What Does Marriage Mean To a Millennial?

They say love is fleeting.

Is that a good enough reason to not take marriage seriously? Or is that merely an excuse to move on to something that you think is bigger, better, and richer when things get tough?

We aren’t 17 anymore, where falling in love was a feeling we’d never experienced before — a high that fooled us into thinking life couldn’t possibly get any better and the breakups tore your insides apart, leaving you cold, alone, stunned and like the life ahead of you would always have something missing.

As we grew up knowing our relationships would go one of two directions, we were better equipped for the unexpected.

In a world where we are overwhelmed with choices, opportunities and constantly seeking out “the next best thing,” are we applying that contorted frame of mind to the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with?

Marrying in the Millennial Era

I am a millennial, and I got engaged a few months ago.

Because I already have a child with my now fiance, people didn’t really treat it like a big deal. This was the expected next step as we clearly had been living in sin before the proposal, and friends, family and co-workers had simply been waiting for this to happen because, “they have a baby together,” and “they have been together for three years,” and “they grew up together and come from great families,” and “It’s about time he asked!”

This thought process is troublesome for me. Yes, we have a child together. Yes, we are in love. Yes, we take our relationship seriously and want to spend our lives together. But does that mean marriage is the logical next step?

I think it’s society’s logical next step.

When people jokingly ask (anyone who is engaged), “When is he going to put a ring on it?!” That might be all “ha ha” in the moment, but in real life and in the real relationship, everyone’s definition of “being ready” looks different.

Marriage (to me, anyway), is something sacred. I don’t want more than one wedding. I don’t want more than one husband. I don’t want my son living anywhere else but with my husband (his father) and I.

Because we want to feel 100% certain that we are in this together, we’re waiting to plan a wedding. And instead of viewing this as a smart and logical step, which, it is, some people are questioning where we stand as a couple, assuming that waiting to plan a wedding = trouble in paradise.

While this choice of ours is no one else’s business, I’ll give you our reasoning for waiting anyway:

His parents are divorced. His married friends joke that once you’re married, your life is over. (Again, funny at the moment this is said, but not so funny when you’re going home angry every night and sleeping in different rooms). Other people close to us — their marriages are on the rocks. Our friends currently in the midst of planning their weddings? They are constantly stressed out from their in-laws’ unwanted opinions and overall unnecessary drama that all too often comes with planning a wedding.

In addition, there are certain stereotypes that come with being married which I am not near ready to take on nor do I want them attached to my cool girl status. Like becoming a homeowner. This in no way thrills me. I’m a renter. (Everyone in New York rents). Can someone please tell me what is so appealing about being a homeowner? Is it a similar feeling to finally being able to afford the coveted Louis Vuitton bag? If so, even that feeling of accomplishment wears off after a few years.

Another thing. A big thing…is the Big Day. Where should it be? Who should be invited? How much money are our parents going to give us? Do we even care about making the Big Day a big deal? So many questions we simply do not feel like dealing with at the moment.

On the money front, I do think spending upwards of $53,000 (the average amount a millennial couple spends today on the day they say “I do,” according to a 2016 study from The Knot) for a party is quite extravagant and perhaps unnecessary (Although I am all about extravagance). Unless you or your parents or whoever is paying for your nuptial celebration simply doesn’t bat an eye about throwing that down, take advantage and crank it up to $80,000.

But if and when money, as it always finds its way to do so, starts causing problems between the people you love — for one day of your life, that, to me, is flat out stupid, and I want no part of it.

If Jake and I decide to honor our engagement and get hitched, no one’s opinions of where we are having it (New York! Chicago! Spain!), who is and who isn’t invited, what the venue looks like or what I might wear (this includes you, Jake — I will wear some semblance of a bird or feathers in my hair) will not be taken into consideration. Let me say that one more time. No one else’s opinion matters but ours.

If marriage is said to be sacred, why are we turning it into a circus show? Is it so we can fill our Instagram with gorgeous wedding day photos to prove our wealth and happiness to everyone? Sadly, I’m sure that’s definitely part of it. That’s the world we live in. Everything is about status and success, and I’m better because of this or that.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to make the day special and memorable (and fashionable!) But that doesn’t mean I need my parents to spend $7,000 on fanciful decor to be gawked at for four hours or have 200 people present as I self-consciously make-out with my husband-to-be who can barely hold my hand walking down the street in fear of PDA judgement.

Again, if money is a non-issue, spend away. It’s when emotions, manipulative behavior, and uncomfortable jealousy and competition among friends and family becomes the core part of your “special day.”

Is the institute of marriage to blame here?

I don’t think so. I think it’s the public’s pressed upon views, opinions and harsh critiques of “She chose TEAL for her bridesmaids? Her marriage is already over.” (Disclaimer: You really shouldn’t choose teal).

If marriage, to you, is about celebrating this very serious, very long-term commitment (Remember, Jake, it’s…forever!) to the person you love, why are we making it more about the fluff and frill of how high the venue’s ceilings are?

Before you start making decisions on designer dresses and rooftop rehearsal dinners, my advice (coming from someone who isn’t yet married), is to first ensure the overarching decision of choosing the right partner, at the right time, is infallibly the right one.

Thanks for reading!

Life is better when we laugh. I write about the importance of mental health & believe our weirdness is what makes us great. https://ashleyalt.substack.com/

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