April Daniels Hussar, SELF magazine
Brad and Angie, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes ... wait! That's not necessarily how it goes anymore, with a growing percentage of Americans delaying or forgoing marriage. A recent CDC report found that one out of every four babies in the U.S. is born to an unmarried, cohabiting couple.
In fact, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie long served as the poster couple for the new wave of lovebirds who are cohabiting and even having kids together without tying the knot -- until last Friday, when Brad Pitt confirmed that he'd finally put a ring on it.
So after seven years and six kids, why are Brad and Angelina finally making it official?
According to wedding expert Sharon Naylor, author of Bridesmaid on a Budget and over 35 additional wedding books, it's time to get married when ... you feel it is.
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"It's not when enough people push you to get married, not when you hit a certain age -- like 'I'll get married by the time I'm 27' -- and definitely not when all of your other friends are getting married and you don't want to be the last one standing. It has to be a feeling, not a situation," Naylor says. "It feels right, like you've connected with something that's supposed to be in your life.
"What Brad and Angie are going to lose," jokes Naylor, "is everyone asking when they're going to get married! Not that that ever seemed to bother them. They did it when they were ready."
There are a variety of reasons why it makes sense for Brad and Angie -- or any couple that's been together for a while and might even already have children together -- to officially tie the knot:
It's a "promise for the future." Brad's manager, Cynthia Pett-Dante, confirmed Brangelina's engagement, saying, "It is a promise for the future and their kids are very happy." Naylor says, "A marriage being a 'promise for the future' is such a lovely way to put it, since we live in such precarious times." Marriage is a public promise, she says -- "it's literally standing in front of one another, promising to love and support each other no matter what the future might bring."
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Your love is stronger than ever. "You don't want to go another day without being married to this best friend of yours," Naylor says.
The kids! "I see this often with blended families, where both partners have kids of their own -- the kids want to be 'an official family,'" says Naylor, "and yes, as Angie said recently, 'the kids want a big cake.'" Preparing for a wedding can be a family project, explains Naylor. "As you prepare for the wedding, you get to talk to the kids about what goes into a solid relationship, what goes into a marriage, and what mommy and daddy will promise each other, and to them," she says. "When kids are involved in the wedding plans, they feel very validated and very valued ... which stays with them."
Your health. Various studies have show that, though cohabiting and marriage have many of the same emotional benefits, there are definite health benefits to being one-half of a married couple. According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, married women and men are physically healthier and wealthier than unmarried people.
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But will things change once you have that "piece of paper"?
"Ring or not, both of you have to keep each other as your top priority -- be fun, be funny, be adventurous and don't fall into 'the friend zone," she says. "Brad and Angie are sexy as hell together -- you see it in how they look at each other, how they touch each other's arms." Will they still gaze at each other that way once they are Mr. and Mrs. Pitt? We hope so!
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April Daniels Hussar, SELF magazine