If you don't covet the white frock, why get married?

"It took my dad time to get his head around the fact that his daughter was living in sin" … Chrissie Swan.
"It took my dad time to get his head around the fact that his daughter was living in sin" … Chrissie Swan. Photo: Julian Kingma

What's your marital status? It seems like such an easy question to answer. But it isn't. I have two small children and a giant mortgage and a wonderful partner to whom I am totally committed. But I'm not married.

I always squirm at the question because I'm not married, but the other option is "single" and, Lord knows, I ain't that, either.

The fact that I've never tied the knot hasn't been due to a philosophical stance. Unlike Brad and Angelina, I've never said I'm waiting for marriage equality before heading down the aisle to a Shania Twain song. I kind of just never got around to it. Well, why not?

We've all seen the TV wedding shows and lost count of the number of scenes in which, eyes wet with tears, a woman with newly visible collarbones looks down the lens and says, "This is the day I've been dreaming of my whole life." I was never one of those. As a child, I never dreamed of a wedding. I was mad about having babies and nursed kittens, dolls and, most alarmingly, a wheat bag in a bonnet.

But I never played dress-ups in my mother's wedding frock. In my imaginative games, even Barbie and Ken were living in sin. I don't think I was an early feminist; marriage just never struck me as a milestone. My Barbie was always more focused on remodelling her living room and providing for Skipper, who was a little sister, personal assistant and foster child on a rotating roster. Sometimes Ken was gay. And everyone knows gay men can't get married (well, not in Australia).

As a child, I was mad about having babies. But I never played dress-ups in my mother's wedding frock

Don't get me wrong, I love weddings. I'm always the first to weep at the vows. It's such a beautiful, raw moment when, in front of everyone the bride and groom hold dear, each says they love that one person the most of all. I tear up just thinking about it.

So why haven't I done it? I was "with child" about a year into my relationship with my fella. The simple answer is, we just didn't make it a priority and then – boom – we were having a baby, and getting married felt like asking someone who had just eaten an entire Black Forest gateau if they'd like a slice of cake. Redundant.

There is also the small issue of my very shy partner. His idea of fresh hell is to be looked at, even adoringly, by hundreds of loved ones. To add a cake-cutting photo opportunity and a slow waltz to Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a Thing to this scenario would bring on months of counselling.

I've never been officially asked, either. I'm old-fashioned in that I'd feel weird getting down on one knee and asking a man to marry me. I have no problem being the breadwinner. But marriage? I think it'd be up to the guy.


And then maybe also I've never been thin enough. Giant white frocks are the natural enemy of size-22 women, of which I am one. I remember hearing Dawn French, the curvy comedian, talk about her wedding in the '80s to funny fellow Lenny Henry. She starved herself down to a size 10, got hitched, then had to do it all again a couple of years later so she'd recognise the woman in the photos.

So now here we are. Five years down the track with my bloke. Totally committed, two gorgeous children, a beautiful blended army of mutual friends.

My dad has stopped asking me when we're going to get married. A traditionalist, it took him some time to get his head around the fact that his daughter was living in sin, but when he saw how my man could hang a door and change a nappy, he knew he'd got a bona fide son-in-law – even without the papers to prove it.

I'm organising a Christmas-in-July party for tonight; 35 of our nearest and dearest are going to indulge in amazing French food at my favourite restaurant. Parlour games will not be out of the question, and someone will probably dress up as a wonky Santa and give out stupid presents.

A few of my friends have asked, "Is this one of those secret weddings?" and I admit I did think about popping into the registry office, making it official, then celebrating the certificate with all our friends. My partner has always said he wants to get married but doesn't want the wedding. But I'm not mad on a registry-office affair. I think I'd be wanting to register my car, too, in a two-for-one deal.

So it leaves us happily together with no papers. And in the end, I suppose, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This article first appeared in Sunday Life.