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From Hooking up to Tying the Knot

As the reasons for marrying change, we just keep doing it

“You had to back then.”

That’s how Bill Burton — the esteemed outdoor writer who retired from Bay Weekly 16 years after retiring from a 30-plus-year career at the Baltimore Evening Sun — answered my inquiry about his many marriages. He allowed the legend of five — culminated by his long and happy marriage to Lois Burton — to stand. In fact it was only three, a truth outed by longtime friend Alan Doelph, appreciating Burton’s life after his death at 82 on August 10, 2009.

Our culture of marriage has changed since Burton’s time. The old reasons that upheld the institution over the ages — intimacy, sex and procreation — no longer apply with the same force. Yet marriage not only survives. It thrives. Nowadays people typically marry because they want to.

Just why is that?

That’s a tantalizing question in this favorite month of brides and grooms, one I married in once myself. All these years later, it’s the month I’ve sought ordination from the Universal Life Church so that I can officiate at my first wedding, the September union of Bay Weekly’s once-upon-a-time junior reporter Ariel Brumbaugh and Patrick Beall. It seems that newspaper editors share that authority with ships’ captains, at least for people who’ve been under their command. 

Bay Weekly’s annual Wedding Guide further sharpens my curiosity. In these pages, you’ll join me in sharing the wedding memories — and charming photos — of a couple of dozen Chesapeake Country couples who accepted our invitation to join us in this week’s paper. Their wedding dates range over 64 years, from 1954 to 2018, and while each memory is different, they all revolve around the theme of love.

Even in the 21st century, when love and marriage are no longer harnessed together like the horse and carriage of the 1955 song, love still runs the show.

That wasn’t always the case. Love of the romantic sort is a relatively recent condition for marriage. Over the millennia, lust has partnered with survival, standing, security, wealth, power and progeny in motivating marriage. But here in America, the general prosperity following World War II empowered love to make many a marriage. 

“I knew the moment I saw Sheila I wanted to marry her,” John Dorr writes of the conclusion of the couple’s long engagement, their marriage in 1959. She, granddaughter Audrey Broomfield tells us, felt the same way. 

Security, too, remains a factor that leads many a couple (even cohabiting couples) to marriage. That was an intangible factor in my eventual marriage (in May, not June) to husband Bill Lambrecht — as it was in Glenda Flores’ August 2017 marriage to Wilmer.

“I remember taking my father’s arm and taking the first steps into the church feeling so secure that at the end of the path I was going to be truly happy,” she wrote. 

We also marry for the fun of it. Twenty-first century weddings give the marrying couple what’s likely to be the biggest party of their lives.

Sixty-four years ago, Phyllis and William Conrad were content with tuna fish sandwiches at a hotel bar on the one night they had together before he returned to his assignment at the Army Security Agency School in Massachusetts and she to her job in the Pentagon.

Nowadays the wedding gives girls their chance to be princesses and guys princes — or at least cool and powerful dudes. And not only for a day, as engagement, bachelor, bachelorette and after parties, plus showers, stretch the celebration into many days. As you’ll see in our wedding directory, modern brides and grooms can get just about anything they want. Marriage is, as the convention goes, the time to make dreams come true.

As we cheer on each couple old or new, we’re hoping in our heart of hearts that another dream comes true for them. We hope that by marrying, each couple forms a more perfect union.

In their place of origin, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, here’s how those words continue: to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Not a bad plan for a nation — or for a marriage, is it?

 

Sandra Olivetti Martin

Editor and publisher

email [email protected], www.sandraolivettimartin.com