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Marriage went against my feminist principles – but the pandemic changed everything | Candice Brathwaite

I wasn’t like most brides. Unlike my school friends, who adored playing kiss-chase and using their blazers as veils and the chalk hopscotch outline as an aisle, I was more interested in reading and making up stories than dreaming about weddings. As I got older, I was able to use countless examples of the unhappy marriages I had seen around me as an excuse for my wannabe Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle. Receiving a Facebook notification about schoolmates getting hitched never moved or bothered me. And when I heard about glamorous six-figure, three-day wedding parties in Greece or Morocco, all I could think was: “Isn’t the bride tired?”

Most importantly, there wasn’t a practical incentive for me to be married. Five decades ago it would have been helpful, as I would have needed a husband to even have a bank account, but thankfully things had changed so much that marriage wasn’t a necessity.

But then three things happened. First, someone I found entertaining and considered came into my life; and, surprisingly, year after year, we seemed to be able to compromise just enough, so that we ended up being together for a decade. Second, life – as in me actually giving birth to it – happened, and I now had to consider how not being married could affect my children when it came to dealing with things such as wills and estates. The third and final nail in my “never a bride” coffin was the pandemic, which of course reminded us all of what really matters, and forced us to properly think about the choices we would make once we were allowed to do more than circle our nearest park.

There were other layers to this decision. In 2021 both my partner and son fell very ill with chickenpox, the latter sick enough to be hospitalized. What is usually a simple childhood illness turned out to be a very serious one for a grown man. Both my boys were down and out. It was not only the physical burden of being the only parent that could stay in the hospital, but the worry that neither of them would pull through. My father died suddenly in 2009 from complications derived from the common flu – that experience had given me a proclivity for thinking the worst.

No one knows us better than our phones. One night in the hospital at my son’s bedside, after he had been awoken by the kind nurses to have his routine injections for a secondary infection, I tried to soothe myself back to sleep with some social media scrolling. It was then I came across a video of a woman whose boyfriend of 12 years had become very ill and had to be airlifted to hospital. When she tried to go with him, she wasn’t allowed, as she wasn’t married to him. She finished the video by telling people that if they know they are with “their person”, to make it so on paper. Because now, more than ever, we just didn’t know when we would end up in a situation in which we had no say at all.

Now that made sense to me. Whereas dresses and the idea of ​​going into debt for the sake of a party had never interested me, the practicality and security of a union with my partner became a priority.

It would seem that I wasn’t alone. This year will be a bumper year for weddings, with an estimated 550,000 events planned post-lockdown, after 264,000 couples had to postpone in 2020, according to the UK Weddings Taskforce, the trade body for the industry. When US magazine Brides polled 4,000 readers, it found that 82% of them believed that living through the pandemic had made them want to get married more than before. And, while the pressures of Covid and the lockdowns that followed were really the final straw for many relationships, there are many of us who are now encouraged to run towards the altar, rather than away from it, because lockdown life with our partners turned out better than expected

A few months after the last lockdown ended, we went to our local register office. The woman handing out wedding dates warned us that owing to the pandemic backlog we would have to wait 18 months for a slot. Did we understand that, she asked.

“Yep,” we both said. We had already done our research and understood that we would have to wait our turn. Plus, what was 18 months to the 10 years we had already been together?

A few moments later, the mood changed. “Well, it’s your lucky day: I’ve just refreshed the system and it seems the next available date is in seven weeks. Fancy it?”

Later that day, as we got our heads around the fact that we had less than two months to plan a wedding, we agreed that instead of being scared by a date so soon, we were actually really grateful – the sooner the better. The last two years had shown us how much we couldn’t control, and this felt like the one thing we could, to ensure that whoever was left standing between us would be able to have their say when it came to our family and finances.

Since the big day a few months ago, outwardly nothing has changed. He still has a certain way he likes the dishwasher to be loaded, and I like to have an hour to myself each night. But inwardly, there has been a shift. I have to be honest and say that this is highlighted by the respect put upon our union by the rest of the world. The other day we went to the bank to do some admin.

“Thank God you’re married!” exclaimed the clerk. Upon seeing our expressions, she added hastily: “I’m sure you’re very much in love, but it just gives me far less paperwork to do!” She laughed, and I couldn’t help but join her. She was, like me, looking at marriage for the practicality it is. A woman after my own heart.

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