The past few months have been peppered with big, exciting life events - both mine and those of some of the people close to me, and it's so easy to fall into that trap of thinking that the traditional life goals imposed on us by antiquated societal norms are the only way to go. Weddings, baby showers, christenings; they're all perfectly good ways to mark milestones in your life should you so choose, but I don't think they're necessarily any guarantee of emotional contentment.
I've known plenty of people who got married and ended up leaving their marriage because it turned out that a marriage certificate doesn't act as a relationship bandage. I also know people who have cohabited, some of whom have raised children and been a perfectly happy family unit without feeling the need to arrange a wedding. I'm aware that there are perfectly valid arguments both for and against the concept of marriage, and that what's right for one person isn't necessarily right for another.
Personally, I have never felt any desire to get married. Even from a really young pre-school age (before the Let Toys Be Toys generation, where visiting your aged relatives would result in being showered with faux vacuum cleaners, ironing boards and doll prams to entertain your visits). One of the options in the dressing up box was an old lace curtain, which was used by my sister as a bridal veil. I'd always opt for the floaty vintage nightgown instead and be the bridesmaid, or the vicar, or the horse to pull the carriage. Ageing relatives used to try and reassure me: "You'll change your mind one day." I guess they were wrong.
As someone who shuns religion, a wedding would feel hypocritical, if nothing else. I would not be able to bring myself to spend the kind of money people brag about their weddings costing, on a day full of stress and anxiety. I can't think of anything much worse than being the centre of attention on a regular day, and I figure those feelings would be heightened tenfold.
Over the years, I've lost count of the number of times I've been told that when I meet the right person, I'll change my mind. I don't know how one is supposed to know right from wrong people, but as someone who is part of a committed-enough relationship to have joint life insurance policies and share a mortgage, I don't quite see how standing up and repeating vows would change the way we feel. Or act as proof of how committed we may be. I don't feel the need to validate my relationship by getting married, but I've lost count of the number of people who, since picking up the keys to our new home, have inferred that we're doing things in The Wrong Order.
Having said that, I know that some people consider that the first part of showing their commitment to someone else is to marry them. Some people I've asked told me that they couldn't consider entering into something like buying a house without first having made a solid commitment to their partner. For us, that wasn't really a consideration, but I appreciate that priorities differ from one relationship to the next.
I have to admit, I'm becoming pretty au fait with having to rebuff hints from well-meaning family members. I mean, if it's not questions to do with when we are planning children (a topic for another day, but just note that it is NEVER your place to comment on someone else's decision on whether to procreate or not..), someone will say something like "so, when will we be getting the save the dates?" or "how can you consider yourselves a family unit if you don't share the same name?!". Christmas dinners seem to have become bingo games to me, these days.
I know that some people consider their family unit to be more complete if they're married and they share the same family name. I don't really have any particular thoughts on surnames. Perhaps that would be something I'd feel differently about if we did have children. If I were ever interested in getting married, keeping my surname wouldn't be something which I'd consider a deal-breaker. I'm not particularly attached to that and wouldn't be interested in a shared name or a hyphen.
For a society which is so progressive in so many other ways, it just feels a little backward to me that we rest *so* much on this antiquated tradition. Why is marriage still seen as the correct choice, when according to recent stats from the ONS, around 42% of marriages end in divorce. Certainly, of the small number of weddings I've attended, more than half of those had broken down within the first few years. Do people enter into it more quickly than they did in the past? Or is vowing to stay together forever not considered as important as it once was? I know that previous generations didn't seem to consider divorce as readily as our society does, perhaps because they didn't see another option.
I asked for other people's opinions on marriage too and have had a mixed bag of thoughts. For some, the religious aspect of marriage is off-putting, but the recent Civil Partnerships Bill could, if it progresses through the House of Lords and becomes part of the legislation, be an alternative for those wishing for more legal recognition of their relationship. Perhaps that would be a possibility worth considering. Where people have married in the past because it made more financial sense than drawing up legal paperwork to give powers of attorney, this could provide a solution.
For some, the things which scare me the most (big parties surrounded by family and friends and having to be the centre of it all) are the main selling points. It's funny how we can all be so different. I'd just like to underline that this is an opinion piece and that I am in no way judging anyone for their views or beliefs, however they may differ from my own. I'm going to leave this here as I realise this is becoming super long. so have yourself a cookie if you made it to the end and please feel free to share your thoughts with me. (Feel free to do that by DM or email or to keep your comment anon if you'd prefer).