[Feature!] : ” Marriage; A history: From sentimental value to financial-fuelled fulfilment “

The royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has sparked acts of British tradition and support, but to what extent do we value the true significance of marriage?

The happy couple

For over a century, Britain has seen numerous changes to the monarchy, constituted by a procession of royal engagements and significant weddings. The earliest recollection remains to be the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840, a majestic and yet simple ceremony that centred on the directness of vows and the delights of young love. In a break from tradition, the future King George VI’s marriage to Queen Elizabeth in 1923 became a public affair. Therefore, in regards to the conventions of a royal wedding, the 20th century saw a slight deviance in routine, representative of more to come. 88 years later and the prediction is proved correct as the country anticipates the arrival of a new marriage: that of the son of much-loved Princess Diana and Kate Middleton. But what changes has the advance in century brought with it?

The royal wedding has ironically provided an insight into the depths of marriage, focusing on how it is received by a worldwide audience. What was once a symbol of the simplicity of love is now an exhibition overshadowed by insignificant ring alterations and fashion choices. It seems that such a distinct social event has started the debate of ‘marriage morals’. Whatever the arguments, for or against, it is clear that the life-long commitment has had a re-vamp in meaning.

“To have and to hold, from this day forward…to love and to cherish”. The vows echoed by the Roman Catholic Church, repeated as a sign of commitment. Cherished as a symbol of love. Honoured as a sign of sincerity. It was during the late eighteenth century that people began to adopt the notion idea that these vows were the sole reason for marriage; love. American author Stephanie Coontz offers the idea that in the past century, people became aware that they were free to choose their marriage partners on the basis of love. I would’ve agreed that this reason would suffice. Clearly not.

In 1999, The National Statistics table recorded that 108,488 of marriages in England and Wales were re-marriages, accounting for 41% of total marriages. There are two possible explanations for such a high figure. The first being that marriage is no longer regarded as a life-long commitment and therefore the escape clauses can be easily called upon when all else fails. If a marriage was considered as highly as first established, then I’m sure couples would not be so quick to re-marry. The alternative cause is that first marriages seem more appealing to those daring to make the commitment, and yet this forces me to re-address the ‘why’ question.

The first marriage encompasses the ‘fairy tale’ ideal. To the bride: the fantasy of becoming princess for a day, the focus of all attention. The groom, the best man, the maid of honour, bridesmaids and ushers all pale in comparison. For the groom, it is assumed that he wishes to complete the fantasy as the ‘king’, destined to complete the fairy tale ending. This ending ironically falls short of a simple ceremony. The 21st century view of a wedding is not complete without a £21,000 average UK budget, grand venues, an extravagant wedding dress and more importantly, a handful of carefully selected wedding cakes. It’s understandable, that a wedding is not to be tackled lightly, but it seems that the value of marriage is overshadowed and somewhat hidden under the weight of financial theatricals.

The royal wedding has become a prime example of the misguided course of this financial extravaganza, evident in two aspects. The first being the wedding ceremony itself. Three potential dress choices, royal hairstyles and celebrity guest lists are at the top of the list when it comes to the ceremony. The variation of optional vows is yet to be mentioned or discussed. Traditional or Non-traditional, the question remains unknown. The cost of the wedding however is not a mystery. Estimated at £12 million, the royal wedding is set to exceed more than half of the cost of Princess Diana’s. A difference of 30 years does not compensate for such an obvious increase in cost, does it? The royal wedding, however, is not the only culprit of the masquerade. Supported by current reality TV shows, Living TV’s ‘Four Weddings’ sends the message that image is everything when it comes to getting married. Judged on venue, wedding dress, food and overall experience, the average viewer is led to believe that materialistic objects are crucial.

The second distinct aspect is also money-orientated, but in a very different way. Smiths news said that publishers will be looking to “capitalise on this one-off event”. Are we right in assuming that companies are using a sacred ceremony as a means of making a profit? A total disregard to the purity of a ceremony that will substantially change the lives of two people. Instead, the reality is a copious amount of commemorative merchandise: royal wedding gift boxes, coins and the unexpected ‘Will Wale’s Stag-do T-shirts’, all appearing to return a profit.

There is no dispute that April 29th has done the unimaginable. Bringing together a divided nation, giving us something other than doom and gloom to focus on. It’s all smiles and cheers when you look at the ‘pretty picture’, but what lies beneath the colourful lines is a slow deterioration of the modern-day marriage. When the lines eventually fade, what will we be left with? A blank canvas that holds nothing in value nor meaning, unchangeable and ruined for centuries to come.