As the soft music plays, the flowers fall, and the bride walks down the aisle with hundreds of eyes on her, we tend to forget that the action taking place is not only one of spiritual significance, but also of legal significance.
I, (name), take you (name), to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
(The ball and chain pictured, often a euphemism for marriage, is placed there to show the binding legality of marriage… not that marriage itself is a ball and chain! lol)
It is true that when Christians get married, we view it as a covenant before God; but, to the state and country in which you marry, you are also creating a legal contract. So, it is sad that some couples enter into marriage with less thought and consideration than they would if they were buying a new house, picking out a car, or starting a business partnership. The wedding is painted as a romantic wonderland, but even so… the marriage is legal and binding.
You may be thinking, “So what? Divorce is legal too. So, why do I care if I’m entering into a legal agreement?” Divorce may be legal, but it comes at a high price. If you have children, it comes at an even higher price. When you make a hasty home purchase decision, you may end up with leaky pipes, squeaky floors, and terrible neighbors. When you make a hasty car purchase, you may end up with a lemon and countless car repair bills. When you make a hasty marriage decision, you are affected for life. “But wait! We’ve already established that divorce is legal; so, how are we affected for life?”
Just because divorce allows couples to dissolve their marriages, it does not take away the emotional and spiritual aspects of splitting apart one person. In marriage, two people become one person in the sight of God. You cannot pull one away from the other without painfully ripping them apart at the seams. It is like breaking a loaf of bread with your hands – you will never get a clean edged cut, it is always ragged.
So, what are some legal implications of marriage? Married couples typically file taxes together which can find themselves facing the marriage penalty. Also, in situations where one person’s health is in jeopardy, hospitals usually turn to the legal spouse for decisions on how to move forward with treatment (having both a will and living will are important to discuss and establish early in the marriage and update when necessary). Additionally, you will likely be held responsible for each other’s medical bills – for it is the person signing the patient in who often receives the charges. And when married, making changes to legal documents often requires the signature of your spouse, even if it deals with your retirement.
These are just a few legal aspects of marriage to consider. When you enter into a marital covenant with each other you are also entering into a legal contract with each other. His or her financial decisions will directly affect you. His or her legal decisions will directly affect you. If you have children together, almost every decision your spouse makes will affect you, both directly and indirectly. When getting married, this legal aspect of joining into one union needs to be thoughtfully considered.
Now, it is true that when one person enters a marriage with a lot of debt that the debt does not transfer onto one’s spouse or other family members. But, consider this scenario: you and your spouse own a home together and one of you has a lot of debt (whether that is the home or not). Upon the death of the person who holds a lot of debt, the bank is going to come for the assets of the estate of the deceased person – which is at least 50% of the house… even if that means taking the home. The legal contract signed between the debtor and the bank takes precedence over the widow or widower needing a place to live.
Even if death is not in the picture (and let us hope it is not for many, many years), maybe you love a man dearly but he has a history of maxing out credit cards and sees nothing wrong with it. Are you prepared to live in constant debt and have creditors hound you daily? Maybe you love a woman but she has a tendency to make poor, hasty choices. Is she someone you would want as your advocate if you are hanging onto life support?
So, with all of these potential issues, why get married at all? Why not just live together? Well, the best reason is that God tells His children to refrain from sex outside of marriage – and let’s face it… if you’re living with a member of the opposite sex to whom you are attracted, when the lights go out, things are bound to happen at some point. When two people live together without a commitment and covenant bond, it is just not the same as being in a committed marriage. Studies have also shown that those who cohabitate before getting married have an 80% higher divorce rate than those who do not.
Therefore, it is best for you and your beloved to get married, despite the legalities because as the years go by, if you invest into your relationship and deposit love into each other’s love bank, your love for each other will mature and you will have someone else to grow old with and take care of you when circumstances become difficult.
It is more fun to consider the joyful, romantic side of getting married (which we will in our next installment of this series!). Thankfully, when you put the time and consideration into choosing your marriage partner on the front end, you and your fiancé/fiancée can enjoy the exciting parts of getting married.
As you are reviewing your vows, discuss with your partner what it means to be each other’s lawfully wedded husband or wife – and how it will change your life.
What are your thoughts about the legalities of a marital union? Do you currently have any concerns about becoming legally married?