A little while ago a video of a wedding went viral on the Internet. The vicar had organised a ‘flash mob’ to perform a dance at the end of the ceremony. The reaction was mixed but many of those were positive about it thought those who didn’t were old fashioned or lacking a sense of humour.  After all isn’t marriage about celebrating love? Didn’t Jesus provide bucket loads of really good wine for the wedding in Cana? He was no ‘party pooper’.

While these statements are true, I did feel a certain sense of unease. Where was this coming from? Was I just an old fashioned person, who needed to get a life? Possibly.

However, my feelings contained two aspects. Firstly, over the last two years, while investigating the Catholic view of marriage, the beauty of vision of this particular sacrament has struck me time and time again.  Now there are many responses to beauty. While thinking about this I remembered a conversation years ago with an Egyptologist, who went to see the famous bust of Nefertiti. He has sat for hours, in silence. The beauty of the piece he had longed to see brought about awe in him. So when we see two people get married in Church, blessed by God we see something beautiful.

The other aspect is tied up in the promises a couple makes and in the reality of what marriage might mean. As part of the Christian marriage rite, both members of the couple enter into the marriage freely and promise to remain faithful whatever life throws at them. The well-known words “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” contain all possibilities. The couple are promising to remain faithful, to love and care for each other in all circumstances. If sickness or disability happens they will remain faithful. If they spend every day counting every penny or have to deal with the problems that wealth brings, they will remain faithful. Through grief and joy, they will remain faithful. As they get old, they will remain faithful. And also, as the couple look at each other on their wedding day, there is the reminder that one day they will face death. Probably one of them will face their own death, while the other will face being left behind. Here on their happy day, bride and groom are asked to face the enormity of the task they face ahead, all the happiness and sadness and their own mortality.

Freely entered, self-giving love brings sorrow. In a sinful world, sometimes the sorrow comes in our own actions or those of the ones we love. Sometimes we hurt each other. Sometimes sorrow comes from outside, from others or from unseen, uncontrollable events. And, because marriage is an embodiment of Christ’s love for the Church sometimes suffering comes because in a marriage two Christians unite themselves with Christ as he suffers.

As a couple stands before God, in order to make their vows, to create their marriage, all of this is in the air. Beauty, sorrow, joy and death are all there. In the church, in the presence of God there needs to be a time to take in the enormity and breadth of a bond that will last a lifetime. Without God no human would be up to the task. In this context, a flash mob to “Everybody dance now” or even more inappropriately “Celebrate good times! Come ON!” seems to miss the point. There will be time for celebration, for there is something to celebrate. There is a time for dancing and dance music. There is a time for bucket loads of wine and lots of cake. And it is afterwards. For in church, in the presence of God there needs to be a moment for awe and wonder; gratitude and contemplation. For without this we fail to appreciate what marriage truly is.