I have many friends either getting married this year, or who are preparing to celebrate their anniversaries in the next two months (I am writing this in between church and a wedding). While marriage is not on my close-range radar, I do think about it from time to time, (don’t tell my girlfriend, family, or hypothetical in-laws), especially in light of marriages happening around me. So, it is in this festive time and in honor of those friends, which inspires me to write about some philosophical ideas surrounding the thing in which we call a Wedding.
Primarily, one must look at the metaphysical ideas that are within the idea of marriage and the wedding ceremony. In short, for those that do not know, metaphysics is how the world works and what encompasses reality. When one says that they are getting married, they are accepting certain beliefs about the way the world works.
One may be accepting a belief in Love. Love may be a purely natural idea, an abstract idea, or something in between. For those that believe love equates to a combination of chemical impulses in the brain, there may only be reproductive utility in the idea of love; that is, love only serves as a tool for surviving ones own gene pool. Others may see love in the old fashion timey way, where Love is an idea. These people may hold beliefs about fate, god, or paths which tie souls together; these people may believe love is purely emotional and beyond any physical attachment; and these people may see love in a purely spiritual way, that makes love go much deeper than ones own self-interest. Still others, myself included, see love as being a combination and intertwinement of physical, emotional, and spiritual natures. For those in between, love is a bitter natural chemical addiction, and an enlightened selflessness that transcends the natural and causes action towards someone else’s self-interest. There are other views, of course, but this is sufficient in showing how ones initial metaphysical assumptions will certainly change the importance they attach to marriage. One’s metaphysical worldview will inevitably affect all other aspects of their lives.
Marriage also contains some epistemic ideas. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and what it means to know (by far one of my favorite studies). When one has assumed certain attributes about the world around them (that is, they have accepted their metaphysical assumptions), then they start to believe. Belief is based in foundational assumptions (for instance, gravity exist), and then moves forward to create a coherent system for ones self (gravity keeps me on the ground and explains many things in my life). Once someone has accepted that basic worldview and what love is, they move on to form beliefs about how one loves.
How do you know that someone loves you? If you have accepted the assumption that love is just purely chemical, you may move on to form beliefs that love can be created by any number of people, by any number of means. That is a weak belief in trust and acknowledgement of love towards and from others. If you accept emotional beliefs about love, you may hold a strong correlation between trust and testimony. Love might be a word that is used sparsely and is expected to be meant when it is said. Evidence might severely tarnish ones belief about trust when those that say they love you do things that are not loving, such as lie, cheat, abuse, or curse you. If still one holds a combination of assumptions about love, their belief system and what tools they use to create a belief structure, might be very different. I believe that someone loves me through a number of different forms of evidence, whether testimonial, consequential, or reactionary, all are important parts for people showing me that my belief that they love me is justified and true. I also hope that my actions, words, and reactions to others will help justify their belief that I love them.
There might also be certain socio-political structures in place that surround marriage ceremonies and the order of married life. If one is a nihilist about love, they may see the structure as being a mutually reciprocal for the benefit of both parties, and the actual ceremony as being nothing more than a public signing of contractual agreements (these are the types of people that get married in a courthouse). While others may see the ceremony as being a public vow to god and family, devoting one another to a lifelong commitment to live out that love. Still others may utilize the wedding ceremony as a means to get gifts and praise for this life goal (another check on ones bucket list). What one believes about familial structures (again go back to the metaphysics and epistemology of love, power, authority, etc.) will determine the significance of certain parts of the institution of marriage. Is a dowry given? Who is assigned a new last name? Is there a leader of the family? Is the wedding night sacred? Is there a certain order to who pays for the wedding? All of these questions rely on certain assumptions that one has, and with so many different people (Wife, Groom, In-laws, planners, musicians, preacher, etc.), so many different beliefs about how the special day onward is supposed to go are perpetuated, it is no wonder why weddings can be so stressful.
One final philosophical idea that might affect the wedding/marriage institution is the ethical ideas of marriage. Is there certain moral ways that ought to be followed during a wedding? Certainly the idea of waiting to have sex until marriage is an example of this. Is marriage a lifelong commitment? In our society it is said to be, but this ideal certainly isn’t always realized. With divorce rates so high among Americans (and Christians respectively), it is any wonder if people might actually benefit from sitting down and discussing these philosophical ideas more thoroughly.
My only hope is that this short quip will allow more open and honest dialogue about marriage, and on a more personal note I want this to serve as my gift for my friends who are either getting married this summer, or are celebrating anniversaries. In closing, I’ll provide a link to a short history of wedding bells, and a list of some friends I would like to recognize:
Josh and Courtney Donaldson (Coming up on one year of marriage)
John and Mina Habibi (Almost two years of marriage)
Zach and Eli Caddy (Been married for 5 months)
Mitch and Julie Wilson (Almost one year)
Cameron Stevenson and Courtney Wendel-stevenson (Over a year and a half)
Zach and Jenna Kidder (Almost two years)
Noah and Kim Sheets (Getting married today)
Aaron and Celia Duncan (Getting married next month)
If I forgot anyone I do apologize
I forgot to mention Aesthetical ideas, those concerned with beauty and pleasantness. Mostly this is something that concerns the wedding celebration, and I might add that many people make money off of this. I don’t have much to say about this, except that it is all subjective and only needs to be met with a sufficiency that appeases the bride and ones mother in-law.