Q: I think marriage is great for those who believe in it, but do you think it is more than a ring and a dress? I think I can have a meaningful relationship and totally plan to spend the rest of my life with my guy, but without the ceremony. Thoughts?
A: Yes, it is more than a ring and a dress, or in my case, it is more than a ring and a suit or tuxedo.
First, I would suggest that you are equating marriage with just the ceremony. And while the ceremony an subsequent booze filled reception with one crazy family member making an ass out of his or her self and the random bridesmaid that gets her face painted in the bathroom while the cake is being passed around is definitely enjoyable, marriage is much more than the ceremony.
For instance, one can either have a ceremony or not. You can do the whole big wedding that costs upwards of $35,000, or you can elope, or you can just go down to the courthouse and get it done in less than an hour and go home and eat a bucket of chicken. But the ceremony, to me really, is about sharing and celebrating your love for your significant other and making a commitment to each other in front of the people you care about the most (well, except for your colleagues that you feel obligated to invite and you just hope they give you cash and don't cause damage where you lose your security deposit).
My ceremony was on a beach, with about 15 people in attendance, with a dinner for all of us following the taking of pictures. Then we all went to a bar. It was simple, yet it was perfect. My actual wedding, including honeymoon, cost me less than my divorce, so a wedding isn't about how much you spend, but who you spend it with. And honestly, to date, I have never felt such simple and pure joy than I did on that day.
As far as the ring, you do not know how much it means to you until you have to take it off. A ring is circular, and therefore infinite. It is a simple symbol for eternity. And to me, my ring wasn't just a ring.
Now, as far as actually being married as opposed to being in a committed relationship, well, marriage is just different, and it is better. It's hard to explain why it is better, because it is different for each individual couple, but it is just better. And you don't know that it is better until you say, "I do." Now I am just making a generalization. Obviously some marriages are complete shit shows, but that has more to do with the individual couple.
I would say the advantage of not being married is that when it ends, the pain can be quick and it can be over quickly. Divorce can drag on and extend the pain, which for me, makes divorce much worse than just breaking up with someone. Divorce can turn into an endurance test of will. And for some, it can take longer than you expect for you to be able to get over it.
Not that I would know anything about that though...