Many people who have arranged marriage from a distance also imagine themselves to be the bride or groom. In fairness, getting married is not just a matter of on-paper certainty. It’s about a shared set of values that bind the people involved. For instance, either partner does not bring up children, they go to the same church, and they plan to spend the rest of their lives together. And yet there is still that element of surprise: a freshness in the courtship and marriage that is completely genuine. When people marry, they normally know exactly what the other person wants and in some cases an ardent agreement has been attained, which is the way it should be. Wedding bells, indeed, are treated as a bit of a coincidence by the newly married couple, who they imagine are already husband and wife.
But there is one essential element missing from an arranged marriage: a love that is both deeply personal and, crucially, equally shared. And it is not at all well-known to the church. Until 1971, married couples had to register the marriage in their parish church. But there was little detail about how the service had been performed or about the significance of the non-denominational service. When parishioners wondered what was going on, they could hardly have imagined that they were witnessing the making of a highly unusual union.