What does it really mean to say “I do”?

Marriage is always on people's minds, but is anyone really thinking about it?

Marriage is always on people’s minds, but is anyone really thinking about it? As tying the knot becomes less and less common amongst young people, it would seem logical to assume that everyone doing it has carefully considered the options available and realized this is right for their relationship. However, is this really the case?

As a child, I assumed that my life would take a certain direction once I left full-time education — I would grow up, find myself a man, get married and have babies. After all, that’s what society always used to tell you to do — or, at the very least, hint heavily at it — but a few years down the line I realized that I could actually choose. If I didn’t want to have children, no one would force me to. If I didn’t want to find a man, the world wouldn’t end. If I didn’t want to legalize whatever relationship I had, well, that’s just fine and dandy too.

Not that there aren’t people who will try to tell you that your life choices are wrong, simply because they don’t fully align with their own, of course. Anyone who chooses a different relationship route than the classic heteronormative child-rearing one will be forced to deal with endless questions and accusations of selfishness, but at least they have their reasons. Marriage is the place where it really gets confusing though.

Ask someone why they’re getting married and you rarely get a sensible answer. “Because we’re in love” — But why get married? “Because it was time” — Does it happen automatically after a certain time then? “Because I wanted to make an honest woman out of her” — Seriously, what? Some people will have perfectly valid reasons for tying the knot, but they’re rarely thought of as romantic and so therefore are hardly ever used as answers when people question why.

Does the legal status of your relationship actually matter as far as romance is concerned? You and that special person of yours are no doubt romantic. A wedding day… well, that can be very romantic indeed, depending on how you go about it. However, you can’t deny that marriage itself is actually about as romantic as a spreadsheet. It’s about legalizing a partnership that, in this day and age, perhaps doesn’t really need to be legalized. As Doug Stanhope once said:

If marriage didn’t exist, would you invent it? Would you go “Baby, this shit we got together, it’s so good we gotta get the government in on this shit. We can’t just share this commitment ‘tweenst us. We need judges and lawyers involved in this shit, baby. It’s hot!”

Whether you choose to get married or not, having truly thought about it is the most important thing. After all, it’s your relationship so why follow someone else’s rules? If you want or need to get married, fine, but to go through all the expense of a wedding simply because you think you probably should is not really fair on either of you.

As for all you happily married folk out there… if you can explain to me why you thought that bit of paper mattered, I’d be ever so grateful. Thanks.