As the rehearsal resumes, Father Michael hopes there will be no further interruptions from the besotted couple.

“…to have and to hold…”

“…to have and to hold…” repeats the bridegroom.

“…from this day forward…”

“…from… look, doesn’t all this repetition rather smack of the audiolingual method?”

Father Michael wipes a bead of sweat from his upper lip. To him, the marriage service from The Church of England’s year 2000 update of “Common Worship” does not smack of the audio-lingual method. It smacks of nothing but the matrimony of two people before God. The bride, however, seems to side with her husband.

“It’s a good job we haven’t invited Noam Chomsky,” she giggles to her husband.

Father Michael shoots a bewildered glance to the maid of honour, whose face indicates a similar state of confusion.

“Would you prefer to learn the vows by heart?” asks Father Michael.

“No, no.” The groom seems adamant about this. “The benefits of rote learning have long been debunked. How about a few CCQs to check that we’ve understood the true meaning of the vows?”

As Father Michael moistens his lips and considers how to respond, the maid of honour leans over to our reporter and whispers.

“It’s been like this for weeks. I’ve tried to get Caroline interested in flowers and table plans but she’s been more concerned with choosing readings from the bible which are one level above the comprehensive ability of the students – whatever that means. And the groom’s no better. He insisted the words to all the hymns be printed on the service sheet to accommodate visual learners.” She shakes her head and frowns. “Still, they seem happy enough.”

Back at the altar, Father Michael soldiers on with the rehearsal, remembering the trials which were sent to test the faith of the prophet Job.

“When you ask Caroline whether she will love me, comfort me, honour and protect me, etcetera,” the groom interjects, “is that a display question or a referential question?”

Father Michael stares as the groom blankly.

“Do you actually want to know the answer?” adds the groom, by way of explanation.

The priest grits his teeth and wipes the sweat from his lip again.

“God wants to know the answer,” he replies. “It is necessary to answer this question in order for your marriage to be consecrated before God.”

“Fair enough,” says the groom. “Okay, then what?”

“After the declaration, comes the giving of rings. That is followed by the proclamation-“

“About that,” says the bride. “When you pronounce us man and wife, I just wonder if we’re missing a learning opportunity about the unique pragmatic function of performative utt-“

“Jesus Christ!” bellows Father Michael, flinging the lecturn to the ground and storming down the aisle and out of the church.

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