At a wedding supplies expo in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sunday, thousands of mostly women came to peruse collections of bridal gowns, cakes, wines, honeymoon brochures and even stretch limos. Many wore buttons that read, "I'm getting married."
Looking at the smiling faces of brides-to-be, most of whom were planning to marry members of the opposite sex, you might get the impression that men could be lovable creatures. Or at least not all of them were closet monsters, as recent reports of men behaving badly would suggest.
Jasmine Adams, a 26-year-old technical writer and law school student in the District, said she met her fiance through his father.
"His father was a co-worker and he said, basically, 'I have a son that I think would be perfect for you," said Adams, who is set to get married Aug. 4. "We went out on our first date and it's been great ever since. He was a superman from day one, caring, considerate and able to make me laugh."
Jennifer Ford, a 29-year-old retail manager, said she had a sure-ire way of determining that her fiance was marriage material.
"The way he treats his mother," she said. "His respect for family definitely played a huge part in accepting his proposal."
According to a 2017 survey by the Associated Press and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, more than half of married couples say that they are quite happy with one another. Of course, marriage is not without its pitfalls. According to that same survey, 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women in opposite-sex marriages admit to cheating on their spouses. Nearly a quarter of all marriages end in divorce, according to the survey. But neither subject is anything anyone thinks about at a wedding expo.
Marc McIntosh, who organized the Washington Wedding Experience, said the event aims to help take the stress out of wedding planning. The target audience was women in their 20s and 30s. According to the census, the median age for a first marriage is about 27 for women and 29 for men.
Chantal Head, an information technology programmer from Woodbridge, Va., was at the expo looking for a wedding cake vendor and a photographer — having already found the perfect man. She is 41.
"I definitely believe that he is a respectful person," said Head, who plans to get married Sept. 1. "I know his family, and they raised a gentleman. I'm not young, I've dated for a long time and I've met men who weren't respectful. So, I waited to find the right one."
These days, the decision to marry is often tied to economic status, with poor people the least likely to tie the knot. In 2015, 54 percent of white adults ages 18 and older were married, 61 percent of Asians, 46 percent of Hispanics and 30 percent of African Americans, according to the census.
But poverty is not the only reason people don't marry.
Christa Smallwood, who is a 40-something African American, is one of about 6 in 10 people who say they would like to be married but just haven't found the right person.
"Until I find what I want, I'm not going to settle," said Smallwood, who specializes in computer graphic design. She is also Jasmine Adams's aunt.
"There's no 'oops clause' with marriage, no redo, as far as I'm concerned," she said. "It's a one-time event and I'm going to wait. And if I happen to die first, well, that's fine, too."
There are said to be many benefits to a healthy marriage — including longer life, greater income and possibly more sex. But all of that can vanish if the marriage goes bad. So Smallwood is right to not settle. She was among the many family members and friends who joined brides in their search for goods, as well as offered advice on how to increase the odds for a successful marriage.
Stacy Casimiro, a 43-year-old federal lobbyist married 17 years, had accompanied Head to the show. "It's important to have someone who supports your interest and shows respect — as a man, a husband and a father," Casimiro said.
Carla Adams, Jasmine's mother, said: "I always taught her that, if he's not up to the standard of her father, then he's not the one for you. She is the princess of our castle and if this man cannot make you the queen then he has not met the standard. Period."
Jasmine Adams added, "And what I will say is that he does not see me as the princess but always the queen."
Were the women being realistic in their optimism — or blinded by love? Time would tell. But this much was certain: You'd be hard-pressed to find another place with so many women saying such nice things about men.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.