Most British weddings are civil ceremonies, devoid of religious significance and tradition. Huge spending on the big day has filled the void. But if meaningful alternatives are to be found, the state must play its partby Shiv Malik / July 21, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
“Do you Shiv Malik, take Miriam Kate Robinson to be your wedded wife?” was a question I had no trouble answering. Miriam was a US citizen, I’m British and we had fallen in love. Her work permit had expired and if we wanted to stay together in London, we had to get married. The question that caught me out had come earlier, before the ceremony at Camden register office began. “Did you bring any music?” asked the registrar. We hadn’t. We didn’t even have any rings. She went to fetch a CD. What followed has been seared into our aural memory ever since.
After the vows, as our lips met to kiss, the registrar walked across to the stereo in the corner of Ceremony Suite 2 and hit the play button. “By the time the night is over… the stars are gonna shine on two lovers in love…” Alto sax? Casio keyboard drum track? “When the morning comes it’s gonna find us together, in a love that’s just begun…” The music was Kenny G, in all his kitsch magnificence.
We had told very few people we were getting married, perhaps just as well given the nature of the ceremony. We booked the register office in a hurry, having decided it wasn’t a big deal. After all, we were just signing a piece of legal paper. The real wedding would come later, when it could be marked by our friends and family.
My father had been away in India at the time of my wedding (my family are Hindu, of Punjabi descent). When I went to see him at his office after he returned to break the news, he thankfully took it well. But he had one demand. “This needs to be done properly. I want you and Miriam to have a priest come over and do the ceremony.” He reached for the telephone. “Dad,” I said, “Miriam’s Jewish.” He paused. “Even better.” he replied. We could have both a Hindu and a Jewish ceremony. He started to rummage through an old Rolodex, hunting, presumably, for the number of a rabbi. “But Dad,” I protested, “I’m an atheist.” That’s when he lost his cool. My father is not really a religious man, but the fact that his first-born was not having a Hindu wedding was chewing him up.