by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To explore students’ understanding of the institution of marriage (SEAL theme: Social skills).
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and one to three readers.
- Find an image of the wedding of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and have the means to display it during the assembly (check copyright).
- Have available the song 'White wedding’ by Billy Idol and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
Leader I do like a good wedding! A beautiful location, with everyone dressed up in their best, wonderful food and the chance to meet up with friends and family. There's something in a wedding for everybody.
Show image of the wedding of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were recently married in the chapel at their own house, Château Miraval, in the village of Correns in France. Don't they make a splendid couple? As you'd expect, it wasn't a normal wedding. Because of that, it encourages us to explore the question, ‘Why marriage?’
Reader An obvious place to start is by asking how many people it's possible to marry. Brad was previously married to Jennifer Aniston. Angelina was married twice before – to Jonny Lee Miller and then Billy Bob Thornton. Is it all right to find a new bride or groom every few years?
Leader Christians believe that marriage is a life-long relationship. In a Christian wedding, the bride and groom promise to be faithful to one another for as long as they live. It's to create a sense of security, that neither of them will be tempted to duck out at the slightest opportunity. It assumes that problems are to be faced and tackled together. There's a commitment to stick it out and find solutions. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that, in the real world, it's not always so straightforward. With the best will in the world, marriages can break down, but Christians don't see this as the normal pattern.
Reader When's the best time to get married? Angelina and Brad have been together for at least nine years. They've had children together. They got engaged in April 2012. Their lives have been mingled for all that time. They've been living just like a married couple for years. Does a wedding happen whenever you feel like it, whenever it's convenient, maybe only when you can afford it?
Leader Christians see marriage as the start of a new phase in a relationship. Traditionally, it's been the time when a man and a woman leave their parents' homes and set up home together. This gives lots of meaning to the wedding event. It's a new experience, the beginning of a different way of living.
That's something which has altered a lot over the years. Like Angelina and Brad, today couples usually live together first. Because a wedding can cost so much, they need to do a lot of saving up. Maybe something of the symbolic meaning of marriage has been lost because of this. There's no new phase in the life of the couple if they have been living together, it’s simply a continuation after the wedding of how things already were before.
Reader Where do children fit into the picture? Brad and Angelina's children were very involved in the ceremony. They wrote the vows the couple made to each other. In fact, there's a story that it was the children who encouraged them to get married in the first place. It's said they put pressure on Angelina and Brad because they'd been waiting for years.
Leader Christians see it as important that children are born into a settled relationship, one in which there's a commitment to create a home, so, for Christians, the normal order of events would be for a couple to get married and then have children. Presumably Angelina and Brad feel they already have that settled relationship, but it seems the children themselves wanted it to be cemented.
Time for reflection
It's probably not fair to focus on the marriage of a pair of celebrities. It's not for us to make judgements about their decisions; each couple must decide for themselves.
Obviously you're not thinking about marriage yourselves just yet, but it's good to think through what's going on in the weddings you've attended. Nowadays, marriage does appear for many people to be primarily an occasion for dressing up, drinking and eating a lot and having a knees up in a nice-looking location. The commitments that are made have become secondary to the celebration.
What Christian marriage does is to put the commitment first. This is for the benefit of both the bride and the groom. Before their friends and family, they make vows. It's done in public. If sincerely made, these vows are not easy to shrug off. They are worth fighting for. It's also for the benefit of the children born into that family. Children arrive only when the family unit has been built. It's a safe and secure place where they can grow and develop. The traditional Christian understanding of marriage may not be popular, but there's a lot of good sense behind it.
As for Angelina and Brad, I'm sure we all wish them well. It must be hard to live in the media spotlight. They may not have done things the traditional Christian way, but they can still create a strong family together.
Thank you for the love and commitment that we can see in the marriages of many of those around us.
When we come to the point of committing ourselves to a partner, remind us of what it means and look at the long term, promise to work through the hard issues and create a strong and secure family home.
'White wedding’ by Billy Idol