This is part of a 3 part series on why the past is better- in some ways. To be fair, it will be followed up by a 3 part series on why the present is better- just to keep it equally confusing for all. That's democracy.
I attended a funeral today for a lovely lady who passed away in her eighties who had been married to the love of her life for over 60 years. They had been together even longer; her beloved husband stated to me at the wake that his only regret was not having proposed sooner to his lady love. The priest at the Church stated that this was the kind of marriage we could barely imagine given the times these days and he was absolutely right. While we still joke about the old ball and chain today, most marriages are starting to look more like cell phone contracts, full of features, defects and limited terms.
The famous 7 year itch has now been reduced by experts to 3 years and some countries have introduced 'trial' marriages, where a couple is wed for 2 years and is then allowed to separate without the inconvenience of a divorce (the union type is only recognized for 2-3 years, or in terms set out by the individuals- convenient.) 1 in 5 relationships start online, as do 1 in 5 affairs (ahem- figures are so similar, could there possibly be a correlation?) Official divorce rates are holding steady at 1 in 4, but none of us would be surprised to see that number jump right up.
Coincidentally, as more marriages fall apart, the wedding industry continues to rake it in, becoming a billion dollar juggernaut. Could it be that people are taking weddings more seriously than the institution of marriage? That, instead of going to couples counselling to figure out how they'll deal with family and money, instead of taking marriage courses like those offered for free by most churches, could it be that couples are spending more time picking out linens and colour coordinating napkins to silverware than actually considering how their future will be?
It strikes me as no surprise that the long-lasting couples from yesteryear are the ones who didn't have extravagant parties or huge gowns to celebrate their union. They were grounded, more often than not, having a ceremony in someone's basement and having friends bring over food. Part of it was a sign of the times; they simply couldn't afford an over the top party, but there was also no expectation that the simple fact of committing themselves to each other should turn into a pageant.
Let's face it; pageants are distracting. They steal attention away from the more important matters, like what the couple expects for their future, how they plan to overcome adversity, what would happen if there was a crisis, what their values are and how they align. A wedding lasts a day, but a marriage is supposed to last a lifetime and no amount of balloons or bonbons is going to make up for a couple who doesn't talk things through beforehand.
All you really need for a wedding to happen is two people in love, an officiant or religious leader, a piece of paper and a witness. It's not more complicated than that. A wedding can be a great occasion to celebrate with friends and family, but it's far from the most important thing.
This is not to rain on the wedding parade. People are entitled to have the kind of day they've always dreamed about and there's no problem with mixing a little fantasy in there or even a bit of extravagance. But people should consider that when they get engaged, the most important thing to remember is that it's an honour to be asked to share a person's life with them and they should do it because they can't imagine their future without them, not because it's the right time in life or because the ring is huge. And when it's time to plan a wedding, they should keep in mind that a wedding only requires love and consent, not the 3 ring triple tiered circus it has become.
In the past, marriage is forever and weddings are simple. I hope a handful of people in the world get to have that kind of love.
The post is dedicated to Lois and Bill Boucher, two halves of a whole, married for 61 years and only separated by her death.