My grandparents married in 1952. After the wedding they had a light lunch in the church basement. My grandpa honeymooned in Korea driving a military tank while my grandmother moved in with her sister.
My parents married in 1978 in the church where my dad grew up. After the wedding they had a light lunch in the church basement. They honeymooned in Florida.
Somewhere between then and now, we changed. We shifted focus from vows to things. From people to grandeur. Was it the wedding industry, or Disney movies, or watching Diana walk down the aisle to marry Prince Charles?
This is what we do now:
Girls start dreaming of their wedding day at age 10, and populating their Pinterest wedding boards at 15. We dig $30,000 of debt for one day of celebration. That’s not including the three months of salary we require men to spend to prove their worthiness. We wouldn’t pay more than $300 for a dress for any other occasion, but we’ll charge $7,000 for this dress, because this will be the best day of my entire life, right?
We end up living with strangers and men who won’t ever satisfy us because we focus our attention on throwing the perfect party, wearing the perfect dress, weighing the perfect amount and having the perfect jewel on our finger, rather than thinking about who we signed up to spend the rest of our lives with.
Why? I have a few theories.
- We’re competitive bitches. For years surrounding our own weddings we give other brides the side-eye and mutter under our breaths, “didn’t you think my food was better than this?” and, “I would never wear that dress. I mean, it’s fine on her, I would just never wear it.”
- We’re show offs. I will look great in this dress. I will pull every last detail of this thing together. I will not forget to invite anyone. I will impress your mother.
- We have a desire to throw the best fucking party you’ve ever been to. I want you to remind me in five years how amazing my party was. I guess maybe that ties back to #1.
- We’ve been thinking about and planning this thing since we were 10. We weren’t thinking about who was going to be at the end of the aisle, but we were thinking about the dress and the flowers and the cake.
For 20 years we think about the things we’re going to have at our weddings, but not the person we’re going to spend the next 50 years of life with. We assume that the perfect human will walk in one day and be thoroughly satisfied fitting into the plans we’ve made.
Some people are able to do it all. The dress, the ring, the cake, the flowers, and the person they’ll be devoted to until they die. Many of us don’t think about the last part though. I didn’t. I had all of the things, but not the person. It didn’t take me long to realize that the things don’t matter. I have a dress in my closet that will be consigned soon. I have a diamond that originally belonged to my grandmother and will have to be reset. I can’t remember what we ate or what the centerpieces looked like.
I don’t mean to disparage marriage. I find the premise of marriage, the true meaning of it, just lovely. Two people who adore each other enough to devote the rest of their lives to one another. That you’d watch me go through chemo eventually, and I’ll be with you when you’re impotent (it’ll happen eventually guys) is admirable and infinitely reassuring.
So when you get engaged, can the important thing be that you’ve found someone who wants to wake up next to your face every day, whether it’s the 20ish year-old face he fell in love with or the 85 year-old wrinkled, age-spotted face he’s woken up next to for as far back as he can remember?