real life

It's just a big party and a piece of paper, right? Erm, no. It's my wedding.

“Just a big party”? Erm, nope. It’s my wedding.

“But it’s just a big party and a certificate, isn’t it?”

I’ve been engaged for three months, and this is one reaction I keep encountering.

Mostly, it’s a throwaway comment meant, I suppose, to pre-emptively defuse any bridezilla tendencies I may be secretly harbouring (because if I can think of my wedding as just “my 21st: part two”, they seem to think, I won’t morph into one of those mental brides who spends $25,000 on a giant “gypsy wedding” dress before suing everyone in sight over my wedding video.)

Sometimes, it’s coming from a different place, from people who genuinely don’t share the desire to publically pledge their commitment, or who quite feel secure and happy enough in their relationship without promising to stick around forever, thank you very much.

Grace.

Some of them find the whole institution icky and outdated (and, to be fair, it did used to mean you belonged to your husband, hence the pretty legit Second Wave feminist backlash against it.) In fact, in my circle of politically progressive friends, rejecting the relevance of such a traditional norm is almost a badge of hip, subversive honour.

Whatever the motivation, it jars with me people bandy about the “just a party and a piece of paper” line. Because, basically, that sentiment downplays the fact that marriage is a Pretty Big Deal for me, and for a lot of other women.

Because, let’s face it – marriage is transformative. Not in some “my prince has come! I’m no longer a penniless and unfulfilled wretch of a woman and can finally start my life,” Disney-esque way. And not in a “we’ll never fight again now we’re married” way (nope. Debts, family squabbles and disagreements over whether to finish Breaking Bad or Girls first will still happen.)

Marriage does, however, signify some major changes to your identity, because it formally marks the transition from one life stage to another. That’s the factor absent from most parties- which, it’s widely understood, are more a chance to catch up with your friends, make jelly shots and bring out the novelty piñata (or is that just me?)

At my last birthday party, for example, I don’t recall making a lifelong commitment that I then signed into law.

‘Don’t want marriage for yourself? Totally fine. But please let me be excited about my own wedding’: Grace

I don’t believe that, at my last housewarming, I involved my family and closest friends in an age-old set of rituals that we’d planned 18 months prior.

I don’t remember turning up with one name to my last work Christmas drinks and leaving with someone else’s. (Actually, ahem, I’m keeping my name after marriage, but that’s not the point.)

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I can’t remember, at my last backyard barbeque, making a public promise to consider the feelings and needs of another in every major decision I’ll ever make.

And at my uni break-up party I certainly didn’t relinquish, once and for all, my single identity and all it encompassed (that grotty-but-familiar sharehouse vibe; months overseas with girlfriends; terrible pick-up lines).

Nope, most parties don’t fundamentally alter your identity in that way.

It’s true that there are certain coming-of-age rituals that hold a similar significance in terms of marking a rite of passage: baby showers, quinceaneras, housewarmings, christenings and even 21sts are used to acknowledge and celebrate major life moments.

But then, it’s generally accepted that those events are to be respected; I wouldn’t go around telling my Jewish friends, for example, that their bar mitzvah was no big deal because it was only a party.

Nope, that would make me an a***hole.

So.

Whether or not you want marriage for yourself, if your friend’s getting married it’s probably kind of a big deal for her. You may not want the formal, traditional, old-school trappings of a wedding, and that’s just as legit a choice in my books. I genuinely respect that. But that doesn’t give you a carte blanche to deride everyone who does lust for an old-school, soppy, til-death-do-us-part type public pledge (unless they’re also using “tradition” to oppose marriage equality– in which case, deride away. But that’s a different post.)

In summary:

Nope, my getting married won’t give me an excuse for a bridezilla-type bridal meltdown. It won’t call for an outlay of $55,000, which is the totally freaky average wedding cost these days.  And it certainly won’t justify smug, bad-taste engagement photo shoots or those horrendous “he put a ring on it”-type Facebook statuses.

But all that said? My wedding is not “just a party”.

(Doesn’t mean we can’t have jelly shots and a novelty piñata, though.)

Speaking of weddings, we’ve collected a few of our favourite – and a few more, ahem, unique – celebrity wedding dresses. Take a look:

Are you engaged? Do you think a wedding’s just a big party- or does that view trivialise marriage?

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