Sunday, May 22, 2005

Surviving Marriage - The Final Chapter

Ok, As you know, I've just about beat the Man vs Woman topic to death recently. However, I couldn't bring this topic to a close without dealing with one very important thing:

The Wedding.

All I can say is, be prepared for disagreements, arguments and bare-knuckle fighting.

You see, for a man, the big moment is when you propose. That's where you put yourself 'out-there', this is where the actual commitment is made. The moment we give up our free and easy bachelordom, and commit to a life long relationship.

In comparision to the world-changing, earth-shattering decision we made to propose, the wedding just doesn't compare.

Men invariably see the actual wedding as the three P's, "Paperwork, Party and Pissup."

It's like buying a car or a house. You've already made the decision, which is the hard part. The wedding is simply going to the dealership and signing the paperwork to make it official.

We've already made the commitment, gone through all the planning and gut wrenching horror of the proposal. The wedding is just gravy. After all, you just exchange vows and have a party, don't you?...Don't you?

Women, however, see the wedding as the most important event in their life. The proposal is all but forgotten (Even if you've done something outrageous like watched the Red Arrows write out your proposal in smoke, which you view from a heart shaped hot-air balloon filled with her favourite chocolate.)

To women, the proposal is just watching the commercial. If they like what they see, they'll buy the product. Your dramatic proposal is forgotten as soon as the planning begins. All that matters now is what colour the flowers are going to be.

Guys, prepare to deal with your woman at her most stressed ever.

This is mostly due to the Mother-Daughter vicious cycle. Let me try to explain.

Anyone who is married will agree. The wedding is not for you or your fiance. The wedding is for other people. Face it, you're essentially spending thousands and thousands to speak to a preacher, sign a paper and have a party. You could have a similar experience, with all the frills removed, for about $500. Given that the average wedding costs around $10,000 for a small ceremony, you can see the discrepancy. Most men would be happy to go to the courthouse, sign a wedding licence, and then go out on the town for a celebration. This is mostly due to the fact that halfway through planning, you realise you're spending enough money for a new car for an event that you're only actively involved in for 15 minutes. Forgetting the actual money involved, that 15 minutes participation takes months of planning.

You have to pick the food, (but have an alternative because Aunt Marge is allergic), the seating plan, (You can't put Aunt Fifi there, she's close to Uncle Jeff and she's still mad about what he said about our Doreen at their Ken's wedding). The list goes on and on. Planning a wedding is a simple case of trying to satisfy everyone, while pleasing no-one.

At weddings, everyone has an axe to grind.

So, what is the Mother-Daughter vicious cycle?

Well, because so much is taken out of the bride's hands at the planning of her wedding, no bride gets exactly the wedding she wants. In fact, it's rare for the bride to get more than 2 elements that she wants. Her wedding invariably gets hijacked. Everything and I mean everything gets compromised. In fact, I've personal experience of couples who literally had nothing the way they wanted it on their wedding day, from the venue, choice of music, wedding dress, type of cake...everything. The reason?

Mother dearest gets involved.

Or more precisely, mother dearest gets involved, and completely takes over.

So what is a Bride to do?

Answer: There's nothing she can do...yet.

However, in order to understand the Mother-Daughter vicious cycle, you have to look at the big picture:

The bride gets married, has children, raises children...and, whadaya know? Before too long, it's time for their daughter to get married.


The Mother, who had her wedding hijacked by her own mother, sees an opportunity. Her daughter's marriage is the perfect chance to plan the Perfect Wedding. She pulls out her notebook and starts scribbling.

Of course, every time it's the bride's turn to be a mother, she completely forgets that her 'Perfect Wedding' may be completely different to her daughter's idea of the 'Perfect Wedding. Unfortunately, it's usually the brides family that pay for everything, so it''s a case of 'my way or the highway.' In other words, the bride eventually gets her perfect wedding...although it isn't her own.

Result? Another pissed off, angry and homicidal bride. (Who, when she has a daughter, will completely forget what it's like to have someone hijack your wedding, and plan her own daughter's 'perfect wedding' with a manic grin on her face.)

That is the Mother- Daughter vicious cycle.

Note -This doesn't happen with the Father - Son relationship. The only cycle there is the son goes through the trauma of planning of a wedding, and when he becomes a father, gets to pay for the next one.

So how does this effect you and me? This is obviously between the mother and daughter, how can it effect us, the prospective grooms?

Sigh, have you not listened to a word I've said?

You fiance is as mad as a lorry. An 18-wheeler on drugs. Who do you think she's going to take all that out on? She's powerless against the glowing zeal and fanaticism of her mother. Who can she use to reassert her authority over this wedding?

Go look in the mirror.

You get the enviable opportunity to be asked about a hundred thousand questions, to which you don't know the answers (or actually care what those answers are), by a homicidal woman, who will kill you if you answer wrongly.

Bet you never thought your life could hang in the balance when someone asks you "Lilys, tulips or roses?"

So, in order for you to survive this dark time, I offer you two multi-purpose phrases:

Bear in mind, I'm helping you survive this time, not escape unscathed.

"Let's play a game, I'll pick my favourite, and which one I think is yours. Then we'll see if I'm right. Your favourite is (whatever). Oh no! I'm wrong? What was your favourite? Really? That was mine too!!!"

"Let's have a chocolate cake."

I won't lie to you here, you're in for a long, hard slog. The trick is to appear interested and appear to make an input...without actually making an input.

Planning a wedding with your fiance is the equivalent of a 6 month game of: "Does this dress make me look fat?" Your fiance knows what she wants, and she's in constant battle with her mother, who apparently knows what her daughter wants, even if her daughter doesn't know she wants it yet. If you actually help, you're just throwing another spanner in the works.

However, under no circumstances, no matter how stressed or upset your wife gets, should you do any of the following:

1) Insult or say anything bad about your wife's mother. No matter how much your wife complains about her mother, she will be all over you like a group of hill-billies at a free buffet if you say anything less than complimentary about her mother. She's a 5"6 fountain of rage looking for a lightning rod. Trust me, you do not want to be that rod.

2) Do not side with her mother. You must be strictly neutral, and offer sympathy to both parties, without ever declaring an allegiance to either.

3) Do not suggest, under any circumstances, That you sidestep the stress and have a simple, civil ceremony. Your wife may be fighting tooth and nail, and not getting her way, but she wants a big wedding, dammit!

4) Don't lose your temper, or say anything along the lines of "It's just flowers/decorations/music!" When your fiance is sobbing because her mother went ahead and ordered the lilys, when she wanted the tulips. You're trivialising something important. As an example, imagine fighting off a horde of chainsaw wielding zombies, armed only with a small cardboard tube. Then imagine your wife saying "That's nice dear, did you remember to weed the garden?" When you told her about it.

The best advice I can give you is simply: Keep your Head Down.

Just be there, offer the occasional opinion about the most trivial undecided part of the wedding you can. Pretend to read wedding magazines and agree with everything she says.

Planning a wedding is the third most stressful thing the average person can do. The first two are moving house and childbirth.

Guess what other two things you get to do in the near future?

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