A highpoint of the ceremony (apart, of course, from the stunning entrance of the blushing but radiant bride on her father's arm) was, at least from my point of view, a reading by the groom's sister of an excerpt from a love letter G. K. Chesteron once wrote to his fiancée, Frances Blogg, shortly after they became engaged in 1898. The full letter is too long to quote here, but I will set the stage for it.
Just before meeting Frances for the first time, Chesterton had visited Paris, as a young man of twenty-two. He was struck by the young Parisian ladies "in their flowing white dresses and red berets." Shortly afterward, he expressed his wonderings about whom his future bride would be in a lovely poem:
About Her whom I have not yet met
I wonder what she is doing
Now, at this sunset hour,
Working perhaps, or playing, worrying or laughing,
Is she making tea, or singing a song, or writing,
or praying, or reading?
Is she thoughtful, as I am thoughtful?
Is she looking now out of the window
As I am looking out of the window?
The letter he wrote in 1898 recounts Chesterton's astonishment on encountering Frances for the first time when a mutual friend brought Gilbert to her home. He wrote that she looked him straight in the eye, and immediately these unspoken words flashed through his mind:
"If I had anything to do with this girl I should go down on my knees to her: if I spoke with her she would never deceive me: if I depended on her she would never deny me: if I loved her she would never play with me: if I trusted her she would never go back on me: if I remembered her she would never forget me. I may never see her again. Goodbye. It was all said in a flash: but it was all said..."After recounting for her the history of his life up to that transforming encounter, Chesterton then concluded his letter with these moving and revealing final paragraphs:
"Two years, as they say in the playbills, is supposed to elapse. And here is the subject of this memoir sitting on a balcony above the sea. The time, evening. He is thinking of the whole bewildering record of which the foregoing is a brief outline: he sees how far he has gone wrong and how idle and wasteful and wicked he has often been: how miserably unfitted he is for what he is called upon to be. Let him now declare it and hereafter for ever hold his peace.
"But there are four lamps of thanksgiving always before him. The first is for his creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you. The second is that he has not, with all his faults, 'gone after strange women.' You cannot think how a man's self restraint is rewarded in this. The third is that he has tried to love everything alive: a dim preparation for loving you. And the fourth is--but no words can express that. Here ends my previous existence. Take it: it led me to you.""Take it: it led me to you" -- these were the perfect words to lead up to the exchange of wedding vows.
Chesterton was a full-blooded romantic, but it is a side of him which is not often seen. If you wish to read more extracts from the full letter, showing Chesterton as a young man who was witty, sardonic and totally, head-over-heels in love, click on this link.