I am about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my first date with my husband (night before the superbowl in case anyone is sending gifts). Later this year we will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. That’s almost 7,000 days of being married incase you were wondering, and since that is a lot of days and a lot of years I am feeling a little self-righteous about the whole institution. I don’t pretend that I know the magic formula for staying married, or having a happy marriage or remaining passionately in-love. Every individual is unique, every marriage is unique so I am not here to say that what is right for me is right for you. But I am going to spend some time ranting about the disintegration of values in marriage in favor of a culture of wedding as event and the ever-increasing narcissism of the society in which we live. So if you don’t want to hear about that then stop now and feel satisfied that you got the basics in the introductory paragraph.
If you are still reading you may have asked yourself, ‘why is Maggie ranting about marriage again, hasn’t she already done this?” I have, true. But like the little things that your life-partner does that make you crazy, my irritation with the wedding industry only grows! As the calendar flipped to January we were all blessed with myriad lists about what is going to be trending for 2014: put away your emerald green and pull out your magenta, sell that big house and build your own cottage in the woods, pull up your home garden and move on down to the city-center community garden. And of course the top wedding trends for the year; weddings are no longer about making a life-commitment to another person witnessed by family and close friends (probably weddings haven’t been about this for a long time given what I read in the celebrity news), no indeed. Weddings are now about making sure you are in touch with the hottest fashion of the moment: pink is back, romance is in, patterns in your decorations, hand-illustrated invitations, sparkles on your cake, and music that matches your theme! Oh good god this makes me want to throw-up!
Now I have nothing against sparkles and romance. I love sparkles, more than I should, and I am pathetically into romance – when I get really sick I stay in bed watching the BBC multi-part version of Pride and Prejudice. You don’t get much more romantic that Lizzie and Mr. Darcy. But the theme of weddings, any wedding in any year for ever and ever and ever should be MARRIAGE! Why? Because that is what you are doing, you are having a wedding because you are getting married. You are not having an event, you are (I hope) not on reality TV getting ad revenue by inviting millions of viewers to your sacred day, you are making a promise to another human being about how you are going to engage with them for the rest of your life.
I know you want there to be special memories and pretty pictures and magic and romance and whatnot. But none of that is going to one damned thing for you for the rest of your life. You can remember the day you married the person you are spending your life with as having had a $2,000 cake or having a $200 cake. You ate cake with the person you love, right? The flowers were pink or the flowers were peach, whatever at two o’clock in the morning and you are yelling at each other over why you are always the one who has to empty the dishwasher (not an actual fight I have had by the way). The invitation was from a box or the invitation was hand drawn by an endangered species in Namibia, doesn’t matter after that one day, that one moment, it doesn’t do anything to help you through the tough times of which there will be many.
It’s not that I’m not sentimental, maybe it is, but I think it’s more about the fact that love, honor and respect have been hijacked by fashion, consumption, and attention. I once received an “invitation” that actually said ‘you are not invited but please send a gift to this address.’ A wedding is the symbol of a commitment, a beginning. It is exciting and it is special because you are embarking on a journey that will take you down a long, winding, difficult road. But don’t get confused by thinking that day is the destination and that once it is over everything is just afterglow. You can make it as bright, shiny and sparkly as you want, if you are not really committed, really serious about the promise you are making, if that is not the most important thing on the agenda for the wedding day you won’t make it and/or you most definitely will not be happy.
I had a wedding, nearly twenty years ago. It was beautiful, on top of a mountain looking out over Napa Valley. There was food and drink and dancing and happy people. I promised my spouse in front of those people and in front of God that I would hold his hand on the journey, and there have been plenty of times that I have wanted to let go but something about that day, the most important thing that happened was that promise, not the pictures!