I'm going to try to be a little serious here (its so damn hard), and put down my thoughts on the institution of marriage, traditional versus common law.
Growing up, I never wanted a "wedding". I saw them as frivolous expenditures that served no purpose save to fulfill the outdated dreams of a patriarchal society. Even when I was on the cusp of getting married in my first engagement, I saw it as more of a treat for the family, than anything of any actual meaning for the pair getting hitched. I viewed common law, perhaps common law plus honeymoon, as more preferable all round. Less fuss and muss.
But lately here, I'm starting to think I was wrong, and here's why:
It often is true that the meaning of the traditional marriage can be lost somewhere in the big wedding, flouncy dress, bridesmaids, groomsmen, themed colors and flowers, cake, planners, invitations, thank you cards, photographers. The capital "E" Event itself takes on its own stand-alone meaning and this stand-alone meaning can blind us to the longer term implications of "marriage".
However, something as significant as deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone deserves a little fuss and muss. Common law doesn't necessarily cut it. Common law is frequently surrendering to the status quo: Well, we've been together so long, we might as well have it legally acknowledged. A wedding and traditional marriage can be this too. But it can also be more. The very act of putting together a "wedding" signifies more than just surrender to a continuing norm. It signifies an active want. I wedding can, and should, be a public statement on the part of both parties: "I *want* to spend the rest of my life with you", rather than "I'm going to stay with you because it is convenient."
That is not to say that a wedding can't be totally devoid of meaning. Often, it is just trappings without purpose. That is also not to say that a common law marriage must be totally devoid of meaning--it really depends upon the persons engaged in it.
However, this is where I stand. The point of a "wedding" is that it signifies an active want to be with a person, rather than a passive desire to stay with a person. Maybe this is oversimplification. Maybe this is narrow mindedness. Maybe I'm getting idealistic in my old age. What are your opinions?