Deciding to get married — or to get engaged, or to generally not ever split up with your partner and make this preference publicly known — is an exciting and big life decision. It’s also, like a lot of life decisions (see also: parenting, graduate school, switching to hard liquor), one that your friends, family and closest total strangers have some opinions about. And it is extremely important that they share all of them with you, quickly, right now, if you just have 10 minutes or several hours.
I genuinely enjoy talking about marriage and weddings — hell, I’ve made a point of doing it almost every week for more than a year here at the Frisky. But because of the shifting nature of marriage and wedding culture, generally in a more positive, inclusive and less-materialistic direction, I’ve found that it’s dangerous to assume anything at all after one has heard (or read, on Facebook, occasionally to one’s horror) the words: “We’re engaged!”
To that end, I’ve compiled, with the help of my smart, enthusiastic social network full of folks who love to bitch and moan as much as I do, 10 assumptions none of us should make about people who are getting married:
1. That they’re heterosexual. This is the most exciting assumption I get to dissuade people from making! Nationwide gay marriage is coming, and there’s increasingly less that bigoted assholes can do about it. Celebrate the bright, progressive future by not making this assumption!
2. That somebody’s parents are footing the bill, most likely the bride’s, and that their pockets go deep. Does this still happen? Of course it does. Many, many couples are lucky to have parents or family members to help with expenses. But with folks getting married later in life, often after they’ve already set up households with their partners, it’s also very likely that the couple’s managing their own wedding finances, and that they’re trying to keep costs reasonable. Is it fun to look at pretty, uber-expensive paper? Yes. Is it fun to read multiple e-mails wondering if you’ve considered these hand-lettered ecru envelopes pressed from the fur of fresh kittens? No.
3. That you’re invited to whatever handfasting-reception-intimate SCUBA diving ceremony people are planning. Shortly after Patrick and I decided to get married, I was talking to an acquaintance who couldn’t stop gushing about how she had no idea what she would wear to our wedding and would it be outdoors or in, because oh my god, wedges or flats!? We hadn’t even sent out save-the-date cards yet; I couldn’t have told you how to spell this lady’s last name. There are only a few polite ways to say, “Sorry, you’re not invited,” so don’t make people try to think of one on the spot.
4. That, in a hetero partnership, she’s changing her name. The times, they are a-changin’. Couples are taking on new shared last names. They’re hyphenating. They’re not doing jack shit to their given names. Please wait until the couple or the individual members thereof advise you of a name change before you assume otherwise. Eight months after the wedding, still getting mail addressed to Mrs. Andrea His Last Name from people who by all accounts should know better, and while I find it increasingly funny, it’s also presumptuous. And because we all choose our choice, many women are very excited to become Mrs. His Last Name, and you won’t have to guess which ones they are, because it will probably be plastered on the ass of some new track shorts.
5. That, in a hetero partnership, the guy doesn’t care about the stupid gross lady wedding, which he has probably been badgered into by his wedding-crazed bridezilla partner. Men are capable of and excited about planning one of the biggest parties of their lives, and not just because they’re financially invested in it. Alternately: don’t assume that the woman does care about the wedding, any more than she cares about finishing her dissertation or paying her latest parking ticket. People are more complicated than the gender roles prescribed them by the Wedding Industrial Complex.
6. That, in a hetero partnership, the guy proposed, and there was a big shiny ring involved. Weirdly enough, the people who assume men hate weddings are often the ones who can’t believe “he” didn’t make some big show of a proposal and spend three months’ salary on a diamond ring. One of my friends proposed to her husband, and she’s totally proud of it; getting engaged in an unusual way or just straight up decided to get married (over a bottle of Jim Beam, which is what my husband and I did) doesn’t mean folks are any less committed or “really” engaged.
7. That literally anything you think usually happens at weddings is going to happen at this particular wedding. When I told some folks we weren’t having a wedding cake, they responded as if I’d personally shot their beloved family pet. I don’t like sweets! Cakes are mondo expensive! Wouldn’t you rather we pay for an open bar? Come on, guys. Not everybody has a garter toss, a white dress or rice-throwing send-off, and it’s all going to be fine.
8. That bridezilla and/or groomzilla are coming to eat your babies. Just because over-the-top, entitled assholes who also happen to be in the process of planning a wedding make great television doesn’t mean that your friends will turn into fire-breathing shitheads upon engagement. So often I hear from engaged folks: I want to deal with an issue, but I don’t want to seem like a jerk, so maybe I should just shut up and get steamrolled into whatever by Mom/Professional Wedding Planner/Dude At The End Of The Bar. Doing what you want on your wedding day and being a ‘zilla aren’t at all the same thing. Give people the benefit of the doubt until the monster rears its ugly head. And if it does, and sometimes it will, that’s a perfectly fine time to be as smug as you wanna be and also to put that person on ‘Limited Profile’ indefinitely.
9. That engaged people don’t have anything non-wedding-related happening in their lives, and certainly nothing more important than wedding-planning. My friend Ruth: “Wedding = less important than passing my econometrics class.” Chances are, engaged people may be as tired of talking about their wedding planning activities as you are of hearing about them. Let’s everybody get a break.
10. Finally: that an engagement or statement of forever-commitment means having a wedding at all. As my friend Virginia said: like her, some people will totally courthouse it up, and “pretty much the only way you will know is that we updated our FB status to ‘married.’” Weddings aren’t for everyone, even if they’re totally in love.
What haven’t I covered, Friskyfolk? Leave your suggestions in the comments. Let’s make the world a less making-an-ass-out-of-you-and-me place, shall we?
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com.