Angel wants to spend a last romantic day with Tess before their wedding. On Christmas Eve they go out shopping as a couple, and Angel returns to the society he had been avoiding for so long.
They are still trying to prolong this episode of unreality, and play-act as a married couple among Angel's society that will later judge them.
They return to their inn and as two men are leaving the parlor, one recognizes Tess and makes an insulting remark about her past. Angel hears and strikes him in the face. The man apologizes and pretends it was a mistake. Angel gives him some money for his trouble.
Another unhappy coincidence where Tess's past comes up at the peak of her happiness. Angel can physically strike it—just as he has always stopped Tess from admitting it to him—but Tess cannot escape its reality.
As they ride away Tess asks again about postponing the wedding, as she is upset by the incident. She comforts herself with the thought of moving very far away.
Tess's thought is again of putting many miles between her and her history, and so somehow escape the hand of fate.
That night Angel dreams he is fighting the insulting man and lashes out in his sleep. This is the last straw for Tess, and she decides to confess everything in a letter. She writes it all down and slips it under Angel's door. The next morning Tess is distraught but Angel acts normally. She wonders if he got the note, but feels comforted that he will forgive her either way.
When Tess realizes the strength of Angel's love, her guilt overwhelms her. She is still too weak to say it out loud, but here at last she makes her painful sacrifice. Her reward is even more confusion.
On their wedding day they sleep late, and then find that Dairyman Crick has cleaned and decorated the kitchen in their honor. No guests from either family arrive, as Tess invited no one and Angel's family is displeased with his hasty decision. He would be more upset if he did not know the secret of Tess's ancestry, which he exaggeratedly assumes will win his family's hearts.
The ceremony is small and focused on the future rather than on family and the past. Angel fears facing his family's scorn, and wants to delay until he has to. In his passion Angel puts too much stock in the d'Urberville name, which has already been the downfall of many.
Tess is still unsure if Angel read her note, so she checks his room and finds it hidden under the carpet, still sealed. She destroys it. She knows there is still time to confess, but the house is busy with wedding preparations and they only have a minute alone.
Tess is given another painful reprieve, which makes confessing even harder. She chooses to delay the inevitable again.
Tess tries to bring up the subject lightly, but Angel dismisses it and says he will confess his sins as well, later when they are settled and need entertainment. The remaining hours are a whirlwind, and her excitement temporarily drowns out any apprehension.
Angel still assumes he understands the nature of Tess's life. It is notable that he brings up his own faults on their wedding day, framed as an amusing story for later.
They go to the church in an ancient carriage driven by an ancient man. It is just the couple and the Cricks. Angel wishes his brothers had come, but thinks they would have been out of place among the dairy workers. Tess experiences the ride in a bright haze, and feels like one of the divinities Angel used to compare her to.
The description of the carriage lends a somewhat ominous tone to the ride. Angel's conformist brothers clearly would disapprove of Tess. Tess briefly sees herself as others do, as a goddess or symbol larger than her individual self.
The ceremony passes in a blur, and once Tess reaches out to assure herself of Angel's reality. He does not yet appreciate the depth and purity of her love for him. They come out of the church and when the bells die away Tess again returns from her sublime mental state.
Angel's love is still naïve, but Tess's has been matured and strengthened by the pain of her past. He still does not realize how deeply everything he does affects her.
Angel remarks on her expression, and Tess says she feels she has seen the old carriage before. Angel mentions the legend of the d'Urberville coach, but doesn't want to tell the story then as it is too morbid, involving a d'Urberville committing a crime in the family coach.
Hardy here introduces the symbol of the coach, which is itself a foreshadowing of murder. The full legend is not told yet, but it does seem like another bad omen on their wedding day.
By the time they reach home Tess is depressed, and wonders if she is rightfully Alec's wife instead of Angel's. When she is alone she prays to both God and her husband, and laments that Angel does not love her, but the person she might once have been.
Tess's religion comes from the strength of her passion, and so her prayers are aimed mostly at Angel. She can see now that he loves an idealized version of Tess, not the real Tess.
They leave for the flour-mill, and Tess asks Angel to kiss Marian, Retty, and Izz once for her, as they look so very sad. Angel obeys, and as they leave Tess looks back and sees the kiss has affected them all deeply.
Tess's good intentions do more harm than good, but again the four women remain free of bitterness in their honest country hearts, and also because of Tess's own sincerity.
Angel bids farewell to the Cricks, but at that moment a cock crows. They hear someone mutter about a bad omen, and the bird crows twice again. Tess wants to hurry away, and the dairyman and his wife reassure themselves that it only means a change of weather and “not what you think.”
This is another bad omen with its own sense of urgency in ending the chapter. This is also another bird associated with Tess's fate, and the image recalls the story of the Biblical Peter denying that he knew Jesus, like Tess betraying Angel with her silence.