Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Royal Illusion

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theologyand culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he…

  • 2011 Apr 28

The big day is finally here. Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married at Westminster Abbey before a world-wide audience of millions.

Amid all the preparations for the wedding, one vexing question was how far in advance of their wedding should William and Kate cease living together? 

It is no secret that the couple has been living together for some time, Kate having moved in with William at his home in North Wales while he trains to be an RAF search-and-rescue pilot. 

Apparently Palace officials were concerned “that the move from co-habitation to marriage” not be too rapid. The Archbishop of Canterbury had apparently warned that “an illusion of innocence” was important for the big day.

An illusion of innocence?

Why would that be important in a nation where less than 10% attend a church, and is one of the more secular countries in the West?

I’ll venture a guess. It’s because deep down we cannot escape how sacred marriage is meant to be; that sexual intimacy between a man and a woman belongs within its confines, and even when it’s been violated we have to cover up our shame. That is why we cling to the vestiges of its sacred nature, even when we have abandoned its pursuit. 

It reminds me of an article I once read about an account of a wedding. The bride wore a white gown, and a veil demurely covered her face. The groom slipped a ring on the bride’s finger. After a lavish reception, the newlyweds flew off on their honeymoon. 

Yet the person attending the wedding found it all shallow and without meaning. 

For example, the white wedding gown symbolizes the purity of the bride. And yet all in attendance knew that the bride and groom had lived together for three years. 

The ceremony took place in a church, even though the two were agnostics.

When the minister invited the groom to kiss the bride, everybody laughed. They all knew he’d already slept with her, so it seemed silly for someone to be giving him permission to kiss her.

The couple promised to stay married “till death do us part,” but just in case, they had signed a binding pre-nuptial agreement.

As for the honeymoon – the traditional start of a couple’s sex life – it was a case of “been there, done that.”

Given that the average wedding costs around $30,000, why do people bother with all this? Why don’t people go to the courthouse and skip the rituals which are so obviously empty? 

It’s because we’re not being honest with ourselves. We long for what God offers through sex, even though we have rejected it for our lives. When it comes time to marry, we search for the sacred, grasp for significance, and end up having to use the very symbols and rituals whose meanings we have rejected.

I’m delighted Prince William and Kate are getting married. It is the right thing to do. I am delighted for the people of the U.K. as they look to the future of the monarchy. I am delighted for those who enjoy love and romance and pomp and pageantry. 

But let’s not be mistaken.

They will not be pulling off an illusion of innocence.

They will be attempting an illusion of meaning.

James Emery White


Talbot Church, “Tensions grow over ‘vulgar’ wedding ring,” The Independent, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, p. 5.

Breakpoint, “Plighting Their Troth – or Whatever,” 9/21/06.

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