When Sarah and I got married, if I remember correctly, I think we stuck around the wedding reception maybe for a grand total of about 45 minutes. Not to put too fine a point on it, we had other places to be. The anticipation of a wedding is more than just a passing element of the joy and mystery of marriage. It’s why people laugh and throw rice at couples as they run for the getaway car. It’s why we celebrate in the first place. The beauty of promises made is matched only by the beauty of promises fulfilled.
I could never have thought of a sharper contrast to this than a new nuptial phenomenon that The New York Times recently reported about. Apparently, some couples are skipping honeymoons altogether and instead opting for “unimoons”—solo trips to different destinations—after their weddings.
One couple tells of how they couldn’t agree on a destination, so the husband went to France while his wife went to Canada, both to hang out with friends. “Neither of us wanted to be where the other was,” they said, clearly glowing with wedded bliss. “It was the perfect imperfect honeymoon.”
One writer identified (I’m guessing self-identified) as a “dating expert” proclaimed that separate honeymoons “may signal the continued evolution of marriage.”
But it was The New York Post, not the Times, that lifted the veil on what’s really going on here. Spoiler alert: It’s got nothing to do with the next stage of evolution. “When I was young and planning my own wedding,” admits the Post’s opinion writer, “I didn’t see the point of a honeymoon. After all, my partner and I had been together seven years. We had lived together for over a year.”
Mystery solved. If marriage adds nothing—including sex—to a relationship, it’s understandable that a vacation with friends may sound preferable to “getting away together.” Premarital sex and cohabitation, just two of the ways our culture has undermined marriage, assumes that what used to be saved for after the wedding is mainly just about self-fulfillment, not the physical completion of two becoming one. If love, and marriage and sex are already redefined and about self-fulfillment, why not the honeymoon?
Now, it’s worth pointing out that the tradition of going on a honeymoon is both very recent and very American. The idea that taking a vacation together is important to seal a couple’s commitment is more commercial than it is Christian. But it’s a good tradition. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the sweetness of a new union.
But in order to celebrate marriage well, you have to first know what marriage is and what marriage is for. When the purpose of marriage is lost, not only marriage but all kinds of things tied up with marriage are twisted and even destroyed: cohabitation, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriages, plural marriages, open marriages, and now marriages in which the couple’s first act is traveling as far away from each other as possible.
This is why I keep coming back to T. S. Eliot’s remark that it’s pointless to ask what you should do with something until you first know what that something is for. For a long time, our culture has bought into the idea that marriage is for self-fulfillment, for expressing our feelings, or for making a rooming arrangement more official. But it’s none of these things. Instead, it was instituted at the beginning of history by God to fulfill His purposes for creation.
Two become one to become the basic unit of human society. It’s a relationship that underlies all other social relationships, including and especially our relationship with the next generation. It’s a union designed to immediately turn us away from self-focus to a focus on others: first a spouse and then children, all for the purpose of building God’s world.
Those who endlessly reimagine marriage aren’t helping it evolve, they’re only pushing it to extinction.
And before we reach the end of March, I want to remind you that there is only another day or two to request John Lennox’s outstanding book, “Can Science Explain Everything?” It’s yours for the asking with a donation to the Colson Center. Go to BreakPoint.org and click on “Give.”
John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.