This is your last chance to run: why commitment comedy falls flat for me

*Insert sound of my soul being crushed* Product image courtesy of Bellestyles.com

Every once in a while, I peek my head out of the safe, offbeat cave I've carved for myself here in this corner of the wedding industry and I get a terrible shock. See, I spend so much time over in my little niche that I forget about the rest of the wedding world and how icky it often is.

Case in point: this HARDY HAR HAR hilarious sign that you can buy for your ring bearer and flower girl to carry down the aisle, announcing that HO HO HO, this is your last chance to run!

Now, I get it: this is comedy. It's meant to provide a little moment of levity in a serious ceremony. But it hurts my head, and it hurts my heart, and here's why…

This sign says to me, "Any commitment before marriage doesn't really count."

This sign says to me, "Commitment is terrifying and awful."

This sign says to me, "Marriage sucks."

Also, while there's nothing explicit about gender in this particular sign, in a traditional western wedding, the groom is the one who sees this coming down the aisle as he waits for the bride to make her entrance — so, you can extrapolate that this is extra HARDY HAR HAR because OH THOSE MENFOLK: THEY JUST HATE TO COMMIT. (Other versions of this "Last chance" sign concept are much more explicit in their gender-grossness.)

Ok, ok. I know I'm being a grump here, and taking this silly shit way too seriously. I'm completely confident that some of you find this sign hilarious, and that's cool: if cracking jokes about commitment tickles your funny bone, by all means keep giggling.

Far be it for me to say that weddings shouldn't be hilarious, or that we all have to put on our Somber Hats (somber-eros?) and our Very Uncomfortable Humorless Panties to talk about the sanctity of marriage. I just find comedy like this problematic because it plays into and enforces so many stereotypes and generalizations about couples and commitment and marriage. That marriage is awful. That you should run. That you've got up until the moment you say "I Do" to just be joking around, and that everything changes after you get married.

It all just reminds me of the Game Over tshirts, where it's hardy-har-larious that the groom "lost" the game by having to get married.

Again, I get it: it's comedy. We all have different tastes in HA HAs, and that's cool: there's no need to defend yourself if you think this sign is awesome. But I think I'll just stay hiding over here in my corner of the wedding world, where our comedy is stuff like this or this.

  1. Thank you for writing this! As a wedding photographer, it breaks my heart when I see this sort of thing. It's so disrespectful to the groom, especially, turning a sacred moment into a joke about whether or not he really loves his bride. And it's disrespectful to her, too, suggesting that she is so unlovable that her groom might want to run away from her.

    I never include these sorts of things in highlight albums. I'll photograph them for the couple's full gallery, but I don't want to encourage or spread this type of unloving tradition!

    3 agree
  2. Thank you, beautifully put, as always. I think what is offputting about this kind of humor to many is that it kind of surrounds us. It's ubiquitous. Sitcoms, advertisements, comedians etc. make these jokes about how the grooms 'life is over,' and now 'the wife' is a nag who keeps her husband on a short leash and so on.

    But to me personally, what I find most distasteful is having survived and left an abusive situation, I remember at the time guys making these HAR HAR jokes about how I must call all the shots behind closed doors and give him 'honey-do lists' of chores when truly the opposite was my reality. Now I'm sure that this was the furthest thing from the minds of whoever made this sign, which is just a very old joke people tell over and over, and in all honestly can have more than one meaning. Just saying this is what bugs me about it. I can't shake that it really comes down to a pretty negative view of women, and also perpetuates what can be a harmful myth that it's normal for marriage to be some kind of power struggle.

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    • "But to me personally, what I find most distasteful is having survived and left an abusive situation, I remember at the time guys making these HAR HAR jokes about how I must call all the shots behind closed doors and give him 'honey-do lists' of chores when truly the opposite was my reality. "

      Totally with you. I've lived with an abusive male partner, and grew up in a situation where my mother abused my Dad as well as me, so in addition to trying to help friends out of abusive relationships I feel I've seen abuse, coercion, lack of respect and lack of regard for consent from most angles by now. This stuff just freaks me right out.

      Re. your specific example: the idea that the woman coerces the man into marriage/monogamy so it's ok for him to coerce her into other things to balance it out is alive and well, and until no-one is getting it flung in their face any more it just isn't funny to me.

      5 agree
  3. Well said. I have always been burned by the whole celebrating the last night of freedom vibe people have too….really, aren't we suppose to be celebrating marriage??

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  4. Maybe I'm over thinking it (I over think everything), but this article made me consider how society really views the marriage relationship. With wedding jokes like this, and stupid cake toppers featuring bitch brides and unhappy grooms, and how so many people divorce willy nilly after a few years, it's apparent that most folks don't seem to believe in honest love. Why do people who joke this way even get married? A commitment should be a happy, honest, beautiful thing. I love reading all of these comments because it shows that I'm not the only one who feels like love should be an eternal, evolving, and glorious part of life. My own fiance feels the same way. Sorry for getting ranty, I guess seeing something like this sign kinda punctured my soul and brain.

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  5. YES! A thousand times, yes. I am getting married in 6 months so I've done a lot of searching around for wedding stuff and I absolutely cringe every time I see one of these signs. Just like the cake toppers where the bride is dragging the groom, UGH.

    1 agrees
  6. Amen thrice over.

    As a wedding photographer, I always take a deep breath and bite my tongue when I see this, knowing I have to photograph this "hilarious" and "adorable" moment, but cringing inside — and I never put these images on my blog or website, because I agree they're tremendously disrespectful to men and to the sacredness of the day.

    3 agree
    • Why do you think they are disrespectful to just men? The sign is actually suggesting that the man has a reason to run away from his bride, suggesting that there is something about her that he should be running from, therefore insulting to her, no?

      But that's if you take it all so seriously in the first place. Honestly for two people to commit to each other on such a large scale and then have something like this as a little bit of light heartedness at the start of their wedding ceremony…and then move onto the serious business of getting married, it really does seem to upset a lot of people. I don't understand the offence at it. I am getting one for my husband to be, I know he will find it funny and I don't think any of the children in the room will suddenly turn into mysoginistic A-holes (unless they're already being sent that way by an already unhealthy parent or guardian) It certainly won't be a cheesy sign at a wedding that sends them off that way!!!

      4 agree
  7. I couldn't agree more. Too bad my inlaws find this stuff to be hilarious and are constantly buying it for my partner. But considering the number of times her family members have divorced and remarried it shouldn't surprise me that they don't take it seriously. Makes me sick to be honest. Love my fiance, just wish she came from a different background.

    1 agrees
  8. Seriously I think you all need to relax a bit, and give children the credit for having a sense of humour and irony as well as we do. If they have us, after all, to guide them in these things, then perhaps, just perhaps they will see it for the little bit of good humoured frivolous banter that it's intended as, and not a sign of disrespect to the groom, the bride, the relationship, "relationships"… or anyone else for that matter.

    Nerves are frayed at weddings, a little bit of levity about the groom doing a runner is not going to teach a child that marriage and relationships "suck". I really think it is the overall feeling of any event is what counts, so if the adults are arguing and insulting each other the entire day of the wedding, maybe then the children will come away with the message that marriage and relationships are bad. But if there is love in the room and people respect each other, a little card sign intended to relax everyone is not going to scar your children for life into believing that all long term romantic relationships are to be avoided…. complete over reaction to it, in my own opinion.

    3 agree
  9. Oh, I just see your comment at the end of your piece now…."there's no need to defend yourself if you think this sign is awesome"

    Sorry but I'd responded with my opinion before I saw that one! That sort of sounds like "Only post an opinion if it's the same as mine"….no? Happy life people, I know where the door is!

    4 agree
  10. Somethings in life are so serious you have to laugh about them. I think as the person in the relationship with commitment-phobia these things make me laugh and calm me down. I'm the one wearing the game over shirt. I'm the one being dragged to the marriage. I'm the one who needs one more chance to run. I think we also bring a lot of our own gender stereotypes to the table when we look at these things. Women get cold feet too and humor may be the door to talking about real thoughts and feelings.

    1 agrees
  11. Thank you for writing about this! What's really disgusting is that we are taught that as brides our wedding day is the biggest day of our lives and for many it is the one day that's about us. To then make a joke of the bride (and all women, as men are clearly more valuable than us since we have to chain or trick them) is needlessly cruel.

    Reminds me of that meme going round with the couple kneeling at the altar and the groom's shoes have "Help Me!" on the soles. I do believe that would be cause for me to stand up and leave. But then my guy knows that so that wouldn't happen. I really think that women set their standards far too low. Better a bitch than a doormat.

    3 agree
  12. I think whether someone finds this funny or not, we can all likely agree that this kind of humor is just plain LAZY.

    I don't have enough fingers or toes to count how many times I've heard a toast OR A CEREMONY HOMILY with some word-for-word wisecrack about how the bride is controlling the groom. When you Google your toast jokes, you end up with the same dregs as everyone else (and YET! they still go over well so often because most wedding guests don't attend so many to hear them repeated.)

    Example A: "The 3 Rings of Marriage: the Engagement Ring, the Wedding Ring, and the SUFFER-Ring!" (yes, really, a priest said this in the middle of the ceremony)

    Example B: (starts sweetly) "Bride, if I can ask you to place your hand on the table. And now, Groom, will you please place your hand on hers? * (Optional insert about how well she has him trained to follow directions!) Now, I want you two to look deeply into each others eyes and enjoy this moment, because Groom, this is the LAST TIME you'll ever have the upper hand!" har har har.

    *Bonus points to the groomsman who awkwardly continued the script even after the cute and unwitting couple responded with a giggle, "we're already holding hands!"

    2 agree
  13. a family friend who was entering his third marriage had the number 3 on the bottom of his shoes so everyone would see when he kneeled – ick! I am all for other people having silly fun poking at each other, but I would be hurt if people came at my marriage with doom and gloom, even jokingly. ESPECIALLY if it were my FI!

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  14. somber-eros

    YES

    ugh, and i hate hearing that stuff…no one EVER made jokes in front of me to my partner about our relationship before wedding-talk started, but now its open season.

    After a few months of pretending to laugh along or ignoring, my honey came up with a classic comeback…he asked about their marriages.
    The ones who kept making jokes about their marriages sucking, he took seriously and said he was sorry to hear it, had they tried counseling? The 30-day sex challenge? etc.

    But most of these folks did a 180 and started telling them why they LOVED being married, and even gave some good advice.
    My honey rocks.

    3 agree
  15. Love this, totally well said! I've always found those kind of jokes insulting to all involved. It's weirdly self-derogatory and is almost like the ultimate compliment fish- "Are you sureee you want to marry me, you don't have to if you don't want to".

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  16. I'm so glad you wrote about this. I've always hated these signs but haven't been able to say exactly why.

    0 agree
  17. I had to read through pages and pages of comments, and to be honest, most are exactly what I am thinking. Some people commented that those stupid jokes (last chance to run, ready to be tied down, etc…) are giving them a soft case of cold feet (am I making the right decision, do I really want to be tied down) and others said it was just a very negative way of people trying to get you down. I am a mix between both. I hate it that if you announce your engagement, people either say the usual "you do know over 50% of the marriages end in divorce?" – "Yes, I do know that and I am willing to take the risk as I believe we might be the couple that makes it!" or another good one "Wow, that will cost a lot of money. Are you ready planning yet or are you freaking out?" – "What, just because I am planning a wedding means I have to eliminate all our money to that one day and it should make me freakout, clearly you do not know me as well as you thought you did" and finally; "Come one, we'll plan your bachelorette and let's go to a strip club cause you are now still allowed!" – Well, I doubt my husband-to-be would be appaled by the idea of me going to a stripclub, whether we are married or not. We are both free in our relationship, but committed to making eachother happy. Are we going to let things happen without us, if it doesn't make the other happy? No. We will however talk about it, just as we have done the last 3-4 years before our engagement and we will find a way.
    I do understand the humour behind it and I can get why some people might find these things amusing, but personally, for our upcoming wedding: a big NO! (Unless it's in the positive way; e.g. a T-shirt where player 1 gains power via player 2)

    1 agrees
  18. Arial, THANK YOU for this post. I wholeheartedly agree! I feel the same way about stag and stagette culture. I KNOW that it's a great way for the soon-to-be bride and groom to have a night on the town with their friends, and I'm all about that. But the idea that it's the "last night of being single" makes me want to wretch. I mean, what were the years that we spent together leading UP TO the wedding? Meaningless? I agree with you it makes my heart sad when I see things like this. Great post.

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  19. I whole heartedly agree with the posts about how humor like this enforces stereotypes that marriage is an entirely unpleasant experience and that the woman has forced the man into this position. I personally will likely go to strip clubs for my bachelorette party, first a male strip club and then a female one as I am a bisexual and I have a mixed gender and sexually diverse wedding party. But I am going because I like strip clubs and I like having time out with my friends, not because these will be the "last chance" I have to view anyone else's genitalia other than my husband's (we are big fans of threesomes, so it most certainly won't be.) And I don't think that night makes me any less of a feminist. Feminism is about choice, so going out and seeing naked people for no other reason other than I want to and it sounds like fun, but not because that is what I am "supposed to do" is exactly what feminism is all about.

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  20. Ive seen this weekend after weekend . All I can say is both bride and groom are nervous and the signs with the little kids are cute way to I guess ease and relax a bride and groom. Your suppose to be nervous because it is the most important and most crucial day of your life and you give yourself to each other. Great photo by the way

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  21. I know I am way late commenting on this and not sure who else might read all the way to the end, but I wanted to add my perspective. As a second time bride, who was left unexpectedly by her first husband (after 11 years), this sign makes me feel icky and sad for very personal reasons. I also can't bring myself to include anything in the wedding with the "love forever" theme, not because I have any issues with committing fully to this relationship, but because I have had a personal dose of crushing reality. Maybe it is just my broken edges haven't been completely smoothed over by happiness yet.

    2 agree
  22. Thanks a lot, now I MUST HAVE somber-eros for the wedding…you know, take off for moment of levity, put back on so people know we're gonna be serious now. One more to-do was the last thing I needed 18 days before my wedding! ;)

    Seriously, though, I agree with you 100%. I think my fiance would be insulted by a sign like this at our wedding, both because it implies he's irresponsible and commitment-phobic (which he isn't) and because it implies that the woman he loves and respects is manipulating or pushing him into this. And he's the most somber-ero less fella I know–I expect much silliness at our wedding, but this ain't the kind we find funny. Booger jokes, on the other hand…

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  23. I agree completely! I'm getting married in the summer, and a lot of our parents' dear friends have made comments like "When is it? Oh, 3 months! Still lots of time to change your mind! *wink wink*". They always direct it to me (the bride-to-be), not my future husband, which I suspect means they're aware of how sexist and antiquated the "men-hate-commitment" angle would sound. But then… why would it be better to say it to me? Especially at a celebration of our upcoming wedding? My fiancé proposed and I said yes: obviously, we both agree that we want to get married! Maybe people feel awkward about anything "mushy", so instead of saying "congratulations; it's so wonderful that you've decided to take this next step together" or something like that, their knee-jerk reaction is "OMG, I feel feelings! Must make a joke!"

    I enjoy humor. I love sitcoms. I think my fiancé's Muppet impersonations are hilarious. I love puns. I don't love people who have been married for a long time pretending that "marriage sucks" is the funniest joke in the world. I can't wait to get married — don't try to take that away from me in the name of a cheap punchline!

    (For what it's worth, I'm more okay with the example in the OP's picture — it's not my thing, and I don't care for the connotations, but at least the bride(s) and/or groom(s) presumably picked it themselves. If that's their style, great. My issue is when it's from an external source.)

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  24. There is a suspicious part of me that thinks those signs, toppers, tees, etc are kept in circulation simply to get women to sub-consciously shell out more moolah to the mass market wedding industry. The idea that the more we question our desirability, beauty, etc the more likely they are to profit off of our insecurity.

    It's overall disgusting. Makes me happy to have a sanity save point here with OBB.

    0 agree
  25. I seriously thought I was the only person that felt this way. I get so much crap when I express this opinion: "You're too sensitive." "Oh, come on, it's funny." "You can't take a joke." "Get over yourself." And those hurt just as bad.

    0 agree
  26. some of you are actually discusted? Really? The comments on here just shows me how judgemental people can be and here I thought this is where I'd find people more open minded. I had this sign at my wedding. Does that mean I'm not a feminist? What's wrong with poking fun? My husband and I were together for almost 12 years before we got married. To us the sign was funny because we had committed ages ago and the wedding was a formal way of saying to each other what we already knew. We both knew he wasn't going anywhere and neither was I and so did everyone in the room. We are the type of couple that joke when I'm away for work that he's with his other girlfriend (the dog). We like humor. Even dark, or ironic humor. I don't understand how a site can proclaim valuing uniqueness and individuality and then shun a choice because it isn't their cup of tea or feminist enough. Humor doesn't lessen the sanctity of marriage. And I just saw it for what it was, a joke. Not perpetuating an anti feminist stereo type or demeaning our choice to marry each other. Is the sign unique? No. My sister in law picked it and honestly I needed something for my baby brother to carry because I wanted him to be a part of the wedding. And if I could add a flare of humor? Great! I just wanted him to be a part of our day and we wanted a fun light hearted wedding. Seriously our ceremony was 10 minutes and funny! Humor helped ease the stress. And at the end of the day, who cares about a sign. It's not about the sign. It's about the act of marriage. You don't like it? Don't do it, but don't bash people's choices. Too much haterade, I tell ya. :(

    0 agree

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