I went to a bunch of weddings this year. There were barns, doughnut bars, catered Brasa green sauce, Catholic masses, and even broken sound equipment that led to Tony and me DJing an entire reception with our phones. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t enjoy my own wedding or because I expect that many of the guests in attendance knew it wouldn’t work, but I find that I've started looking for certain things at each wedding I attend. Are the bride and groom enjoying themselves? How do they look at each other when she walks down the aisle? Is the wedding about the party or the marriage? How do their parents feel? Sometimes it’s clear that the relationship will struggle, and other times it seems that those two people were made to be with each other until the end of time.
As I watch the ceremonies, listen to toasts and see engagement announcements on social media, I always notice the differences between how men and women talk about weddings and engagements. Generally friends of the groom make comments about being trapped, stuck or finally giving in. Friends of the bride are excited to go dress shopping and relieved that she finally got that ring. Not to mention all the “he put a ring on it” Facebook albums I’ve seen. Only on women’s pages though, I’ve never seen a man post a photo of a ring, whether it's the one he purchased for her or the one he’ll wear for the rest of his life.
I once watched an episode of a very classy reality television show called The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and in the heat of an argument one woman shouted, “I’ve been engaged three times!” as a way to prove that she was better than someone else. She had three different men sign up to spend their lives with her, and now she had bragging rights. A man would never proudly say that he had proposed to three different women.
We've come a long way as a society, but the way we talk about engagement and marriage is still very old-fashioned. It’s still a waiting game for the woman who pines for a man to have her, though now she posts things like “I’m a great cook. Wife me!” on Twitter while she waits. Success to her means a ring on her finger. When she FINALLY gets engaged she shows off her ring and turns her wedding into a “best party” contest with her friends.
The men give a muffled "congrats" and then tell the future groom what an idiot he is for getting himself into that death trap. What a boring life you’ll have now that you won’t be sleeping with random women and getting drunk with your bros every night.
What if we tried to change that? What if instead of focusing on that huge rock that cost the future groom four months of his salary we said things like “I’m so glad you found someone who makes you happy.” Or for the bros who must be moderately vulgar in their congratulations, how about, “damn dude, I can’t believe she agreed to spend her life with your dumb ass.” See how you’re insulting him rather than insulting his future bride?
So I made a quick list of what you can say instead of the thing you were gonna say.
What you were going to say:
- OMG FINALLY!
- Look at that ring!
- When do we start shopping?
- ‘Bout time!
- Will there be an open bar?
- Dude, why would you do that?
- You. Are. Stuck.
- Is she pregnant?
- Finally getting yourself a ball-and-chain, eh?
What you can say instead:
- I’m so happy for you!
- You are going to have the best life together!
- This is great. You make such a fantastic couple!
- You’re both so lucky to have found each other.
- Yay! Two of my favorite people are getting married!
- Way to go, dude-bro.
- Awesome. Will she play Dungeons and Dragons with us?
Maybe if we used language that focused more on the marriage, the wedding wouldn't be such a big deal. And if we stopped acting like all women spend their lives waiting for a ring, and all men are doomed the minute they get engaged we might change how our kids approach the idea.