It oc­curred to us that while mar­riage may not be im­por­tant to us, it may mean some­thing to our par­ents

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - THIS LIFE - by By An­drea Bella Blis­set Carter The Well of Ice by An­drea Carter is pub­lished by Con­sta­ble and out now

MAYBE I’M A CYNIC but it seems to me that un­less you’re a close rel­a­tive of the cou­ple – and of­ten even then – few peo­ple find other peo­ple’s wed­dings par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nat­ing. Get­ting mar­ried in front of fam­ily and friends is an es­sen­tially nar­cis­sis­tic thing to do. A ‘look at us’ mo­ment. See how lucky we are to have found each other? How gor­geous do we look?

And those who at­tend, who stand around and throw con­fetti and clap for elon­gated speeches, of­ten do it, I sus­pect, in the hope that some day other peo­ple will do it for them.

Ge­off and I had been to­gether for nearly ten years, with nei­ther of us re­motely in­ter­ested in get­ting hitched. As a so­lic­i­tor I had seen so many mar­riages break up that, in my view, get­ting mar­ried at the be­gin­ning of a re­la­tion­ship was noth­ing more than an – overly op­ti­mistic – ex­pres­sion of in­tent. It made more sense to me to cel­e­brate a re­la­tion­ship once it had been lived, af­ter 30 years or so, maybe.

I knew oth­ers dis­agreed. At a Dublin Fringe show, which was in­ter­ac­tive – I hate in­ter­ac­tive Fringe shows – Ge­off was asked if he thought we would ever get mar­ried, and he said no. The ques­tioner (fe­male) turned to me with sym­pa­thy and said, ‘Get rid, love!’ while the au­di­ence (mostly fe­male) cheered. I was baf­fled, not only by the as­sump­tion that it was he who didn’t want it, but that mar­riage seemed to be the de­fault po­si­tion if your re­la­tion­ship had lasted a cer­tain pe­riod. In­stead of ex­plain­ing why you wanted to get mar­ried, you had to ex­plain why you didn’t – or at least the man did. It was like a re­verse pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence.

Then, in 2016, we went to a wed­ding with a dif­fer­ence. An old friend of Ge­off’s was mar­ry­ing his long-term part­ner in Cal­i­for­nia. As we watched these two men from dif­fer­ent coun­tries stand in front of the San Fran­cisco sky­line, the city they had made their home, there was such a feel­ing of love and pos­i­tiv­ity that some­thing shifted for us.

Two fam­i­lies had trav­elled from their re­spec­tive coun­tries to wit­ness a com­mit­ment be­tween their two sons. And it oc­curred to us that while mar­riage may not be im­por­tant to us, it may mean some­thing to our par­ents. Ge­off’s fa­ther, in par­tic­u­lar, had suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing stroke a year and a half be­fore – but still rel­ished a good crème brûlée and a de­cent glass of red! Sud­denly there didn’t seem to be as many rea­sons not to do it any more and a week later, at the top of a moun­tain in Ore­gon, we made a de­ci­sion that we would marry. And then promptly for­got about it.

Nine months later we re­mem­bered but kept the de­ci­sion to our­selves un­til a trip to Bruges where, on the spur of the mo­ment, we told my par­ents, and their re­ac­tion sealed the deal. At first, they didn’t be­lieve us. When they re­alised we were se­ri­ous, they burst into tears and kissed each other. And then hugged us.

It was all very straight­for­ward. Very quickly we had a date and a venue, for both the cer­e­mony and din­ner. We chose the restau­rant across the road from Ge­off’s dad’s nurs­ing home be­cause it meant we could wheel him over. Next, clothes; since we were do­ing some­thing which felt a lit­tle old-fash­ioned to us, it made sense to go with a sec­ond-hand clothes theme.

Ge­off bought a new shirt and sec­ond­hand jacket and trousers. My mother said I could try on her wed­ding dress but that I’d need to drag it out of the at­tic and scrape the bat drop­pings off it first. I did both, and – af­ter I’d had it cleaned! – I de­cided to wear it.

The cer­e­mony lasted ten min­utes. Our fam­i­lies were there, our broth­ers acted as our wit­nesses. We used our grand­par­ents’ rings.

We fol­lowed it with a cham­pagne pic­nic in the park. And sure, it was lovely. If I’m hon­est, de­spite hav­ing a great cel­e­brant, I didn’t feel any­thing much dur­ing the cer­e­mony. Ge­off and I had a con­ver­sa­tion about that as we raced up the street to meet our friends in the pub af­ter the fam­ily din­ner. We felt a lit­tle guilty about that. But the fol­low­ing day it felt as if some­thing had shifted – we were more solidly on each-other’s side – fam­ily, if you like.

To­day, a year later, we for­get we’re mar­ried most of the time. We don’t wear rings, and we still strug­gle with the H and W terms. We were com­mit­ted to each other any­way so I don’t think mar­riage changed that, we sim­ply used a com­mon cur­rency to demon­strate it to the peo­ple we loved.

Our wed­ding was no dif­fer­ent to any­one else’s. We’re un­der no il­lu­sions that we did any­thing spe­cial or in­ter­est­ing or even nec­es­sar­ily en­joy­able for the peo­ple who came. But the de­ci­sion to do so made sense at the time, and we’re glad we did it. And it doesn’t seem to have dam­aged us. Yet!

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