By Rachel Moss
“We’re still very happy with the big kitchen and extra room,” Paul jokes. “We both agreed to spend the money elsewhere.
“We didn’t give it much thought as we’d never prioritised marriage, partly as we didn’t want the embarrassment of favouring Lisa’s stepfather over her biological and semi-absent dad regarding the giving of the bride and speeches.”
Paul says there was never a negative reaction from the wider family when they decided not to get married, adding: “Nobody had bought a hat in readiness [and there was] no investment on anyone else’s part.”
The pair have started to reconsider having a low-key marriage, mainly “for the reception party”, but haven’t made a definite decision yet. And after 22 years, they’re in no rush.
Juanita Dellaway and her partner Rick Benson, from Exeter, have been together for 17 years and have never wanted to get married. Rick had a previous marriage and didn’t want to do it again, while Juanita has been “averse to it all [her] life” – but these feelings initially appeared when her mum became a Mormon when she was 12.
“The Mormon beliefs around women are very patriarchal; women have this defined role of child bearers and homemakers, which was not for me at all, so that’s where it started,” she explains. “My parents didn’t have a happy marriage and they were not married when my brothers and I were born, so that added to it.”
Thankfully, Juanita and Rick have always been on the same page about marriage and even shared a “non-proposal”.
“My partner gave me a ‘will you never marry ring’, made from his grandmother’s diamond. He got down on one knee and said ‘will you never marry me?’ and I replied ‘yes I will never marry you!’” she says.
The only downside to not being married, Juanita adds, was that they didn’t have any of the legal rights that come with pensions and inheritance tax. So when it became legal for heterosexual couples to have civil partnerships in December, the pair went ahead with it. “We signed a piece of paper on the 7th of January to say we are committed in the eyes of the law, just us and two witnesses,” she says.
For Emma O’Hara, originally from Tenby, Wales, and Stuart Bishop, from Portsmouth, the decision not to marry has been less conscious.
“We just don’t feel the need, I guess,” says Emma, who has been with Stuart for almost 11 years. “I personally feel the traditions are outdated – a father giving his daughter to the husband’s care, for example. It’s a bit Jane Austen, isn’t it?”
The couple are also put off by the fact the wedding industry has become “outrageously expensive”.
“Mostly though, it feels to me like people only get married now because it’s ‘what we do’,” Emma says. “The only impacts [on our relationship] are from outside influences. Our families are forever putting pressure on us and even some married friends are starting with the, ‘So, when are you two gonna get married?’ It makes us question whether we’re doing things wrong.”
When the couple are by themselves, though, Emma says they don’t doubt their relationship at all.
“We bought a house together, I moved from another country to live with him. I think these are just as much of a commitment as an extra ring and a certificate.”