Marriage may be a centuries-old institution, but couples today are making it their own, reshaping it according to their individual personalities and their shared beliefs. They are choosing when they marry, whether they get hitched in their teens or wait until their 40s. They are rethinking how they marry, with some looking to their faith to strengthen their bond and others challenging the basic principles of marriage (monogamy, anyone?). And they are standing up for whom they marry, inviting us all to examine our ideas of what marriage really means. Take a peek into the lives of these nine couples that have vowed to love, honor, and cherish - and created their own visions of the ultimate commitment.
KATE KARWELIES, 30, AND MATT KARWELIES, 32 NEW YORK CITY
Kate, an account executive at an insurance company, and Matt, a trader at an investment bank, lived apart for two years while Matt was in graduate school. They reunited last year, and Kate recently
gave birth to their first child, Alexandra.
"When Matt got into the MBA program at Emory, I was excited for both of us," Kate recalls. "The plan was that I would stay in New York, keeping my job, and fly down to Atlanta to see him on
weekends. We'd been married for just two months before Matt started school, so we hadn't had much opportunity to get used to 'normal' married life. It wasn't until those first few weekends, when we
both had plans that kept us in our respective cities, that I realized, 'This sucks!' Going to sleep and waking up alone every day got old fast. We talked on the phone several times a day. But it
was hard when one of us needed a hug after a bad day and we couldn't physically be there for each other."
Making it work
"Eventually, I became so much more independent — I went to movies and parties alone. I worked late without even thinking about it and did a lot of volunteering. Matt had plenty of time
to study. He even made the dean's list. All the traveling and having a week's worth of catching up to do made our time together take on this honeymoon-ish quality, which was fun."
Reunited and it feels so good
"Matt came home for good just before our two-year anniversary. The hardest part was getting used to being more accountable to someone — like we'd forget to tell each other what time we
were coming home. But we communicate so much better overall. When he was in school, we didn't want to waste time disagreeing during our precious weekends together, so we learned how to confront
problems directly by saying, 'This is exactly what's bothering me,' and then moving on. Now we're just enjoying each other's company. I don't have to get on a plane to see him!"