I’m going to put it out there: I’m not a fan of weddings, not in the slightest, in fact the older I get the more I don’t look forward to them, and despite being a gay man I don’t cry when the couple finally gets to snog and then walks down the aisle with grins the size of tuna fish. Whilst I’m always (well, almost always) happy for the couple involved, and won’t hesitate to knock off their booze and food at the lavish receptions, and maybe, just maybe, if I’m sufficiently stonkered, I might dance with a grandma to some bad 80s tune, it’s rare that I’ll get into the true celebratory spirit. It could be that I’m jealous of the couple who’s just tied the knot, or I have a problem with all the attention they’re getting (why can’t I have just a bit of that?), or it might be that I’m wearing a suit that no longer fits. Yes, it could be these things. But it’s not, not entirely.
The first reason I’m not a fan of the whole wedding caper is the insistence of couples continuing to use the words husband and wife. According to my beloved Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (a perfect resource when researching things about marriage), husband is derived from the Old English ‘husbonda’, from the Old Norse ‘husbondi’, which combines ‘hus’, meaning ‘house’, and ‘bondi’, ‘one who has a household’ (clearly not the famous Australian beach). So a husband is a man in his capacity as head of the household. Is this what women really want when they declare in front of a couple of hundred people that they take said bloke to be their ‘husband’ – please rule over me for all eternity?
The origins of wife are not as easy to trace, though it’s believed to be from the Old English ‘wif’, meaning woman. The original meaning may have been ‘the veiled one’. Make of that what you will, but again is that what men really want when they declare in front of a couple of hundred people that they take said lady to be their ‘wife’ – I’m going to keep you away from the gaze of the public for all eternity. Mmm, perhaps that’s exactly what they want. But the lack of thinking and challenge around these words and their meanings – meanings overt, subtle and subliminal – is what gets me all hot under the collar at weddings. (I must admit that although I use it all the time the word ‘partner’ can often seem so vacuously PC to be vomit-worthy, but at least its meaning is inclusive.)
The second and probably main reason that weddings really get my goat (one day I should look up the meaning of that phrase, ‘get my goat’), is the fact that Australia’s former government, lead by the cunningly conservative John Howard, who always looked like the uncle everyone has though everyone hates, except lots of people actually liked John Howard, which distressed me and many others senseless, amended the Marriage Act to include a definition of marriage as being ‘a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. It’s worth noting that the Opposition at the time, the Australian Labor Party, backed this amendment.
I don’t want to get lost in the politics, but it is a bitter pill to swallow when my long-term partner (there’s that word) and I dutifully take our seats at yet another marriage ceremony to be informed yet again that, despite thirteen years in duration, our relationship doesn’t count, that it isn’t valued, that it’s second-class, that there’s no place for it in contemporary Australian society. So I put this challenge out there: if you’re about to get married and you think the Marriage Act in your country sucks the big one, then be a revolutionary: just before you tie the knot pause proceedings and turn to your family and friends and say something along the lines of this: “We love each other and want to commit to each other in front of you all and the law, but we want all those who love each other to have the opportunity to commit in front of their family and friends and the law, so we make this stand right here, right now, that we believe the Marriage Act discriminates and find this unacceptable – we look forward to this situation changing sooner rather than later”.
Or just quote Gwen Stafani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’: ‘Let me hear you say this shit is bananas/B-A-N-A-N-A-S’.
How good that would be. I might actually cry at a wedding.