Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Just cohabiting?

I wonder have you been watching Big Fat Gypsy Weddings? If you have will you admit to it?

For me it is a guilty pleasure, I feel I ought not to watch it, and find myself recoiling at some aspects and values of a culture which is so different to my own. However, it is a culture in which marriage is held in high regard, and Christian marriage at that. The fake tan make be as heavy as the ginormous dress, the guests may be wearing next to nothing, the groom may retire to the pub before the ceremony when his bride is delayed but there is a ceremony and it is in church.

In this week's Church Times there is a feature which bears the same title as this blog post in which it examines the fact that an increasing number of Christians are choosing to live together before they marry (something which the traveller and gypsy communities would not condone).

As a child I would never have imagined that i would live with a man before he became my husband, nor that my parents would ever condone such an idea. However I did do just that.

My husband and I had been in a relationship for about two months when we discussed living together. The conversation went as follows:
Me "It seems crazy to be paying two lots of rent when we spend all our time together"
Him "Then why don't we get a place together?"
Me "Oh, my Dad would never accept that...unless we were planning on getting married."
Him (with a cheeky grin) "That could be arranged"

That sounded like a proposal to me! I let it slide and decided to wait and see what happened. I then spent a month perusing HSamuel's window not very discreetly admiring the little diamond solitaire in the window display. I had a major panic one day walking past when I realised it had gone from the window. At the end of June we were engaged, the proposal was going to happen inside our (then) local cathedral but as it is a tourist hotspot in June it ended up taking place in the close. I sat on the bench, he had one knee on the gravel. I wore the ring on a chain around my neck until he came home with me to ask my Dad's permission.

We moved in together a couple of months after that, we were engaged, we had decided on a date for our wedding and we had a year of living together before we were married. Although some people were disapproving in our church friends, most were unperturbed and we had two congregations packed into church with our families and friends to attend our Nuptial Mass. This glorious July day was a whole 16 months after our relationship began, this year we celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary.

My Dad particularly would never have agreed to our moving in together were it not for our decision to make the binding commitment of Christian marriage by becoming engaged and by setting a date for our wedding. In many ways he was a traditional man and a deeply moral man, but he was also of the opinion that it was the long lasting commitment to one another (finalised before God in marriage vows) which was the important bit not the wedding day.

For me then, marriage is the ideal, but it does not lessen the binding commitment that a couple make when they choose to share a home and a life together, it is the glue that helps to strengthen their bond together, and with God. It takes a strong couple to look into each others eyes and sincerely and with love tell them "All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit".

Amen to that!

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