Addendum: why no commitment ceremony?


There is one thing I forgot to address yesterday when I spouted off about marriage: why we're not interested in having any kind of commitment ceremony. Over the years, we've been asked a number of times if we wouldn't like to have some sort of ceremony/celebration--basically, a wedding without the marriage license. Once upon a time, we considered it, but it has never really appealed to either of us, and at this point I think it's safe to say we're not going to do it.

Basically, I see three reasons for this type of ceremony:
1. It's an excuse for a party/celebration.
2. It serves some sort of spiritual purpose for you.
3. It signals to the people in your lives that you are serious and asks your community for its support for your relationship.

None of these reasons resonate with us. While I love a celebration, I'm not much at all for ceremonies, and Mark is even less so. It's not just weddings we don't like (though neither of us like weddings)--we both skipped our graduate graduation ceremonies, too. Rites of passage, as expressed ceremonially, are important markers for societies--from a sociological/anthropological perspective, I get that--however, I feel certain that the rest of y'all will go on feeding those social needs even if we opt out. Given the number of wedding invitations I still get, I'm fairly sure I am not a pioneer, starting an anti-marriage ceremony trend. Put simply, a commitment ceremony would be a good answer if we didn't want to be married, but wanted to have a wedding. But we want to have a wedding even less than we want to be married.

The one thing I will say for weddings is that, like funerals, they bring together families and friends who otherwise don't often see each other. For that reason, even though weddings themselves make me itch, I make a point to attend them. Once again, though, I don't see our not having a wedding as making a whole lot of difference here. Maybe I am shirking off my social obligation to create an excuse for a family reunion, but I'll make up for it by hosting Thanksgiving or something.

Commitment ceremonies and alternative weddings also serve an important spiritual purpose for some people, and I respect that. If you subscribe to a faith which values lifelong partnership and considers the makeup of your household a religious or spiritual matter, then I can completely see the importance of having that ceremony. However, as a person without faith of any kind, who is partnered with a fairly committed atheist, this reason just doesn't apply to us.

The third reason is the only one we've ever given any real consideration. If we were to have something that extended family members and friends could look to as our "wedding," it would give them a basis by which to understand our relationship, and an opportunity to support it, via their presence (or, you know, their gift cards). I can definitely see why someone would go that route, particularly if s/he were from a family for whom this type of thing is very important. Luckily, Mark and I both have parents who are very supportive of our decisions to live our lives by our own standards, even if they don't quite understand our reasons, and who take our relationship just as seriously as they would if we were married.

Even if our parents weren't supportive, however, I'm not sure Mark and I ever could have made ourselves put on a show just so other people would feel more comfortable with our relationship. The truth is that while support and community from those who love us is great, and we're very happy to have it, nobody lives in our house but us. At the end of the day, the most important thing is for us to be true to ourselves, and I'd have felt like a huge fraud if we'd decided to have a commitment ceremony we didn't want just to please family/friends. Part of this is simply my contrary nature--I can't fathom doing something as big as a commitment ceremony just because it would make other people happy.

Because I know there are some inquiring minds, I will disclose that Mark and I do have a domestic partnership agreement, via his employer. We have no state or federal status, but have filed domestic partnership paperwork with his job in order for me to be included on his health insurance. I'd have preferred not to do it, but practicality won out over my preference. I recognize that having this option is a privilege, and that there are some circumstances in which my feelings about marriage would make absolutely no difference and we'd get married because it was what we needed to do to stay safe, or healthy, or together. This post, and the previous one, have not been intended to denigrate the ways in which other people choose to live their lives, but rather just a little explanation of why, at least as of right now, Mark and I have made the choices we have.

But, you know, feel free to send me sheet sets and small kitchen appliances.

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April 2012

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