Last year a friend of mine, whom I’ll call Sam, finally got married and I was given the honor of being one of his groomsmen. I had been friends with Sam since college and I was as pleased as anyone else to see him wed the woman he had been with for the last few years. Sam’s life, from the time I first met him up to when I last saw him, has been a long grind full of changed plans and delays. He’s still working through schooling, having acquired multiple bachelor’s degrees over the preceding years as his life plans have changed. To see him finally get to his wedding day felt like a major achievement for him and I was proud to be part of that big day. The wedding itself was notable for being science-themed to reflect the intended career paths of Sam and his bride, and another wedding guest told me that there was more glassware at the wedding than at many laboratories. I even gave a short speech, which I predictably bumbled through in my normal fashion. When it was all over, everyone bid Sam and his bride farewell and then myself and others cleaned up the wedding venue before our own departures.
On the drive back from the wedding I asked a friend of mine for his thoughts on the wedding and the new relationship Sam and his bride had entered into. He replied that the wedding was a mere formality. I thought about that statement for the rest of the drive and into the next day, and the more I considered it, the more it was clear that my friend was right. Sam and his bride had been living together for years and acting like a married couple. The only things that had now changed were the presence of a wedding ring on each of their left hands, a new legal status in the eyes of the state, and whatever financial adjustments they chose to make that they hadn’t done already. While I was still happy for their marriage, it was saddening to think about how little it actually meant. Their wedding night would be about the same as any other, and their honeymoon wouldn’t be much different from previous trips they had taken together (except probably more expensive). After their wedding and honeymoon their lives would return the same routine as before their marriage. The wedding was, indeed, a mere formality.