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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's the Marriage, Not the Wedding

This month we’ve read a lot of interesting and terrific posts about weddings, pearls, and roses. Weddings, Pearls & Roses, sounds like a rock group.

Thirty-nine years ago this month, I was a cliché—a June bride. I never set out to be a June bride. Growing up, I wasn’t like other little girls, dreaming of a big wedding. Maybe I never wanted one because I don’t like being the center of attention. In 1974, on a trip to Northern California with my boyfriend (now husband) to visit my sister, the three of us went to Reno, Nevada, for a few days. Like Las Vegas, Reno is dotted with wedding chapels. I wanted to get married in one of the chapels, dressed in my cutoff jean shorts and halter top, a simple ceremony with only my sister as a witness. My husband, more of a traditionalist than I am, said no. To this day, I wish we’d done that.

Fast forward two years and I’m engaged and planning a wedding. I still didn’t want anything big. Because of the iffy weather on the East Coast, I chose June, not for tradition, but because it’s a month where there’s less chance of rain. I love to attend big weddings, just didn’t want one for myself. When I was growing up, the custom was to invite children to weddings. I remember having great times at family weddings when I was a child. Nowadays, you rarely see children at weddings.

I was married once before, in 1969, at city hall in Toronto, Ontario. For that wedding, I wore a cute ivory-colored body-skimming jersey mini dress. The morning of the wedding, I took the subway to a florist shop and bought a bouquet of violets. I still have the dress. After fifteen months of marriage, I left Canada and my husband. A few years ago, I sold the wedding band from that marriage for the gold.

As you can see from the picture below of my second, and last, wedding, I wore a simple dress, a bridesmaid’s dress, to be exact. I was brought up in a less tolerant time when it wasn’t suitable for women to wear elaborate bridal gowns for second marriages. I’m glad times have changed, but I wasn’t comfortable wearing a traditional gown, and it didn’t go with my idea of a small wedding.

It’s not the size of the wedding, but the marriage that’s important.

If I couldn’t get married in a Reno wedding chapel wearing cut-offs, then I was determined to get married in the Catholic Church. The priest who married us in 1976 was very, very rigid in his ideology. Because my husband and I lived together before marriage, he felt we shouldn’t have a wedding, but that we should sneak into the church and have a private ceremony with no guests. Don’t ever tell me what I can’t do because it makes me more stubborn and strong-willed to do what I want. That priest set roadblocks in front of us every step of the way, and I fought him every step. He wasn’t going to stop me from getting married in my church. He made me get a notarized affidavit from my aunt and uncle, active in their parish, stating that my first marriage wasn’t in the Catholic Church (if a Catholic is married in the Church and subsequently gets divorced, the Church still considers that person married and won’t let them remarry in the Church). I’d shown the priest my marriage license from 1969 showing I’d been married at City Hall, and my divorce papers, but he still insisted on that affidavit. Then he made my husband, who’d been baptized in the Ukrainian Catholic rite, get permission from the Ukrainian bishop to marry in the Latin rite. We persevered and we had a nice, low-key wedding in the church, with the reception in my in-laws’ back yard. The day was sunny and very hot.

Next year we celebrate our 40th anniversary. We didn’t have an elaborate wedding, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I didn’t wear a traditional wedding gown. But we’re still together, and that’s all that matters.

Since we’ve had lots of discussions here about weddings, I thought I’d do a little research on the history of marriage.

I read a very interesting essay by Friedrich Engels, in which he gives the origins of the patriarchal societies and marriage. In simple terms, during prehistoric times, women held power in the tribes. As men began to acquire property, they wanted to be sure their property passed down to their legitimate male heirs. Hence, marriages were made that were property contracts. The chivalrous love of the Middle Ages, celebrated in poems and stories of the time, wasn’t conjugal. Among the ruling classes, marriage remained what it had always been, arranged by the parents. Because these marriages were of convenience, in most cases a strategic alliance between families, the married couple looked outside the marriage for romance.

It was quite common in Biblical times, and even now in some countries, to keep marriage within the family. It’s estimated that throughout history, most marriages have been between first and second cousins. Polygamy was also common throughout time. Most instances of polygamy were one man with several wives. In some cultures, the women took multiple husbands.

I found some of the information below at

Monogamy in Western cultures became the norm somewhere between the sixth and ninth centuries. Even then, a monogamous marriage was very different from the mutual fidelity we demand now.  Up until the nineteenth century, men had wide latitude to be promiscuous. Women, on the other hand, were dealt harsh punishments if they were sexually active.

Marriages in the West were primarily contracts between families, with the Church staying out of it. Until 1500, the Church took a couple’s word that they’d exchanged marriage vows. In the last several hundred years, the state has taken a more active part in marriages. Massachusetts began requiring marriage licenses in 1639.

Mutual attraction and love in a marriage weren’t important until about a century ago. In Victorian England, it was believed women didn’t have strong sexual urges. Love matches gained ground throughout the world as we shifted from an agricultural to a market economy. With women gaining independence and parents no longer holding the purse strings, couples were finally free to marry whom they chose.

Marriage wasn’t about equality until about 50 years ago. As close as the 1970’s, marital rape was legal in many states and women couldn’t open credit cards in their names. (I had trouble getting car insurance in 1971 because I was divorced. I was told, many times by women, when I called insurance companies, that they did not insure divorced women. A divorced man could get insurance). If a wife was injured or killed, the husband could sue the responsible party for depriving him of home services but the wife couldn’t sue under the same circumstances.

Now, we’re seeing same-sex marriage gain ground, and I applaud that. Many would have you believe marriage has always been a sacred, church-sanctioned sacrament, but that’s not the case.

The Marriage Coin Boxed Set is a collection of five original marriage-of-convenience novellas. My contribution is Her Forever Husband, also available separately. Our anthology has been a best seller on Kobo, and is popular in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, places that still have arranged marriages. I think the fact that these are sweet romances, with the lovemaking occurring behind closed doors between married couples, makes the book a favorite in those cultures. The Marriage Coin Boxed Set is 99 cents everywhere. It’s also available in print.

“Flowers make the perfume of love stronger.” 

A mysterious coin is passed down through the centuries to those deserving of Luck and Love. Five couples in different eras each come into possession of the coin and enter into a marriage-of-convenience. Will the coin lead them to love as well as luck? 

Five original sweet novellas by three award-winning authors and two talented debut authors. 

Violet-Any Earl Will Do by Gwendolyn Schuler 
Lilly-The Bronze Talisman by Martha Schroeder 
Rose-The Power of Hope by Kate Welsh 
Poppy-Her Forever Husband by Cara Marsi 
Dahlia-A Gypsy’s Flower by Daria Grady 

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Charmaine Gordon said...

Fascinating and so well written, Cara. Thanks for doing the research and telling a great story. As for me, a virgin when married, Gasp! to my high school sweetheart, a pilot in the Strategic Air Command. Sadly he died suddenly 38 years later. Our motto was marriage is one long conversation and so it was, HEA. I married again to a fine sweet man and now in our eighties, we take care of each other no matter what happens next, just like in a good book.

Judy Baker said...

Interesting facts about marriages, Cara, much of which I didn't know about. Thanks.

Melissa Keir said...

What a beautiful testament to your marriage and perseverance. The box set sounds fabulous. I wish you much success in both areas (writing and marriage)!

Cara Marsi said...

Charmaine, thanks for posting. You're a very lucky women to have two HEA's. You're an inspiration.

Judy, thanks. I didn't know most of those marriage facts before either.

Thanks, Melissa, for posting and for the good wishes.

jean hart stewart said...

Marriages are so many different stories, no two alike. One of my favorites is my maternal grandparents. They swamped dates one night with their siblings and both new pairs never switched back and got married. There's a book there someplace, I imagine.

stanalei said...

Very interesting facts about marriage. Thanks for sharing all your research, Cara.

Cara Marsi said...

Jean, there's definitely a story there about your maternal grandparents.

Stanalei, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the marriage facts

Paris said...

Great post, Cara! I love your wedding photo and the story behind it:) Good luck with the boxed set, it sounds wonderful!

Cara Marsi said...

Thank you, Paris!

Carly Carson said...

I love that dress you wore at your second wedding!! I read once that marriage (and monogamy) came about (long ago) as a way for a man to be sure the child was his. If he didn't control the woman, how would he know?

Unknown said...

GREAT read and some interesting research you did! I knew marriage was primarily a business agreement for many years, but didn't know the details.

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