Marriage is outdated these days. That's something that has been said by older generations for decades, so I'll rip off my numbered paper slip and wait patiently in the ever-increasing queue.
I've been married to Love Chunks for over thirteen years now, but have been 'with' him for nearly sixteen. Perhaps the opening sentence needs to be more clearly explained: the need for marriage and the way we traditionally go about preparing for it is out of date and unnecessary but having a loving and binding relationship certainly isn't. Most of us want that one person with whom we can be our complete selves without ridicule, fear or anxiety.
Love Chunks didn't ask me to marry him and nor was I waiting for the moment to ask him either. Instead it happened as a round-about conversation together when we were both poor teaching students. Somehow we wound up by a jewellery store in Rundle mall. There was a small sapphire ring in the window that we both really liked, so we bought it. End of story. No staged 'romantic' scenes and no exciting story when people ask, "So how did Love Chunks ask to marry you" - just a really wonderful sense of it all being right and that this bloke was 'it' as far as I was concerned.
In February 1995 we married in my folks' back garden in Murray Bridge. My 'dress' (a skirt and jacket) cost $12 in materials and the hat and shoes were $100 apiece. LC and I were based in Darwin at that stage, so we had about as much interest in planning an costly catastrophe that focussed on the colours of napkins, flowers and attendants as Bryce Courteney has in writing decent novels.
Mum and Dad were supportive of our low key plans too, for what I can only guess are the following reasons:
* They wanted to pay and we insisted on having a small celebration in their garden;
* Dad didn't have to wear a suit, write a speech or do anything other than ensure that there was enough shade and his back lawn was green and lush;
* Mum could finally flex her green muscled thumbs and show newcomers just what a sixty-something superstar can do with milo-brown Murray water, ingenuity and hard work;
* None of us had to endure prickly and pointless conversations about hired cars, who was going to be the best man, maid of honour, bridesmaid, flowergirl or the social perils of signing up for a gift registry.
At 2pm on Sunday 5th February, Love Chunks had more to endure than I, standing there on his own, facing the 60-strong crowd trying not to appear too nervous as Dad walked me out of the front door, down the drive and through our back garden. The summer day was windy and not hot at all, so my hat blew off halfway during the ceremony. Dad caught it and plonked it on his own much larger noggin, ensuring a snug fit and a decent photo opp. Mum and my sister-in-law sobbed throughout, as did RB, Love Chunks' father. Love Chunks and I nervously grabbed for and kissed each other as soon as the minister said, "I now pronounce you...." and endured a few rounds of happy laughter when he pointed out that there were a few other bits and pieces to say yet.
Two lovely CWA ladies from Coomandook did the catering - we wanted genuinely yummy finger foods and lots of it. The 22C weather and strong Murray gusts meant that the tea and coffee was more eagerly sought than the champers, beer and wine, so we had a nice head-start to establishing our now pretty substantial wine collection. We wanted no speeches and no gifts and the only cake was a nice mud jobby passed around in generous slices with clotted cream and forks. Total cost for the day including booze, food, catering staff and clothing was $2,ooo.
The rest of the day was a blur of talking, saying nothing of value, laughing, posing for photos, trying to spend at least two minutes with every person who was there before leaving around 8pm for Adelaide. It was only in our car tootling past Callington that LC and I realised that neither of us had been to the toilet in over eight hours, nor eaten or drunk anything; it was like our physical needs were in freeze-mode during a momentous event, yet, neither of us could remember a damn thing that was said to us the entire time. We arrived at the decadence that still is the Flag Inn on Anzac Highway, being conveniently-ish close to the airport where we were leaving on a red-arsed flight to Perth the next morning.
Our first meal as Mr and Mrs was in Glenelg, eating the oilest, gluggiest and most satisfying bowls of spaghetti carbonara from Fasta Pasta, laughing as we did so at the sheer lack of luxury of it all.
Yes, I'll go as far as to say we 'consummated' the day later on that evening, but again, much more laughter and snorting ensued as we tried to imagine what kind of horrors and disappointment faced nervous and exhausted couples in stricter and more innocent times.
The honeymoon was in Perth for the first week. It was the only city in Australia that neither of us had visited before and it was a pretty damn nice spot to recuperate from everything, plus see Australia destroy the Poms for the season at the WACA. Then we flew up to Darwin to meet up with our English mates John, Rebs, Richard and Tracey who had specifically timed their big trip Down Under to attend our wedding. Love Chunks had never met them before, but heard enough about them to suggest, "If they've made the effort to get down here, let's not just speak to them for a few minutes during THE BIG DAY, but do some travelling with them as well."
So we did. A week or so in a six-berth rented campervan doing Kakadu, Litchfield and the wilds of the Northern Territory. In February, the heart of the wet and stormy season. Best decision ever.
Since then, we've been part of, or attended, weddings that have cost more than a house deposit and wondered just why they thought that the money was well spent. We've caught drunk uncles falling off balconies; politely eaten partly boiled chicken that was raw on the inside; seen bridesmaid's dresses so bad that I thought my friend the bride was having a joke at first; seen a couple marry each other for the third time (!); two women at a posh Yarra do deciding to have a smack-down cat fight on the dance floor; chased stingy waiters in order to get a mouthful of food and wondered just why a bridal march done by a loopy cousin on a 1980s Casio keyboard was considered a good idea.
But......... But the couple at each event were sublimely happy and oblivious to problems relating to back fat rolling over strapless bodices, the noisy whirring of video recorders, the table full of bored 'odd' folk that are shoved together merely because they're single and the younger fourteen year old brother of the groom who sneakily sculls a jug of coke-and-bundy and throws up in the ladies toilets. At every one of them, we applauded each best man's speech, willingly got up to do the Chicken Dance after the cake was cut and told the bride she was the most beautiful example of love and light we'd even seen in our lives.
..... yes, marriage is outdated and getting married is tacky, wasteful and often very silly. Maybe that's because it's too tiring trying to work out how to tie that sublime Knot in a slightly more personal or creative way.
It doesn't really matter though, as long as you've found the person you want to get knotted with. And I have.