Sunday 18 February 2018

The myth of the fairytale wedding

Weddings are about starting the rest of your lives together, so brides, take the pressure off

Marriage... treat it with respect and deference
Marriage... treat it with respect and deference

Patricia Casey

Anybody who has seen Four Weddings and a Funeral will recognise that the wedding day, itself, gets a great press. Gorgeous-looking women, handsome men, slightly eccentric vicars and wonderful clothes encapsulate the day. Happiness just leaps out of the screen to engulf the viewer. And the hapless bachelor in the movie wants it too. So too do most women dream of the bliss that a wedding day such as this has brought to the couples.

What comic movies such as this don't show is that brides in particular shoulder a lot of the responsibility for the preparations. I have seldom, either in my professional or personal life, seen a groom who was over-wrought about the organising of the day. The worries about the flowers, the photographer, the table clothes, the vows or the wine are usually the concern of the bride.

'Bridezillas', as they are sometimes called, become so immersed in the preparations for their special day that they can think of or talk about little else. Even those whose mothers try to share the burden are unable to relinquish the work. Their desire to control and perfect everything can make some so anxious as to need help from their family doctor. But divesting control is what should happen so that the day will be as precious as the bride believes it should be.

The most common problem for the bride is probably the decision about who is to be invited, or not, as the case may be. Often parents will have a huge role in this and want the extended family and their own friends and neighbours while the bride may have other ideas. So a family dispute ensues and these can cause long-terms rifts.

Indeed remote family members expecting to receive the invitation card often cling to their grudge at being excluded. So the guest list has to be negotiated or it becomes unmanageable emotionally as well as in size and expense.

Brides often experience guilt that their parents are footing the bill although this is less likely to be a problem nowadays with women's role in the workplace on a par with men.

Yet, this is not universal, and for some on lower incomes, their family may have to assist and even take out a loan. Feeling guilty is perfectly normal in these circumstances and the ceremony should be tempered to avoid any serious financial hardship afterwards.

Many prospective brides that I speak to indicate a reluctance to scale back on their idyllic day. The pressure for bigger and longer wedding celebrations is intense and is reinforced by the celebrity wedding in the castle, pictures of which are sold to the biggest bidder in the magazine war.

The intense focus on achieving perfection on the wedding day shows that many regard this as the most important day in the marriage.

Many women, whom I see professionally, often with depression following the breakup of their marriage, speak of the wonderful wedding day and the unfairness that the bliss of that lovely memory has now been swept away in the divorce court.

But a wonderful wedding day is no predictor of anything about the future of the marriage. It is simply public proof that the marriage has taken place, a snapshot in time but not a crystal ball for the future.

One of the taboos regarding the wedding day is the ambivalence that some experience about their marriage, and in particular about the vows they will exchange.

The bride may dearly love the man she is marrying but still have some doubts about whether they really should marry at this time, whether they should perhaps remain free from the promises that marriage implies, even uncertain about the possible name change.

Some may feel that they are perhaps walking blindly into marriage because their fiancée wants to "settle down", especially if they have lived together for some time.

And here again there is contradiction - the proportion of co-habiting couples who live together in perpetuity is very small with less than 4pc lasting 10 years or more. Most either separate or marry. So even those who early in life may feel they don't really need to marry and that marriage is "only a piece of paper", over time see its benefit. This transition into appreciating marriage may be a source of self-questioning for some.

Recent data from Ireland shows that marriage is becoming more popular. Official figures released from the Central Statistics Office in April 2015 showed that there were 22,045 marriages last year, representing a marriage rate of 4.8 per 1,000 of the population and up from 4.3 in 2011. Clearly we regard marriage as a wonderful institution. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has described it as "the bedrock of society".

The wedding day, great as it should be, is not an end in itself. It is indisputably the first day of the rest of the couple's married life and in the greater scheme of the couple's life together is just a flash in the pan of something more durable and profound.

So treat it with respect and deference, but not frivolity.

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