Why do we wed?

I’ve mentioned before, my parents aren’t married. They’ve both been married, just not to each other. They both had a marriage, a complicated divorce and at least one child (in my mother’s case-a 6 month old me) in tow when they met. 5 months later, they moved in together. That was 23 and a half years ago. They are boyfriend and girlfriend. (Seriously, that’s how they refer to each other. Sweet and embarrassing, all at once.)

This post would be easy to write were there many complex reasons for why my parents never married. But it isn’t and there are not. Quite simply, they think that being married is pointless. Where does that leave this post? Where does it leave me, their pointlessly happily married daughter?

My parents have faced more trauma, drama and hardship than I care to recall. They took on each other’s children, without question. Met new families, faced new disapproval from all corners. My little brother was baptised in the hospital chapel as a newborn, my parents having been told he was hours from death. My Mum had to endure the unthinkable; opening the front door to two policemen, there to inform her with their solemn expressions and steady hands that my Dad, also a policeman, had been seriously injured in the line of duty. Then there was the long road to recovery. For my Dad and for us as a family. There has been illness, loss, the difficulties of being a ‘blended’ family…weekend visits, new step and half siblings, two Christmases and birthdays, “my ‘real’ Dad’s new girlfriend is going to be my new Mummy!” (I shudder to remember how precocious and nitwitty I was as a child.)

Of course, you don’t get the bad without the good. Or the completely awesome. Knowing from the moment you can identify familial relationships that the man you call ‘Daddy’, chose you to be his daughter and chose your mother to love. Knowing that your Mum has a backbone of steel. Growing up with half-brothers and step-brothers…learning to share and learning where to hide your diary. Two weeks every August in the Scottish highlands, being allowed to drive the car on the really straight bits of the mountain roads. Christmas traditions that were just ours. I saw my parents love us and one another, every day. It was a pretty special way to grow up.

Would my parents’ relationship, and therefore my upbringing, have been any different if they’d ever made it official? Would the hard times have been any easier? Would the happy times have been even better?

I think not. In their case, being married has made no difference to their relationship, their family, their lives. I believe that whilst my parents may not have had a wedding, they absolutely have a marriage.

And as for me…Sometimes I wonder why I wanted to get married. Surely I should have been anti-marriage from year dot? I am certain that had Phil and I decided not to marry, we would have continued to be in love, to want to build a home and a family. So why the wedding and the certificate and the rings? There is a little bit of me that wants to prove to my Mum and Dad that although their first marriages failed and their subsequent relationship thrived and prospered, that isn’t how it has to be for everyone. Apart from that… I really wanted everyone to know how much Phil and I loved each other and a wedding was the socially acceptable way to do that. Simple.

So readers…hit me. Are my parents the exception that proves the rule? Should all adult relationships be aiming for weddings and official marriagedom? Or can it be ok, nay, completely awesome, if you don’t get wed? Your thoughts…

Categories: Divorce, Family, Friends and Relationships
11 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted December 13, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Great post, A.

    Some of the best parents I know aren't married. Marriage and whether you'll be a good parent are mutually exclusive. I also like to think we're beyond the stigma of "you're parents aren't even MARRIED" finger-pointing in the playground – anyone with unmarried parents disagree?

    I suppose the difference that being married makes is purely on the inside. There are no external benefits of being married that being in a long-term relationship won't provide. It's just an internatal thing; security and satisfaction.

    If Mr K had never asked me to marry him, would I be wanting him to by now? I have no idea.

  2. Esme
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I'm so glad you asked this question: why get married if you've already got a secure relationship? I honestly don't know the answer, except that it was right for me and Tom.

    As for parents, my Mum married my step-dad 4 years ago. He had always said that he never wanted to get married again (after a particularly bad divorce) but he knew my Mum did want a wedding. Their relationship hasn't changed, but he knew that it makes my Mum happy to say 'husband' rather than 'partner'. I think it has to be a mutual decision between each couple, and each couple is bound to be different.


  3. Posted December 13, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Exactly right Esme, everyone is different.

    And a wedding is a beautiful thing-so it's understandable that your Mum (and myself!) simply wanted to get wed.


  4. Posted December 13, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Fantastic post A, this is something I wondered about A LOT before we got married, and only after we got married did it all start to fall into place for me.

    It's such a personal thing, but for me it always had to be marriage. I don't think I would have been able to commit in the same way without it, I honestly don't, and this is just me and me alone. I am a runner – I flee from problems if I feel I am failing – and I know I've thrown away relationships in the past by doing just that. Getting married has altered my mind-set completely. I have found a man I want to live with for the rest of my life, and marriage has bonded us, created a family out of us, and I will never, EVER fail my family (nor will I allow them to fail me). Getting married removed a weight of anxiety from me that was nothing to do with my relationship and everything to do with myself.

    Anna K – I was actually bullied at school for having divorced parents!


  5. Posted December 13, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Penny-what an amazing response. And it makes absolute sense too, I love how you say it was everything to do with you and not your relationship.

    I suspect it's the same, but in different context, for my parents.

    And seriously? Bullied for having divorced parents? That's shocking. It was strange if parent's WEREN'T divorced when I was at achool.


  6. Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Hmmm. Interesting one. I know it's mattered to me for a while, and I know that the reason for that has nothing whatsoever about the internal factors or dynamics of our relationship. I think for me it's about marking out our own little place in the world and my feeling has been that people are more aware of that space if you go 'tada'. (probably the worst wedding analogy ever)

  7. Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Great post!

    My mum and dad split up when I was five and my sister was a baby. For the next eight years we were very much a single parent family, but when I was 13 she met R- the single father of my sister's new best friend! Over the next three years our families started doing everything together, and when I was 16 we all moved in together.

    My mum and R have never married and although I don't call him dad, he is the father figure in my life, one of the best men I know, and any future children of mine will definitely call him grandpa!

    I would still like to get married one day, but if I was with someone who was very opposed to marriage (and there are good reasons to be), I would be ok with that. Like Aisling's, my parents have a marriage, they just didn't have a wedding.

  8. Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    That story about your parents is lovely Aisling. I love the line 'he chose me to be his daughter' what a fantastic thing.

    I too think every couple is different. And, whether this is right or not, I do think going through a divorce makes you very wary of wanting to do the marriage thing again. I'm happy for people to disagree, but a divorce IS harder than the breakup of a longterm relationship. It certainly scares the living daylights out of me.

  9. Posted December 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Aisling!

    Amy f, that is the best analogy of a wedding ever! It really is about going 'tada' we're in love and we want to show all our family and friends on one special day. I think your right about the wedding officially marking your own space in the world and, like Penny says, creating a solid unit that feels like your own family.

    I can't really remember why I wanted to get married, I think I just wanted our relationship to take another step after being together for so long. And leading up to the wedding I didn't have any spare time to think about what it would mean to be married. But since the wedding I do feel more secure, content and settled in our relationship. So I think there must be a reason so many people do get married still, beyond the social pressure, because it feels wonderful. But clearly that doesn't work for everyone and it would be a boring (though perhaps a less bully filled) world if everyone were exactly the same.

    As for parents, it's a tricky one. Your situation Aisling, seems very (for want of a better word) organic and natural. Whereas sometimes parents re-marrying can put an enormous amount of pressure on the kids of the previous marriage to accept the new situation and start calling their parent's new partner Mum or Dad just because they've married. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but what I mean is that sometimes I think not getting married can be the better option for a happy family.


  10. Fee
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    On the marriage subject-I think it's a hugely personal decision and one that people instinctively know how to make. For me, a very practical pragmatic person usually, it was all about the romance and the unashamed declaration of 'Me and You forever'. Lovely.

    On the family subject- My mum and dad got married when I was 6 and they had 3 children together. Did this matter to me? Not a bit. And they were always quite honest about the impracticalities of not being married as a key driver for eventually tying the knot. They have now been together for more than 30 years and are still going strong.

    And I'd love to think the days of judging unmarried patents are long gone- but my husband's father has expressed his disapproval of my parents situation. WHATEVER! (childish, but the only appropriate response!).

    Sorry for the long comment!

  11. Mary
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I think for some people they want the public announcement of their relationship/love or want it for a feeling of security and commitment and for others they know they already have that love and commitment without the need for rings/ceremony/legal and money stuff that goes with marriage.

    I think realistically if its going to work it will work without the legal bit, but then again I'm getting married anyway.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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