Marriage is a funny thing. Most of us consider it a huge step, possibly the biggest that you will take in your lifetime (second perhaps only to having children). Often when I see people who are soon to be wed, I also see everyone around them telling them that life as they know it will end.
The thing is - Marriage is what you make of it. The ceremony is purely symbolic, and it doesn't really change anything. Starting a relationship is life-altering. Marriage is simply a piece of paper that puts it into writing, and makes the relationship official. Marriage can be difficult to define because of its duality of spirituality and legality.
People should be completely committed to one another before marriage, not just after. Marriage shouldn't be about losing freedom. If marriage means losing privileges, pleasures or rights, maybe the entire relationship needs to be in question. Relationships are about compromise and cooperation, not about rules and control.
This isn't to say that people shouldn't take marriage seriously, but really they should take the whole relationship seriously. The general attitude toward marriage is now it's time to take it seriously, when shouldn't it have been taken seriously all along?
Marriage isn't forever, which is a sad reality. Just like having children, I think too many people feel like they're supposed to get married, so that's what they do. Sometimes we can focus too much on the rituals and traditions involved in the ceremony and we forget what it symbolizes - the union between people.
From a personal standpoint, I don't even remember the date when I got married. It was either June or July, 1998. It was a private "ceremony" between God, my husband and I. I personally feel that I don't need a government or church to tell me I'm married. I pledged my love to one person and it's something I took (and still take) very seriously, even though others chose not to recognize it because it wasn't "legal."
Marriage should be something that's personal to each of us, since it is a very personal step in our lives, not just a formality to be taken for granted. People shouldn't feel pressured into marriage or relationships by society, family or friends.
Overall I worry that people get married because they feel like that should be the next step, and not because they want it to be the next step. I worry that women get married so they can wear the dress and have all the attention on them, and men get married because it's what their girlfriends want