Cause for celebration

by S.A. Jones , February 14, 20137 Comments

Photo courtesy: George Eastman House

I am getting married, which just goes to show that one should never say never. Shortly into my relationship with the man who is now my fiancé I said to him ‘I will never marry again’. That wasn’t just my bitter and bereft heart talking after the collapse of my first marriage, it also reflected my horror of marriage as a process. I am convinced that had I not undergone the formalised ritual of a wedding, I would not have remained mired in that relationship for as long as I did.

Despite my unhappiness the wedding ritual bound me. Having taken an oath in front of my family and close friends, I had implicated them. I couldn’t end the marriage without feeling I’d failed not just myself but the people whose love and respect matter most to me. In dissolving the union they’d witnessed I demonstrated just what my promises were worth. At best I was unreliable, at worst fraudulent.

That sense of fraud made any remarriage seem forfeit. Why would people have any faith that this timeI had it right? Moreover, what trust could I place in my own judgement having gotten it so very, very wrong before?

Yet here I am again five years down the track and there’s a sparkling ring on my finger, a gorgeous frock at the ready and champagne to be drunk. What could possibly have convinced me to sign on that potentially fraught dotted line again?

At its simplest level my answer is that love, this love I have now, is the best possible reason for a celebration. I’ve celebrated arbitrary things (my birthday), milestones (graduation) and unlikely successes (publication) but this is surely the most worthy excuse of all for a knees-up. That I could feel this positively about someone, have such faith in them, feel so light in love is a constant and delicious source of surprise and delight. I can just be, and in just being be happy. If that’s not worth celebrating then I don’t know what is.

I can now see the upside to the ritual element of marriage. No relationship gets cheated from trouble, but if you’re in something that’s fundamentally healthy then that ritual can be the glue that binds you through the rough times. A trusty raft you cling to till the current changes and you make land.

Yet organising this celebration is enough to seriously dampen the sunshiny feelings that gave rise to it. There’s something downright grubby about the wedding industry. Among the arcane and ingenious charges I’ve encountered include minimum spends (potentially fatal for anyone with a guest list under 40), a fee for the right to take photographs on a premises and a ‘relocation fee’ to move the five metres from where the ceremony was performed to where the catering tables were set up.

It is so exploitative and gouging that I’ve seriously considered chucking the whole idea as entirely oppositional to what it is I’m trying to celebrate. But Australians seem generally happy to part with dollars at the rate my three year old will toss petals from her flower-girl basket. The average wedding sets Australian couples back $36,000 in 2012 or, to put it another way, the cost of a house deposit in regional Victoria. Our economy might be struggling but the cost of weddings is rising at nearly twice the rate of CPI.

Perhaps these spiralling costs account for the Stahkanovite labour extracted by some couples from their bridal parties. I recently observed a girlfriend being press-ganged into kitchen-tea hosting, bon-bon making and sequin-sewing by the bride. To add insult to repetitive strain injury she was also expected to trial three different shades of fake tan and fork out a considerable sum for a ghastly frou-frou dress. My friend ultimately resigned from her duties and the friendship when the bride threw a tantrum over her early departure from the hen’s night because she had the flu.

What is it about weddings that drives us to this?What accounts for the collective madness that makes spending $400 on a cake seem like a good, nay, an essential idea? That means we’ll sue a photographer for failing to capture the precise moment of the kiss?

I don’t know the answer. Perhaps it’s a sort of sympathetic magic: if we lavish attention on each centrepiece being precisely equidistant then the relationship will be just as perfect. Or perhaps our lives are now so starved of ritual that we over-compensate with the few ceremonies we have left. Maybe we’ve just been duped into believing that happiness and fulfilment are commodities that can be bought like any other.

All I know is that this life I’ve carved out for myself is one where I am, largely, content. That seems cause for celebration.


S.A. Jones is the author of the novel Red Dress Walking. She holds a PhD in history from the University of Western Australia and currently works as a regulatory analyst.

  • Jose

    “Love and marriage, love and marriage,
    Go together like a horse and carriage.
    This I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.” CAHN, SAMMY / VAN HEUSEN, JIMMY

    Human beings were not designed to be alone, so I will make an exception and have a drink before 10 am on your impending nuptials.

  • Bella

    Not that I will get the chance, but I think my choice would be to elope!

    You sum it up perfectly though, you should always celebrate life, especially one in which you are content and happy.

  • S.A. Jones

    In late breaking news I’ve just been advised that, in relation to my girlfriend who was forced to resign from her bridesmaid duties, the Bridezilla kept and used her bridesmaid dress! The one my girlfriend paid for!!

  • G.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’ve come to this place in your life, after what sounds like a period of real despair following your first marriage. I hope your wedding day is a fitting celebration of that.

    • S.A. Jones

      Awwww shucks thanks!

  • Siobhan Argent

    Still can’t believe the average wedding costs $36k! I understand why though. If you have a big family, costs rise exponentially.

    Happy wedding planning with your new love. :-)

  • kalpana

    My niece had a wedding overseas and it showed that only the nearest, dearest and the ones that could afford the wedding and it was half the cost in Malaysia if compared to Perth, the most expensive city in the world.


Nathan Smith

Letting the Essays Do The Talking: Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth

In the introduction to her essay collection My Misspent Youth, Meghan Daum writes that as frank as her essays are, they ‘are not confessions’. The personal essay may have long defined Daum, but she is far from a ‘confessional writer’, a title she has long resisted. Read more »


Ilona Wallace

Between You & Me: The New Yorker’s Mary Norris on publishing, editing and insecurity

Mary Norris begins her chatty grammar guide and memoir, Between You & Me, by chronicling the odd jobs she held before she began working at the New Yorker in 1978. She delivered milk – awkwardly calling ‘Milkwoman!’ when she left bottles at each stop – and crashed the dairy truck. Read more »


Chad Parkhill

On judging the Most Underrated Book Award

The chair of the judging panel for the Most Underrated Book Award shares his observations on the award, what it means to be ‘underrated’, and the current landscape of Australian literary prizes. Read more »

ROSEANNE - On set in New York - 10/16/93 
Sara Gilbert (Darlene) on the ABC Television Network comedy "Roseanne". "Roseanne" is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems.

Rebecca Shaw

Out of the Imaginary Closet: Fictional characters who should have been gay

When you are part of a group that isn’t portrayed in the same way (or only negatively, or not at all) you become desperate for that glimmer of recognition. Here are several characters that I loved as a young person, who became stand-ins for the openly lesbian characters I wanted to see so much. Read more »



Isn’t It Obvious: Queer representation in children’s television

For a non-binary gendered person, characters with diverse sexualities and genders are validating and rewarding. As a child, they could have offered integral touchstones for understanding my own gender, and provided context and validation for the ways in which I could exist in the world. Read more »


Rebecca Varcoe

In defence of professional cheerleading

My name is Rebecca and I’m a 26-year-old woman with a shameful secret, for which I refuse to be ashamed any longer. Today I want to confess my obsession and one true love, the subject of many rants and late-night tweeting frenzies: Cheerleading. American, All-Star Cheerleading. Read more »


Adam Rivett

Tell Me, Princess: The evolution of Disney’s princess songs

Two years ago today, Disney’s Frozen was unleashed upon the world. As far as rapacious corporate behemoths go, it’s one of the more appealing, and remains surprisingly resilient to repeat screenings. But at the heart of its achievement sits one indisputable melodic and cultural phenomenon: ‘Let It Go’. Read more »


James Tierney

Bodily Limits: An interview with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Dario Argento’s 1977 horror film Suspiria suffered from a critical eclipse and a variety of censored prints, and was largely cherished in its original form by aficionados of the field. A reassessment has been building, something sure to be aided by the forthcoming publication of Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ perceptive and elegantly written monograph. Read more »

je tu il elle 2

Eloise Ross

Existence as Minimalism: Remembering Chantal Akerman

Images of a young woman, emptying her small flat of furniture, blocking the window and sitting in the dark, still. Sitting on a mattress in a bare room, furiously writing letters with a pencil and watching the snow through the window. Meeting with a past lover and reuniting on-screen. I think about Chantal Akerman’s films more often than I can say. Read more »


Matilda Dixon-Smith

Family Matters: Please Like Me and the Aussie TV family

In a recent episode of Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me, the bouncy titles run over three little scenarios: Josh cooks dinner for his mate Tom and his boyfriend Arnold; his Mum cooks for her new housemate Hannah; and his Dad cooks for his wife, Mae. The three of them stir, sip wine and dance daggily around their kitchens in a neat metaphor for this season’s fantastic, cohesive new trajectory. Read more »



Isn’t It Obvious: Queer representation in children’s television

For a non-binary gendered person, characters with diverse sexualities and genders are validating and rewarding. As a child, they could have offered integral touchstones for understanding my own gender, and provided context and validation for the ways in which I could exist in the world. Read more »


Alexis Drevikovsky

Have You Ever Felt Like This: Going Round the Twist again

Working from home one day, I took my lunchbreak away from my laptop and flicked idly through the TV channels, hoping for a midday movie with Reese Witherspoon or, even better, an old episode of Cheers. What I found was beyond my wildest dreams. I excitedly texted my mate Alison: Round the Twist is on ABC3! Read more »


Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels in Mortido. Photo credit: Shane Reid

Jane Howard

A Shining Nightmare: Mortido‘s Sydney

Sydney is a city of shine and reflective surfaces. The glint of the harbour follows through to city high-rises clad in polished glass, bouncing off the wide windows of the mansions hugging the undulating land before it gives way to the impossibly deep and wide water. But this beauty that can betray the darkness of the city and its people. Read more »


Angela Meyer

Outrageous Fortune: Seeing Hamlet as a Cumberbitch

Jazz swells, hushing the audience, and the solid black gate of the theatre curtain opens. It reveals the lounging figure of Hamlet, playing a record, sniffing his father’s old jumper. But what I see first is not Hamlet: it is Benedict Cumberbatch. Read more »

kiss copy

Jane Howard

Great Aspirations: In the shadow of Patrick White

The text of The Aspirations of Daise Morrow is lifted directly from Patrick White’s short story ‘Down at the Dump’. It’s a wonderful thing to hear White’s judicious use of language; to understand the eyes through which he saw Australia; and to see an entire world of his creation brought to life in the theatre. Read more »