Everybody gets married, right? It won't hurt you; you might as well do it. And as my family has reminded me, it provides all sorts of benefits outside of the lack of instant lightning from above: your insurance rates may decrease, your taxes may decrease, you get legal rights over your spouse in case of sickness or death, you get protection if said spouse 'cheats' on you. And as I've seen with others getting married, you also get tons of loot from friends and family, especially those who can't (or won't) come to your wedding.
I'm not married. If you hadn't guessed it already, I live with my girlfriend; and before you ask, yes, we have a 'sex life.' We refuse to get married, despite the advantages. Why?
We never felt compelled to, aside from the pressure exerted on us by our families. If you ever decide to do this yourself, realize that your tradition-minded family members will make it an agonizing experience. Not a minute will pass in their presence without the thought crossing their faces: won't you please get married? It's traditional. It's religiously right (or so they claim.) It's beneficial. And it makes them not think about you again: it's a settled matter, like buying a house. If you were married, there'd be no chance of you breaking up. It's forever. (Which is why some groups, such as, last time I checked, members of the Southern Baptist Convention, have divorce rates as high as 50%. Check the references for more info on the statistics.)
I'm not fond of doing things just because others want me to; nor am I fond of anything that will make me less interesting to think about. And hey: at least this way they don't talk to me about sports! But those aren't the reason I'm not married. I'm not married simply because I love that woman, my mate for life.
"Woah! That's not right! If you love her, you should marry her, right? Of course!" So says the rest of society, as they ignore crime rates, divorce rates, and the dying children in africa. From love comes marriage, and with marriage comes the right to have sex, and from that comes the obligation to have children. (No, really. The moment you get married, the same people who were telling you not to have sex will instantly be asking when you'll be having your first child. Try it!) That is the way of things.
Not for us. I love that woman, and I refuse to have a contract stating my obligations to her. Do you keep a contract with all of your friends? Family? Of course not! You might even be tempted to say they're not friends if you have to have a contract stating such: but somehow, you'll fail to apply the same logic to marriage. That's how we see it, though. I choose to love, cherish, and put up with that woman every day (or every minute, when she's being difficult or contrary, which is rather often.) At no moment do I feel there's anything binding me to her besides my own free will: I won't suddenly be embroiled in a court case over jointly owned property the moment I decide to leave. I'm free to go, and I don't.
But I refuse to sign a document not for my own freedom, but for hers: I cannot bear the thought of signing a document with her that would harm her if she were to leave me. Her happiness, and her freedom, are more important to me than my own. I am making the choice now, and every time I refuse to be married, that I won't try to retaliate against her if she leaves me. She's free. And with her freedom comes knowledge that she loves me, every day.
No other animal on this planet needs your seal of approval to form a family. If two humans were all that was left of humanity, a marriage certificate would most likely not be issued before they could copulate (assuming they wanted to do so.) Asking me to be married, especially by sweetening the deal, is quite simply out of line. Declare me married if it makes you happy! But stay out of my life: she is my mate, my woman, my love, until she decides otherwise. I don't need a piece of paper to tell me that she loves me, and it's none of your business either way.
Does it not even seem dangerous to pressure young people to get married when they're not ready to? The divorce rate might just drop, and marriage might mean something again, from a statistical point of view, if relatives would just let things alone. I doubt that a ring and a certificate are going to keep those kids from having intercourse with anyone they please, if they would have been doing so otherwise: the issues, in my mind, are distinct.
You might also want to notice that government marriage certificates in this country were issued to those who wanted to inter-marry, across racial boundaries. It wasn't 'right' for a white person to marry a black person without the consent of the State. I'm not sure I feel comfortable entertaining a segregationist institution. I've heard stories from christians, who decided to get married in the minimalist sense (common-law marriage requires no certificates at all, simply a consistent declaration on your part.) It seems that this wasn't enough for their families, who have come to associate the blessing (if you can call it that) of the State with the blessing of their god. Perhaps this has something to do with the notion that the leaders of nations (so long as we like them) are appointed by god -- but in any case, it caused an interesting problem for these couples: should they get a marriage certificate from the State so that their families would finally accept their marriage as official in the eyes of god? Your mileage may vary.
Oh, and I wouldn't mind a toaster oven, or some other token of your goodwill for my future life with my mate. Everyone else seems to get them, just by sending out little cards and making obvious hints about wedding registries, online or not. (Do they have to make it so commercial? I thought this was considered sacred!)