Marriage feels out of kilter with modern life

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson in the garden of 10 Downing Street after their weddi

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson in the garden of 10 Downing Street after their wedding - Credit: Rebecca Fulton/PA Wire

Aspects of the ‘secret’ grand Westminster Cathedral/Number 10 weekend nuptials of the Prime Minister and his new life partner are worth dwelling on.

Not the Midsummer Night’s dream Titaniaesque image of the 33-year-old bride barefoot on the Downing Street grass with her two decades older chuffed new husband.

She looked relaxed, happy and beautiful as any bride should.

She scored extra bride points for renting the £2,400 dress for £45 for the day true to her environmental conscience.

Way to go, Carrie. Sassy move. No waste there.


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Nor the big question on the lips of so many: “How can a twice-divorcee get married in a Catholic cathedral?”

It’s the Catholic church. It’s a waste of headspace trying to make sense of any part of it.

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No. The really big issues were why did Carrie Symonds, very much a woman of her generation, razor-sharp, highly educated, independent, ambitious and an individualist with a network of similarly smart, sparky, politically astute influential female friends, feel the need to be married?

At a time when marriage rates are at an all-time low, and as the first unmarried couple living in Downing Street, why did they feel to follow a well – and too often badly-trodden - path to the alter and not do their own thing?

Then, when it was announced that the bride would take her husband’s name to be known as Mrs Carrie Johnson, it was a disappointing sell out to times long past when a woman sacrificed her identity to her husband in a transaction from one family to another.

Interestingly, Johnson’s previous wives, Allegra Mostyn-Owen and Marina Wheeler, were known by their maiden names, so Carrie is the very first Mrs Johnson.

Wives One and Two came from a generation when women needed to try harder, be better and had to fight to be heard.

A time when women who didn’t take their husband’s name were viewed as making some kind of feminist point rather than just continuing to be who they had been for decades.

These women had worked hard to carve an identity and felt need to be known as another name and morph into an extension of the man they married simply because they had made a public commitment.

At 33, Carrie’s path in life has been much smoothed by these battles and efforts of women now in their 50s and older so she could grow largely unfettered and uninhibited by how society has worked against women for centuries to be who she is today.

At 23 years younger than her husband, and the mother of his latest child, it is surprising that marriage, long an outdated, antiquated institution was important and an attractive option.

Pushing aside the name with which she had made her achievements, even more so.

She is surely not buying the ‘happily ever after’ syrup.

Why does anyone get married today? Lawyers can do all the legal stuff to protect both parties should a relationship end.

A celebration of the union and to experience age-old traditions in some kind of quaint re-enactment are the only reasons I can think of why people, especially older people, decide to get married.

Back 4000-odd years, marriage had little to do with love or with religion.

Romantic love as a motivating force for marriage only goes as far back as the Middle Ages.

The primary purpose of marriage was to bind women to men and guarantee that a man's children were his biological heirs.

The institution of marriage was birthed as a legal partnership between families to ensure the maximum amount of wealth and security for the family members involved in the partnership.

In 2021, people come and stay together because they choose to be together and share their lives, not because they have to or are bound by law.

Marriage does not equal proof of love or long-term commitment. It feels so much out of kilter with modern life.

Back in the 1400s people got married as teenagers “until death do you part” and would die in their 20s or early 30s.

They were not committing to 60-70 years together.

In research three years ago, nearly one in four Brits thought marriage was an 'outdated institution.'

Some people cite that being married gives a sense of belonging and security, taking an accepted step on life’s journey and giving some added sense of achievement and societal acceptability.

Some of the most loving, committed and respectful long relationships are between those who are not married, who appreciate each other for who they are and don’t feel the need for marriage as the ultimate signifier of commitment and adoration.

Then there’s the name change.

To share a surname with your children is kind of understandable.

But do children really care what their parents are called?

All that admin to change every official document to comply with an outdated custom or is this all part of the ‘romance’, offering an identity as a family and not just individuals?

It feels that odd that so much has progressed in the world and the way we live but we still cling on to archaic superfluous customs.

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