“You do know what it means to get married in the Catholic Church, don’t you?”
The priest fixed stern eyes on us both as he said these words.
“It is forever. There is NO divorce here.”
I tried to sneak a look a J, but he was staring straight ahead. Poker face. I had a sudden and terrible urge to laugh.
I didn’t expect it to be like this – the filing of our wedding paper work.
It was the second time we’d tried to do it, at the parish office which was handily five minutes walk from our house.
The first time had been comical. We’d turned up with the priest who was going to marry us, and he’d presented us to the priest in charge of the office.
“These two people are in love, and they want to get married,” he said, sweeping his arm towards us grandly.
“So?” asked the office priest.
“They want to file their paper work,” said our clergyman, looking a little puzzled.
“Well, and nothing, that’s it.”
The office priest looked at us like we were all idiots.
“But they need two witnesses!” he said.
Turns out we were idiots.
Well we were back with our two testigos. Sarah – one of my best friends in Madrid – and Chucho – J’s fishing partner. And there was also baby Nikko – their cute little seven month old son. He cheered up the office priest no end.
So while Nikko munched through several rice cakes, unceremoniously spilling crumbs on the floor, we handed over our birth and baptism certificates and told him the info he needed to fill in the form.
Which was pretty slow going – but we got there – a good 40 minutes later.
Then came the moment when he sent Sarah and Chucho out of the room, telling them that he needed to see if we would “pass the exam”
I started to panic. What was this? Was he going to test us on the stations of the cross? The names of the disciples? Or ask me my favourite bits from the bible? This was going to end badly.
But no. He was just going to give us a good talking to on the seriousness of the lifelong vow we were going to make.
We happily told him that, yes – we understood perfectly. We were ready, we were legally able to marry and we came freely – no one was obligating us to get married.
Then it hit me – this man was the only person who had given us a talking to about the lifelong commitment that is marriage – a warning, if you like.
Probably he would be the only person who did so.
Is that because we’ve been together for a long time (well, six years at least, known each other for nine) or because we’re a bit older? Or is it because we’re so made for each other that no-one thinks we need a warning – it was obvious we would get married and live happily ever after?
I like the last option, myself.
In any case, we passed the test, so the priest called our witnesses in one by one to talk to them. I started to get nervous again.
They weren’t married. Would he care about that? Would he find out Sarah was divorced and call the whole thing off?
I needn’t have worried. He didn’t ask Sarah if she’d been married in the past, so she didn’t tell him. In fact, the priest assumed she was married to Chucho, on account of baby Nikko (That tends to happen a lot in Spain, she says.)
Not missing a beat, she informed him they weren’t married, and added: “but don’t worry, we can fix that in the future.” What a pro.
Before I knew it, everything was signed off, and we were one step closer to being married.
And J didn’t run for the hills after the priest’s stern words. Not even a tiny wobble. Well not on the outside, anyway.