I was the first of my friends to even consider tying the knot and the reaction of our reception venue manager said it all: “Who are you enquiring for—surely you’re very young to be getting married?”.
However, when the truth was eased out, with a little help from an unadvisable quantity of Dutch courage, my parents were actually pretty thrilled with the idea. I don’t think I’d ever considered the fact that they were wed at around the same age, and there was a time not so many decades past when I would have been considered a hopeless spinster if I hadn’t settled down by the age of 26.
Tying the knot
But, of course, the cultural context has changed markedly over the past 50 years. Many couples now live together for years before tying the knot—if they decide to at all. I had previously lived with an ex-boyfriend for over two years and no one asked when we were going to get married. So for those who do take the plunge, there is often little point putting toasters or crockery on the wedding lists unless they want to upgrade. With everyday life very much tried-and-tested by the time they walk down the aisle, the focus for newly-weds has become more about taking a step out of the routine than stocking up on vacuum cleaners.
So with a new set of social norms and values and fewer bureaucratic or financial benefits to being married—although certain politicians are currently considering bringing in the latter— it becomes harder to argue the case for ‘why’. But for me it is much more difficult to argue the case for ‘why not’. Waiting my turn outside the registrar’s office for our ‘notice of marriage’ interview recently, I became twitchy about what was taking the other half so long. What were they asking him in there? Surely it must be some sort of test . . . As it turned out, their main concerns lay with archaic traditions—finding out our fathers’ occupations and making sure we weren’t related—but by the time I entered the office I had already worked out a job-interview-style pitch for why I wanted to get married.
And though I would probably have considered being a 20-something wife old fashioned, and therefore not for me, five years ago, the very reasons I came up with can be read as just that. I want our partnership to be official—as concrete to the outside world as we know it is inside. I want us to become to each other what is so important to us both—family. And I want to make a commitment that lets my husband know that I will be by, and on, his side forever. No matter how cautious and level-headed I am or how much I actively try to talk myself out of it just to be sure, I can’t. And that’s how I know that being a 20-something wife is for me after all.
Jo-ann Hodgson is a Brighton-based journalist, and her v pretty blog is here.