"It's none of your business"

What unmarried couples really want to say at weddings but can't

18th May 2018

Being the lone single friend at a wedding is tricky. It’s often assumed that, because you don’t have a partner, you don’t want to bring a plus one — and you’re usually plonked on a table with three couples and another singleton, someone you probably don’t know. But, it has its moments. The thing about being single at a wedding is that there’s always the promise of an upside, usually in the form of a few glasses of wine and a similarly unattached bridesmaid or groomsman.

Meanwhile, there’s absolutely no redemption to be found in being that couple at a wedding who are in a long-term relationship but are not engaged. Let me paint you a picture of the horror.

What’s the rush?

The average length of a relationship before getting engaged is about three and a half years, but if your relationship is ancient, anyone else’s engagement after less than, say, five years feels very sudden. You get a Whatsapp pic of your 29-year-old friend who is in a four-year-long relationship with a new sparkling ring on her finger and your first thought is “already?!”.

Even after you’ve conquered the idea that everyone else seems to be in such a rush, there’s still the occasional shock. A younger sibling gets engaged, for example, or someone you went to school with is casually referred to as “Mrs”.

Being at a wedding sets off a peculiar type of treasure hunt in people’s heads

That’s not to say I’m a wedding scrooge. Everyone loves a good wedding. I, more than most, actually.

But being at a wedding sets off a peculiar type of treasure hunt in people’s heads, with everyone poking around, trying to work out which couple they reckon will be next.

If you’ve been in a relationship for 10 years and you’ve reached acceptable marriage age, that couple is you. It’s always you, whether the people doing the reckoning are friends or even strangers. It becomes more you the longer you remain unmarried.

Awkward

Every wedding you attend features between two and five incidents of laughing uncomfortably when someone nudges you and chirps “It’ll be you next!” or some variation on that theme. If you go to two or three weddings a year, which we do, that’s a lot of feeling awkward.

That awkwardness is compounding too — so, when you become awkward after being asked a personal question that there’s no right answer to, people wrongly assume it’s because there’s some kind of tension in your relationship over the issue, which makes you feel even more awkward.

It’s not the done thing to say ‘marriage is a meaningless social construct that costs a fortune and ultimately ends in divorce in nearly half of cases’

Stranger still is the direct question of “do you think he’ll ask you soon?” or “are you going to pop the question?”, which not only is pretty personal but it feels like it’s from a bygone era. It assumes that we don’t live together and have conversations about our life and future. In a decade-long relationship, believe it or not, whether and when we will get married has come up in conversation. Especially given the number of marriage-related questions we’re barraged with a few times a year.

It’s almost as though a wedding gives people an excuse to pry with no regard as to whether some couples are just completely content as they are. It’s not very nice to answer “it’s none of your business”, even if it really is none of their business. And it’s certainly not the done thing to say “marriage is a meaningless social construct that costs a fortune and ultimately ends in divorce in nearly half of cases”.

Just… don’t

It’s not just these small, conversational incidents either.

Our unwed status was once called out publicly in a joke in a best man’s speech. On multiple occasions, I’ve physically had to battle my way through groups of women who were trying to force me to stand in the middle of a baying crowd and catch the bouquet. The sad thing is, I play a contact sport so I’m quite confident those bride wannabes would be going down, but I’ll never participate. Not just because I don’t want to injure someone but because I can’t bear the inevitable cooing noises from a bunch of random mums and grandmas who I just met.

This isn’t going to end with a serious warning about the dangers of asking inappropriate questions, like when well-meaning people ask couples if they’re planning to have children, without considering they might be having emotionally traumatic fertility struggles that they’d rather not think about while they’re trying to have a nice time.

So there’s no actual harm in joking about whether someone will be the next to be engaged, as long as you know that you people ruin every wedding we go to.

18th May 2018