Give me the register office any time

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The Independent Culture
IT NEVER occurred to me the second time round to get married in church. Once was enough. Whether, as a divorced person (I hate the word divorcee - it smacks of raddled blondes with dangling earrings, hunting for husbands on cruise liners), the vicar would have allowed me to parade my second husband down his aisle is therefore something I never discussed.

If it was the same vicar who married me the first time round, I suspect he would have been delighted for something to do. His could not have been described as a busy parish. On Sundays the choir invariably outnumbered the congregation, and if more than three people showed up for Evensong the place felt crowded.

Am I being cynical to think that the latest Church of England discussion paper on the possibility of remarrying in Church is principally a crafty way in these dark days of dwindling congregations of getting more bums on pews? Admittedly it was a long time ago, but I don't think I got married in church for religious reasons. It was a great excuse to have a party, to put on a show with me as the star.

The CoE discussion paper suggests that it is "responsible, prudent and emotionally wise" to consider a second marriage. No one would dispute that, but is it equally responsible, prudent and emotionally wise to put yourself through the stress of a full-blown church wedding? It certainly isn't prudent in terms of expense. I don't know the latest statistics on second marriage, but the chances are that most second-time-rounders, both bride and groom, have children. You could buy an awful lot of Nike trainers for the cost of a church wedding.

All right, I know weddings are not about money, they're about love and commitment and promising before God to stand by your man till death do you part. That surely is the whole reason for not remarrying in church. It's a sham. I didn't stand by my man; I skipped off with someone else. To stand before the vicar in virginal white, vowing that I'm going to be good a second time, is, as my teenage son laconically pointed out, a bit like being sent off and then begging the referee to give you another chance in the second half.

So which, with the benefit of hindsight, did I prefer - being married in a picturesque village church straight out of Gray's Elegy, or in the register office, off the main road next door? The latter, by far, simply because I organised it myself. Mothers, bossy mothers, organise church weddings, dictate the number of guests and decide what's going in the vol-au-vents. When you get married in a register office it's more intimate and more low-key; you don't even have to invite your mother.

Second time round you are older, wiser and, you hope, past the stage of showing off. So why would you want a church wedding? Did someone mention religion? Ah yes, religion. When we told the vicar that we wanted to get married in his church he made two appointments in his diary: the first to discuss the nuts and bolts of the service, the second to talk about what he nervously called the religious aspect. We never did discuss the religious aspect.

Second marriages in church are gloomy affairs, if the only one I have ever attended is a typical example of the genre. It was the Princess Royal's, at Crathie Church in Balmoral, and I had been sent to cover it. What a lacklustre business it was. December in the Highlands; snow, gloom and the blushing bride in an off-white two-piece she'd worn to Ascot six months before. James Whitaker, from The Mirror, reliably informed me that her hat trimmed with freesias was a good 14 years old and he had definitely seen those shoes before. That's what happens second time round. If you're not careful you take things for granted. Far better to hoe a totally new row in a register office. But presumably the bossy mother up in Balmoral wouldn't hear of it.

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