Guest post by Seamus Magee
As I mentioned recently one of the most interesting facts about me at the moment is that in under 1 month I am getting married. So I started to ruminate on it and figured it might make a blog post topic.
Given my background I thought I might turn to the ancient Greeks to get their take on the whole marriage thing first… But sadly Aristophanes, the comic playwright I do the most work with, does not say that much about marriage at all. In Lysistrata, the title character describes her domestic situation as quite miserable. She refers to a insipid, dull and boorish husband who threatens her with abuse all the time, and won’t take any advice. And that’s about the extent of it.
In fact the ancient Greeks don’t mention marriage in general…. It gets mentioned a bit, but not a lot. Most of the material is made up of the occasional snide remark about how wives are horrible and marriage is “character-building”.
There’s one quote I like, it’s actually from a wedding song by the poet Sappho:
Χαίροισα νύμφα, χαιρέτω δ’ ὀ γάμβρος.
If you read it it sounds something like this:
‘Chairoisa numpha, chairetO d’ho gambros’.
And now in English:
‘The bride rejoicing, the groom should also rejoice’ (that’s the only bit of this particular wedding song that remains, it’s a fragment. No context, no dedication, no nothing, so take it for what it’s worth).
So moving along, what is marriage? And why does it matter? To me, it’s the establishment of new social entity – the family. Your spouse is the only relative in your life that you actually choose. I guess that’s what makes it important to me. That fact above all others. In marrying someone, you are forming a family. With all that entails. They’re also the only family member in your life that you can chose to sever the familial relationship with. So both the event and the maintenance of marriage really do imply a heavy commitment.
Me being me, I also see the sense and the point of having a ceremony and a ritual to it. A social ritual requires 2 things: participants and witnesses (sometimes the same group of people fulfil both these roles). A social ritual involves the participants making some kind of statement (doesn’t have to be verbal, but with a wedding clearly it is!) to the witnesses, and the witnesses acknowledging, and accepting that statement. In the wedding Chris and I will state, in no uncertain terms, that we are now a family. The witnesses will acknowledge and accept that statement, and treat us as a family from now on. Of course on the ground it won’t change a thing. We already have joint bank accounts and credit cards, co-own pets and live together. But the ceremony acts like a marker in your life where the two of you officially say “Well we’re married now” to your friends and families. Ceremonies are important. Rituals are important. I can’t enunciate why exactly, but they resonate to me…. Maybe its because they order our lives the same way humans try to order everything around them.
So that’s what I think about it in a nutshell… And that’s why I’m looking forward to forming a new family with Chris.