From the United States to Japan, Europe to Africa, marriage has been a cultural tradition for centuries. If the definition of marriage remains the same – “a sacred union between two individuals who promise to stay alongside each other for the rest of their lives” – the perception that we make of it has greatly evolved over the past decades. Indeed, marriage, as it was 200 years ago, had different implications and meaning that marriage as we picture it today. The reasons for this commitment were varied, ranging from a practical arrangement to a religious obligation but were always supported by this ideology that marriage was a necessary act of conformity.
Accordingly, every accomplished man had to have a wife at his arm and every young woman had to be married if she wanted to have children.
Fortunately, the evolution of morals and the desire to free oneself from social norms transformed marriage into an act of love and the need to get married gradually faded over time, allowing higher tolerance towards single mothers or unmarried men.
But is it truly the case? Does this statement portray the reality of the institution of marriage?
While it is true that the number of marriages has decreased in favour of free unions, the global wedding industry is growing every year, reaching 300 billion worth in 2019. The amount of money that couples are willing to spend on their marriage increases every year to the delight of jewellers, caterers, wedding planner and dressmakers whose profits keep rising. But what could be the explanation for such a rise in consumers spending?
The reason behind such a phenomenon lies in the changes in our social environment. Couples no longer aspire to promise each other love in front of their close friends and family during a small ceremony followed by a nice dinner. Nowadays couples aspire to celebrate their love through a grand marriage that will mark everyone’s spirit and will fulfil the dreams of the bride and groom.
This need to organise receptions more sumptuous, luxurious, and original than those of previous generations is explained by the new generations’ desire to prove their social success in an interconnected world where the life of each one is watched and judged. Big weddings like those of celebrities and idols (one can, for example, think of royal weddings) are admired, and inspire couples from all backgrounds who do not hesitate to save money during several years to have a similar, if not better, special day. And the influence of social networks, a real tool to climb the social ladder, has led this new generation to create weddings that surpass those of fairy tales and whose pictures will surely be loved by hundreds of people.
Beyond that, marriage is also the affirmation that one has found its half and that one will not end its life alone surrounded by 36 cats. And this is very important. Although morals have evolved, we still live in a world where social success is assimilated with our ability to build our own family. And certainly, we do not stigmatise those who are not married, but don’t we tend to take pity on them? Don’t we tend to see them as people who failed in their search for great love?
In conclusion, although marriage is today and in the majority of cases, the result of passionate love, it nevertheless remains an implicit social norm to which we willingly submit ourselves.