After my boyfriend and I decided to get married, we quickly went about arranging the logistics of the thing: booking a venue, asking our loved ones to play crucial roles, giving our notice at the Hackney town hall. And for a little while, I thought that, surely, someone was going to step in and say, Hey are you guys definitely going to do this?
“Isn’t there a course we have to complete before we get married?” I asked my boyfriend. “Don’t we have to do some pre-marriage counselling?”
“No, that’s only for religious ceremonies and we are not religious,” he told me.
“So, like, we are just allowed to do this. No one checks if we are making the right decision?”
“Nope,” he said, almost bemused.
A friend told me that she thought women experience this post-engagement panicky jitteriness more than men. “Men do the asking, usually,” she said, “so they have had time to sit with the decision longer.”
I thought that was interesting – and probably true – but I was, and am, completely sure that I love my boyfriend and want to marry him. It wasn't not doubt about the fact that I loved him that made me nervous, it was just the general enormity of the act of getting married.
A lifelong relationship – that, I imagine, will feel pretty grown-up at various stages along the way. But a wedding? That’s actually just a gesture of grown-up-ness
Getting married forces you to consider your life and all the decisions you’ve made along the way. It underlines your priorities. Oh, yes, I definitely put love above money, I think, considering how I am not marrying someone rich, but a man I believe to be kind and handsome and smart and good.
But there’s something almost showily grown-up about getting married: having a baby is a bigger deal, a huger commitment, but it’s an element of life necessary for the survival of the species. A baby happens, a marriage is entered into. Buying a house, that’s grown-up in a very necessary way – because you need somewhere to live, right? A lifelong relationship – that, I imagine, will feel pretty grown-up at various stages along the way. But a wedding? That’s actually just a gesture of grown-up-ness. And at times, the planning of a wedding can actually feel ridiculously un-grown-up. Is it not positively juvenile to waste thousands of pounds on a party?
But I suppose what I think most is that getting married is like a fun reward for all the grown-up stuff we’ve done together over the last four years. I don’t know if anyone ever feels like a proper adult; even as an almost-married homeowner with a job title that denotes an element of seniority, I feel ridiculously unprepared for life sometimes. I cry so easily and when my boyfriend goes away for work, I can let the house get so messy. And yet, looking back, I realise that we have made a series of decisions that allow us to take this step into marriage.
When we moved in together and I was so frightened because the other time I lived with a different partner, it ended in the misery of dividing all our stuff and all our friends and all our life. But my boyfriend and I did it anyway. And wasn’t that grown-up?
When we got back together after we broke up briefly at the start of our relationship and we avoided recriminations (for the most part). Wasn’t that grown-up?
When we held hands in hospitals, fighting a little but long illness. When we’ve had to talk about money, like really talk about it, in a way that limits our dreams and outlines our reality. When we’ve accepted each other’s faults and helped each other discover new strengths. Wasn’t all that grown-up?
Getting married isn’t the only grown-up step we’ve ever taken, it isn’t even the biggest, and when I think of it that way, I don’t feel nervous. I feel sure.