Does A Happily Ever After Require Wedding Bells?

kristinamatthews~ By Kristina Mathews

With another celebrity marriage down the tubes, I can’t help but wonder if marriage is even necessary—in books and in real life.

I know there are many couples who are perfectly happy just living together. Many couples have an unintentional pregnancy and don’t even consider marriage before the baby comes, sometimes not even after. And some couples decide to start a family together without the intention to ever marry. And when they do some of them decide to learn from Winnie Couture, Chicago bridal boutique about how they can find the right style for their marriage.

Until recently, some couples weren’t allowed to marry at all. And then there are the people who marry several times. Without getting too preachy, I’ll share my own experience and those of my characters.

I graduated from college in December 1992 and my wedding was scheduled for May 1993. We were moving from our college town of Reno to my fiancé’s hometown in Northern California, We had a rental lined up but it was on a working apple and pear orchard. My fiancé wasn’t comfortable with me living there alone with workers around irrigating, spraying, pruning, or picking so he suggested that I live with his parents until the wedding and then I’d move in with him.

At first I thought it was kind of silly, we would only be living together for five months. But his parents are pretty conservative so I went along with the idea thinking we’d eventually end up moving in together. In the end, I spent only one night with him on the ranch before the wedding. It was the night the puppy we’d adopted was killed by a logging truck.

I’m glad we didn’t live together before our wedding. Mostly because it means I can tell my sons’ fiancées that we have this family tradition and if they want to marry my son… Actually, I’m glad I did it because I got to know my in-laws very well. I got to see what my husband’s idea of marriage was based on his parents’ relationship. Plus, it was good practice for the numerous family vacations we’ve taken over the past 22 years.

So for me, marriage has been a big part of my happily ever after. But what about my characters? Do they require a wedding in order to complete their HEA? In the old days a romance required boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy marries girl. Does that still hold up today?

In the first four books of my More Than A Game series only one doesn’t technically contain a proposal. I won’t tell you which one, I don’t want to spoil it. But even without the down-on-his-knees, ring-in-hand proposal, it is very clear to the characters that they will be getting married down the road. I only have one actual wedding on the page. Again, you’ll have to find out on your own which one. And my current WIP examines my heroine’s strong aversion to marriage and all the traditional trappings she sees that go with it.

I do feel that marriage gives a certain closure that just becoming a couple doesn’t offer. I mean, as romantic as it was for Sheldon to make Amy his emergency contact at work doesn’t quite satisfy her need for a commitment. And while dragging out the relationship is crucial to keeping a romance alive on a sitcom, it doesn’t quite cut it in real life.

As a reader, I want the fairy tale ending. Even if it’s just a promise of a future wedding. It offers that hope that this couple will make it. It’s the same hope I feel when I attend a real-life wedding. That love always wins.

Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.

While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.

Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.

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