I might never be a bride, and that's totally OK
For as progressive as many weddings have become, tradition still dictates that the person who catches the bride’s bouquet will be the next to get married. The women who stand in the crowd are hoping to catch more than just a handful of flowers: They want to secure a future, even superstitiously. When I attended a school friend’s wedding last December, I felt out of place among the eager faces. If that bouquet came anywhere near me, I was likely to run for the hills, yet everyone else seemed ready to fight for the honor. Luckily, one of the bridesmaids caught it, and she looked absolutely thrilled. Some girls grow up dreaming of their big day, when all eyes will be on them and they can walk down an aisle in that perfect white dress.
And then, there are girls like me.
I never gave marriage that much thought growing up. I never daydreamed about what I would wear on my wedding day, or what the theme would be, or whether it would be a destination or not. But I always thought my disinterest was circumstantial. I figured that once I met the right person, my life plans would change, and I’d long for a ring to lock it down. But I did meet the right person, and I still don’t feel that way.
Over the last two years, the photos in my Facebook feed have slowly turned (I might even say transmogrified) from late nights out and meals with friends to engagement announcements and ultrasound pictures. Well, he finally asked me!, the captions read, as though marriage had been in the cards since the couple first locked eyes. These photos are a far cry from my life, and at times they have left me feeling as though I am some sort of failure because, at 25, I’m not ready for any kind of formal commitment, and not sure I ever will be. If weddings and babies are signs of growing up, am I just avoiding adulthood?
I met my boyfriend a little under four years ago. Straight out of university, he and I hit it off right away. He’s funny, driven, and smart — all things I’d like to think I could say about myself, too. We got serious fast. After the first couple of dates, we were spending all of our time together. For a while, it felt like it was just us. We worked a lot, and we were always busy, which left no time to be bored. Last summer, we moved in together — and that’s when the questions started coming my way. It was mainly family members. It’s not that they disapproved of me living with someone. Far from it. Instead, they expected the situation to escalate.
“When are you going to tie the knot?” my nan asked me one day. She was sipping tea, eyes fixed on a TV quiz show. I was taken aback. It was the first time she’d ever brought the subject up and I didn’t know quite how serious she was. My cousin, who is six months younger than me, had just given birth and was engaged to her boyfriend of five years. They lived together in the same town as the rest of my family. “Umm, probably not yet,” I answered, adding, “Maybe never.” She took her eyes off the screen to look at me. “Well, you will have to settle down at some point,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one to broach the subject. When I visited my mom in Australia for the first time in a few years, she also had some questions. The first night I was staying with her we went for a meal and, after a few drinks, the inquisition begun. A little tipsy and awfully jet lagged, I answered in a franker manner than I otherwise would have: “Yeah, marriage just isn’t for me. It’s not really my thing.” She didn’t respond, but a couple of days later, she asked me again: “Were you serious when you said marriage isn’t for you?” She was trying to be tentative, but I could tell she wanted a straight answer. “Yes, I think so,” I replied, maybe a little meeker than before. Her face said it all. She was confused and a little upset.
To be honest, I was confused, too. Why should my life choices upset anyone else? Surely, I have every right to avoid marriage? It’s not that my family has ever put a ton of pressure on me to walk down the aisle. They don’t tell me that I should marry — they just assume that I will, and soon. After all, I went to university, got a degree, got a job, got a steady boyfriend. Apparently, apart from having children, there’s not all that much left for me to do.
Except that, right now, there are plenty of other things I want to do! My work as a writer takes up most of my waking hours. I spend my days interviewing people and crafting articles, which I adore. When I do have some spare time, I like going away with my girlfriends. I take weekends with them in cities around the UK, and my boyfriend spends time with his mates, going to darts tournaments and football matches. We’re together, but we still live separative lives, which is just how we like it. I can’t be sure that marriage would accommodate our ideas of a relationship right now, and it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.
For me, marriage is a legal contract, something sterile and binding. It wouldn’t change anything between my boyfriend and me. We wouldn’t suddenly become different people. Our bond wouldn’t be any different because of the words we recited in a church or a registry office. Wedding rings would be nothing more than accessories. They would hardly guarantee a lifetime of commitment — people get divorced all the time.
The only thing that would be different is that we’d probably be expected to spend lots of money on a massive party. Frankly, that’s what I worry marriage is about for a lot of people my age. It’s a beautiful, traditional excuse to have a decadent, self-centered day (if not year!). I can’t help rolling my eyes when I hear brides-to-be talk about their “special day” as though they are the lords of a fiefdom for the foreseeable future, until their “big day” arrives. So, let me get this straight: If I don’t get married, I never have a special day? Can I not expect that people will cater exclusively to me and what I want for my engagement party and my hen party and my shower? Well, that’s OK, because I don’t want people to cater to me. It’s even a little strange and outdated to me, like a relic from another era when hierarchies were more blithely enforced.
And I’m sure my boyfriend and I could both think of a few better ways to spend that money (in fact, we just booked a holiday to Spain and bought a new coffee machine). He and I have had “the talk” and he is well aware of my opinion. He says he’d marry me if I wanted that, if it meant anything to me, but it’s not something he would want for himself. Not coincidentally, he doesn’t have quite so many people asking him about it, either. (I definitely resent the idea that marriage is somehow a woman’s fantasy.) But for now, at least, it seems we’re on the same page.
I don’t believe in doing anything just because other people think you should, and it has taken me a while to accept that marriage is not what I want right now, and to feel confident in saying that to other people. I am fully committed to my boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean I need to announce that in front of an entire assembly of our closest friends and relatives. I don’t want to share my bank account or get a mortgage. There is a permanence to marriage and while the stereotypes associated with it (the old ball and chain, etc.) might be ignorant and ill-informed, I worry those ugly concepts are promoted by people who rushed into it.
I’d like to see how my boyfriend and I weather some hardships, or whether it’s just smooth sailing for us. I want to get to know him even better than I already do, and I want us both to be able to travel and grow and change. I don’t begrudge anyone who feels differently than I do. I’m excited for, and even envious of, their certainty. I am always the first one to dig into the cake and hit the dance floor, because in truth, I am a massive fan of weddings. Just not my own. Just not right now.
[Image via here]