While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On the stress of planning a wedding:
I always tell brides and grooms that the wedding, however and wherever it takes place, is a way for the bride and groom, together, to bond "against" everyone. Yes, everyone has an opinion (you "have" to wear white, you "have" to have bridesmaids, you "have" to do blahblahblah). Yes, everyone may have an opinion, but that's what it is. So what?
The bride and the groom have a wedding as their first big thing they do -- together. Against all the wishes and ideas of everyone. It will help to define much of what comes next, including how much spouse allows Mom to interfere; how much spouse allows other people's opinions to overtake his/her own; how much spouse allows other spouse to walk all over him/her; and other telling issues.
On pressure to get married:
I so seriously do not understand the whole deadline-to-be-married thing. I didn't even date my husband until two weeks before my 31st birthday, and I didn't marry him until I was 36. I married him because once we'd been together a few months, I couldn't imagine how else my life would go. And you know what? Thirteen years later I still adore him, enjoy his company more than anyone else I know, trust him to my very core, seek his opinion, feel cherished by him, laugh with him, and have smokin' hot sex with him. Marrying to get married is about the stupidest idea anyone ever had. All you have to do is look at everyone you know in miserable marriages or dealing with child custody issues to know that's true. The only good reason to get married is because you've met someone you really, truly want to marry, who feels the same way about you.
Actually, the motivation isn't always marrying to get married, it's marrying to have kids. Just as stupid, but I thought I'd mention it.
On waiting for someone to commit:
What is with the need for a verbal or legal vow of commitment between couples! Look, your partner is either committed to you or not. Does he do right by you every day? Does she work hard to make the relationship work? Does he treat you like you are special? Then you have your answer right there. Commitment is a living thing that grows from the couple tending it, and it dies without constant attention. It doesn't "come into being" suddenly one day, but rather starts with the seeds of the relationship and grows within it. You use your experiences, not your ears, to figure out when a person has become committed to you.
Committed for 20 Years and Counting . . .
On knowing what matters (or at least being open to it):
I had an older father and a mother in her 30s, and I was bemoaning that my father had died when I was 14. But someone pointed out that I had had my father 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for those 14 years, which far exceeded her life with her father, who had had to go off to work each day -- and came home tired.
Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, firstname.lastname@example.org.