A few of my friends have recently got engaged. Whilst trying to drown out the part of me that is screaming ‘why god why? when is it my turn!?’ I’ve been thinking about how much I actually hate weddings and what they represent. Not marriage – the idea of committing to someone, of loving someone so much you want to make it ‘official’ – that I get but its the wedding/engagement hysteria that has me confused.
As beautiful as engagement rings are, and at this current moment in time my friend is dragging around a gorgeous £35,000 rock on her finger, I can’t get my head around what the point of one is. I mean, marriage used to be a way of the father ‘giving away’ his daughter to some random bloke so that he was no longer responsible for her. Because heaven forbid a woman being capable of looking after herself. Or it was about a guy wanting to protect his good name and shack up with most attractive woman who’d take him. and start reproducing. In some cultures men are even paid to marry which is lovely and not at all offensive. The idea being that women were delicate little flowers that needed looking after or we were chores to be endured. Where is the love?
Aren’t we sold this idea, pretty much from birth, that we will meet the perfect guy, fall in love, he’ll fall on one knee and present us with the rock and we will live happily ever after? Problem is, most films and magazine spreads only deal with the wedding part and never focus on the actual marriage part. You know, that main part? My Best Friend’s Wedding, 27 Dresses, The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Date, Wedding Daze, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Muriel’s Wedding – all of these films sell us this idea that as women we should be desperate to get married, that getting hitched is one of the most important things we can do – and in a way, sure, it is. But the wedding part? It’s a day. So much time and energy goes into this display and I don’t understand.
To me an engagement ring is a way of marking out property; as obvious as the anal kid in uni writing his name all over his milk in the communal fridge. Deliberately sparkly so the inner magpie in us all overlooks the modern day form of branding it represents, as subtle as a tag through the ear or a corporate logo inked across a chest. It would be much more cost and time effective if the man just peed all over us, marking out his territory that way. Funny though, how the guy doesn’t need to be marked as ‘taken’ or off the market. It is just the woman who needs to be seen as property, a ‘sold’ sign over her head.
Engagements aside, weddings seem like shows to me. I have been with my partner for years and there is a massive part of me that wants to marry him because I love him but an even bigger part that dreads the thought of a wedding day. I always think back to the scene in Sex and the City where Carrie makes excuses for Big being a twat and says ‘ I let the wedding get bigger than Big’ when she goes overboard and forgets the real reason behind a marriage and becomes focused on the circus of a wedding. And that is what gets me; women are expected to be these crazy bridezillas, caring only about a Tiffany ring or a designer dress, matching bridesmaid dresses and the perfect seating plan. Programmes such as Four Weddings, Don’t Tell The Bride and Bulging Brides (which manages to be doubly offensive; picking on the bridezilla and self concious weight obsessed woman) are everywhere and paint this image that women are out to ‘catch’ a man and want nothing more than the perfect wedding to the perfect man in the perfect setting, with the perfect table decorations and the perfect dress etc etc and it’s pretty depressing. Yet it is all around us; rom com films always paint a wedding as a natural path for a woman’s life to take – you fall in love and get married right? What else is there?
Something else that frustrates me is the idea that we aren’t complete if we don’t have that person. Wedding and engagement cards scream out ‘congratulations you found each other!’ or ‘two halves coming together’ I like to think that my boyfriend and I are pretty great together but I am enough on my own – I don’t need another person to validate me and my existence. If a celebrity couple don’t get engaged within about 5 minutes magazines start querying it as if they should be.
And why is it that the woman does all the wedding related work? Is it because she is supposed to care about it more than the man? And what is with the white dress – supposed to identify the bride as a virgin but come on – most couples live together before they get married so I think that jig is up. The traditions we continue flogging just don’t make sense anymore. The father giving away the bride, the bride wearing a veil, saying I will obey during the vows, it is all so oppressive and male dominant.
And the cost.. That £35,000 is a deposit on a house. It’s a nest egg for the future and your children. It is an obscene amount of money to be carting around on your finger without even factoring in the cost of the wedding itself which can run into thousands again. How can a wedding be enjoyed when every mouthful of dry chicken and warm cheesecake is costing £50 or every spin around the dancefloor, helped along by the dodgy DJ’s out of date in the 80’s playlist, costs you £75? Your nearest and dearest gathered to help you into shit loads of debt? I hate the whole vulture culture of weddings – how by slapping a white ribbon on something and calling it a wedding essential people think they can get away with charging triple. And they do get away with it. Wedding cakes can cost hundreds of pounds – there isnt enough money in the world to make me eat a dried fruit cake, slathered in icing yet couples shell out hundreds for the privilege. We do it because we think we should, because all of those films and programmes I mentioned show all the wedding fluff as necessary. Girls are brought up to think that a wedding is the most important day in her life. Why don’t we focus on the actual marriage part though? The hard bit? The rewarding bit? That is never mentioned! It’s almost overlooked in the wedding frenzy fever. We place so much pressure on the wedding that we don’t look to what being married might mean. Are we failures if it isnt the picture perfect, cookie cut out life we imagine it will be?
It seems insane that marriage has become a code word for consumerism nowadays.