The other night, I was pondering over something a roommate had said to me during my junior year in college. (Yes, it was over four years ago. I'm apparently that chick on the sadly canceled show Unforgettable.) While at dinner with some other young women, the subject turned to families, and I mentioned that my grandparents had been married in a church office in Emporia, VA, with my Granny's aunts serving as witnesses. My Pa was in his early twenties, and Granny was a very mature seventeen. At the time, they weren't Christians, no matter how you define the term. Their conversion would come later. My point is, they had the world's simplest wedding. That was fifty-seven years ago.
I related this story, and my roommate said something to the effect of "Oh yeah, if they weren't Christians, then a church wedding wasn't important to them."
Uh, no, they were poor and didn't have the funds for an "old money" wedding. My other grandparents, who did go to church, had a similarly simple wedding in the church office, with the preacher.
And last night it hit me. Fundamentalism and the rest of the world, together, have ruined marriage, but I'm not quite sure who the real culprit is.
At places like Bob Jones University (the most exposure to fundamentalism I've had) marriage is a goal. It's a finish line. It's practically the reason many women there go to college. Not all, but a heck of a lot. They talk about finding their prince, or their steak (because a hot dog isn't good quality meat, or whatever. I don't know. I think it's a gross analogy.) They talk about how they can wear white on their wedding day and be pure for their husbands and stuff. It's a finish line young men and women reach and collectively go, "Yes! Now we can have sex and it's not bad now!" They seem to overlook the commitment angle. That one day their spouse will do something that really just pisses them off. Not that there will be fights, but I wouldn't be surprised if BJU students, after marriage, are shocked by arguments, because literally all kids do there is gaze at each other (and occasionally one will feed the other, though I've only seen this once in person.) There is no substance. Saving themselves for marriage has become a tool. The wedding night is the goal.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the rest of the world. I do enjoy watching Bridezillas sometimes. I think it's mostly fake, but sure entertaining in a mindless sort of way (also a good way to get ideas for decor and things. They are nice weddings, even if the people creating them are freaking insane.) It struck me that weddings have simply become an event. A really good excuse to throw a party. And not that there's anything wrong with parties. But $40,000 (and up) for five hours on a Saturday night? We've come to an age where women go "my dress budget is $7,000" without batting an eyelash and tell you that the way a wedding cake looks totally rules over how it tastes. Like it's okay that the cake sucks, as long as the sugar orchids are gorgeous. Even more absurd? Fake cakes. To save money. And serving sheet cake.
Like a foam cake that you pretend to cut while serving a sheet cake to your guests.
What the heck did you spend the money on that you couldn't even have a real cake?
Oh my bad, the 350 guests for which you need a fully stocked bar. Never mind that you really only know about fifty of them.
I'll stop being all frugal-judgey now because I really think it's the fundamentalist/goal oriented weddings that come with healthy doses of narcissism at no extra charge.
"Look, they saved themselves until marriage..." "The bride wore white..." (which is actually a book title, by the way), and all the pride that goes with it. I guess I'm a little prideful myself, I confess. My fiance and I have a relationship with actual conversations about stuff. We're not sex-crazed animals, which all those books and conferences and guides seem to assume all Christian engaged couples are. At BJU, there used to be a class about marriage and family that was required for all students before graduation. Mostly, it was about sex. The other half was funny anecdotes from life (which were enjoyable, actually.) There was a session about finances, but it wasn't marriage specific, and it was of course geared towards those planning a wedding for the week after they graduated. My own roommate (the same one who apparently didn't know that big weddings were for wealthy people), when I once mentioned that my boyfriend (who I wasn't yet engaged to) felt like he was more than that already, had to clarify "like you're really good friends, right?" Well, no, because we had been good friends before getting together anyway. Yeah, I was definitely interested in him, but he was still my friend first. I do not take that lightly.
I don't know who was the first to ruin the marriage, to throw it to the wayside in favor of the wedding. My suspicions lie with the ones who chose to pervert it and change it from a celebration looking forward to a life together to that moment where you can finally take off your purity ring and tell the world you saved yourself and "it's so worth it" because that's all you really cared about. A goal. Congratulations, you made it. Welcome to fifty years of a living nightmare if virginity was the only thing you ever bothered to think about regarding marriage.
Honestly, the party weddings have it more on point. Those people, even if they're over the top, legitimately seem to be celebrating a life together. If all you're excited about is that you found a husband or wife and can now have a raucous wedding night and have met your goal and saved yourself, well, you've officially missed the point. Good job.