A Wedding Address for Polly Ingham and Andy Watts — Mrs and Mr Ingham-Watts

On Saturday 31st May, in the grounds of Magdalene College School, Oxford, I had the pleasure and honour to conduct the blessing of the marriage of Polly Ingham and Andy Watts. Below, with love, is the address I wrote for them.

Some twenty-five years ago Polly’s father, Chris, telephoned and hired me to play bass in his jazz quartet. We immediately hit it off, musically and personally, and have since become the best of friends and colleagues. Naturally, I also got to know Polly’s mum, Tracey and their one-and-a-half year old daughter, Polly. A little while later there arrived their son, Ali, and it’s been one of the joys of my own life to have been able to count them all as my friends. Consequently, I’m deeply touched that Polly has invited me here, in my other capacity as the Unitarian minister in Cambridge, to help create this service of blessing for her marriage to Andy.

I also add here a few black and white photos that I took on the day.


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A Wedding Address for Polly and Andy

It goes without saying that love plays the central role in every couple’s decision about whether to marry or not but, because it goes without saying, rarely does anyone say anything about why love is so important in a marriage. By employing one of the traditional, romantic languages of love, French, I’d like, very briefly, to say something about this.

Most of you will know that, in French, the word “pas” has two meanings. The first meaning is straightforwardly a “step”, as in a taking a step forward. But it also has the meaning of “not” as in “Je n’avance pas.” Which literally means “I do not move forward, not even a step.”

An interesting and accessible philosopher, John D. Caputo notes about this that the word “pas” simultaneously means “step/not”; it means to take a step but then again not to, to be following in someone’s steps but then again not to. It is also important to see that steps cannot be insulated in an absolute way from missteps and sidesteps, and paths cannot be protected from dead-ends. This means that to take steps in a certain direction, to be en route, to follow in someone’s steps, cannot be protected absolutely from detours, road blocks, misleading road signs, false steps and impasses.

All very well, you may say, but what on earth has this to do with love, and with Polly and Andy’s marriage?

Well, we begin to see this clearly when we consider taking steps towards another person as the relationship we have with them is always a journey we can never fully complete because in life, until the very end, we are always becoming who we will be and, in our becoming something, alongside all the many steps we feel to be right, there will always be steps that we feel are missteps and sidesteps.

This is nowhere better seen than in marriage because when you make your vows and commitments to your belovéd, you say them, not simply to whom the person is, or to whom you think this person is, but “to whomsoever or whatever this person is to become, which is unknown and unforeseen to the both of you”. It is vitally important to see that this risk is constitutive of the vows and commitments of marriage and without it they mean nothing.

As Caputo says, all this begins to show us shows how deeply not is embedded in all our steps, how deeply the impasse is embedded in the pass, how deeply the impossible is embedded in the possible.

Polly, as a theatre producer, I know you know this truth well. The production of every show, although something full of joy and excitement, no matter how well it is prepared for beforehand, cannot be insulated “in an absolute way from missteps and sidesteps, and paths cannot be protected from dead-ends”. The show is always becoming the show.

Andy, as a hockey player and director of sports, I know you know this truth well, too. Every game, although something full of joy and excitement, no matter how well it is prepared for beforehand, also cannot be insulated “in an absolute way from missteps and sidesteps, and paths cannot be protected from dead-ends”. The game is always becoming the game.

But, because you each love and take joy in the theatre and hockey you both know you must accept this fact.

Now, what is true of theatre and hockey is even more true of marriage. It, too, although something full of joy and excitement, and no matter how well it is prepared for beforehand, cannot be insulated “in an absolute way from missteps and sidesteps, and paths cannot be protected from dead-ends”. A marriage is always becoming a marriage.

And this is why love is so important. It is because only those truly in love can fully understand that their vow and commitment to each other is always to what we are to become and not simply to who we are; and it is only those truly in love who fully understand how each of our missteps, sidesteps and dead-ends taken, although sometimes — perhaps always — are difficult to deal with in the moment, they are in fact, essential and integral parts of the fullest, most joyous and rewarding life together.

Polly and Andy, I, we all, can see you love each other deeply and that you are committed to being together in your becoming, wherever it takes you, and so with great joy we celebrate this special moment with you.

And, as we, your friends and family, now make our own vow and commitment to you, remember we, too, are promising to walk in love with you in your combined journey of becoming, wherever it may lead.

John Caputo's words ad insights come from his book "What would Jesus Deconstruct" (Baker Academic, Michigan, 2007)





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