When Kate Middleton weds Prince William on Friday morning, married and single women across America will gather at more than 6200 “viewing events,” according to thehotlist.com, a new "social decision engine" that tracks event planning across social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
While the hitched and unhitched alike will share the fun and surprises of the moment (Kate’s dress designer revealed!), their very different attitudes and perspectives about marriage provide a window into the changing views on that institution in the US.
“There will be many eyes on this wedding, and they will all be bringing very different experiences and ideas about family and dating,” says Dahlia Keen, a clinical psychologist who specializes in marriage.
Author Susan Shapiro Barash says the experience of this wedding will be very different for single and married women.
“For single women, it’s the dream come true,” says the author of a dozen books about relationships, including "The New Wife: The Evolving Role of the American Wife."
But for married women, she says it’s “often the dream that was” – because romance and expectation are different once you’ve moved the fantasy into your own life, she adds.
Pop culture expert Adam Hanft, CEO of Hanft Projects, notes that the royal wedding comes at a time when American marriage itself is in a state of flux.
“People are staying single longer, getting married later,” he says, pointing to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey that showed some 52 percent of millennials saying that being a good parent is one of the most important things in their life, while just 30 percent say the same thing about marriage.
In 1960, 72 percent of American adults were married. By 2008, that share had fallen to 52 percent.
Professional quiltmaker Roberta Levin is one of the married women who plan to rise in the wee hours of Friday morning. She has invited friends to share the moment, one that is full of history and continuity for her. “In 1981, I crawled out of bed and into the living room, turned on my old grainy black-and-white television, and watched Charles and Diana get married,” she says via email.
“I watched all alone, and this time I just wanted to share the experience. We'll have scones and tea, tiaras and hats. And color television,” Ms. Levin adds.
The moment does not have the same resonance for her spouse, she says. “My husband of 30 years has asked permission to sleep through it, just like last time, when we ourselves were newlyweds,” she says.
Caterer and singleton Joan Allen sees the event from the perspective of future hopes. “There is still the little girl in all of us who was raised on the idea of a perfect wedding,” she says. While she says she has turned down multiple opportunities to marry, the baby boomer says she now finally feels ready to find the right man. “We all would like that fantasy to come true,” she says.
The freedom to postpone marriage until she felt ready is just part of a larger changing landscape in the world of American marriages, she says.
“Everything has changed,” Ms. Allen says, noting that people do not feel pressured to marry as they once did, even if children are in the picture.
However, she notes, “I can see why the future king of England might want to have a legal piece of paper if he is going to be raising heirs to the throne.”