Three of us from Holy Trinity manned a stall at the Stirling Wedding Fair yesterday. We were not the first Episcopalians to attend such an event, but I was curious to find out what this mode of ‘casting the net’ was like. I didn’t know how we would measure the experience – unlike the other stallholders, we were not there simply to make bookings. I hoped for interesting conversations, enquiries, some form of contact with people.
I guess the hardest bit was when people identified who we were, shuddered and turned their faces very deliberately to the table opposite. (Well, it was hosted by a couple of magicians with excellent card tricks and balloons in swan shapes.) Then there were the people who politely accepted one of our brochures, which you just knew would be tossed in the bin with the other irrelevant ones. (But we did hand out 50 of them.)
Then at last – just like the parable of the sower – we met the ones who were looking for a ‘venue’ and were not excluding a church. The ones who delighted in the images on our slideshow. (And one of these rang me this morning about a booking.)
The best conversations were with other stallholders during the catwalk, when it went quiet upstairs where we were. Some of it was networking, but there was also space to talk about whether you could be spiritual and not religious, and whether you could be progressive and traditional at the same time. They were happy to have us there, I think – recognising Pope Benedict’s point that a whole human being has a spiritual side.
But I felt sorry for the anxious brides-to-be with their reluctant fiancés and other entourages. The sheer bombardment of information, leaflets, options, extras, necessities one hadn’t thought of, pressure, intensity. Lots of fun, yes, from chocolate fountains and sherbet flying saucers to colour-coded diamanté and feather fascinators. Yet to me, elopement had never before seemed so attractive an option.