First off, what I’m about to write in no way means that I’m any less chuffed about being engaged. I’m actually happier and more excited than I thought I would be. Not that I thought I wouldn’t be happy, but both Suw and I let our brains get the better of us at times and tend to over-analyse things. (I anticipate a knowing groan from family and those of you who know us well.)
OK, enough of a disclaimer. I now feel as if I’ve given myself enough cover to write openly. Last week, we went shopping at the local Waitrose. Just as we got to the checkout, Suw said, “Forgot something”, and dashed off. She came back with You & Your Wedding magazine. Actually, it’s too encyclopedic to be called a magazine. It’s got a biblical heft to it. I told Suw if she wanted to work on her biceps, she could just do some arm curls with it.
Don’t take my word it. “276 ways to wow!” I mean, you’re not going to fit ‘276 ways to wow’ in a skimpy little publication. I just flipped to the back: 432 pages in total. There are a bunch of other pamphlets, fliers and ads included that we haven’t even touched. After leafing through it for a while, Suw discovered that the average reader of You & Your Wedding spends £20,000 pounds on their wedding. Gulp.
This all reminded me of a theory of mine. Growing up, everyone remembers when we our thoughts turned to well, sex. For some it was members of the opposite sex, or for others members of the same sex. But let’s face, it was about sex. In the Midwest of the US where I come from, we tend to paper over such sordid things. As we used to say, Christians don’t get horny, they get married, but whether PG or R-rated, dating, relating and, for some, mating began to take up a lot of our spare time.
Now, for most people, dating leads to marriage at some point. For Suw and I, it took a little longer than most to find someone that we could tolerate and that would actually tolerate us. About five years ago, I noticed that women’s thoughts had changed, had turned again. Their focus was well, more focused. It wasn’t just about dating. It was a single-minded obsession with marriage. That was one of the great things about dating Suw, we got to enjoy the romance of falling in love before getting ahead of ourselves and worrying about the ’till death do you part’ part.
I put this matrimonial obsession down in part to where I lived at the time: Washington DC, where we didn’t just have alpha males, we also had alpha females. Alpha females had gone to the best schools, landed the right job out of university, got the advanced degree young and began to climb the ladder with great vigour. That’s all well and good. In their 20s, they worked hard and played hard. When they decided that they wanted to get married, they did it with the same single-minded sense of purpose that they had done everything else. It did bleed much of the romance out of the process, and many women in Washington wondered why men fled in terror. They put it down to fear of commitment. No, it was a primitive fight-or-flight response brought about by predatory dating practices. A friend was once asked his net worth on the first date. Needless to say, there wasn’t a second date. All of us men knew there was a check list by which we were being measured, but when a woman whips out the pen and clipboard, it banishes all pretence from the process.
I don’t blame women for this. I blame the wedding-industrial complex. Just like so many other traditions debased by consumerism (see Christmas), marriage and really the wedding itself has become just like so many other consumer goods. It’s marketed and packaged like so much processed food. Your wedding: Now with 25% more lace, flowers and stress. The societal pressure for women to marry is bad enough (men don’t have any pressure to get hitched), but then add to that the slickly produced hard sell of wedding-industrial complex and it’s no wonder there are so many attacks of bride-zilla. But all this again just bleeds the romance out of everything.
I’m trying to balance keeping a cool head about the whole thing in the face of a lot of planning – especially considering the Trans-Atlantic nature of our wedding – while keeping a focus on what the day is really about: This is about me standing up in front of friends and family and pledging my love to Suw. That’s a beautiful thing in itself, and all this expensive garbage just distracts from the real focus. Suw and I are looking forward to a great celebration with friends and family. We’re going to make this day ours and not get suckered by the wedding-industrial complex to spend a lot of money making our day look like everyone else’s.
Good for you, Kev. When Laura and I got married almost four years ago, I was lucky in a way that she had already had the Cinderella wedding that the wedding-industrial complex pushes the first time around. That obviously didn’t work out, so when it was our turn, we were free to just do what we wanted. We discarded the bits that we didn’t like, invented a few of our own, invited a bunch of people we wanted to see and who we thought would have fun with each other, and then just spent a nice low key day eating great food and hanging with our friends and family and their kids at a small inn at the beach. It was the lowest stress wedding in the world short of eloping, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s about having fun and sharing your commitment with the people who mean the most to you, and it’s important to keep that in sight and don’t let the complex distract you. Good luck.
“Just like so many other traditions debased by consumerism (see Christmas), marriage and really the wedding itself has become just like so many other consumer goods.” Come check out Utah. It might make you feel even less pressured by commercial forces than you already are.
“(men don’t have any pressure to get hitched)” Not in my realm…
Ralph, we’re hoping to do this around Hallowe’en so are planning to make the reception a bit of ‘fancy dress’ (costume) party. Suw is thinking of coming as the Corpse Bride, and I might come as a vampire.
Yeah Steve, I had pressure to get married and have kids until my brother got hitched. His young thundering herd have my parents’ sated as far as grandkids go so the pressure is off. Although I’ll have to blog about a time when that wasn’t the case. I thought my parents were going completely insane. My male friends agreed, but my female friends said: Your parents’ want grandkids NOW. Phew, thankfully my brother came through in a pinch.
We are getting married in May. Apparently the most fun you can have preparing for your wedding is the “Wedding List”. Its kind of like being on Santas knee, armed with a barcode gun for what you want.
However, you are sharing Santas knee.
It is the stuff of a Greek Tragedy.
So we went out there, oh happy days, armed with our Debenhams wedding gun, having waded through the limp crowds in Oxford Circus. Instantly we were fighting. I don’t fight over cutlery usually. Lizz doesn’t usually care what frying pans I buy. However, that day we were in combat.
The engagement period has evolved. One upon a time it was when the man proved he was interested and the plans were made for the wedding. Now, in the 21st century consumer society, I think the Engagement period is when the man is tested to see if we can handle, or wants to handle, being in a relationship with a particular woman. In the engagement period women change and show their not-so-chilled sides, and start to display attributes they had previously ensured had ended with their mothers.
Having said that, I view it as a curiosity rather than a problem. I would change it as much as I would my finacee, that is: not at all.
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