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Wedding collateral damage: The domino effect that fuels the marital-industrial complex


It's wedding season, kid! And out there in the field of love there are going to be a lot of casualties. Well, casualties is perhaps a strong word but you'll see what I mean.

In the coming months, many will attend lovely weddings of lovely friends in lovely surroundings. You know how it goes down: a couple who have been dating since about the end of university get married in some pleasant countryside surroundings; all of their friends are there; the sun shines in between the rain; booze is taken. All told, it's a pretty damn nice weekend – for now it seems it must be an entire weekend – surrounded by love, happiness, joy and Facebook likes.

Among the attendees is another couple. Let's say they've been dating for five or six years. They're living together. All is rosy in their relationship, more or less. But there is a niggling snag about marriage. Sure, they've discussed it, but only vaguely once or twice. "It's never really come up," they say. Occasionally their parents make annoying noises about it. Things are dragging on. Then comes this wedding at this particular point. As mentioned, it's all pretty lovely. They're captured by the moment. Two weeks later, the deal is done. An engagement. There will be another wedding.

This is wedding collateral damage.

Sport, like love and war, is ripe for analogies, so let's throw another one in the pot. In rugby union, there's a moment where the attacking team are close to the opposition's try line, but instead of going for a try they decide to attempt for a drop goal.

The forwards ruck or maul the ball within striking range of the goal posts; the outhalf (the one doing the kicking, your Jonny Wilkinsons) steps back to receive the ball, but goes deeper than he normally would so as to have more time to kick the ball before oncoming opposition attempt to block the kick. When the outhalf takes these steps back, the commentator sometimes describes it as the player having "dropped back into the pocket".

In the window – two weeks, a month, maybe – after a nice wedding, some surrounding unmarried couples are going to be feeling the twinge; they've dropped back into the pocket. That seemed nice, they think, maybe we should just go for it.

Ensuing engagement announcements then cause a further chain of events: other unmarried couples, who weren't at the first wedding but know the latter newly-engaged couples, start to have their own existential crises. More engagements! More wedding collateral damage.

Of course, it could all go the other way, too – the joy, then the self-questioning inspiring a break-up. But let's focus on the positive, here. 'Tis the season. Raise a glass to the bride and groom.