All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known
Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding.
An odd morning today, so something of an odd blog post. In celebration of it being 11th November 2011, Domkyrkan, one of Göteborg’s principle churches, was marking the occasion with 11 simultaneous weddings which I clearly couldn’t resist getting a part of. Now, I’ve always maintained that no two weddings are remotely alike, and was quite interested to see what this would actually look like in practise. And it was pretty impressive as young, old, gay, straight, single white roses and lös godis bouquets, traditional-white, baroque and Disney-Princess all came striding through the church yard one after another. It was all a bit of a PR event in some ways with a fair bit of corporate sponsorship kicking around and a fair portion of press, but it was quite a spectacle, watching eleven couples all standing at the altar at the same time. I don’t know how the day worked. They all arrived together, but did any of them know each other? Had they chatted at the rehearsal? Would some of them link up on facebook? Judging by the sheer diversity of style, most of them didn’t seem to have a great deal in common, and yet there they were all lining up together for possibly the most significant moments of their lives, at least in a symbolic sense. I wondered who they were exactly to want to have their wedding wrapped up on a Friday morning and witnessed by so many strangers.11
Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem
Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl—and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
So what’s with all the Philip Larkin? Couldn’t help but be reminded of it as total strangers shared such an important event and were then whisked off into the waiting crowd outside of twenty four families, friends and countless passers by. It’s a feeling I often get packing up my kit at the end of a job while the disco is getting into full swing. I well recognise the immense privilege to be part of somebody else’s wedding, to have watched their ceremony, listened to often intensely personal speeches about people whom, for all our discussions, I have only met a handful of times and to have been trusted to take the wedding photographs of. And then, while I’ll be going over the pictures for a couple of weeks afterwards, and while there’ll still be album designs to be discussed and, hopefully, baby and family portraits to look forward to, my taxi will arrive and I’ll be on a train back to London. And, like the eleven couples married this morning, everyone who shares in that moment together will part ways into an unknown, hopefully happy, and unquestionably unique, future
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:
There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
-Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings.