I have a friend who is a professional wedding planner. She has helped people with their wedding events for over 20 years. Sometimes, I help out on the big weddings to ensure that everything runs smoothly for the happy couple.
My friend has a good record of predicting the longevity of the marriages just from the wedding planning experience. These are some of her observations for those who tend to stay married:
- The groom is a real part of the planning, not a silent presence.
- Both the bride and groom are respectful of each other’s ideas.
- They want their wedding to be nice, but they are easygoing, welcome ideas, and talk alot about how they want their guests to enjoy the event.
- They have small to reasonable size wedding budgets.
- They have a small to reasonable size number of attendants.
- Their focus is on small, meaningful personal touches rather than glam and glitz to impress guests.
- They are always polite to all the hired help.
- They are always polite to their parents and siblings.
And these are her observations of the marriages that struggle or end in a short period of time:
- The bride does almost all the decision-making and planning without the groom.
- Early on, there are not requests, but demands and threats throughout the planning phase.
- Big budget, luxury touches, and late payments to vendors, and constant arguing over costs.
- Rejection of all ideas and compromises, believe that only the bride can make the decision.
- Treatment of vendors and staff help is indifferent, rude, or outright demeaning.
- During the wedding, the bride and groom are not together, except for the expected moments of the first dance, cutting the cake, etc.
- The groom comes in at the last minute and complains, treats the staff like it is their fault, and generally sulks.
- Getting drunk is the goal at the wedding reception.
- Ongoing, public fighting with parents, siblings, bridal party members during planning and on the day of the event.
None of this is surprising. What is surprising is how these typical patterns are unscientific predictors of the length of a marriage.
When I help out at these weddings, I always find myself wondering what will happen when the dress is put away, the thank you notes are written, and the newlyweds become like the rest of us. What happens when they are married like everybody else?
My Long Marriage
This year will mark my 30th wedding anniversary.
My husband and I dated for four years before we were married in the fall of 1990. Our relationship was born out of a friendship. He was funny and made fun of the books I read. He wasn’t wrong. He first spied me engrossed in the novel Nurses in Love. He told me I needed to read Catcher in the Rye. I told him I would read that if he read Gone With the Wind.
Reading that long, winding narrative and being able to discuss it with me when he was finished was the start of a conversation we’re still having more than 30 years later.
What we have is a friendship, and our love is the glorification of that friendship.
Over the years, we have both been imperfect. We have argued, we have been petulant and childish. We are not always our best selves. However, we both know that at our worst moments lies the person who is best for us because the good in each of us will always outweigh the bad.
Our marriage resembles my parents’ marriage. This year, they will mark 54 years since their 1966 August wedding. For much of my life, the two have been inseparable. I know they drive each other nuts on many occasions, and they bicker and snap at each other. But there is never a question about their deep friendship and love for one another. They like the life they have built together. They have been through a great deal, including the loss of an unborn child. Their marriage survives because their friendship survives.
The Vow Era of a Marriage
My husband and I are in our 50s. My parents are in their 70s. These are the ages that marriage evolves away from the early days of romance. This is the Vow Era, where all the promises that were made during the ceremony are kept. Our bodies change, responsibilities grow, problems persist. This is the time of your life you need the person you trust the most at your side, helping you to figure it out, or event just helping you to get out of a chair because your sore and tired.
It is during these years that it is important to celebrate love as glorified friendship. As the years move faster, it is this real and true friendship that is our most valued possession. We are the lucky ones.
At all the weddings I attend, I always wish the happy couple the very best, and I send them a silent wish that they make it to the Vow Era. If they are true friends, I know they will.