I Want A Marriage, Not A Wedding

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Sometimes, it's just so easy to forget. First comes wedding, then comes... marriage.

She used to be bubbly and full of life. Now, she's nearly stoic. Six years of holidays and milestones passing with no engagement have worn her down. I hear hints of sadness drift into her voice when I talk to her on the phone from Chicago, where she moved three years ago to be with her boyfriend. She won't talk to me about her relationship anymore, either. She used to email me photos of the perfect ring, or the perfect table setting. She hasn't done that in several years now. And she won't admit that anything is different, anything is wrong. 10 Signs You Should Break Up This Holiday Season

It's dangerous to spend so much time waiting and hoping for a wedding. You forget that a relationship is supposed to bring you joy—and if it doesn't, you don't want that wedding anyway. Trading a lifetime of mediocrity for one fairy-tale day is a ridiculous thought. It breaks my heart to think that people settle for that, because no one has to.

I know another woman who faced the big wedding dilemma—my mom. She dated her high-school sweetheart through her mid-twenties. About seven years into the relationship, she could see herself getting married. She felt ready. But her boyfriend didn't. He said he didn't want to get married yet. Wasn't ready. Wasn't the right time. With years invested, my mom quietly accepted that and stuck it out. Three more years passed.

Finally, at the decade mark, her boyfriend said he was ready to get married. After all that time, my mom should have been happy. But she wasn't. Not at all. It was like a cold slap in the face; it took ten years, but she woke up. Suddenly looking at her choices—a lovely wedding, or marriage to the man who said 'no' the first time—she shook her head. This isn't what I want. She said no, and broke up with him instantly. "I didn't want it anymore," she told me. "I saw it wasn't meant to be. It never would have worked out." 3 Things To Avoid On Your Wedding Day

It would have been so easy to say yes to his proposal, though. It had been ten years. She was comfortable. She loved his family. Some of my mom's friends were married, or about to get married, and she could have reveled in wedding excitement with them. But she decided the trade just wasn't worth it—a lifetime for a day—and made that painful decision to discard a ten-year relationship and start over.

"God planned it. He knew," she said. Today, she's blissfully happy in her marriage to my dad. And I admire her for what she did. Not just because I am here as a direct result, but because I see so many women who lose sight of what they really want for the immediacy of what they want right now: That wedding. It's so enticing for many of us, isn't it?

Enticing, but ultimately unfulfilling. Because at the end of the day, no matter how beautiful, it's only one day.

I decided a while ago that I wouldn't let myself be blinded by the dream of a wedding. By an engagement ring. By the dress. By the cake-toppers, invitations, or sheer excitement of planning the biggest event of my life. Remember those lines that I said had blurred? I realized none of those romanticized notions mattered. Not the color scheme, not the gown, not the centerpieces. Planning Your Dream Wedding? Don't Be A Narcissistic Bride

I want a marriage. Husband and wife. For better, or for worse. 'Til death. However long it takes to find it—him. And if I'm not most excited about that moment just beyond the wedding, that split second where everything changes and it's suddenly a marriage... well, then I'm not getting married.

And I think that might be the most romantic notion of all.

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