Like (m)any woman in what my boyfriend of many months calls a “serious relationship,” I’ve started covertly engaging in the usual activity: wedding planning. I’ve scoured engagement rings on Etsy (simple, rose gold, no diamonds, non-traditional stone), wedding dresses on the J. Crew site (minimal fluff and price), stumbled upon a kickass bouquet made entirely of vintage rhinestone brooches and know more than your average person about courthouse wedding logistics.
All of this is surprising because I have zero interest in getting married. I love my boyfriend, in a truer and deeper love than I ever thought possible. I would be thrilled and honored to spend the rest of my life with him. I’d joyfully wear an engagement ring. Forever. I’d live with him, happily. Married though? Meh. Been there. Done that. Barely survived it. I know that many will argue that it’s a different, deeper level of commitment. That marriage means that, say, after a fight the other person can’t just get up and leave. That is incorrect. A marriage contract just makes it take longer, more money and is messier. Yes, it’s helpful if there are children involved but let me assure you that if someone doesn’t want to pay support, they’re not going to. And, from what I’ve also heard, the family court system is a crapshoot so justice isn’t necessarily on your side despite the legalities.
Given all that, I am somewhat surprised that I’m even thinking of marriage, even though I don’t want to be married. Is this an inescapable fact of womanhood? A few thousand years of genetics? Societal programming? Too many years of Barbie and Ken weddings? Seriously, what the fuck?
The first time around in marriage, barely in my twenties, I was thrilled at my change of last name, monogramming anything I could. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t mulled my current boyfriend’s surname tacked onto mine. But I don’t feel the same pull to change my identity. Maybe it’s that I’m nearly two decades older, or still cranky. But I actually think it’s because I know who I am now and not trying to create a wholly new person.
As I look now at the profiles of friends on Facebook as they announce their engagements, get photos taken, search for venues and obsess about a million little details of utmost importance to a bride but ultimately inconsequential to future happiness (seriously- I was obsessed with venue carpet patterns), I have to take calming breaths so I don’t comment with what I’m really thinking, which is “omgyouguysstopitandjustfocusonyourloveandyourlife.” Because, really and truly, I swear, marriage won’t make your relationship better or stronger. If it is, as many hope, the most romantic day of your life than you’ve just peaked and the rest is downhill. Yes, the urgency is different the first (and hopefully only) time around. The pull to do things “right” and “proper” and not produce bastard children out of wedlock and live in sin is still strong in modern America. (And, FYI, at some point your children will still act like bastards whether they were born to a married mother or not). But the second time around, at least for me, brings a special kind of calm. My biological clock isn’t ticking louder, it’s winding down. I know for sure I don’t want more children. Many days I’m not even sure I want the ones I already have. There’s no rush, no timetable. Isn’t that the way it should be? I’m not desperate to document every moment of our courtship with formal photographs and fancy outfits. I’m enjoying them instead.
Wedding planning is a total delight when you’re not getting married. I could kill a couple of insomnia-filled hours on Pinterest planning my faux nuptials. But while looking at the “dream weddings” of others, I really am also slightly nauseous. Yes, the day you commit to one special someone is wonderful. But does it really need to be expensive too? I don’t feel like I have to prove my love of my man to God or anyone else. I don’t need a show of coordinated dresses and colors and beribboned chairs and to feed friends of friends of family mediocre chicken at $150/plate. Really, who the hell wants a party favor to remember the day I got married? It all seems a waste now. (Keds. I had wedding Keds for the reception with lace on them. I could have used that $50 for anything else and it would have been a better choice).
I don’t need marriage to make me happier. I’m happy now. I don’t feel the need to prove anything to myself, us, or anyone else. We know we’re happy and that’s enough. And it’s not expensive or showy or legally binding. It’s just us. And that is enough for now and maybe forever.