Q: My fiancé and I have planned our wedding for years now, but it has been delayed three times because of Covid. We used to be so excited for the wedding and viewed it as a major life goal. However, with all the delays, he has lost all interest in the wedding. He has started to say that it doesn’t matter, and that he doesn’t want to reschedule again. I am worried that this means that he doesn’t want to get married at all, as every time I try to talk about a new date and wedding, he shuts down and changes the subject. I dreamed of this wedding for so long. I know he is the person I want to settle down with, but he seems to have completely gone off the wedding idea. I am scared to even bring this up as I am afraid it will lead to a row, but I also want to know if I need to reschedule again and contact suppliers. How do I move this forward and get him interested in the wedding again?
Dr West replies: Many people have changed their minds about a big wedding since the pandemic. They have reviewed the cost and decided to spend that money on other things, or the idea of being in a big crowd has provoked anxiety. People may also feel that the idea of a big wedding is not actually reflective of what they actually want but is rather what society expects. With the cost-of-living crisis, these feelings may be compounded as many people tighten their belts.
What does the wedding mean to you? Is it the legal commitment, the big party, or the moment you exchange vows? Or is the wedding not as important as the marriage? People are judged and called ‘bridezillas’ and ‘groomzillas’ for caring about things like napkins and table displays, but those things can mean a lot to people. Some people love wedding planning; some detest it.
If your partner still wants to get married, but isn’t into the fuss, you can get married in a registry office. This is usually a shorter ceremony, and you can do what you like afterwards — a meal just for the two of you, a big party, or go home and eat pizza in your pjs. You get to decide what works for you, and it’s your day, your way.
Elopements are also a great way to get married if you want a little something extra but with less people. A true elopement is just the two of you, but many people now invite a handful of people to come with them. Vegas is an obvious choice since you can tie the knot in a wild and wonderful range of ways, from Elvis-style to a helicopter ride. A tacky Vegas wedding can be pure joy for some, but there are also plenty of romantic options to explore. You can even do both — a romantic ceremony by day, and a drive-through wedding at night before hitting the town.
If you have paid deposits with suppliers, you can ask if they are flexible about dates or the purpose of your booking. If you decide to elope, you can see if your photographer can work at a casual party that you throw when you come back, or maybe use the deposit for couples’ photos, or a relative’s birthday party, or other celebration. Some may also offer refunds given the pandemic, but other life events should be celebrated and captured. Bands can play at a birthday party, and hair and makeup bookings can be used for a fancy night out or a special occasion.
Your anxieties are normal and will only be resolved by talking to each other. If he really does not want to get married at all, then there are some decisions to be made. Are you okay with staying in a long-term relationship without being married? It works for some people and not for others. There are also legal benefits that marriage offers, such as automatic rights and your partner being a legal next of kin. If this is a deal-breaker, you need to think carefully about your future. You may love each other, but if you have different expectations for your future, it may be a barrier to staying together long-term.
It is a red flag that you are afraid of a row if you bring this up — it is an important event, and considering you are in a position where you have paid deposits to suppliers, it does need to be a conversation now. Why does a row scare you? Is there a history of rows if there is a big issue to discuss? This is a worrying sign. We need to be able to feel confident to discuss issues with our partners, and fear is not healthy. Are you projecting insecurities, or remembering past events with your partner? This is an area to reflect on as it will help you address any underlying issues either within yourself or in the relationship.
This is just one of the life moments that you will have to navigate as a couple. If you can’t compromise and figure out the path that works for you, this is a concerning red flag that may determine how you communicate in the future. This will only be solved with honest conversation and self-reflection about what each of you want for your future. If you are not on the same page and drift along, you may end up resenting each other and splitting up. That may sound dramatic, but we hold some things close to our heart and want to experience them, and if we spend time with a partner that ultimately doesn’t want the same things, we may resent the time we spent with them instead of finding someone that is on the same wavelength as us. You are not selfish for wanting what you want, and you do need to be true to yourself.
Dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to email@example.com. Dr West regrets she cannot answer questions privately