It didn’t take a lip reader to know what Prince Harry said to bride Meghan Markle in the middle of their wedding ceremony this past weekend. He turned to her and whispered, “You look amazing. I’m so lucky.”
It was hardly Shakespeare. And yet the sincerity and tenderness with which he said it lit the Twitterverse aglow. Entire articles were devoted to the moment and his accompanying lip bite that made it feel so real.
There is plenty about the Royal Wedding that didn’t feel particularly real to ordinary people. Things like carriage rides, vintage Jaguars, and priceless tiaras have that effect. But the wedding was an important global moment: It was a powerful reminder to the world of why we have weddings in the first place.
As any married couple would attest, attending weddings is more than just an opportunity to celebrate a new couple committing for life. Weddings offer married couples a moment to recall the romance they felt on their own wedding day and renew the vows they once made in the quiet of their hearts. I am no exception. I found myself misty-eyed while watching the wedding, later pulling the earrings my husband bought for me on our honeymoon out of the bottom of my jewelry box and wearing them out that evening, a little to signal to him that my feelings are unchanged.
Even beyond reminding married couples why they married, the public nature of wedding ceremonies is essential. As their homily put it, “love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we're all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”
The witnesses have an important role to play: they are there to commit to supporting the couple through the good and the bad times of marriage. More fundamentally, they are standing witness to an institution that merits public recognition because of the essential role it plays in binding human beings together in a civilization.
And this Royal Wedding offered the world a few hours to glance upward at the value of tradition and ceremony in a civilized world. The grandeur of Windsor Castle certainly helped. But so did seeing a man—dressed in military regalia—getting emotional at the sight of a lovely woman, hastening to open the car door for her, treating her as every woman dreams to be treated in our modern #metoo nightmare of a world.
The Royal Wedding really was a testament to the radical notion that love has the power to remake the world, and that marriage is its most potent vehicle.
And so did the wedding homily of Bishop Michael Curry. Despite a crowd full of whole-hearted bourgeois secularists, he delivered a deeply Christian meditation on the meaning of love. He invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., King Solomon, and the French mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in a poetic homage to love rooted in faith as a balm to a broken world and committed love as its vanguard.
“Dr. King was right,” Bishop Curry said, “We must discover love—the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.” He added, “There’s a power in love to show us the way to live.”
Channeling Aristotle, Bishop Curry spoke about the different forms of love and the various ways love can remake society for the better. Our purpose on earth, he argued, is to live out one or many of those forms of love. And a wedding is an opportunity for all of us to contemplate how we are living out love in our families and communities.
Most of us will never live like the newest Royal Couple. But the public celebration of their nuptials did us all a great service in momentarily sweeping our eyes upward toward something beautiful—in memorializing with such splendor the essential nature of marriage to the human experience, even if its something not everyone fully understands. At a time when the concept of “privatizing” marriage is a growing temptation, the royal wedding is a reminder that humans by nature want to celebrate marriage as a public good.
In bringing two nations and two races together, the Royal Wedding really was a testament to the radical notion that love has the power to remake the world, and that marriage is its most potent vehicle.
Ashley E. McGuire is a Contributing Editor at the Institute for Family Studies. Her new book is Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Regnery, 2017).
Photo Credit: Kensington Palace Instagram