As many of you may already know, I’m engaged and in June this year, Mathieu and I will be wedded husband and wife.
It’s been quite a shock to enter the world of wedding planning. We spend our weekends working out logistics for out of town guests, planning itineraries, liaising with vendors, and managing an endless list of things to do for one single day of our lives. Or, if I’m honest, mostly procrastinating on all of this. But as I go through the to-do lists it’s hard not to ask myself, “what is the point?”
Whenever I vent about feeling overwhelmed to friends or family there is an onslaught of opinions and suggestions. I end up sitting there nodding as someone goes off on a tangent about the pros and cons of marriage. It seems like the act of marriage is either a worthwhile achievement or an outdated tradition that needs to be abolished.
As a way to become clear on what’s important to me, I’ve listed out the most common opinions I get from others and my responses to each. Writing this has helped me gain clarity and it might be of use to anyone else who is in the midst of the headache that is wedding planning.
1. The divorcee/unhappily married: Don’t get married, it’s trap.
2. The creative traveller: Why waste so much money on one day of your lives when you can travel around the world with that same amount of money?
3. The evolutionist: We are all just animals and it’s unnatural to have one partner for the rest of your life.
4. The traditionalist: Omg, weddings! This is going to be the best day of your life!!!
5. The blunt realist: Why do you need to get married to prove your love? Why don’t you just be together without the rings and fancy ceremony?
The divorcee/unhappily married
These are the worst kinds, so I’ll start with them. It’s hard to resist rolling my eyes when someone goes into a spiel about why marriage is a ‘trap’ and something to avoid.
Maybe because for the longest time, I was like them. I used to have a very low regard for marriage. Mostly because there were no examples around me of what a happy marriage looked like. Whenever I heard someone talking about their engagement, I’d wish them well but think to myself, “Why rush into divorce already?”
The relationship I have with my fiancé has transformed me in many ways, and I don’t say this for lovey-dovey sentiments. I’ve never felt loved this much, but I’ve also never loved another person this much either. The feeling of mutuality is blinding and euphoric. I feel seen in a way I never have before which is also terrifying because it requires trust, honesty and vulnerability.
I finally get it now why people say you need to love yourself first. Self-love is the most critical ingredient to any relationship and it’s a relentlessly exhausting endeavour. When we love ourselves, we are not blaming, controlling or being vindictive to others. We all have things we don’t particularly enjoy about ourselves. Relationships are complicated and difficult for this very reason. But if both partners work to become a better version of themselves then, as cheesy as it sounds, it makes the world a better place. Love is a potent and healing force.
The creative traveller
As the daughter of a Diplomat, I grew up travelling. Airports were my second home. I learned from a young age that seeing the world and how other people lived was way more important than any material item. Collecting experiences is of utmost importance to me.
But a wedding is an experience. It may not feel the same as a safari or climbing mountains, but a giant party with everyone I love in one place is an experience I want to have. I want to see the pictures of our wedding day hung on the wall of our home; containing the love from that day like a time capsule. The pictures are windows to the past for guests and friends alike. I’ve always found it fascinating to see how people looked on their wedding day and who they chose to be there with them. Those pictures give little kids a chance to see what their parents looked like when they were young.
It’s a day in my life I want to be able to re-live.
Especially when the people who were there to celebrate are no longer with us.
These are the people who believe that human beings are, at the end of the day, animals dressed in clothes. We may be intelligent creatures who can plan and solve and do all sorts of amazing things but at the end of the day, we are led by urges and instincts. This, to me, is a cop-out for acting like an animal.
It’s like the act of loving another person over a long period of time is the most recent software update to our mind. It links to our primal brain, but it also incorporates a deeper level of conscious awareness and intelligence. After the rush of the honeymoon period fades, it becomes an ongoing exchange that requires attentiveness, communication, patience, and a clear understanding of our own needs. Two people who are happily married for a long period of time seem like very mature, emotionally intelligent human beings. Of course, this does not apply to everyone, and it is not meant to insult anyone who divorced a toxic partner. Love and marriage is complex and there are many factors at play. But I think that anyone can act on impulse. Not everyone can commit to one person through an entire lifetime.
I love people who get excited for weddings.
They make me excited too because, in most cases, they are present-focused people. They aren’t focusing on the divorce rate statistics or overthinking the pros and cons, they just want to see two people who love each other celebrate their love. I mean, it’s hard to argue with the people who love weddings. Celebrating love is fun because it’s also a chance to celebrate being alive.
The blunt realist
Marriage, I know, changes nothing drastic in our relationship. I’m still me and Mat is still Mat. We will continue to work to improve ourselves and heal our inner wounds. We will still have our issues, like every couple does, and we will continue to do our own work to evolve into the highest versions of ourselves we can be.
Marriage stands in stark contrast to the disposable nature of today’s relationships. Real commitment is increasingly rare, and just as increasingly important. Especially for young children. A child needs to know that the parent commits to them to feel worthy of love, but the child also needs to see how the act of love is shared between his two parents. I believe both of these, when done well, alleviates so much needless suffering as the child becomes an adult. The quality of our life depends largely on the quality of our close relationships. So much of which is witnessed in our early years of development.
The bottom line
I believe marriage is an honourable adventure.
It has taken me many years to come to this conclusion, and I’ve had to remove a thick layer of armour to get here. Now that I’ve arrived, I’m ready to commit my life to the best man I know. I’m aware of the work required and the risk that comes with loving someone. But there is a risk in every path we choose in life.
I love the idea of having a ceremony with our loved ones gathered. The only other time my family has come together in such a grand, drop-everything-kind-of-way, was at a funeral. It was only during these times that I forged bonds between distant relatives. Weddings are quite similar, aren’t they? They are those memorable events of our lives that pull people together in the name of love. They make us stop and reflect on the most important things in life. One commemorates a life lived, the other celebrates the love between two people and the new life to begin. Tears are shed and we leave feeling the pulse in our veins; deeply alive and obligated to live a full life while we’re still here.
Maybe if I had not experienced grief the way I have I would have opted for a small, practical wedding. One where we would elope to some tropical island. There would be no stress in planning and preparing, it would be straightforward and simple. Or, I wouldn’t have been getting married at all.
But life has led me on a different path and showed me how important it is to bring the people you love together. It simply does not happen enough. Yes, it may be challenging to plan and yes, it may cost a significant amount of money. But when would be another time in our lives when two families who live on opposite ends of the earth come together? How often in our lives do we actually stop to properly celebrate love?
I want to see our families unite and friendships to blossom. I want to hear tearful emotional speeches about the people we once were, and who we have grown to be. I want to see all the people I love celebrate our marriage and light up the dance floor.
My family has dealt with so much pain and grief. Every funeral brought me closer to those that I’ve lost touch with and expanded the love I have for my family. I want to change the track of devastation we’ve experienced to that of hope. I want to bring my family together again, but this time in high spirits and cheer. This time, with tears of joy, not of pain.
But unlike a funeral, we will be there to see it. We will be alive to absorb every ounce of love that fills room.
I simply can’t wait to be a part of it.