Not long ago, police were called to the Brookfield Suites Hotel & Convention Center after a 63-year-old woman at a wedding reception slapped a 53-year-old man three times in the face because he made a derogatory comment - at an event celebrating the endless bonds of love, no less - about his soon-to-be ex-wife.
In Pewaukee a few years back, a 21-year-old woman at yet another wedding reception was ticketed for disorderly conduct after complaining to police that her fiancÚ and his sisters had battered her while trying to get an engagement ring back.
A couple of years ago, 40 or 50 people from two different wedding celebrations - including a bride, groom and bridesmaid who allegedly hauled another woman to the ground by her hair - squared off in a brawl outside an Eau Claire hotel. Seems like some of them were maybe taking the joke about acquiring an "old ball and chain" on the wedding day a bit too literally.
For years, there have been myriad stories in Wisconsin of wedding guests - and even brides and grooms - threatening, beating and cursing at each other. And even smashing glasses over each other's heads. I think that might be why those little toasting glasses at the weddings I go to are usually plastic. And let's admit it. I don't know if it's irony or just schadenfreude. But the cynics in us familiar with marriage and divorce statistics get a wary chuckle out of this stuff.
We all know that only the na´ve get married nowadays. The number of marriages in Wisconsin peaked in 1980, 32 years ago, and has plummeted since. There are even more divorces around here than there are men lying about their marital status on Match.com.
Except for the fact none of that is any longer true.
I stumbled upon a statistic in a recent Wisconsin State Vital Records Office publication the other day that ruined the storyline - and might just give a little boost to the hearts of long-suffering romantics.
It is true that the number of Wisconsin marriages peaked at 41,113 in 1980 and decreased steadily each and every single year all the way down to 29,952 in 2010. But the number for 2011 is now out and, for the first time in decades, there were more marriages - 30,287 to be exact - than the year before.
Marcy Carlson, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, basically warned me not to get all googly-eyed. She pointed out that the number of marriages has been around 30,000 in the past couple of years, a rate of 5.3 per 1,000 Wisconsinites. And, from her point of view, one would expect more marriages when the state population goes up and the rate stays the same - as it has since 2009.
The most she would say is that "It might be an interesting trend over time if the pattern continues."
Of course, not to be a hopeless romantic or anything, but Wisconsin's population has increased more than 20% since 1980 and marriages have never followed - until now. An increase of 335 marriages between 2010 and 2011 is small, but it seems significant that it's the first one of any size in more than three decades.
If we're not seeing the beginning of a new trend, we're at least seeing the end of an old one.
Common sense says there could be a shift here due to men and women, burdened with debt, trying to get out of school a little bit quicker and moving on with their lives, the acceptance (at least in other parts of the country) of gay unions and, just maybe, a newfound respect for the more romantic aspects of love and marriage and a little stability.
At least around here.
I see out in Philadelphia the other day, meanwhile, police actually had to show up at one wedding reception with tasers and batons.