I’m a 40-year-old mom, a self-identified feminist since age six, a strong woman I’m told, married for nearly 15 years to the same man. A practical dresser and a low-maintenance type, I like to think. Also a fan of the democratic process. Not into kings and queens, and I can’t stand all that Pepto-Bismol-pink princess stuff marketed to girls (fortunately my daughter, now eight, never showed any interest in that stuff either).
Yet here I sit, planning to wake my daughter up very early this Friday morning to watch the Royal Wedding. Months ago I planned a menu of scones (homemade or store-bought depends on my level of motivation Thursday night), clotted cream (Whole Foods is apparently the source), jam, and tea. How my daughter will perform in school that day given a 4 a.m. wake-up call, or what time I’ll even get her to school, is an open question for now.
Why am I doing this?
Because when I was growing up, my beloved grandmother’s coffee table and the chest at the end of a bed in the upstairs guest room were always covered with glossy women’s magazines: McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping. In my formative years their covers were often graced with the face of Princess Diana, sometimes with her gorgeous boys. My grandmother Mary Lois is no longer living, but one of those little boys is now getting married. Watching his Westminster Abbey celebration will somehow connect me to her.
But that’s not all.
I’m also doing this because I want my daughter to have some images of weddings in her head: big, bold, beautiful, over the top, stuck in your memory forever, a cultural-marker-for-the-entire-English-speaking-world type wedding. Not because I want her to have precisely that kind of wedding someday (no Bridezillas allowed here), but because as I approached marriage, I had no template in my head for what kind of wedding — or marriage — I wanted to have. I hear so often of women who planned their weddings even as girls. It never occurred to me to do that. No one ever talked to me about my future wedding or marriage or husband, about what I should look for or think about or avoid. I never once thought about my wedding day until I was old enough to consider marrying someone. Even then I was blank on how the whole event came together, or even the fact that a number of things need to be done, in a certain order, to make a wedding happen. When my husband and I got engaged, he ended up taking the lead on planning our fairly small wedding because most of it was a mystery to me.
My daughter is a bold, lively girl. Physically strong and strong-willed, long brown hair she’s only now deigning to brush, a fan of stretchy clothes she can move around in, far fonder of stuffed and real animals than dolls, a natural leader in a pack of kids. I love all that. But I also know that someday she’ll desire to bond with another. I want to get started talking, now, about how that might look. What makes for a good husband? Why is a wedding joyful? What does marriage look like, and what is it for? In the wee hours of a rainy spring morning, over scones and tea, the global spectacle of a royal wedding seems like a wonderful opportunity to converse lightly about these matters at once weighty, life-altering, and life-affirming.
— Elizabeth Marquardt is author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, editor of FamilyScholars.org, and vice president for family studies and director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.