One of our wedding pictures started a controversy. Dave and I marked our 39th wedding anniversary last Friday. We celebrated the occasion quietly by going out for dinner with a few family members. Our low-key recognition of the event was perhaps prompted by something that happened in 2010 when I posted a photo of us on our wedding day on my Facebook page.
A colleague at the school where we were teaching at the time spotted it, and inspired, suggested all the married couples on our faculty post pictures of themselves on their wedding day on our staff room wall, labeled with the date on which they’d been married. The woman, who had been married herself for over twenty five years, thought all the photos of happy couples would be an inspiration to those on our staff who were still single, and those who had only recently wed. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
Several of the single people on the staff, who had chosen not to marry, were offended by the display of wedding photos. They said it implied that in order to be happy in life you had to be married. Other single people, who wished they were married, but had never had the good fortune to meet the right person, felt ‘left out’ of the wedding photo display. Some expressed their opinions rather vehemently. They said if we were going to display personal staff pictures they should be in a category that could include everyone on our faculty.
We were teaching at a faith based school and that week during one of our morning devotional times, a woman I had worked with for several years shared something she had never admitted previously to her colleagues. She had been married in the past and had gone through a very difficult divorce just before coming to work at our school. It was not a divorce she wanted, or was happy about, but there was nothing she could do. I realized after she had shared her emotional story that the display of photos of happily married people in our staff room might have been difficult for her to view as well. That got me thinking further. What about the widow on our staff or the young father who had lost his wife to cancer? How would the photo display have made them feel?
One single woman on our faculty shared her concerns about the wedding photos with my husband and he immediately took our photo down. Other married couples soon followed suit, when they realized blatantly displaying pictures of their wedding day happiness, may have been hurtful to others. There was talk of doing a photo display of staff member’s high school graduation photos instead.
I have been a regular columnist for a regional newspaper called The Carillon for many years. They produce an annual special edition of the paper in which they feature photos of couples from the newspapers’ reading audience that have been married for twenty five, fifty and sixty years.
I’ve always looked forward to that issue, and am interested in all the wedding pictures of people in the community I know. I even submitted our photo when we had been married for twenty -five years. I never even stopped to think about the fact that perhaps widowed, divorced and single people might be saddened or feel inadequate or excluded if they happened to look at the wedding anniversary issue of the paper.
Should we publicly celebrate wedding anniversaries? Since many marriages in our society don’t last for a long time, the fact that two people manage to ‘go the distance’ together is surely something worth commemorating. It is important though to make it clear marriage is not better than other lifestyles, but simply a way of life that if happy and rewarding and long-lasting, should be cherished.
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