If you look up #engaged on Instagram, there are over half a million photos tagged. We’ve all seen them: the 20-something-year-old girls holding out their left hands, showing off their shiny new (Tiffany & Co.) rings. Their engagement photos are topped with just the right filter to give that unnaturally-natural glow. And their proposals, captured on video of course, are almost immediately uploaded and shared on Facebook and Twitter by their J.Crew-wearing fiancés.
As a 25-year-old in a loving relationship, I can’t help but dream about the day I get to have my own #engaged moment, to finally put my Wedding Ideas Pinterest board to use, and to start calling my charming boyfriend my fiancé.
But it’s usually during this part of the day dream when I wake up, as the undeniable questions start to creep in. Am I genuinely looking forward to starting a life together with my boyfriend? Or do I want to get engaged because it’s just another item I’ll be able to check off on my to-do list? Do I actually want to get married, or do I just want the proposal?
In 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said one in five divorces in the United States were attributed to Facebook. And it makes sense: Facebook and other forms of social media allow us to tote our exes, our secret sexual interests, and even our one night stands around in our back pockets. It’s as if social media is setting up our marriages for failure from the moment she says yes.
It seems to me our generation has become infatuated with celebrating the act of becoming engaged, rather than celebrating the act of two people committing their lives to one another. The proposal pictures we gawk over on HowHeAsked.com keep us so fixated on planning our weddings, that we start to forget one important fact: weddings turn into marriages.
Out of my 11 close friends who have gotten married in the past three years, 10 of them attended meetings with their wedding coordinators,to ensure their wedding day would be flawless. Only one of those friends attended pre-marriage counseling.
I’m not saying there wasn’t social pressure to put a ring on it pre-Twitter; the insinuation that a couple in a certain part of their relationship should get married has always been alive. But as my mailbox becomes saturated with Annie Leibovitz-caliber engagement pictures plastered on “save the date” postcards, I can’t help but feel as though we’ve turned what’s supposed to be a spontaneous special moment into something very calculated and materialistic.
My parents have been happily married for 30 years. But it wasn’t until watching an episode of Say Yes To The Dress with my mother last year when I realized I had not the slightest idea how my parents got engaged. A hidden photographer didn’t secretly capture my father when he got down on one knee. Good Morning America didn’t feature an elaborate song and dance proposal on their show, and there are no pictures of my mom’s basic-yet-beautiful engagement ring making their way across my social platforms.
Maybe that’s because my parents‘ marriage has always been more than enough evidence that he had asked the question.
In this wedding-obsessed world, I think we all need to take a breather. Instead of watching Four Weddings marathons and downloading The Knot app when we feel like we’re ready for a wedding, we need to look at our relationships and start thinking about what it means to marry our significant others. It’s about time we stop getting #engaged so we can finally go back to being engaged.
Photo by Paul W, Flickr CC