News Sinead Moriarty

Sunday 21 September 2014

For better or worse – saying I do to partner's dark side

Published 22/07/2014 | 02:30

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It's a bit like the bride and groom stopping at the 'for better for worse' part of the wedding and elaborating at length on what the 'worse' is. Photo Thinkstock
It's a bit like the bride and groom stopping at the 'for better for worse' part of the wedding and elaborating at length on what the 'worse' is. Photo Thinkstock

Weddings are emotive times. As the day approaches you will find yourself and your future spouse do not agree on everything. In fact, you may discover that you disagree on quite a number of details.

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Tensions are high, budgets are being blown, table plans are requiring the negotiating skills of an ambassador and suddenly someone suggests a shadow wedding.

A shadow wedding is a new idea, stemming from San Francisco and gathering momentum. It's a kind of alternative wedding/pre-marriage course with a difference. A shadow wedding involves inviting friends and family over, the week before your wedding, to discuss your fears and concerns in front of them.

It's a bit like the bride and groom stopping at the 'for better for worse' part of the wedding and elaborating at length on what the 'worse' is. Just so the other person is clear what they are getting into. Except instead of doing that in church, you do it at home a week before the wedding, to clear the air.

On the Shadow Wedding website the ritual is described as "an intimate ritual held before a regular "light" wedding in which all manner of difficult material between the couple is welcomed.

It provides a consecrated place for partners to give voice to their darker sides, along with any doubts and fears about committing to lifelong partnership.

Is a 'warts and all' confession session really advisable a week before your wedding when tensions are high anyway?

Do you really need to hear your wife tell you that she has a shopping addiction and is really bad with money? Does she really need to know that you will not give up flirting with women in the office because it's fun?

When choosing to confess your 'darker sides' a week before your wedding are you not just planting a grenade in an already tense situation?

And do you really need to do this in front of friends, who will probably bring it up every time they've had more than two drinks?

According to sex and relationship coach Jim Benson, who along with his wife Jessica began facilitating shadow weddings in 2011, it's a way to make sure you are in love with a person's darkest side before you commit to their better parts.

Most shadow weddings take place at night and many couples choose not to dress up at all but to wear old clothes. One couple started the ceremony by slapping each other; another ended the ceremony by wrestling each other – that's certainly one way to get rid of pre-marriage nerves.

The cost of a shadow wedding is between $2,500 (€1,800) and $7,500 (€5,500), depending on the amount of support the couple need. It seems an awful lot of money to fork out a week before you walk up the aisle, when the flowers alone will probably bankrupt you.

It seems to me that the 'dark side' of your other half should have reared its ugly head while you were dating or living together. Surely if your other half had issues that you found difficult to deal with, you would have already thrashed it out.

Living with someone before you get married is the best way to see them warts and all. You'll find out quickly enough if they are messy, selfish, weird, lazy, idle . . . or if they are 'relatively normal' and someone you could spend the rest of your life with.

Hopefully by the time you get married you'll have seen your partner's red flags and either legged it out the door or hoisted up your own flags and decided that you can live with each other's shortcomings.

With the average age of couples getting married now at over 30, we're not talking about wide-eyed innocent teenagers rushing down the aisle. At 30 years of age you have a fair idea what's what and you know that perfection does not exist. It's up to you to decide what you are prepared to accept in a partner and where you draw the line.

Wouldn't a long walk and some honesty be a better option than an expensive shadow wedding where you announce all of your worst flaws to each other in front of your friends while wearing old tracksuits, before you beat each other up?

No bride or groom looks good with a black eye.

Sinead Moriarty

Irish Independent

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