Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Q & A: Why Get Married?

Reader Question: Besides the completely obvious legal reasons behind "marriage," I am curious why you made your relationship official with a "wedding?" As far as we are concerned, my Hunny and I were "married" over 8 years ago, with the mental transition about 5 years ago--as I suspect you and your husband were. My Hunny and I are just "going through the motions" of marriage rituals recently because society expects it. He and I don't care that we ever have a ceremony, and am wondering what your reason was behind inviting your families and friends simultaneously when your community already accepted you both? I wonder if a "wedding" is necessary for the families to feel like they had a choice in the matter? I suppose it bothers me that society does not accept relationships as "legit" until the legal system gets involved, when that definition really belongs and lies within each couple and within the communities that accept them.

I definitely hear and respect your perspective! I have my own beef with "the system," mainly the fact that it discriminates against a whole group of people based on their sexual orientation. In fact, I thought about not ever getting married as a form of protest and to show my commitment to the gay rights movement, but I decided that my most effective form of protest and activism is to keep this inclusive wedding-planning community going and to speak up about the injustice as often as possible.

As for the reasons why I chose to get married:

First and foremost, the idea of proclaiming our love for each other in front of our nearest and dearest (and then partying together afterward), really appealed to me. I believe in the power of rituals to help us step outside of our day-to-day lives and acknowledge the sanctity and profundity of our life's intentions. I happen to be reading a book right now about how to honor rites of passages with various rituals, and I'm realizing (rather sheepishly because rituals can seem really cheesy and hokey) that I want to incorporate more ceremony into my life.

For me, I loved working with Matt to write our wedding ceremony from scratch. I loved learning about different rituals and drawing from them to create our own. I loved crafting the language and writing our vows. We still go back and reread them every year! Even this morning, I was revising a family mission statement that Matt and I drafted together. I believe in the power of words, and a wedding is a chance to craft important words and share those with your beloved and your community.

I also loved the community aspect of a wedding. If we just threw a regular party, there's no way we could have gotten 80 of our friends and family to trek to the mountains of Colorado. I loved having a wedding because it meant that we were reunited with friends from all different parts of our lives, and we got to introduce them to each other.

The legal part meant very little to me. In the state of Colorado, people are allowed to solemnize their own marriage. So basically, Matt and I signed the certificate ourselves (as part of the ceremony). A few days later, we realized we needed one more witness to sign it, so we just asked a random neighbor to sign it.

I try not to kowtow to what "society expects." If you feel like you're only getting married out of societal obligation, then, by all means, don't get married! For Matt and me, getting married was a wonderful opportunity to deviate from the norm and craft our own meaning and memories in a way that made sense to us. Going through that process fortified our trust in ourselves as a couple to make decisions that feel right to us, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

I'd definitely like to hear others' perspectives about why they got married. Please chime in!
E-mail me your wedding, marriage, and relationship questions!

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Megilon said...

For us we were "married" before we officially said I do because we were completely committed to each other.

We got legally married because he is military and a lot of the benefits including survivors benefits must go to a spouse or a family member.

And most importantly to us we had a religious ceremony in front of our family and friends because our faith is very important to us. And God is a major part of our relationship. We wanted to confirm our commitment to each other in front of God and our loved ones.

I think that everyone has to do what is important and best for them. For us a Christian wedding ceremony was important to us. For someone else it may not be. And it was the happiest day of my life and why wouldn't I want to share that with family and friends.

Rajyalakshmi K said...

I am so glad I found this little online community. Planning our wedding, we are struggling with all the issues I see here. While it's been brought up many times before, just last night we were reconsidering having a wedding because we have been committed for a long time. I agree that ceremony and ritual is important for community to strengthen and give time to re-center on our intentions. So, please keep up the good work for all of us that need like-minded people to help us keep our sanity!

emily said...

My partner and I are planning a commitment ceremony this year for similar reasons that were mentioned in this post. We're looking forward to putting a lot of thought into writing our vows that will involve not only our love and support for each other but asking for the same love and support from our community of family and friends. We have chosen not to get a legal marriage license simply because we do not see a need to involve the government in our personal relationship, and because the government feels it has a right to prevent same-sex couples from enjoying the privileges of legal marriage. There is a fantastic book called "Unmarried to each other" from an organization called the Alternatives to Marriage Project, and it provides all sorts of advice for people in or starting a long term committed relationship and navigating the murky waters of shared finances, powers of attorney, health proxies and household contracts. I highly recommend it, even for those who plan to get legally married.

We also plan to have our ceremony at our Unitarian Universalist church. Our particular church boycotts signing marriage licenses because they cannot offer it to all couples. It is very important to us that we take a stand towards affirming non-legal relationships as legitimate and worthy of health benefits, tax breaks and social acceptability. Marriage and weddings aren't for everyone, but there are still ways to celebrate your commitment and love with the people who are near and dear to you.

Harri said...

If you don't mind me asking, what's the book you're reading called? It sounds like something I'd find really interesting.


Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Harri: You're always welcome to ask anything! The book is called Living Passages for the Whole Family: Celebrating Rites of Passage from Birth to Adulthood. Be well!

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