Modern societies have evolved highly-detailed collective ideas about what a proper wedding is supposed to be like, right down to the specialised floral arrangements, seat covers, presents for bridesmaids and the correct order of the speeches. They are nonsense and do nothing to fulfil the true mission of a wedding: to contribute to the success of a marriage.
For a start, we need new vows. Vows are promises we make on behalf of people who don’t yet exist about circumstances that we can’t yet fully imagine. Still, they serve an important function in at least attempting to guide our responses to the tensions of the future. The problem with current vows is their optimism, which should be radically tempered so as to avoid rage and resentment. Vows should accurately anticipate what will make us want to get divorced—and confirm to us that our subsequent sadness will not be an unusual or personal curse. Here is a selection of vows that would be made by a couple in my utopia:
– I accept that I am—in countless ways I don’t yet know—very hard to live with. – We accept not to panic when, some years from now, what we are doing today will seem like the worst decision of our lives. – When you are mean, when you call me a fucking bastard, I will strive to remember that at heart, it is because you are hurt—not that you are fundamentally nasty. – Everyone has some very significant things wrong with them. We promise not to look around. There isn’t anyone better out there really. Once you get to know them, everyone is impossible.
In a utopian wedding, the guests would offer the couple different sorts of presents. Primarily, they would arrive with accounts of why their own marriages were difficult and why they were themselves awkward people to live with.
Nothing makes us happier than news of the troubles of others, as these presents would implicitly recognise. At dark moments in the marriage, one would turn to these gifts and flip through descriptions of the marital troubles of one’s friends and relatives—and would come away feeling that one was cursed certainly, but—importantly—in no way alone.
In my utopia, you would get married by a philosopher or psychoanalyst (rather than the two useless current figures, a…