What Marriage Means

Mi.Vida and I have been hashing out what we plan to do about our wedding in January. I would like to invite about 30 or so people, all friends that live close by, while he wants to stick with our original plan of just the immediate family.

This conversation has me thinking a lot about marriage and weddings and what they mean to me. I think that maybe our contrasting preferences concerning the wedding have their roots in the different ways we view marriage as it relates specifically to us as a couple.

Mi.Vida has told me that for him, getting married is all about the legal protections the institution provides us. He doesn’t feel it adds anything to our relationship or our commitment to each other. I don’t believe that means he doesn’t love me, I just think that marriage does not, in any way, solidify that love in his eyes. His commitment to me is just as strong whether we have a marriage license or not.

I absolutely respect Mi.Vida’s feelings about marriage; I don’t think it would make much sense for me to get all upset about it when I was willing to forgo marriage before we had children in order to stand up for other beliefs we held. And honestly, my brain agrees with him. I don’t see how getting married will bring us any closer. What we’ve been through in the past four years–the frustration of failed TTC attempts, our ectopic pregnancy, the birth of our daughter, the transition to parenthood and our secondary infertility–does a lot more to prove our commitment to each other than signing a marriage license ever could. I also believe having children with someone is as big a step toward commitment as marriage, especially since children require you to stay in each other’s lives no matter what happens.

So it’s not like I believe our relationship requires the commitment of marriage to remain strong. I guess I just think this is a good opportunity to re-commit to each other in a deliberate way, especially at the end of such a difficult time in our lives. If this baby boy arrives safely, we’ll have the massive hurdle of family building behind us and the very real challenges of parenting two young children ahead. I would love for our wedding to be a celebration of what we’ve accomplished and a reminder that we have the strength to not only survive, but thrive, no matter what lies ahead.

As an extrovert, I also love the idea of sharing all of this with our loved ones. I want to stand in front of our family and friends and recognize where we’ve been and where we’re going, to declare our love and commitment for each other. It’s not that I feel we need witnesses to make it official, but I think it would be nice to include them.

We do plan to have a party this summer and it will be then that we invite ALL our friends and family from around the country. I know that no matter what we decide for January I will eventually embrace it. And I actually appreciate that our divergent desires on this have forced me to really figure out how I feel about my own marriage and wedding. If we easily agreed on what to do I might not even recognize why I wanted to do it. Now, at least I know, and I think that will help me to accept whatever ceremony we end up choosing.

Was your wedding a reflection of you felt about marriage? Do you think it would it mean the same thing if you had waited as long as we have?

9 responses

  1. I do think that our wedding was a reflection of what I felt about marriage. Jon and I worked on our vows together, so just that act ensured that, at least that part, was a reflection of what we felt about our marriage. As for the ceremony (only immediate family) and reception that followed (everyone was invited) I really wouldn’t change a thing (other than the DJ losing our first dance song!). And, as for your second question, I think our marriage really would have suffered if we would have waited, as I knew I ddn’t want to have sex until my wedding night 🙂

  2. We found out we were pregnant the day after we got engaged. We’d been trying for a baby and planned on getting married later on, when the baby was older. But my husband knew how important marriage was to me and popped the question before we took the test.
    For him though, commitment doesn’t require making it legal. The most wonderful and romantic thing he’s ever said was that he was 100% committed to me for life the moment we saw those two pink lines. That’s when we got married, according to him.

  3. No, that piece of paper won’t change anything about your commitment to each other. But the process of planning the wedding, and celebrating with others (whether you invite friends or not) probably will strengthen it and bring you closer together. These conversations you’re having right now are part of that.

    My college roommate told me that she initially wasn’t sure my marriage would work out, due to us coming from such different backgrounds. But when she came to our wedding, she felt that it was going to work. She really liked how we combined the cultures in the ceremony & reception, and how we included both families (K’s family in California came; he’d never met them). So I don’t know if it reflected our views about marriage as much as it reflected our views about our life together.

    As to whether it would mean the same thing if we’d waited, no. It would mean something different once we’d lived the ups & downs of life together for so long. But that’s not to say it’s better or worse. There are benefits to both. Our tenth anniversary is coming up in 8 months (!!) and we will have to think about what we want to do to commemorate that.

  4. For us our wedding was about building a community of folks to support us in our commitment to each other. I think if we hadn’t gotten married pre-children it wouldn’t have been different for us because we were so engaged in the community part of things rather than us committing to each other, but we are weird. We were also engaged for almost 2 years and it wasn’t an easy 2 years so we’d been through a medium amount of mess by the time we got there, which was helpful in keeping it real and keeping marriage in perspective – a day that’s a really cool party that doesn’t change our commitment to each other but did help us build a community of supporters.

  5. When it comes to marriage and children I’m rife with conflicting opinions and actions. I spent 10 years in a relationship before this one where marriage was never on the table. Neither was kids. Period. Per my decision, I didn’t even really ask him about it. We lived together for 8 years and never had joint bank accounts or anything.

    I got together with J, and after the initial denial period, it became pretty clear to me this was a whole new ball of wax. I did want to marry and have children with this man. Neither of us had any particular opinions on children out of wedlock, but for reasons I truly don’t even know, it was important to me we wait.

    We got married on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with about 15 people there. I’d been estranged from most of my family for years, and had just only begun to open roads with them and couldn’t fathom having them at such a deeply personal event. Also I’m really really scared of being at the center of attention in front of large groups of people, and it would have kinda been an all or nothing thing. Like, we would have had at least 100 people wanting to go with us to Vegas. So we made it as hard as we could for everyone not to come. Chicken shit way out, but I don’t regret it. We then had a LARGE reception about 2 weeks after we got back. There was a billion people and lots of fun. I was drunk because see large groups of people phobia.

    I don’t know about our wedding being a reflection of our relationship, I haven’t really analyzed it. J was supportive/disinterested in most of it. He would have had the huge one, or the ceremony at the courthouse, he didn’t really care. His mom however….well.

    I’m happy with how we did it. I don’t think the length of the relationship should have a factor in getting married and celebrating it. It means something different to each person, and that deserves to be respected.

  6. I was never one to pine for marriage as a girl, but I knew all the important stuff was going to wait until after I said, “I do”. Especially being a child of divorce, I take marriage seriously, and even when I was not a practicing Catholic saw it as a covenant with God and your spouse to build a life and family together. We just had a small ceremony in front of the clerk of court, but later I wished we had had a priest perform the ceremony. Now, I’m super excited about getting our marriage blessed by the church, not because it will change anything in our commitment to each other, but because according to the Catholic Church, we will receive many more graces in a sacramental marriage :). That can only help with all the stresses that marriage and raising a family can bring!
    I was similar to Amelia, in that I couldn’t stand the thought of being the center of attention, and the idea of being surrounded by my huge family, with our divorced parent drama made me shudder. Even if we had gone the Church route, it would have been as simple as we could make it.

  7. I do think that our marriage was a reflection of how we felt about it. We had our ceremony outside, on a mountain, with a UU minister (whose sermon was about our journey towards a common life together). We wrote our own vows, and had a party in a big barn where everyone danced together, barn-dance style. No partners necessary, children welcome. The food was great, but casual. It felt like a celebration of us, and our new life together as part of a community. I hope that you feel yours is as fitting to celebrate both of you!

  8. Mmmm. This is a good question. We married young, and so although the ceremony was part us (our vows weren’t traditional, for example) it was also part my parents (so some of their friends were there.). I compare it to the wedding it would have been had we married later, and it is very different. My personal styles had developed, my friendships had changed. (None of my close personal friends today were at my wedding – mind you, I wasn’t at their weddings either.)

    After almost 30 years of marriage, I can say that the type of wedding we had has had no bearing on our relationship. And that had we waited, were we to marry now, everything we have been through and survived would make it much more meaningful now. And if I was doing it now, I would have close friends and immediate family only. (That would be about 35 people.). The people who know what we have been through, and who will support us in the future.

    And I actually think it is beautiful that Mi.Vida doesn’t think a marriage could make him feel more committed about your relationship.

  9. Like Mali, we married young (24 & 28) & have been married 28 years. Anything other marriage would have been shocking to both our families back then (although my sister & her boyfriend have been living together longer than dh & I have known each other & the roof hasn’t caved in yet). 😉 I wanted that commitment, I wanted that piece of paper, I wanted the ring & the party. I don’t especially like being the centre of attention either — when the doors to the chapel opened, I took a very deep breath before my dad & I started walking down that aisle — and the photographer snapped a photo at that exact moment. Ugh. 😉 But I am very glad that we had our family & friends around us that day. (Although it was pretty much all MY family & friends — except for his dad, brother & two cousins who were the ushers, none of dh’s extended family made the trip, which is still a bit of a sore spot with me. But, I digress…)

    We were certainly young & starry eyed. You promise that you will love each other for better or for worse, but when you’re 24, do you really know what that means?? I do think that people who marry when they’re older are a little more realistic in their expectations of each other & the relationship. Still, I think having made that commitment in a very public way reinforced the bond between us and sustained us in the years since then.

    I had a blast planning my wedding, & I hope you do too. 🙂

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