Part 11

The wedding was getting nearer and there was one important engagement we had to fulfill which would mean we would have to drive up to Misterton late on a Saturday afternoon. We had to successfully complete a Catholic marriage course to get the final certificate that would allow us to get married in the Catholic Church near to my flat.

When Simon and I began to discuss the details of our wedding we had discussed the different options open to us. Simon said he was happy just to marry me and it didn’t matter where or how as it was the fact that we were getting married that counted. I agreed with him on the concept, but still wanted to fulfill some dreams and desires on the big day, and one of these was being married in a Catholic Church.

I am a Catholic and Simon is Church of England. When I first told my dad about Simons existence and the fact that he lived on a boat, the boat lifestyle he approved of, his biggest concern was ‘is he a catholic?’ When I explained no but he was C of E he conceded that next to Catholicism that was the best religion, but still asked ‘would he ever convert?’

Sadly dad had passed away six months before the marriage proposal, but I think he knew Simon was the one for me. Little clues like telling me living on a boat was not a bad way of life, and did I cook him proper meals not just vegetarian stuff as a man needs his meat, was his way of letting me know he liked him.

Simon had found a boat venue, the Battersea Barge where we could have the civil service and the party and he was pleased at his boat theme. I rang the priest who had conducted my fathers’ funeral and asked him would he bless the marriage on the boat?

His reply was, ‘your father wanted you to get married in a Catholic church, go see your parish priest.’

A week later I was visiting the priest and explaining, ‘I’ve only been here to mass a handful of times, I don’t want to walk down the aisle to religious music, my husbands not a catholic and one of my bridesmaids is a man, can I get married here or will you bless our marriage on a boat?’

‘I can’t bless the marriage on the boat, but why do you want to get married in the Catholic Church?’ the priest asked.

I told him my dads story (that’s for another day) and said it had been one of his wishes and I wanted to honour his memory.

‘Maybe you’ll come to church more when you’re married,’ he said. He then explained all the paperwork you have to get together, birth certificates, baptism and confirmation certificates. He also said we would have to get special permission for a mixed marriage.

That was why on a glorious Saturday; we were sitting outside a church in Barnet waiting to undertake a marriage course instead of scraping rust. We were both slightly apprehensive – what if we failed?

We entered the building by the church and found the room, there were another eleven couples in our room, there was another course in the room next door with another dozen couples but there’s was the two day course. We had enrolled just in time to complete a one day one.

The facilitators introduced themselves and said we were all here because we were preparing for one of the best days of our lives and indeed for the rest of our lives. She asked if there were any mixed marriages and a man with a crew cut and one earring piped up, ‘yeah, anyone can see my fiancé is Asian so of course it’s mixed.’

‘That’s true,’ said the lady, ‘but I meant mixed faith, that is what the church considers a mixed marriage.’

The man had the grace to blush slightly and muttered what I can only presume were sweet nothings under his breath. The lady continued, ‘do we have any mixed faith marriages?’

Simon and I slowly put our hands up like the naughty child in class and realised that about half of the couples were doing the same. ‘I just wanted to say an extra special welcome to those of you who are of other faiths, as I know it is a big decision to take this step and reassure you that there will be no attempt to convert you.’ I couldn’t help smiling inside at what I knew my dad would make of this statement - missed opportunity.

The course started and it was interesting and nothing too traumatic, I had heard tales of all sorts of personal information being asked to be shared with a room of total strangers, and even of priests talking about sex which is just wrong. Our course was extremely user friendly and we had some great small group discussions about communication and conflict. The key to a successful marriage is good communication and knowing how to resolve conflict.

The crew cut man said there was nothing wrong with the occasional slap if it was called for. I felt intrigued about where he and his partner had met, she had yet to speak and I wondered if they were going to end on day time television, they possibly had the drama the TV people liked. Simon suggested there may never be conflict as he was always right, I just smiled and knew what all good women know, the trick is to let the man think the good idea was his all along. Simon always had intended to throw away the fiberglass really!

The whole group was brought together to discuss lifestyle. For some of us we would have to decide which country to live in, which families to be near, and although we all lived in London where would we be long term? In the room were people from Italy, America, New Zealand (Simon) and we had all met in London. Would this ever change?

The crew cut man piped up again, ‘none of us choose to live in London, let’s face it, after all it’s an awful place to be, none of us would stay here if we could would we?’ He glanced around the room and there was an uncomfortable silence.

‘Are you two leaving London?’ the lady asked.

‘Don’t be ridiculous none of us can afford to leave London can we?’ was his final comment on that, and sat down looking around the room. Everyone suddenly found the floor really interesting. No one liked to point out that most people in the room had chosen to move to London, just in case it gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his slap technique.

The close of the session was a lady from Ghana who talked us through her 45 year marriage. She explained how she had arrived on a plane to meet the man to be her husband at Heathrow. She explained that it had been difficult but they had learnt through respect, communication and their shared faith to truly love each other, and they had faced all their problems side by side. She read a poem for us all as her parting gift and then the course was over.

I wanted to thank the Ghanaian lady for sharing her story which was inspiring, and she smiled and shook our hands in both her hands and said that she could see real love between Simon and I. She said she did not always see real love on the courses but she could see it in us and would pray for us.

I left clutching a copy of the poem and feeling slightly emotional. We got in the car for the drive to Goole.

‘I feel quite tired from all that discussion and emotion today,’ I said.

‘You’d better get some rest in the car,’ Simon replied, ‘you’ll need all your energy for rust scraping when we get there.’ That was real love in action.