After my boyfriend and I got engaged, most people said, “Congratulations! What wonderful news!” But some people said, “Congratulations! Why are you getting married?” These people – who were usually men – weren’t being rude, but rather they felt like they were moving the conversation on from pleasantries towards truth and intimacy.
I found it a strangely intense question: why are you getting married? I could list lots of reasons why I love my partner. He’s smart; he’s got cute ears; he’s really nice to me; we laugh at the same things; we seem to be able to tackle a crisis together. The usual. But, really, those are reasons why I love him, reasons why I want to have children with him one day. That can’t explain why I want to drop upwards of £10,000 on a day out.
I could say, “Tax.” That’s the kind of pithy, cynical answer those questioning men are looking for. But I am pathetically inept at managing my financial affairs. I am definitely not marrying my boyfriend for tax purposes. I am not marrying him for religious reasons, either. And it’s nothing to do with visas.
There is, perhaps, an infinity of these glossy wedding photos online. If I keep going the way I have been, I will find out
So, usually, I say, “Oh, I think it will be nice to gather our families and friends together and ask them to witness this commitment.” Then I look to my boyfriend and he’ll say something like, “It will be fun to have a party, won’t it?” Essentially, we are spending our lives together because we love each other. But we decided to have a wedding because we wanted to have a wedding.
And so we find ourselves planning a very expensive party. We fill in a spreadsheet, ticking off chores completed, noting the names of suppliers. We call talented friends, asking for favours. We scour the internet, staring at photos of strangers’ weddings for hours on end, becoming acquainted with the family tree of a wealthy American woman called Megan who studied linguistics at NYU before she decided that her heart lay in fashion and became a shoe designer. Well, that’s just me. My boyfriend does not spend hours perusing other people’s weddings on the American Vogue website – but I do. I look at Megan’s bouquets and her bridesmaids’ dresses and her lavender-filled cake. And, when I’m finished with Megan and her husband, Ted, I move on to Carolyn and Josh, and Inez and Frank. I occasionally look at celebrity weddings – like Samira Wiley and Lauren Morelli’s Palm Springs event – but soon enough I am back to the anonymous weddings I prefer. There is perhaps an infinity of these glossy wedding photos online. If I keep going the way I have been, I will find out.
It’s one part relaxing, one part anxiety-inducing, this wedding-gazing. It’s basically just an excuse for me to pootle away time on the internet in the evenings, but there is also an alleged usefulness to it, a purported aim. I am planning a wedding, one with “DIY elements”, so I need to “get ideas” from rich white people in America. The other day, as I clicked through yet another photo gallery of strangers’ weddings, I found myself reading a caption that included the word “charger”. I hadn’t heard that word in that context before, so I looked it up in the dictionary and discovered that it’s a type of large serving dish. Here, though, in this picture, it seemed to be a kind of plate that you put under another plate. I thought back to Megan and Ted’s wedding and I remembered a gold charger.
Then, I thought about the nuptials of my lovely cousin and her warm, welcoming new husband. And the wedding weekend spent with my wonderful friends who have recently become brilliant parents. And the beautiful blur of a day for my sister and now-brother-in-law. I couldn’t remember if any of them had plates under the plates, if any of them had these charger thingies. And I realised: you might remember the charger of a stranger, but you’re unlikely to remember the charger of a person you love. When I think back to the weddings of friends and family, I remember love and fun and happy tears. I want to get married so I can share all of that with those people closest to me and my boyfriend. And that’s got nothing to do with Megan and Ted.