I’m always delighted to get to share a wedding in a public social hall (why don’t we have more of these on the site??) because it can be scary, in the world of stunningly perfect wedding venues, to tackle making a plain hall beautiful. But Fiona tells us, “It cost an incredible £11 an hour but has a slightly scary yellow and green decor and an MDF stage at the front. It wasn’t the castle or beautiful barn my ten year old self had imagined, but when we walked in to the hall behind our piper (we had a piper!) I literally gasped because the place had been transformed with candles, paper hearts and the most enticing display of food you ever saw!” So ladies getting married in your church social hall, have faith. And for the rest of you, Fiona’s tale of a wedding that spans multiple countries, and is deeply infused by faith, is wise and wonderful.
My husband and I have been married for nearly eighteen months, which feels like a long time but is apparently still short enough that people will ask me ”how is married life?” I assume they won’t keep asking this in ten, twenty, thirty years (although maybe they should).
I’ve been reading APW since before I was married but it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing this. Which is somewhat ironic since I still love to talk about our wedding day to anyone who is foolish enough to ask me about it. But eighteen months has given me a different perspective on our wedding day. The truth is, I still think about our wedding a lot, because even though we were committed to each other before that day, the public declaration of that commitment in front of the people we loved most and our church family solidified it in my mind, made it tangible and real in a unique way, and I see that played out in all the little moments of marriage every day.
Rasmus is Danish; I am half English, half Scottish. We met in Brussels in Belgium three years ago on a sunny, May afternoon and were engaged within a year. We kept our engagement secret for two months so that I could meet his family (who live on a remote island in the Baltic Sea) without the additional pressure of the fiancée label and then had a mere four months to plan a two-country wedding. My husband quickly kicked into project manager mode, complete with multiple excel spreadsheets, and we managed to pull everything together without a great deal of stress, few tears and very few fights. I was so very grateful to him for being so wonderfully organised, and to our brilliant families for all their hard work.
Our first big decision was where to hold the wedding. Our lives together are here in Brussels where we met, live, work, and worship, but our cultures and families made us who we are and we wanted to honour that. In the end, we decided on two events: the wedding ceremony took place in my home church in a small village in Oxfordshire, England, followed by an afternoon tea reception and then a private dinner for our immediate family in the evening; a week later we threw a huge party in Brussels for all our mutual friends, and a whole bunch from Denmark, the UK and even the USA, who flew in for the celebration.
The decision to do two events was made for practical reasons but it was probably the best decision we made. Our wedding lasted a whole week from our wonderfully fun, multilingual prep day to the morning-after brunch at our flat for all the out-of-towners (45 turned up!) eight days later, and I got to savour every moment with my new husband and our precious friends and family.
We are both committed Christians – we met at our church here in Brussels – and our thoughts about the significance of marriage are informed by our faith. The church believes that the marriage covenant is a sacred picture of the relationship between God and his people. As our pastor put it so beautifully in his talk at the wedding, we are meant to be ambassadors through our marriage of the faith we hold to. We loved this idea that through our hospitality, our generosity, the way we serve our city and those in need, through our acceptance of everyone, our love for the outcast, our creativity, our work, our commitment – the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for. I think this idea works for everyone, whatever your faith or beliefs.
The main thing I learnt through the whole process? I think most of you would agree with us that it’s important to make your wedding your own, and not to feel obliged to include or exclude something according to what is tradition, or your friends’ and family’s opinion. Our wedding was a mix of both our cultures and our life together in Belgium and was also true to our beliefs and values. All of this made it feel authentically us. But what I learnt is that it is also important to realise it is impossible for this one day (or even a week!) to entirely represent or symbolise everything about who you are as individuals and a couple. We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.
You can do a lot with a little. We hired our village hall for the afternoon tea. It cost an incredible £11 an hour but has a slightly scary yellow and green decor and a MDF stage at the front. It wasn’t the castle or beautiful barn my ten year old self had imagined, but when we walked in to the hall behind our piper (we had a piper!) I literally gasped because the place had been transformed with candles, paper hearts and the most enticing display of food (all home made by my wonderful mother) you ever saw! And once everyone behind us had come in and filled the room with laughter and chat, it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.
I also realised how important it was to be surrounded by this incredible community of supporters who loved us. In the Church of England wedding service, the congregation is invited to promise that they will support and uphold us in our marriage and it was a thrilling moment to hear them respond with one voice that echoed up to the high beams of the church!
A dear old vicar who attends my home church had made the effort to be there despite being incredibly frail, and to see him standing up out of his wheelchair with the support of his wife as we exited the church to honour us was incredibly moving. There were so many of these moments throughout the days, with family, friends and our church and it’s what made us even more sure that our marriage will last and be strong, because we have this wonderful community willing to love us, teach us and walk each step with us.
Photos by: Andy Rous