Weddings: Contrasts and Contracts

It is interesting how contrast exists, even in weddings.

In some cultures, the tradition remains that the bride wears a white dress and the groom wears black. This striking imagery is impressive, but does this mean that marrying black to white results in gray? If black symbolizes dark, and white stands for purity, then does the father of the bride have the right to glare at their future son-in-laws for “tainting” their daughters?

Ironic.

one-does-not-simply-get-married

Plan big, spend even bigger, invite hundreds, if not thousands of people to the ceremony, and overlook the shell-shocked gaze of the father of the bride as he stares into his dwindling, shrinking bank account. Mother’s pass on their wedding dress, or help shop for new ones, buddies of the groom throw the final bachelor party to give that final glimpse of all the bodacious tail other options that will be forever out of reach, and the slew of wedding invites hit the post offices in volume competitive with letters for Santa during Christmas (apparently, this is the one event inappropriate for text or Evite RSVP).

And this just describes the typical U.S. wedding. Some wedding celebrations within different cultures and nations last longer than a few hours. In fact, some wedding celebrations can last days, weeks, or (rarely) months!

As spring and summer approaches, there have been hundreds of wedding ceremonies in the works. If I were to count all the weddings that people in my circle are invited to and plan on attending, it would be easily in the hundreds.

Ahhhh marriage!

Depending on your perspective it can be an interesting ceremony. On the one hand, it is a holdover from the days of antiquity, when religious institutions emphasized the moral edict that the sanctity of intimacy between two individuals was only permissible within the construct of a contract where each party swore before “God” that they would be chaste, faithful, and supportive of each other. In the medieval days especially, this institute was easily more of a political tool within the circles of royalty and nobility. Marriage became a tool of advancement, for political gain and to solidify wealth and power. For the poor of that era, it could be argued that marriage was more for future stability, especially for women in a world where they were considered second class citizens.

This, of course, devolved into “marriages of convenience”, “shotgun weddings”, “oops-marry-because-baby-is-due” events and “alliances”.

But what does marriage look like now?

'But, by not getting married, we've eliminated any chance of divorce.'Nowadays, many couples choose not to marry. It’s a piece of paper, unnecessary to define the bond of love, devotion, and dedication between them. This is the argument I have heard time and again, and in a sense they are right. How can a piece of paper change or begin to define their emotional connection?

To be realistic, marriage and weddings are really for the family and for legalities –a way for two people to announce to their family that, yes, we are exclusive so bugger off! Oh, and by the way, when one of us passes, the other is to inherit our wealth, our debt, and our offspring. Happy now?!!

I could rant about the unfairness of scenarios where one’s beloved is shunted out of the decision process entirely due to legality, but we’ve heard the stories and know the gist of what I’m getting at. If not, feel free to comment and dialogue with me (shameless plug…).

Or maybe this was a decision stemming from religious fulfillment of the list of requirements necessary before intimacy and children get thrown into the mix. As a prodigy of private/religious based schooling, I can safely say that nearly 90% of students I knew within my “graduating class” were married within months –okay, be generous, years– after completing high school. College was a maybe, but marriage was definitely happening!

Then there are the statistics regarding divorces of first marriages, not including second marriages which hold even higher rates for divorce:

dep7XIZ

While the United States does not hold the number one ranking for highest divorce rates, it still  hovers around 53%, which is dwarfed in comparison to Europe which holds an average of a divorce rate higher than 60%. Interestingly enough, Belgium retains first place in divorce rates with roughly 70% first marriages ending in divorce.

Oh great, some numbers; but what’s your point?

Point is, marriage is not a simple matter. The wedding is the first step, but living with that covenant can be the real challenge. In their book Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out?, Dr. Alan Hawkins and Tamara Fackrell allege that youth, lack of education, low-income, premarital cohabitation and childbearing, lack of religious affiliation, parental divorce, and insecurity increase the likelihood for divorce. This assumes that the union is otherwise respectable and does not include unfaithfulness, abuse (physical, emotional, mental, etc.), or lack of commitment.

On the other hand, there is the often controversial argument for and against same-sex marriages made by “Steeple Chasers”. Pregnant pause…because everyone has an opinion on this topic, and some have certainly flashed through your brain just now. Regardless of where you stand on this topic, there are so many arguments funneled into this topic that it’ll explode itself within moments of conversation.

gay_marriagePersonally, I’m of the live and let live variety. On the one hand, marriage is publicly declaring love for another, along with pledging intent for exclusivity, partnership, and loyalty for the rest of their lives. And honestly, this can be a beautiful event, the ultimate gesture, so who cares what the “genders” and “gender combination” turn out to be? Love can be a beautiful thing, whether it’s between two humans, or two creatures within the animal kingdom (okay, yes, I realize that individual/animal comparison is veering into left field, but stay with me!). On the other hand, marriage is a contract, as stated before, so it is a wise move to legally finalize the pesky details that become detrimental in life and death scenarios. We’ve all heard stories of how two people in love –again of any gender combination–, who were not married, found their wishes overruled by family members, or outside interference due to the fact that they had not appointed each other as legal guardians in the event of accidents, medical incidents, or death.

Consequently, my typical response to the outcry of those who mandate that marriage is between a man and a woman alone, is one of mirth and sarcasm. Because marriage is so “sacred” and must be “protected at all costs”… yeah.

To paraphrase a speech I once heard:

“As if God is standing at the gates of marriage with a hockey stick, fielding off attacks like a goalie to defend the sanctity of an institution mangled and broken. Have you seen how many marriages end? At the rate that people are divorcing nowadays, it’s not as if marriage is all it’s cracked up to be. So let them (same-sex-marriages) have it. Let. Them. Have. It.”

Atlas shrugged.

And then, of course, there is polyamory…

–Where is this ramble going? the reader asks, brow furrowed and eyes rolling.

To conclude, marriage is beautiful. Sure, it’s been manhandled and bruised lately, but it still can be one of the most beautiful experiences anyone can have. But even more importantly, Love is awesome, and visually displaying that love is what truly matters, whether it is in a formalized ceremony, over a dinner for two, spooning on the couch, or sending I ❤ U messages.

For those about to take that marital plunge, I wish you many years of happiness for you and your mate. Actions speak louder than words, so the saying goes, and you are making a bold move. Keep the flame of love alive, and may your future be bright and full of blessings.

Context? My parents are happily married, many of my friends are happily married or about to be happily married. I’m not married, so all the nuances that go with marriage might be lost on me. Maybe if I marry, I will have a new perspective on this, or just shake my head and recant.

Either way, my opinion, my thoughts, and my share, for better or for worse. Fo’ keeps!

 ~Opalflame

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opalflame

I am artist, analyst, author, poet, composer, musician to name a few aspects of myself. A bit of a jack of trades, I dabble into many fields that encourage the blossom of imagination and allow me to channel my creativity. I dream vividly and view the world through the lens of optimism and opportunity while acknowledging the ink and shadows.

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