Once upon a time a man decided to invite all of his nearest and dearest Facebook friends to his upcoming nuptials. According to one of the friends, who later reported on the story for The New Yorker, the gentleman had been a lonely soul who sought to reconnect with his college buddies by regaling them with the fairytale romance he had conducted with a deaf Ukrainian woman who would be joining him in nuptial bliss in the United States.
At first his friends thought he was joking. After all, he'd sent the news to them on Facebook on April 1. Then, when he assured them this was no joke, his friends thought he was being snookered by someone who wanted a visa or some other legal benefit of marriage. No, no, he insisted. This was True Love, and he wanted them to share in the happy occasion. So his friends, wanting him to be happy and wanting to foster True Love, began to make plans to make merry with him on the occasion of his wedding. A bachelor party was arranged, wedding attendants were chosen, carpooling was undertaken. Everyone wanted to see their friend Tim marry his true love, Prila Yosfalda.
Except, it turned out his friends had been right to be suspicious. Tim had been playing an April Fool's Day joke. He'd made the whole thing up, including the name of his bride, which was an almost-perfect anagram of "April Fool's Day." He actually thought his friends would be bowled over with hilarity at how he had fooled them all. To the surprise of no one, except possibly Tim himself, his friends were outraged. Some friendships stretching to childhood were forever damaged. Apologies and financial reimbursements did not entirely fix the mess Tim had created.
But the good news was that one friend at least was able to sell the story to The New Yorker.
Why were Tim's friends so upset? Elaborate April Fool's Day hoaxes happen every year. The essay writer points to other recent hoaxes, none of which caused the kind of proportionate fallout that Tim experienced when he conned his friends into participating in a fake wedding.
And that's the thing. If only on an almost subconscious level these days, marriage still means something to the vast majority of people—even when they cannot articulate just what marriage means, or how it should be defined.
Marriage is the joining of one man and one woman into a union that has as its purpose to build civilization. If the couple is Christian, the union also serves to form them, and any children born of their union, in sanctity through the sacrament of matrimony. When people realize that they have been snookered into celebrating as a marriage that which is not marriage—notwithstanding all the showy display and declarations of True Love—they are bewildered, hurt, and angry. Because marriage matters. It's not a toy to be played with and discarded at whim.
When our society finally Gets It that attempts at marriage that involve any coupling other than one man and one woman are not real marriages, I fear that the fallout on a society-wide level will mirror what Tim experienced on a personal level. There will be varying levels of outrage and a multitude of ruptured relationships that "I'm sorry" and other attempts at damage control just won't be able to fix. We may experience the social equivalent of the Black Death of the late Middle Ages, which left over 100 million people dead and radically altered European civilization.
And why? Because marriage matters just that much to the very fabric of human existence.