Having worked in the wedding industry for the last 9 years I’ve been to my share of weddings. And it probably comes as no surprise that I have some opinions on them (okay, a lot of opinions). What probably WILL surprise you is exactly how much I would revolutionize the wedding industry, and wedding traditions, if I had a chance.
What Weddings Look Like Now
Right now when it comes to weddings, the order of expected events looks something like this:
- Start dating as a teenager. Immediately start dreaming about your wedding. At some point, meet the love of your life.
- Date for 1-3 years.
- Get engaged!
- Have an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and plan a wedding. Spend 1-2 years thinking about nothing but a wedding.
- GET MARRIED!
- Share lots of pictures and videos from wedding (which all your friends on social media will look at, and as a result start thinking more about their future wedding, and exactly what they want it to look like).
- Live the rest of your life together. (You know, all the hard and rewarding stuff that comes with marriage.)
In my opinion, this traditionally American way of looking at dating, weddings and marriage presents several problems.
- The Wedding, or the Marriage? It worries me that with all the hype we’ve built around weddings, and the many ways we’re now using social media to magnify this hype, that some couples are getting married for the wedding rather than the marriage. (I do not think this applies for all weddings AT. ALL. Do I think it applies to some? Yes. More than enough to make it worth noting? Yes.) Years and years of our* lives are spent thinking about a wedding. Yes, we* think and talk about relationships, but in my experience so many conversations revolve around those first 1-3 years of a relationship, and whether or not we should marry that person, rather than the potential 40 years that could come later. Just recently a friend (who also happens to work in the wedding industry) noted that before she got married friends and family would ask about her relationship, but now that’s she’s married they don’t. There could be a lot to this, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s because we all subconsciously just assume that the end goal is marriage, so once you’re there there’s less to ask about. I know this is likely not intentional, and might also stem back to our ability to ask meaningful questions, but I still think it’s there.
- Weddings are content GOLD. Everyone looks good, the setting and scenery are fairy tale like, and you have pictures taken by a professional photographer. So these photos, and videos, DOMINATE our social media feeds. I get it. I can imagine if I’m wanting to wish someone a happy birthday on social media and looking for a picture of us together it’s low hanging fruit to turn to wedding photos. Plus, after you spend a year (and a lot of money) planning the perfect wedding, of course you want to share every detail with the world. I TOTALLY get it. But I worry that this only perpetuates the whole cycle of couples getting married for weddings rather than marriages. While the intent of sharing all these photos is good, the collective impact I think can be pretty damaging.
- Post-Wedding Hangover. No, not that hangover. Perhaps a more important hangover for us to pay attention to. Once the wedding is over it is often followed by a wave of disappointment when real life sets in. We’ve* spent so much time thinking, planning and obsessing about a wedding, that when it’s all over after just one day it takes some adjustment. What if we spent as much time preparing for the marriage as we did for the wedding? (Again, this is a generalization and likely doesn’t happen for everyone. But I have heard this from enough friends and past #bdlbcouples that I do believe it’s a thing, and something worth noting.)
So what exactly do we do to fix this problem? Especially when we have a whole industry and sector of the economy that relies on the perpetuation of it? Well, I have some ideas. Here’s what I think the process should look like…
- Start dating as a teenager.
- Date as long as you want. One person or many people. One at a time, or all at once. Your call.
- Know that you’re ready to commit to one of these people for the rest of your life? Cool. Go ahead and get married. (But also, don’t feel like you have to. Keep dating all the peoples for the rest of your life if that’s what you want and what makes you happy.)
- This marriage commitment ceremony should be small and intimate, with only family and your closest friends. Maybe at a courthouse. Maybe in your backyard. Your call. Focus should be on the commitment you’re making.
- Do all the hard and important things that build a lifelong relationship. Go to therapy (together and alone), commit to regular date nights, have children, travel, communicate (regularly), support each other through miscarriages and family deaths and pandemics and all the hard shit that makes up real life. Stay married. (If that’s what matters to you. If it’s not working and you’re not happy, that’s okay too.)
- 10 years in, throw a WEDDING. You know what it takes to make a marriage, and you’ve done a lot of it already. There’s more to come, for sure, but you deserve to celebrate. Renew those vows, involve all the people in both of your lives… throw the WEDDING.
- Continue to be married. Celebrate as often as you’d like the longer you’re married. Because while marriage is not for everyone (and should absolutely not be something we feel like we have to do), I do believe it’s worth celebrating when you commit to it and THE. WORK. Just like all the other hard stuff we do in life that we don’t really know how to celebrate (this is definitely a topic for another blog post…).
I’m not naïve enough to think this will be the answer to all the problems we encounter with marriage in our society, but I do think it could be a move in the right direction. A direction that puts more emphasis on the marriage, and life you’re committing to, and less emphasis on the actual wedding and celebration. And while I know 2020 has been a REAL hard year for lots of couples, and the wedding industry, what I’m seeing is what I’ve always envisioned your marriage commitment ceremony should look like. Small, intimate, personal, (and affordable). While I want every 2020 couple who had to postpone to have the wedding they’d like, I’ll be curious to see how many find it as necessary to plan a big reception a year later, when you already have the marriage. Perhaps COVID was a push in the right direction in terms of forcing us to think about what really matters when it comes to weddings and marriage.