Love and its sometime attendant, marriage, has been much on mind of late. My brother and his long-term (very long-term. We do not rush these things in our family) got married the other weekend. The sun shone, there was dancing, and twinkling lights, and a lakeside blessing, and so much joy and love. It made me think about love: how do you know? What makes us so certain? And marriage: why, in our secular age, does it still matter?
Do I think it does? Well – not unlike my brother and his wife – my husband and I were together for 10 years before we married. So for us, marriage wasn’t a leap of faith or hope – but a simple statement of love. And I was surprised to find it did feel different; that not a day goes by when I don’t feel happier knowing we are a team. That there is no one else in the world I would rather be with (wake up next to; talk to; eat with; laugh and argue with; curl up next to at night..).
I loved reading the wise, funny, heartfelt thoughts my friends sent me. My favourite comment was probably “I was the most bad tempered bride-to-be in the land and pretty much refused to have anything to do with it beyond looking nice! It’s a wonder he went through with it, but I am very glad he did!’
“To stop my mum Mrs Bennett-ing me!”
“I sort of knew the moment I met my hubby that he was The One…at Hammersmith School Disco night (sadly this institution no longer exists!) He was the leader of the pack: so confident, funny, interested in everyone and full of life. I just wanted to be in his company. He apparently knew I was the one the first day I started at his work (bizarrely, he loved my walk).
My Christian faith played a big part in our decision to get married – but also the desire to stop my mum ‘Mrs Bennett-ing’ me! I also wanted my husband and I to share an identity which when we had children they could be a part of it, too. I hat whenever you fall, there is always someone to catch you. Someone to give you eye wrinkles from all the laughs and hijinks you get up to. Most importantly you help make each other become the best version of yourself.”
Camilla, married nearly 4 years
“Marriage elevates your relationship above all those that have come before”
“Marriage is the ultimate commitment. You may have lived with more than one person, you may have loved more than one person, you may have had long-term relationships with more than one person, you’ll almost certainly have had other boyfriends or girlfriends, but you hope only to marry one person. Therefore, getting married elevates your relationship above all those that have come before.
In some ways I wish we’d had children before getting married purely for the fact that it would be incredible to have had them there on our wedding day! But, saying that there are some pretty stressful times when you have a baby and I do believe the bond of marriage is harder to walk away from – not just because of all the legal hoops you have to jump through. You really have to want to split up to go through all that.”
Alex, married 8 years
“The last thing I expected was to genuinely love being married, but I really do.”
“I had never had the slightest interest in marriage, we had been together 10 years and were already committed to one another (emotionally and financially). I’d have happily carried on as we were, as there was no reason to change things as far as I could see. When he proposed, I didn’t NOT want to marry him and I certainly didn’t want us to break up, so I guess my response was, why not? I’m still not sure what prompted him to ask, but these days I’m pleased he did!
People used to say to me “It does change things” and that always terrified me; I didn’t want things to change! So I was all geared up for some awful seismic shift the day after our wedding…which didn’t come. But gradually I came to understand what people meant: I felt like we were more of a team, I did get a little thrill from calling him my husband, something I had never anticipated. The last thing I expected was to genuinely love being married, but I really do. I guess it consolidated everything we felt for one another. And I think it’s important that I definitely didn’t take getting married lightly – in fact, when I got stressed out it was never about favours or flowers, but because I felt like we really had to take this seriously and not just do it because it’s what you do after a certain length of time/at a certain age.
I’ve never met anyone I’d rather be married to. Ultimately, you have to take a leap of faith, whether you make the right choice often comes with a huge dollop of good fortune.”
Lindsay, married 8 years
“I realised very quickly that it worked”
“It was never an option not to get married. It was the next natural step after being together for a while and knowing we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Both sets of parents are still married after a combined 70 years, and still very happy. My parents inspired me to get married more than anyone else: sometimes you could mistake them for a couple of lovestruck teenagers. As a teenager, it was frightfully embarrassing – now I’m incredibly proud and in my eyes, they’re the perfect advertisement for marriage. I think I realised very quickly that it worked – and was going to work. I just felt so comfortable with him and he is kind – very kind, actually, and that’s such an important quality to me.”
Bee, married 4 months (together 6 and a half years)
“The first time around, I totally missed the point of being married”
“The first time I got married I was – of course I was – convinced this was ‘it’. My parents (who are very traditional and old fashioned – as was my fiancé) expected it and I just let myself get swept along, thinking it would all fall into place afterwards. I was obsessed with having the perfect wedding day (I actually feel sick when I think how much my dress alone cost) – so much so I forgot to focus on what was important: the marriage. After we got back from honeymoon, I remember thinking, ‘Okay, so what now?’ My ex was keen to build a life together, and I panicked – I didn’t want to settle, to be tied down and become like our parents. As he pointed out when we broke up just over a year later, I had totally missed the point of what it is to be married and in a committed relationship. When I got married again (older and definitely wiser) it was much a quieter affair, but a much more serious one. I went into it with my eyes open; I had no romantic delusions. I knew marriage was going to be hard work, but there was no one I would rather do it with than the man at the end of the aisle. Seven years and three children later, I still feel that way.”
Fiona, married 7 years
“Together, we are better than we are apart”
“Honestly? We got married because I fell pregnant. To be fair to them, both our (very religious) families were delighted, but also followed their congratulations with, “And when is the wedding?” [insert expectant pause]. We didn’t have the heart to tell them we weren’t engaged – so, suddenly, we were. I went out for dinner getting to grips with being pregnant; we drove home thinking about dates and venues. I didn’t even get the grand proposal! (We told them the ring was being sized…) That said, I loved our wedding day (that our daughter was there made it even more special) and I love being married to my husband – he is, quite simply, my best friend. Together we are better than we are apart. You might say we married to please our parents – and maybe we’d be just as happy if we weren’t, but I’m glad we are.”
Anna, married 10 years
“Marriage means doing ots of deeply unromantic but practical things together.”
“I always wanted to get married. Despite becoming more feminist as I get older, I’d always pictured myself having kids with my husband; I’ve never taken his name, though.
To me, ‘being married’ means the security of knowing my best friend will be my partner forever. Being a family. Being frequently annoyed but never lonely. Being loved by someone that you loved. Doing lots of deeply unromantic but practical things together.”
Lucy, married 5 years
“I can honestly say our wedding day was the best day of our lives”
“I honestly never thought I was that bothered about getting married; I was never one of those little girls who dreamed about her wedding day. But I definitely knew when my husband proposed that I wanted to say yes and to be married to cement our relationship. I can honestly say that our wedding day was the best day of my life – I felt glowingly happy inside. After many years of knowing each other and not getting together, immediately from our first “date”, we both knew this was it, or rather I did (he apparently knew and told his friends that I was the one years earlier!). I knew he was the one that first weekend: the way he made me feel, the way we “get” each other and the way we fit together so well.
After the event, being married makes us feel more settled and a proper unit. Referring to each other as husband and wife, just is a big deal and we are a team. We always knew we would be together forever, but being married just seems to formalise it in the right way!”
Nina, married nearly 2 years
We’d love to know your thoughts: are you married? Does it matter? Does it make a difference? Do you wish you weren’t?!
Photograph of me reading the vows we wrote for our wedding day