19, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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