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  • Morning Bell: Marriage Is an Ideal, Not a Fairy Tale

    As many as two billion people — about a third of the world — were expected to watch today’s British royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

    The global euphoria highlights the enduring ideal of marriage. For all the extravagance and fanfare of a future monarch’s wedding, we recognize in it some of our deepest human aspirations and the shared nobility of the institution of marriage.

    That same chord was struck 30 years ago, as the world watched another royal wedding on July 29, 1981. As ABC’s Ted Koppel commented that evening: “Today’s marriage between Charles and Diana was … a hugely magnified version of what most of us hope for, the idealized beginning of what is meant to ripen into the perfect partnership of a man and a woman.”

    Koppel’s ABC colleague, Bob Green, added: “The royal aspect almost was secondary … [T]here was something universal about the ceremony of life that was taking place. The message was the same one that comes through at a wedding in a church recreation room in New Hampshire or a justice of the peace’s office in Ohio.”

    When the royal couple said, “I will,” the roar of the crowd outside St. Paul’s Cathedral “was almost as if the world was cheering for itself,” Green reported.

    And indeed we do cheer for ourselves when we rejoice in wedding vows.

    Marriage is a promise. Not just between one man and one woman but to the community at large, to generations past and to those yet to be born. Wedding vows set apart this lifelong, life-giving relationship from all others.

    As Heritage senior research fellow Chuck Donovan writes:

    The simplicity of this truth accounts for the nearly universal history and expression of marriage across cultures. Despite the enormity of the pressures marriage and family face today, the vast majority of people in American society express the desire to marry, experience a lifelong faithful relationship, have children, and raise those children into adulthood where they are able to establish families of their own.

    Even in 1981, however, ABC’s Green noted that “marriage and the family have fallen on hard times.” How much more so in the 30 years since: The bitter, postmodern ending to Princess Diana’s own fairy tale during that time is an apt metaphor for the troubled state of marriage today.

    Still, the institution of marriage endures, even when a particular marriage falls apart. Our failure to attain it doesn’t change the ideal–nor should current challenges.

    Today, the route to marriage isn’t nearly as clear as in generations past, and once entered, its endurance less sure. Americans are marrying at half the annual rate they did four decades ago, data posted at FamilyFacts.org show.

    Last year, The Marriage Index, published by the Institute for American Values and the National Center on African American Marriage and Parenting, rated the strength of marriage in America at 60.3 out of a possible 100, based on a set of five indicators. In 1970, the score would have been 76.2.

    The erosion of marriage and family bode ill for the strength and stability of American society. Scholar Michael Novak famously referred to the family as the “original Department of Health, Education and Welfare” because of its role in providing for the needs of all its members, and particularly the next generation.

    That’s why one of the most important ways that government can promote the general welfare is by upholding the institution of marriage. As Donovan recently stated in testimony on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act:

    All of the governmental interests embodied in the Defense of Marriage Act ultimately serve one overarching purpose: to create and foster conditions of public policy that reinforce the binding of men and women to one another and to the children they co-create. Study after study of the impact of marriage and the sustained presence of mothers and fathers in the home, striving together and nurturing their children, demonstrate the advantages of a married mother and father over every other family form that has been exhaustively studied to date.

    Yet, in the shadow of the royal wedding, a worrisome class divide on marriage is emerging that threatens to make marriage more of a fairy tale than a shared ideal. Writing about a 2010 report, “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America,“ author W. Bradford Wilcox and Heritage’s Donovan observe:

    Marriage is in trouble in Middle America. High rates of divorce, nonmarital childbearing and single parenthood were once problems primarily concentrated in poor communities. Now, the American retreat from marriage is moving into the heart of the social order: the middle class…

    What is happening today is a widening gulf between the middle class, where a sharp decline in marriage is at work, and the most educated and affluent Americans, where marriage indicators are either stable or improving.

    An understanding of the central importance of marriage and realistic expectations about it will go a long way toward making the institution more durable and pervasive across socio-economic levels.

    “The writers of fairy tales most commonly ended their stories about princes and princesses at the altar,” Koppel intoned 30 years ago. “These writers knew what marriage was meant to be. They were also wise enough to know that it rarely turns out that way.”

    Fairy tales, however, often leave out the wedding vows that dispel the easy illusion of happily ever after, set appropriate expectations for a lifetime of commitment and connect couples to the communities of support around them. The vows begin where the ceremony ends.

    With good reason, the world once again roared with joy at the universal promise embodied in William and Kate’s vows today.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    38 Responses to Morning Bell: Marriage Is an Ideal, Not a Fairy Tale

    1. Doug Schexnayder, Ph says:

      All of the Queen's kids have failed at marriage (its called divorce)…now I understand these two have been shacking up for many months…the real fairy tale is that morals matter anymore in England or most places…sad moral midgets for role models…one big yawn.

    2. Turner, Massachusett says:

      The church should lead in the matter rather than being among the status quo. Pastors should be highly cautious of who they marry, and couples should be weary of Pastors who are not challenging them biblically in pre-marital counseling.

    3. Chip Georgia says:

      I am very disappointed with this article.

      Marriage is NOT a social institution.

      It is a religious ceremony instituted by God which spiritually and physically joins a man and a woman.

    4. Chris, Long Beach says:

      When people can be legally married by an Elvis impersonator in Vegas, there is surely nothing special about it. If marriage is as sacred as some claim, one would think a so-called royal wedding would be done privately and with great reverence. Instead we get a money-grabbing circus.

    5. Kaydell Bowles, Brig says:

      This is silliness! The world awash in problems civil disobedienc, wars, joblessness, drug trafficing yet for the past month the attention is given to a wedding of a royal couple. What is so different from a wedding of an average couple who will also be married. Are the two different? Will there be anymore happiness in the royal marriage that the commoner? Will there be more or less fidelity in the royal marrige than the commoner? Will there be any more love and kindeness between the couples of a royal versus commoner? The answer to the questions is no!

      But this wedding is a distraction about more important things that were and are happening for the past month, The question to be ask, "witll the world change in behavior or civility because of the royal wedding"? If the answer is yes then it was all worth it but if the answer is no then it was no more important that the commoner wedding.

    6. D Wilson, Texas says:

      The left are trying their best dissuade people from watching the wedding, and if they do, the commentators constantly question, why should anybody care about this wedding? Why would people wait in the streets this long?

      They do not want to promote marriage between a man and a woman. They do not want to have anyone see or hear a marriage ceremony in a Christian Church. This wedding is not part of the progressive's agenda and talking points.

    7. Jeanne Ryan, Downing says:

      in the ministers sermon he mentioned that the West has gone away from God – did anyone else pick up on that? I was listening to Fox on sirius on the way to work.

    8. Claudia Smith Baytow says:

      May this couple have success in Hope, Love, Peace and Joy forever. our Father in heaven Bless them and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. blessed are the Peace makers. Amen.

    9. West Texan says:

      True marriage is a Holy covenant between husband (man), wife (woman) and God. Doesn't matter where or how the ceremony occurs. Anything else is but a secular arrangement.

    10. Jocelyn Taylor says:

      government help tear marriages down – let face it u r punished by higher taxes – making the same amount as a single person together but not getting the same breaks ….

      they make it hard to do what is right and reward people to be single & raising a family

    11. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

      Perhaps the law firm of King & Spalding simply came to the realization that there was no point in defending something as transparently unconstitutional as the Defense of Marriage Act.

      WHY is DOMA unconstitutional? Consider: A Straight couple legally married in Iowa is automatically entitled to 1,138 legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO). Many of those benefits have to do with tax law, Social Security, inheritance rights, child custody, and so on. But because of DOMA, a Gay couple that is legally married in Iowa is still unrecognized by the federal government for those benefits.

      Consider, also, the "Full Faith & Credit" clause of the Constitution. Because of this, any Straight couple can fly off to Las Vegas for drunken weekend, get married by an Elvis impersonator, and that marriage is automatically honored in all 50 states, and at all levels of government. But thanks to DOMA, a Gay couple that is legally married in Iowa becomes UN-married if they relocate south to Missouri.

      The ONLY real difference between a married Gay couple and a married Straight couple is the gender of the two people who have made the commitment. It has nothing to do with procreation, since couples do not need a marriage license to make babies, nor is the ability or even desire to make babies a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license. So there is really no constitutional justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the same legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that married Straight couples have always taken for granted. This cannot be accomplished in a piecemeal, state-by-state fashion; it is the FEDERAL government which, through its own actions, has made this a federal issue.

      Exactly how is allowing Gay couples the exact same legal benefits and responsibilities that Straight couples have always taken for granted going to affect 'traditional marriage?" Marriage equality for Gay couples will have precisely ZERO impact on your life, your marriage, your church, and your children. Your church will never be forced to marry Gay couples, any more than it is forced to marry non-Christian couples. Public schools will not be forced to “teach” about Gay marriage, any more than they are forced to teach about Straight marriage.

      Instead you should ask yourself why law-abiding, taxpaying Gay Americans should be forced to subsidize all the legal benefits and responsibilities that Straight couples enjoy, when we are unable to take advantage of those same incentives to marry? And since when do voters get to decide that the rights that they enjoy should NOT apply to minorities?

    12. Dale Athanas says:

      I am personally aware of older couples who would get married today if they were financially able. In these cases, the women are widowed and collecting their husbands pensions – if they remarry, they lose the pension but the couple can't live without it. Another example of the law of unintended consequences.

    13. Robert, North Richla says:

      A very good article, Jennifer. Nothing has damaged the institution of marriage (or our nation) more than the ever-expanding welfare state and the weakening of our once great economy. Our 100 million welfare recipients (not counting 12 million permanent unemployment recipients) don't need marriage any more than they need a job. High school is easy, welfare is easy, they don't have to serve in the military – and their parents let them do whatever they want to do. Compare that to Dwight Eisenhower's first job at an ice cream creamery – 84 hours per week (seven 12-hour shifts), 52 weeks per year (of which he found a replacement for four days) – with no allowances for personal time, facebook, e-mail or internet shopping. My uncle, and a close friend, were supervisors for GM and Ford (in the 1960's) and worked similar 12 hour shifts, 6 and 7 days per week. Welfare has not accomplished ANY of its "stated" goals, and while our homes, pensions, salaries and investments have suffered losses of 20-40% – welfare recipients have seen increases in their benefits. Who will change this?

    14. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Wonderful piece. I'd like to probe a little deeper. The Marriage between Kate Middleton and Prince William is a Sovereign Wedding. When it comes to exactly what the 'promise of marriage' is, the Sovereign Wedding is a Contract with God. Kings derive their Sovereignty from God, just like we do in American Law. Sovereign Citizens, Man and Woman have a Contract With God! If you think it is merely about the Children, that's a good point, but it really is not a 'collective' promise. Sure, you file your papers with the Government, in red ink. These promises are within the purview of Religion, not Government.

      I believe America was the result of a pact with God. America was United Under God. The Power to govern derives from the Citizen Sovereign. (No, Nancy, the Vote matters a great deal! We call it Representation! You didn't know?) The Police derive their Power from their own Citizen Sovereignty, which includes the inalienable Right to Self Defense! In Great Britain only the Royal Weddings are between Sovereigns. (So Kate is that wonderful exception! The Commoner who could be Queen! It is a Big Deal!) Americans have always wed Royals, we are Legal Sovereigns here! This is a great time to point out our Sovereign Citizenship in America, like nowhere else on Earth! That is our American Magic!

      If we Americans can recover our Magic? We will prosper! Our National Cup will run over! Please, please Prosecute the Progressives who are destroying American Sovereignty!

    15. DiAnne says:

      What a great day for Britain! Surely, Barack Obama is envious of the Monarchy's approval ratings…who wouldn't be. 80% approval.

    16. Dana, Apopka, FL says:

      I had not intended to watch the royal wedding, but after I walked the dog this morning, I turned on the TV at 6:00 am and there it was. As I drank my morning coffee, I listened to the priest detail WHY marriage was specially ordained before God. Even from uber-liberal, PC police Great Britian, 2 billion people listened to why marriage is truly between a man and a woman. I was saved the embarrassment of crying over a wedding of pompous strangers when my 4 year woke up and came to see his mommy. Instead, I was able to smile at the beautiful treasure from that my marriage brought me.

    17. Bill in Baltimore says:

      good article. Cap'n Crunch and Tony the Tiger are on the hotseat from the FTC . . . yet marriages and relationships crumble, symbolic of our nation.

    18. Scott Cooper, Freder says:

      The Relevance of Today’s Royal Wedding – Just My Thoughts:

      I did not get up early to watch; however I am sure I will get the opportunity to watch later. This is a ceremony that unites Monarchs and the Commoners – rich and poor. Both segments of society hold it sacred and extremely valuable. At least we should.

      Its value is worthy of celebration because it is the foundation of our society, and often is under-celebrated, so the energy around today’s wedding is a good thing. As our society is actually imploding on so many levels, a refocus on the lowest level of civil governance – an institution created and celebrated by divine providence is exactly what we need to turn our republic, indeed our world around.

      There are forces coming in on all sides of us encouraging us to look to higher institutions of government for our security, indeed our survival. In reality, we need to look to God and the institution He created – our spouses, our families, both immediate and extended for our security. Higher institutions of government have not fostered the kind of “charming romance, dedication and ‘for better or worse, richer or poor, until death do we part’ commitment” that marriage is to be.

      In fact, government has done the exact opposite. Our government has a tax system which does not encourage marriage, and an entitlement system – which unfortunately even pastors within the Christian church support – that does not encourage marriage. I have heard of pastors encourage people to remain unmarried so they can receive financial benefit from government sources. Oh that Christian people would rise up and refuse to attend churches where pastors support such philosophy. We should encourage couples to do the right thing, get married, and then find ways to support them within the extended family and the family of God than rather encourage them to seek sustenance from a system that does not honor God, or the institutions He created. Is it any wonder that it seems as if we are losing favor and the blessings that have been bestowed upon us in generations past from the divine providence our founders so boldly proclaimed.

      While I did not get up early to watch – I am encouraged by the great numbers of folks who did. May it spur our generation to focus on that which is truly important: marriage, family and the life long commitments that come with the vows we celebrated today.

    19. Bill, Rockfall, Ct. says:

      How ironic that a conservative common sense entity like the Heritage Foundation (which I have been a member of for the past 2 years) shows an ad for Facebook immediately following such a pointful article.

      I know, I know, Facebook is not the reason marriages are going in the tank. But it certainly is helping speed the inevitable as we as weak human beings find ways to hook up, morally or immorally, with some others we don't need to hook up with.

      I've seen it speed the process over and over and over again. Probably would have happened anyways, and I know Facebook serves may other features. But it is a cancer waiting to grow if given the opportunity to plant the seed.

      Thanks for the thoughts as always.

    20. mike hutchings says:

      there are groups that see the family as a threat and people alone and dependent as an ideal for control….hence the free love generation and the decay that it fostered at the core of civilization…to what end that… marraige is fundamental to civilized behavior….but its meaning…and .the meaning of the word has been distorted….on the socialist model to re-define words in common usage to mean something else…it won't take long for you to think of a few….that have been twisted beyond their original intent…

    21. KC - New Mexico says:

      Thanks for the nice article about marriage. And Obama was not included – yea. I am coming up on 33 years of marriage. I have enjoyed watching the process by the Royals in England. Marriage is not that difficult when both parties work at it. Communication and trust are the key elements of successful marriages – key elements that our American society must regain and strengthen.

    22. Jill-Maine says:

      I would point a finger at the sexual revelution. An awful lot of children started coming along as a result. They were raised by unwed mothers and therefore needed welfare. Now we have more child abuse then we can handle. And did you notice there doesn't seem to be any romance any more. There is nothing to look forward too now when you can have sex on your first date. Our nation can only think of what feels good rather than doing the right thing.

    23. Ben C., Ann Arbor, M says:

      A culture without a family unit is a failed culture. Look at Detroit to see its effects. In my mind it is the commitment that is the foundation of a marriage. While a few who seek Elvis for the ceremony may have the commitment my guess it is those with a strong spiritual foundation are the ones that understand what is at stake. I failed to watch the pomp and ceremony across the pond because I'm a guy who could care less about the dress. Their job is to be a role model for their country (and the world) about marriage and what it entails. If they fail it will validate those who feel the marriage and the family unit is not necessary in a "one world society." Not much pressure.

    24. Dr. Russell McConnel says:

      The great divide between the "haves and have nots" will depart from its roots in economics and become founded in the entertainment culture of ignorance and celebration of infamy we see washing up on the Jersey Shores of American youth. This is a fantastically well-written evaluation of the major symptom of the American demise. I wish I had hope for this country.

    25. Lynda Fairman, Virgi says:

      My husband and I will celebrate our 29th Anniversary this July. We were married in my home Catholic church, by the same priest who baptised me, before God and our family & friends. Having God as the center of our union and the vows we made matter in this sacred sacrament and have helped us "weather" the challenges of military life, raising our son, my surviving a near-fatal car accident with horrendous injuries, and everyday life. I am saddened that we're now considered outside the "norm" – I remember when divorce and single parenting was outside the "norm". I wish we, as a nation, would return to valuing marriage and the vows we make before God…

    26. Victor Barney, LeHig says:

      As the way marriage goes, our country will go. Destroy the family first and then destroy the country! At least that is what the Marxists(Anti-Christ's) say! Guess what? Duh! Remember the story of Eve? Watch!

    27. m. tobin, Canada says:

      An English newspaper stated that the royal family in England have become similar to the Hollywood starlets and celebrities. The reigning monarch and her husband are lovely people, but as I understand it the newly wed have been openly living together for several years, and the ceremony was just "the churching". If people are born to prestigious positions and live at the expense of taxpayers, much is expected of them. They should set an example for others, rather than join the lot of those who glory in a loose lifestyle. What example will they set for their children and for the nation which they hope one day to rule. I would not spend one moment watching such a ceremony- it would be hypocritical. No wonder the radicals are taking over Britain, the nation has lost respect.

    28. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      I should like to point out that Jesus Christ (Joshua of David from Naz) was the very first successful Feminist! Really! For the first time Women were welcome to Study! That was unheard of! Illegal! Women were Chattel then! Let's get a grip on which Political Party actually Represents Women! It is the Republicans!

    29. George, Whippany, Ne says:

      A number of comments, especially the one from Chris, seem t miss the point entirely. There are too many cynics in this world. Allow them their happiness and pray that they keep one another close never forgetting the vows they shared with one another. They are one. They are blessed. May God keep them in the palm of His hand. May their love, in small part, spill over into this world of ours and bear witness to the sacredness of marriage and the hope we all share for the future of all our children. God bless William and Katherine … and us.

    30. Renny, Maryland says:

      There is no increase to the debt limit!!! What is so hard to understand, "there is no increase to the debt limit!!!" There is no room for debating this subject!!!

      "Clear???"

    31. Don Vander Jagt, Gra says:

      Because of the apostate condition of today's church very few folks are aware of what marriage is.

      A real marriage is the inseparable union of a man and a woman.

      A person enjoyned in a real marriage will not even entertain the idea of divorce, it is outside the realm of possibilities to one who is joined in true marriage.

      Indeed a Christian married person, (that is a person who has confessed his or her sin and has become aware of God's forgiveness) cannot openly reject the Scripture; where we read, "if you will not forgive others neither will My Father forgive you, your sin".

    32. Norm LA says:

      As usual the minority of people rule over the majority because the media give the minority the voice. Marriage should always be between one man and one woman. However the media spurs the courts who are appointed by democrats. Traditions do not matter to the two groups noted. Even in the Liberal bastion known as California, the majority voted against same sex marriage and the courts have told the people, we rule; not you in repeated decisions. When you have a supreme court that knows the public interest is tremendously in the Affordable Care Act [known as government take over and the high court says "Later" we are going on vacation, we have courts that would rather not respond to the majority. Traditions do not matter anymore, thanks to the media.

    33. Gary S.- Rockford, I says:

      It is refreshing to be doubly blessed by your article and the Royal Wedding. I simply love the Lord, Jesus, and appreciate someone who appreciates the crux or Proverbs 18:22(NLT)- "The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and receives favor from the Lord." Thank you.

    34. Howard, New Jersey says:

      The High Church Anglican wedding that we witnessed Friday morning, New York Time, was an affirmation of Western Culture and the role that our Bible and our Judeo-Christian heritage played in bringing Western civilization to the world.

      Which is probably the reason that Barack Hussein Obama chose not to attend. The word in the diplomatic community was that a request came from the White House to the British government not to invite Mr Obama, because he would decline the invitation.

      Any other American President would have been honored to attend.

    35. artist pennsylvania says:

      The Royal wedding represented a visit to a museum or reading an historical novel. The spectacle links us to the past and influances the future.

      Reality needs to be softened by beauty whenever possible.

    36. Lee-White Tanks AZ says:

      There undoubtedly were many good reasons from the "Royals" viewpoint to not invite either Barrack Obama or the President of the United States.

      One that immediately come to my mind is the disgraceful attitude and actions taken by Barrack Obama to "set aside" the Defense of Marriage Act (aka DOMA).

    37. Phebe Pecs says:

      Last night I saw a movie called "Lebanon, Pa.", a very thoughtful treatment of some of the grief and distress and confusion that occur when families are disrupted by divorce, set upon by societal strife, beset by sin untreated or unforgiven. This movie actually shows a pregnant young woman, a gifted high school student, trying to choose the right course, taken by her teacher for an abortion, leaving her Dad in grief…. The movie follows an urbane man who hardly knew his Dad because of his parents' divorce long ago, to Lebanon, Pa., to deal with his father's death and dispose of his belongings including his house, whereupon he encounters the culture of the town his father chose, and he learns to love. This film doesn't preach answers, it shows honest views of the cultural divide – abortion and divorce happening without the edification, chastisement, confession, forgiveness, and congregational support, which make up a a churched existence and which support keeping a family holy. The society, the school, the culture and the government have ceased to support marriage as a covenant. That some people, gay or straight, think gender doesn't matter, is not nearly as perverse as their thinking God doesn't matter: these things, they are blind to. To ignore, thus to be ignor-ant, is an act of will. But nothing will prevail against the gates of heaven. Nothing will divide us from Christ. We must keep praying for all the enemies destroying America from within and without. Don't be rigid or scared: hold fast and be quick. Let God's will be done. Jehovah is faithful. Celebrate Christ.

    38. Dr. Henry D. Sinopol says:

      We have marginalized marriage just as we have done to everything accorded to God. This includes electing Obama and having Holder make decisions as to what is a law and should be supported and what, they believe is unconstitutional.

      Heritage write about something you profess to know….

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