There’s more to marriage than cake and wedding bells
Many years ago, when I was living in London, the fabulous Nigella Lawson and her then-husband John Diamond held a party to celebrate their 10 years as a couple. It was also a goodbye of sorts, because John had terminal throat cancer, which left him unable to speak and – most cruelly – unable to eat his wife’s delicious food.
Yet even without his voice, John was a gifted communicator and, that night – friends later told me – he used a pen and overhead projector to convey his feelings for his wife. “How proud I am of you and what you have become,” he scribbled, in front of family and friends. “The great thing about us is that we’ve made us who we are.”
For me, a girl in her late 20s, bruised by a failed marriage and calloused by career over-commitment, those words evoked a great longing: One day, I would have an enduring relationship to rejoice in.
You see, I’ve always thought we celebrate relationships the wrong way around. I love a wedding. But having wed twice, I feel uneasy celebrating what you hope to achieve, not what you actually accomplish. As my husband often says, “It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you ultimately do.” (Hence why I’ve given up promising to stack the dishwasher properly.)
I don’t seek to diminish the importance of vows, and I love that marriage is both an ancient and evolving institution – at least in nations progressive enough to support same-sex unions. But for me – and Sex and the City’s Carrie and Mr Big – it’s disconcerting making such an intimate promise in a public manner. In the words of my friend Alison, “A wedding requires you to be the star in your own show but, in a marriage, there’s no room for stars.”
One friend and her husband jetted off to New York for their nuptials, eschewing family and friends for a registry office overlooking Brooklyn Bridge. “Getting married was about the two of us and the commitment we were making to each other,” she says.
My friend Sarah has the opposite view. She says sharing vows codified in the 16th century in a candlelit church in front of the people she loves was “profoundly intimate and sincere”. She and her husband also wanted to mark the passing of their independent lives with a “damn fine send-off”. Which it was.
Whatever wedding you choose, it’s rarely emblematic of the marriage that follows. I know it’s the height of suit and satin season, and there’s a royal shebang around the corner, but allow me a matron-of-dishonour speech.
Girls, there’s no correlation between the largesse of the wedding and the longevity of the marriage. Vows won’t keep you married. On the other hand, compromise, respect, saying sorry, liking (not just loving) each other, sex and avoiding renovations all help.
The average Australian wedding costs $50,000. But scrimp on the gerberas, knock a layer off the cake and make the bridesmaids pay for their dresses and you’ll save enough to pay a babysitter one night a week until your child is five. Trust me, that’s priceless.
Kiss. Not just at your wedding. But every day. Even when you don’t want to. Sorry, I’m not sure how I elevated myself to marriage counsellor, but if a Catholic priest can write a book called Whom Not to Marry, then surely I can give my five cents.
Especially since I just celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. There’s a long way to go, I know, but forgive me for feeling just a teensy bit proud.
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network.
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