What does marriage mean to you?

Sunday May 20, 2012 Wedding bells

WEDDING WHISPERER By STEPHANIECHAI

Why do people get married?

SO Brangelina are getting hitched (finally!) and Obama has announced his support of same-sex marriages. What is going on?! Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these issues, in fact, religious debate aside – we should all be proud that marriage has become more liberal, open and understanding. When once divorcees were shunned, now we don’t bat an eye to couples who marry for the second or even third time (after all getting it right isn’t easy!). Thus thumbs up that marriage in this day and age has evolved into a true expression of freedom and love.

Last weekend I attended a friend’s wedding dinner – one of the few weddings that I actually enjoyed going to, simply because it was about the couple and the celebration of their union and not about the family or showing off how much money they have. They’ve actually just been blessed with a newborn baby last month, and finally took the plunge after ‘living in sin’ for several years.

In a modern reversal of the typical ‘dating-move-in-get-married-have-a-baby’ process, the marriage of my two friends signals a shift in a growing mainstream perspective that marriage, while sacred to many, does not necessarily have to be the be all and end all. May I just add that my friends are foreigners whose cultural values do allow them to make certain lifestyle decisions which may or may not be approved by Asian families, but that not withstanding; it made me think why people make the decision to marry at all? After all, having a child together is, in my eyes anyway, the ultimate commitment to your partner.

Wedding statistics show that people are actually getting married less and less each year and considering that the divorce statistics it is not surprising (scary!). People are also waiting till they are older, either due to reasons of career, not having found the right partner or also wanting to be sure of themselves and the relationship before committing for life. In the case of my friends, marriage was a way of legally protecting their individual and collective rights as a spouse and family unit. That may not sound very romantic, but their decision was not lightly made nor made without love.

I don’t know what made Brad Pitt finally want to make Angelina Jolie his legal spouse and vice versa since they have been a family unit for a while now (perhaps the children have a lot to do with it), but legally it makes sense, especially with the massive fortune the two Hollywood stars have amassed over the years. Should anything happen to either one, the other parent will have full rights over the kids and similarly with their wealth (unless of course there’s a pre-nup involved). Back in the land of normal people, the same rights do apply, although perhaps it is more to do with protecting the status of each spouse and that of their offspring. If my friends had not married, their son would not legally have a father – but this is an age-old issue, except now the taboo of being born outside wedlock no longer applies (so much).

While love seems to be the main reason for getting married, I think the legal, financial and emotional implications of marriage are important reasons too. Financially, marriage offers a couple more monetary security, the combination of dual income, insurance benefits, family plans and the added advantage of tax breaks, while emotionally marriage fills the longing that people have for creating permanent connections and of belonging somewhere with someone.

Religion is also another big ticket motivation – for instance, unlike other religions where celibacy or monasticism act as a means of salvation, Islam considers marriage as one of the most virtuous and approved institutions. As a Catholic I can also tell you that even as a child my mother (let alone God) started to drill it into me that divorce will never be option for me. Geez, no wonder I’m taking my time (*ahem* because I better get it right, haha).

In an age where we are beginning to make up our own rules and ideas about marriage, the decision to get married is perhaps an even more significant one. Whether it is later in life, after the house and kids or a second or third marriage, getting hitched seems to be very much a public celebration of what couples share together and have achieved, rather than merely as a passport to adulthood. Should we still believe in weddings and marriage? I would say very much so because it is the optimal celebration and commitment of love. It’s well known that ‘married couples’ live longer and are generally happier than singles – so doesn’t that say something?

Albeit being slightly biased (I do run WeddingGuideAsia.com!), all in all I have to say that despite the world continuing to change and evolve, one thing will remain constant – love. And if you think what you have between your partner is that true, blue love, then why not take the plunge? Statistics aside, one things for sure, you never know what you’re gonna get.

So ‘just do it’ (wink).

This is the last installment of Wedding Whisperer. We thank Stephanie Chai for her contribution to Clove, The Star

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