niedziela, 9 października 2011

Tying the Knot

We've looked at birth and death--now let's look at marriage.  Here's a topic in which it's easy to make mistakes in English.  We'll look here at present-day customs in England, America and some of the other English-speaking countries.  Of course, not everybody follows these customs.

We start with two people, generally a man and a woman, usually but not always young.  Let's imagine that their names are Mark and Brittany.  They have been going out together for two years, and they've decided to get married.

First, they become engaged.  Traditionally, Mark gives Brittany a diamond ring as a token of their engagement.  Here, we borrow some words from French: Brittany is now Mark's fiancee; Mark is now Brittany's fiance.  Notice the difference in spelling.  Normally, an accent is used over the first e, but we don't have one available at the moment.  In recent years, engagement parties have become popular, as the engaged couple celebrates with their families and friends.

(In older books and documents, instead of engaged and engagement, you may find the words betrothed and betrothal.  These are now considered old-fashioned and are rarely used any more.)

Following the engagement, the couple starts to plan the wedding.  This is the ceremony in which the man and the woman are joined, wedded or married.  This ceremony can be religious or civil (performed by somebody in the government).  The man is called the groom--a short form of bridegroom--and the woman is called the bride.  Sometimes, not long before the wedding, the friends (mostly female) of the bride organise a bridal shower.  This has nothing to do with getting clean--it's a kind of party, featuring a shower of gifts for the bride, who at this point is often called the bride-to-be.

As for the groom, instead of a shower he usually has a bachelor party in which, traditionally, his male friends take him out for an evening of drinking and partying.

Finally, it's time for the couple to get married.  Let's look here at what we CAN say and what we CAN'T say.

Mark is marrying Brittany.  Brittany is marrying Mark.
Correct: to marry somebody.  Incorrect: to marry with somebody.

Mark is getting married to Brittany.  Brittany is getting married to Mark.
Correct: to get married to somebody.  Incorrect: to get married with somebody.

Getting married is sometimes called tying the knot.  This expression is informal but popular.

We can also say that the priest, rabbi, justice of the peace, or whoever performs the ceremony marries Mark and Brittany.  This can sometimes be confusing.

When the wedding is finished, it is often followed by a reception, or party--known as wesele in Polish. However, in the English-speaking countries this party usually lasts only from three to six hours, whereas a Polish wedding is famous for going on all night and into the next day.

When somebody says, "I'm going to a wedding," it is not immediately clear whether they mean the ceremony, the reception, or both.  Both the ceremony and the reception are often referred to as weddings.  Notice that we go to a wedding (NOT on a wedding) and we are at a wedding (again, NOT on a wedding).

Afterward, Mark is no longer a groom, but a husband; Brittany is no longer a bride, but a wife.  Together, though, Mark and Brittany are still a couple.  We do not say they are a marriage.  In English, the word marriage refers only to the state of being married or the relationship between the married partners, not to the people themselves.  We can now say that Mark and Brittany are a married couple.  For the first few years, we can also say they are a newly-married couple or that they are newlyweds.

Incorrect:  A marriage lives next door to us.
Correct:  A married couple lives next door to us.

Here's what Mark might say, twenty years after the wedding:

Brittany and I got married twenty years ago.  She sure was a beautiful bride!  I could hardly believe I was really marrying her.  Our wedding was a wonderful occasion.  The priest who married us was a long-time friend of my family.  The reception was held at a restaurant and everybody had a great time.  Brittany and I have had a very good marriage for twenty years, and even though we're not newlyweds any more, we're still happy together.  Our friends say we're a lovely old married couple.

There are many other words and expressions connected with marriage that we should look at, but we'll save them for another occasion.



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