Why I’ll never, ever get married
If you like it, then please don’t put a ring on it
Statistics released last week show that marriage rates are falling, and those that do get married are waiting even longer to do so. Now, the average age at which a woman gets married is 34, and for men it’s 36. I can’t help but feel a bit relieved by the trend: I’ve never wanted to get married.
When I was in year 6, a teacher asked my class what age we thought we would be when we got married. Now, as we were 11-year-olds and our concept of ageing meant that anyone over 35 was, to us, essentially minutes from the grave, the answers varied somewhat. My year 6 boyfriend answered “17”, which should have probably been the first sign we wouldn’t work out. I, on the other hand, answered “never”. While my answer to that question has remained the same ever since, now my reasons for not wanting to get married are a more nuanced than just thinking “boys are gross”.
Firstly, it’s a huge cost. I am going to graduate with nearly 50 grand worth of debt. I will probably never be able to afford to buy a house, and I am increasingly worried I will have to go back to my minimum wage job at McDonald’s because my politics degree doesn’t seem to be finding me anything else. The average wedding costs around £20k. I’m sorry, but where do you expect me to find this money? Did I miss the day in biology where they explained how to produce money from your arse? That is a colossal amount of money, as far as I’m concerned.
Maybe if you’re the type of person for whom 20 grand is petty cash, then that won’t seem much, but I just can’t justify it. Surely, that money would be better spent on going travelling with the love of your life, or in savings for your future offspring? Or most likely, on your London rent for a year, with enough remaining to spend on a celebratory Freddo.
Yeah: you could argue that you can do it on the cheap. Go down the registry office, re-use your grad ball dress, have the reception down the pub, and don’t offer an open bar. But firstly: who wants to go to a wedding without an open bar? And secondly, the cost isn’t the only reason why I won’t ever be walking up that aisle.
It’s not because I’m cynical. Yes, 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce, which aren’t promising odds, but I honestly believe in love. I’m in love right now, as a matter of fact. (And my boyfriend is completely in agreement about the no marriage thing, so there’s no worry he’ll read this and then have to hastily return an engagement ring.) I’ve seen successful marriages and I’ve seen marriages crumble. I’ve seen love that lasts a lifetime and I’ve seen love descend into arguments and lies. I’ve seen love just fade away. But it remains to me that love is real, and when it’s right, it’s amazing.
However, love and marriage aren’t interchangeable terms. They can both exist without the other. Traditionally, marriage was designed to ratify a union in the eyes of the church, or the law. (Or if you want to go really far back, it was basically just a way to sell your daughter off. Ah, the patriarchy). I don’t see any reason to make any relationship of mine official to either of those two institutions.
This is a personal reason, and I both respect and understand if you do see them as reasons to do so. But, where I’m concerned: the church? Well, I’m an atheist and to steal a joke from Gavin and Stacy, the only church you’ll get me inside is Charlotte*. The law? Personally, I don’t see what changes by making my relationship “official” in the eyes of the law. OK, you get some tax benefits, but what kind of Tory bullshit is that? Security of a relationship doesn’t come from making a union legal; a piece of paper doesn’t patch over problems. In fact, it just makes it more complicated if things do go tits up.
Of course, these are quite archaic conceptions of marriage. Most of us would say now that getting married is about celebrating your love and wanting to demonstrate deep commitment. And I wouldn’t knock anyone for wanting to do this. It’s brave and special and cute as hell. I’m actually quite excited to spend my 30s getting drunk at all my friend’s weddings. But I prefer to celebrate my love in private. I’m not a romantic person, I don’t like big displays of affection. I don’t particularly want to get mushy and over-personal here but my boyfriend and I say “I love you” to each other every day and that’s all the deep commitment I need to feel secure and happy in my relationship.
Then there’s all the weird routine wedding stuff you have to do. Rehearsal dinner, wedding cake shopping, coming up with a theme for the wedding, finding “THE dress”, picking floral arrangements, formal dancing, wedding invitations (because apparently you can’t just make a Facebook event), engagement showers. Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Nothing about a wedding makes it sound like the best day of my life. It sounds like a tiring charade. I am reminded of the Caitlin Moran quote: “anyone who says their wedding day is the best day of their life just hasn’t done enough MDMA in a field at 3am”. She’s not wrong.
The reasons I have for not wanting to get married are endless; this hasn’t even scratched on all the feminist reasons I have for not wanting to. But even with all these reasons, I’m still told, “you’ll change your mind when you’re older” or “all girls dream about getting married”, or the weirdest one – which old people are wont to say – “oh, your poor mother”, like my mum is going to be utterly heartbroken by my choice not to get married. (I asked her: she said she’ll live). It’s a dumb stereotype that all women want to get married, and to suggest that I don’t know my own mind is patronising to say the least.
It’s time to start respecting those of us who chose not to get married; it is a very valid choice.
*Yes, I know I’m a girl. I’m bisexual, so this joke still works: take the heteronormative crap elsewhere.