In March of last year, I met a handsome, witty man named Peter at a black-tie charity benefit in New York City and we talked until the wee hours of the morning. From the start, I knew this was a special relationship. It was simple. We communicated well. He made me laugh and treated me with love and respect. He was a talker—and a great listener. And after about six months, I was pretty sure this was it: Peter and I were in love, and I hoped someday we might get married.
Around this time I received a piece of great advice: Think about what being married means—and think about it now, while you are calm and thoughtful—because once you get engaged, the Wedding Train rolls out of the station and can become a runaway wreck if you haven’t thought the important things through.
100 Essential Questions
I thought and prayed about our relationship. What makes a marriage work? What kind of qualities did I need in a life partner? What are my flaws—and what are his? And how can we adapt and work together to build a shared life?
At first, I thought about this on my own. But soon, Peter began raising similar questions—and dropping hints about marriage with no (overt) prompting from me. Our future together was Topic A on our long walks around Central Park or on road-trips to friends’ weddings. It was exciting to talk honestly about these “big topics” with someone so open and supportive.
Good relationship columnist that I am, I did some research, too. I bought The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do” to help us along. When Peter found it on my desk, I got a little embarrassed, and hurried to tell him it was for a column for BustedHalo, work-related research, nothing more. He just smiled in that special way he does to show me he can see right through all my excuses. He picked up the book one evening and we started at the beginning. Marriage was on our minds.
On June 10 Peter got down on one knee in my kitchen and proposed to me with a beautiful diamond ring nestled in a box of my favorite cupcakes. Dear BustedHalo readers, your dating and relationship guru is getting married!!
And here’s where the point of this column comes in: Peter and I are so happy we talked about, prayed about and discussed what the lifetime commitment of marriage means before we got engaged, because in the weeks since, honestly, it’s been the last thing on our minds.
Immediately after we announced our engagement, our friends and family wanted to know if we’d picked a date for the ceremony, who our attendants would be, whether I’d found a dress, where we were registered, where we were going on our honeymoon, what “our colors” were going to be. My head was spinning.
Sure, people gave us their best wishes for a lifetime of happiness, but in most cases that was just a few seconds of the longer conversation about china patterns, the benefits of having a dress made rather than purchased at a store and the difference between photojournalism and portraiture for wedding photography.
Marriage vs. Wedding
Pure Sex Pure Love
Rules of Engagement
To Answer the Questionnaire, click here
4. Married? (yes/no)
5. How often do you go to a party with your “significant other” as a date or a guest?
1. Once a year
2. A few times a year
3. Once a month
4. Practically weekly
6. What’s the hardest thing about being “the date”?
7. To compensate for the fact that you don’t know many people at the party, what do you do?
1. Eat the free food
2. Have another drink
3. Make new friends
4. Spend a lot of time in the bathroom
8. Do you try to make friends with the other “dates”? (yes/no)
9. Introductions are often tricky. How would you like to be introduced?
1. “This is my husband/wife/ girlfriend/boyfriend _____”
2. No introduction—You’d prefer to introduce yourself.
3, Full introduction, including something interesting about you to get conversation going.
Marriage is a vow of unconditional bonding. I’m not pretending I have any practical idea of what that means, mind you, but I know what it doesn’t mean: Marriage is not a wedding. And planning for marriage is not the same as planning a wedding.
“First comes love. Then comes registry,” reads the ad for Target. “Who hasn’t dreamt of marrying in a palace?” asks the ad for a wedding reception locale. “Congratulations. You’re engaged. Now comes the hard part: Finding vendors,” announces an ad for a wedding reception services.
So this is how the U.S. has a $40 billion per year wedding industry. Since the 1970s, getting married has turned into a commercialized circus, and weddings have become more and more expensive.
The average cost of weddings in the U.S. is nearly $30,000. Considering that the median yearly household income before taxes is about $44,000, that’s a huge chunk of money to spend on one day of celebrations.
The Bankrupting Bride
Our fear of divorce is the reason why weddings have become so lavish, several social historians, including my doctoral advisor Prof. Avner Offer, argue. The logic goes like this: An expensive wedding is a costly signal, an investment, in the union. In a time when commitment is uncertain, having a blow-out wedding is one way for a couple say, “Hey, we’re serious. This is going to last (because we’ve bankrupted our families to get here).”
If this sad logic is true, it underscores the larger point: Too often we’re focused on the wedding rather than the marriage. So here’s my advice to all you readers out there who are engaged or thinking about getting married: Remember marriage is a sacrament. Pray for God’s guidance and help. He’s not going to have much of an opinion on a china pattern, but He will guide you in your choice of a life partner.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on marriage. Peter and I are figuring it out as we go along. But I’m so happy I followed that advice months ago to assess our relationship and to talk things through before we got engaged. And when I start worrying whether the color of the party favors matches the ink of the invitations, well, I’ll say a prayer for some perspective.
Just so you don’t accuse me of being too wedding-focused, my next column is back to the realm of dating: How do you feel when you are the guest for an evening out—the date, the plus-one—and you don’t know very many people at the event? What makes it work? What makes you cringe? Share your opinion in our BustedHalo poll above, and stay tuned for some advice on how to survive as “the date” at office cocktail parties, family gatherings and more.