Why Couples Getting Married Should Have A Wedding!

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Photo credit, Michael Okawa.

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or professional in psychology (even though it was my major) or psychiatry.  I am not a licensed professional and the following post is my opinion, my observations, and some information I’ve gathered from the web.

I know Sundays are usually the day I talk about traveling and restaurant reviews, but…today I’m going to talk about something only tangentially related.  Weddings #Ad.  Why?  Because a lot of people I’ve known in my life don’t understand the cultural (or psychological) importance of weddings.  I’m not talking about men I’ve dated (no, I’m not picking that old bone), I’m talking about co-workers, friends, and a few family members (Looking at you dad.).

While I do not profess to be an expert in any field, what I can do is share my observations, and what I’ve observed is that eloping when one partner wants to have a traditional marriage usually leads to divorce.  It might be two, five, or twenty years down the line, but that precedence of inequality has been set at the very beginning of the relationship and the one who compromised isn’t going to be happier as the years go on because their partner knows that if they just hold out long enough, they’ll get the compromise they want.

Antique shackles.

I’ve heard all kinds of arguments against the traditional invite-all-the-friends-and-family style weddings.  “We don’t have enough friends to justify a wedding”, “our family live far away and won’t come”, “it’s too expensive”, “we are of different religions and can’t be married in our respective churches” and the ever popular “I don’t believe in marriage, the government can’t tell me who I love”, and “We’re just signing the papers now and having the wedding ceremony latter”.  The worst excuse I’ve heard yet was “I don’t know how to plan a wedding” from a man who’d already been married and divorced.  None of those are really valid reasons and now I’m going to tell you why.

First – I’m going to address the “friends” issue.  Weddings are not just for celebrating with current friends and family.  They are also a great way to network with coworkers, bosses/supervisors, and business partners.  Check out 8 People You Don’t Want to Invite to the Wedding (but Have To)”.  “Your Boss” is number seven on the list.  The reason given is that you shouldn’t flaunt a party and then not invite the people who know about it.  If your work buddies know you’re getting married and NONE of them are present to verify that it was “a small, private, affair”, they may think you deliberately snubbed them, unless you eloped out of town.  Since the best way to avoid work drama is to invite someone, you can get away with keeping the party small (if that’s your choice) by inviting only your immediate boss (or anyone else in management you want to suck up to.)

Secondly – Family, if they can afford it might travel all over to celebrate your marriage.  I have two cousins who have had destination weddings.  One was in Hawaii, the other in Mexico.  My mom literally got a passport and took her first vacation in almost a decade to go to the wedding in Mexico.  It’s pretty common nowadays for families to live apart.  And a lot of us visit our families in other states and sometimes in other countries just for the holidays or sometimes just for fun.  My ex’s family drop in a few times a year just to say “hi” to my son and spend an hour or two with him.  They live a five-hour plane ride away.  My sister flew across the country for her half-brother’s wedding. The point I’m making is that family weddings are an excuse to take time off of work, party a little, and visit with family.  Not a bad thing, unless you hate your family. Check out this website which makes destination wedding planning super easy. At the very least the process of announcing when the wedding will be makes sure that all family and friends know that you are getting married and that someone’s name might be changing soon, and what it is changing to.

Beach in Crescent City California. Photo credit Michael Okawa.

Thirdly – According to Real Simple article Here’s How Much it Costs to Get Married in America (Compared to the Rest of the World, it only costs $232 per head on average in the United States for an average wedding.  What that means is that there are cheaper ways to do weddings which will bring the per head cost down to below average.  And if a couple can’t work together to save up money in a mutual account for a wedding, what does that say about your ability to financially cooperate in the future?  Talking about money, partnership, and expected responsibilities should have started long before the wedding stage.

Fourthly – Being of different religions makes the wedding more important culturally.  I’m a catholic.  My husband is Mormon.  Naturally, we couldn’t be married in a catholic ceremony unless he converted to Catholicism, and we couldn’t be married in a Mormon ceremony unless I converted Mormonism.  I actually considered converting until his bishop told me that the Mormon church considers all marriages which are not within the Mormon Temple (Marriages according to their faith) to be failed marriages, meaning our marriage would be considered a failure unless I converted to Mormonism and we had a Mormon ceremony in a Mormon Temple.  (I chose not to convert after hearing that. And I have frequent nightmares that my husband might not consider us to be really married if that is the official position of the Mormon Church and his faith.)  However, because mixed religion couples can’t really have very much of a religious ceremony, the wedding becomes even more important as a test to see how their families and themselves can come together despite a fundamental difference in beliefs.  What I’m harping on is that planning wedding ceremonies is the test to see if you are truly compatible, and if one or the other of a couple can’t work together through the process, maybe that person isn’t really all that invested in that relationship.  Or maybe they are ashamed of that relationship and don’t want their family and friends to see that who they are with is not someone they are proud to be with, just someone who is convenient to be with. Or that may not be the case at all.

Climbing rose tunnel at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma Washington. Photo credit Michael Okawa.

Fifthly – I have never met someone who truly did not believe in marriage.  Every man/woman I’ve ever know who said the line (I don’t believe in marriage”, has married someone other than who he/she was dating at the time (and planned a big wedding too). However if you truly do not believe in marriage then that is your prerogative. Other people’s weddings are still a convenient reason to go on vacation and get a little traveling in.

Also fifthly – While “the government” cannot tell you who you love, it can tell you who gets your social security benefits whether you are alive or after you die.  I worked in social services for a while, and you know who was the neediest portion of society?  It wasn’t single mom’s and “welfare queens” (which s not a thing and people should stop saying that phrase), those people were still of working age and could get employment eventually and work their way off benefits.  The neediest people were the little old ladies and men whose “life partners” or “common law” husbands/wives never legally married them.  Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of people in the U.S. made the choice when their partners were alive to be housewives/husbands and stay at home moms/dads.  Maybe one partner of the couple was disabled?  Who knows? 

Fountain in the rose garden at Exposition Park in Los Angeles

The point is that when you reach the age of retirement in the United States, you get Social Security Retirement benefits.  How much you get is based on how much you put into the system over the course of your tax-paying career.  IF YOU DIDN’T WORK BECAUSE YOU WERE RAISING A FAMILY FOR YOUR WORKING PARTNER or because you were disabled.  Your retirement (and disability) income is based on what your SPOUSE earned over the course of their life.  It doesn’t impact how much social security income the working spouse receives if they become disabled or retired. 

But if the stay at home partner wasn’t legally married to the working partner for at least ten years, they don’t get retirement benefits and they have to pay for their own premiums for Medicare Part A (Hospital coverage) as well as the standard Medicare Part B premiums (Doctors office visits).  Surviving partners also may not be entitled to certain private retirement benefits/pensions, that a surviving spouse would be entitled to.  There are also all kinds of laws which provide protection to spouses, but not common law partners which in the eyes of some states are basically roommates with benefits.  If you love someone and want to be with them forever, then marry them and pay into social security and retirement so that when one or the other of you dies, the survivor isn’t going to be dependent on financial assistance. If you’er getting married anyways you might as well have a ceremony for the other reasons listed in this post.

Also Fifthly: Parental rights – In some states in the U.S., fathers have no custodial rights if they are not married to the mother of their children at the time of birth even if they are on the birth certificate.  Not unless he pays child support through the child support office.  However, that does not extend to what the federal government considers as parental rights.  As long as a parent’s name is on the birth certificate the parent with physical custody needs to get a custody order for legal custody to be considered as having full legal custody in order to do things like get a passport for their child/leave the country/etc without the non-custodial parent’s permission.  Custody rights are usually determined as part of divorce and if you are clear in your separation agreements it is better for everyone.  If you decide to get married for financial and family reasons you might as well have a ceremony for all the other reason’s I’ve listed.

View of the winter hills near Lake Tahoe.

Sixthly – How likely are you really to have that wedding ceremony later?  I personally don’t know of any couple who got married and then went and had a wedding ceremony after the fact.  Never seen it happen.  Because the skills of compromise, money talk, and cultural understanding which usually come about out of the planning of a wedding were never developed for that couple and they generally end up divorced before hitting the three-year mark.  Generally, this is a compromise which is demanded by a controlling and manipulative partner, it sets a bad precedence and can lead to depression of the partner who had to compromise.  The entire relationship becomes a symbol of unhappiness that they can’t have what they want because their partner won’t let them make important decisions regarding their life together. 

Seventh(ly?) – Unless a person is a professional wedding planner or has done it before, no one knows how to plan a wedding.  It is something which most couples have to research, and if they want a big wedding, they pay someone to plan it for them.  Seriously, it is a freaking party.  You can’t get off your ass long enough to plan a party? 

Sunset from from the west coast of Hawaii Island. Photo credit Michael Okawa.

A basic wedding lasts how long?  Most ceremonies are less than twenty minutes tops.  An hour in the church (if you are doing that) for getting everyone seated, the ceremony and then leaving to go to the reception venue.  Then a three to five-hour food and drink party for the reception.  One of the jobs I worked as a very young woman was setting up, serving at, and cleaning up after weddings.  They aren’t hard to do, and cost less than you think as long as the couple isn’t footing the bar tab for their guests. 

A lot of articles about wedding planning put emphasis on the fact that planning a wedding can stress your relationship but if planning a party is too stressful for one partner in a couple, then what about; unplanned pregnancies, manipulative in-laws/friends/neighbors/ex-partners trying to separate you, debilitating illness/disability, the death of a child/loved one, or the loss of one or all sources of income. If your partner refuses to even try planning a wedding because they “can’t do it” or “don’t know how”, is that really the kind of man or woman you want to be legally, spiritually, or financially bound to? Someone who balks in the face of a little stress?

Additional reasons for a wedding

Gifts – if you go cheap (but classy) with a wedding, you might recoup the cost in the form of the gifts you receive.  To make sure people are buying you stuff you want, be sure to register with a gift registry like amazon’s wedding registry through this affiliate link.  And if they order with Prime affiliate link there’s always Amazon’s two day delivery so your gifts won’t be late. People who don’t end up coming may send you gifts also.

Mark the transition – If a couple are already living together, having a wedding ceremony is a good way to mark the transition from partners to spouses.  It’s not just another day, you are married now, and things are different no matter what you tell yourself.  It’s also a good way to remind any recalcitrant family who don’t approve that now the two of you are legally bound and you can’t just up and leave without there being financial and legal consequences.

Travel – Always wanted to go somewhere but never could justify the expense to yourself or the time off to your employer/clients?  A honeymoon is a damned good reason to go somewhere new and do some sightseeing with the person you love.  Odds are you want to go to the same place since you have so much in common. Don’t know where to go? Read some of my reviews of places I’ve gone on my adventures, check out the photos on my blog, Facebook, and Instagram (Links are in the footer below this post), and read other travel blogs on the web. Research is half the fun of planning.

Vacation Time – Sometimes you just need alone time with your partner. Time to relax, chill out, and not have anyone else interrupting. Even if you don’t go anywhere for your honeymoon, it might be a lot easier to get that vacation time you requested off if you’ve had an actual ceremony and invited your boss? But for mixed households with kids from one or more prior partners, it’s a lot easier to get family to babysit for a day or two after an actual wedding ceremony.

Lastly, I think of a wedding ceremony as a test. A test of compromise, resilience, and faith in each other. But mostly, it’s a celebration of your love. Do you have what it takes to make it happen?

Now it’s not like I’m trying to talk people into getting married.  These are just my observations which I hope make sense to others. However, if you read these reasons and they make sense to you, please leave a like…maybe subscribe.  Share with your friends and start a discussion.