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.