Although I was a US citizen at the time of my birth, I was board abroad in Russia and my family came to the US before I was a year old. I don’t know what the institution of marriage was like in the US when Ronald Reagan was president. When it comes to marriage, I can only comment on what it means to me, a 25 year old male who believes that he has found his other half.
But first, allow me to explain how I believe that marriage is supposed to work. In my world (which might not be yours), people who are middle class, smart, or above middle class should go to college or university. In college or university, they should have sexual or romantic experiences and encounters with people who will not be their future spouse. They learn social and interpersonal things in these younger years. At some point, they feel that they want a baby or a kid (personally I am more interested in kids than babies), and maybe they had a past relationship that lacked something. They hope to find someone with whom they have chemistry and can be in a relationship that doesn’t lack that something that was lacking in a previous relationship. Maybe a previous relationship lacked some form of chemistry, compatibility, or attraction, but eventually they run into a person who completes them and who doesn’t lack that chemistry, compatibility, or attraction.
Congratulations! You (and by “you” I am referring to myself) have found your other half, and at some point you decide that you want to have or raise a child with this person. You get rings and go through an engagement period where you don’t have babies. The end of the engagement period is marriage, which to me just means getting a marriage license or changing rings from an engagement ring (I initially put mine on my right hand) to a marriage ring (which typically goes on the left hand). Then you can have children (either your own or adopted). Even if you can’t produce your own, adoption is still an option, but you shouldn’t do that until after you are married. Also, I personally don’t believe in [penetrative penis-in-vagina] sex with a person who you are serious about until after engagement, and I hold this belief for reasons that have nothing to do with the Bible or any other holy book. I personally get attached, and I learned that getting attached to the wrong person can lead to being in a bad or abusive relationship. Also, I currently rent a 501 square foot studio apartment in a city, and I don’t want another person living in it full-time, so I personally wouldn’t share a living space full-time before marriage.
As for weddings, to me a wedding is just a special event like a Bar Mitzvah or a Quinceañera. If you’re broke or your families don’t like or know each other, that might put a wedding on hold, but that isn’t something that should prevent young people from, at the very least, getting rings. A wedding isn’t a necessity – it’s just a celebratory event or party. They can be nice, though. For example, a little while ago I met an Uber driver who used to DJ at nightclubs, but now does custom DJ-ing for weddings. He switched because the pay is better, but he emphasized that the increased price is because everything has to be tailored to and for the couple that is getting married. That’s great, but again, a wedding is not a necessity, just like a Bar Mitzvah or a Quinceañera is not a necessity. If anything it’s a capstone that commemorates a very important achievement – the achievement of having found your life partner. And that to me is what the institution of marriage should be about. Regardless of whether you are male or female, monogamous or polyamorous, gay or straight, or some something in between, I believe that having found your “other half” is an important goal to have achieved in life, and ultimately that is what getting married is about. The wedding is just a party to commemorate and celebrate that life achievement.
This blog post is in reply to: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/03/incredible-everlasting-institution-marriage/555320/