‘No Wedding Saturdays in the Month of June’ — Just Like Stevie Wonder Said

Not only has marriage been leveled alongside other ‘relationships,’ its content has been eviscerated.

‘Empty Pew’
‘Empty Pew’ (photo: Wrukolakas Photography / Shutterstock)

Forty years ago, Stevie Wonder wrote a song which, among other non-events, mentioned “no wedding Saturday in the month of June.” Back in 1984, all Stevie Wonder was singing about was that he didn’t need an occasion to say “I love you.” 

We didn’t know Stevie Wonder was a prophet. It seems, instead, we now apparently don’t need marriage to claim “I love you.” As we are almost halfway through June — a month traditionally associated with weddings — let’s look at what has happened to marriage in the four decades since Stevie Wonder tickled the ebonies and ivories. 

Starting with basic numbers, marriage is in decline. Fewer people are getting married and those who are do so at ever later ages. American men today tie the knot around 30, women, 28, the oldest points on record.

Marriage has been displaced. Once the defining adult relationship, marriage has now become one of a variety of “relationships” to be chosen. Marriage, “partnerships,” “cohabitation,” “hooking up,” “polyamory,” “polygamy,” “open relationships” etc. are all on the relationship buffet of the American social policy cafeteria. And woe to anyone who suggests that marriage should be inherently superior to all those other variants. 

Not only has marriage been leveled alongside other “relationships,” its content has been eviscerated. That disemboweling of marriage started even before Stevie Wonder:

Divorce. We still like to watch movies where some British-accented clergyman witnesses a man and a woman declaring their commitment “till death do us part,” but the truth is those are throwaway words. Starting in the 1980s, about the time of Stevie’s song, states were falling over each other enacting “no-fault” divorce laws, allowing one party unilaterally to initiate the end of a marriage. The result was that the marital contract was less protected and enforceable than your Roto-Rooter contract. True, from the height of “no-fault divorces” in the 1980s and early 1990s, U.S. divorce rates have fallen back, but there’s now also a class division: it’s the elites, the upper middle classes and well-off — people who usually espouse lifestyle libertinism values — who in their own lives act positively Victorian in their embrace of marriage and the fidelity it entails.

Sex. Once upon a time, weddings were usually accompanied by hints, especially from the parents, about when they might become grandparents. Marriage and sex have now been separated, so parents might be grandparents even before they are in-laws. The facile slogan of the 1960s — “we don’t need a piece of paper to prove our love” — has led to two-plus generations of kids growing up outside of marriage. That “liberating” effect has primarily affected women, usually the ones left to raise the out-of-wedlock child. It has also affected society, as the consequences of children raised without a father figure — delinquency, lower academic standards, poverty and lack of ambition — plague ever more children.

Procreation. It’s not just that sex was separated from marriage. So was the idea of procreation, that marriage naturally and normally led in ordinary circumstances to parenthood. It’s why the generation that believed the mythology of an “exploding population” now faces an aging, baby-less society, where some politicians recommend illegal immigration as the way to deal with our demographically upside-down pyramid. The number of adults living with a child in their lives is decreasing. And the consequence of the disconnect between marriage and procreation has also then been the novel idea — unprecedented in human history before the early 21st century — that sexual differentiation is a prerequisite to marriage.

The upshot of the loss of these inherent characteristics of marriage has been that marriage itself has now been leveled alongside any other number of “relationships,” so what “marriage” itself means no longer has any common character. “Marriage” — at least in American law and culture — is now essentially “whatever two people want it to be.” Does it have to be permanent? No. Does it have to have some notional connection to parenthood? No. Does it even have to involve two sexes? No. So, why does it have to involve only two people? Or even another person? Why are there still limits on affinity and consanguinity in terms of relationships of those who marry? Or are these just cultural artifacts, waiting — like cut flowers in a vase — for a little more time to pass before they, too, wither?

I make no claim to the uniqueness of these observations. Brad Wilcox in Get Married! and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia have amply documented where marriage trends have gone, year-by-year, for decades. Check out their data: https://nationalmarriageproject.org/.

It’ll help you understand why there are no wedding Saturdays in the month of June anymore.

Pope Francis presides over the Feb. 11 canonization ceremony of the first female Argentinian saint, María Antonia de San José de Paz, known as “Mama Antula,” in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Canonization of Mama Antula, and National Marriage Week (Feb. 17)

Argentina got its first woman saint last weekend — a lay woman who was a Jesuit missionary. The canonization of Mama Antula brought together Pope Francis and the country’s new president, Javier Milei. Catholic News Agency’s editor-in-chief Ken Oliver brings us the story. Then we turn to National Marriage Week. Although the marriage rate is 60% of what it was in the 1950s, studies show people who are married are happier than those who don’t marry. How do we build strong and happy marriages? Witness to Love founders Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret join us with their insights.