Howard Langmead - social commentator, comedian & cleric
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by Howard Langmead
Published in The Melbourne Anglican September 2002

The inadequacy of my theological education was exposed at the rehearsal for the first wedding I celebrated. I was stumped by simple questions such as "Which side does the father of the bride stand on?", and "How can we sober up the groom?", and "Is Celine Dion an Anglican?" It was a wonderful wedding. The bride looked stunning and the groom looked stunned.

Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding. Performing my first wedding was a miracle. The next week I bought a copy of 'Wedding Etiquette Made Easy' and I still read extracts as part of the daily office.

Some clergy recite the litany of famous people they have married. I've only managed to marry the infamous. One infamous bride, with a well publicised criminal conviction, attracted media interest to her wedding. Somehow television news and magazine articles managed to cover the wedding without mentioning my name or referring to the succinct (but poignant and witty) sermon that I carefully crafted for the cameras. This was an unfortunate editorial oversight. Maybe if I had preached on tithing at that wedding the church would have received a share of the $10,000 that Woman's Day paid the bride.

I did take a wedding with a famous bridesmaid; a cat, who had been the subject of a short film featured in the St. Kilda Film Festival. I loved the film and the wedding. The bridesmaid was carried in a lace and ribbon decorated cage and placed on the front pew. The bride and groom requested that a friend of theirs play the piano for the service. He was blind, deaf, and a great musician. My concern was whether the pianist, the cat and I would start singing 'Amazing Grace' at the same point in the service. The only sour note in that memorable wedding was that the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages hung up on me when I rang I ask whether a cat and a man who is blind and deaf can be legal witnesses at a wedding.

I've learnt a lot as a marriage celebrant. These days I tell the bride that if she wants to avoid pre-wedding stress she needs to remember one thing, it's not her wedding, it's her mother's. A clergy training video is now available called 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. If the archbishop takes my advice it would be given to priests with the Bible when they are ordained.