Sorry OP, I didn’t read the other responses (holy crap, five pages already!), but as someone who sees this whole marriage thing quite less romantic than most do, I’m just going to tell you what marriage is for me.
I love my bf. More than anything else in this world. (Just saying this because I will sound very very calculating) We’re 37 and 28, been a couple for six years and living together for 5 now – marrying by the end of next year (proposal has yet to come). I don’t want to marry to form a union. We are – I know this without marriage, too. I want to marry because it gives me the security to have kids (there’s no way I would sabotage my own career by staying at home for years with babies while allowing him to progress with his – we would have to find a different solution then).
Moreover, and this is the lawyer speaking, I am allowed to make all the decisions in case he gets sick or injured and isn’t able to speak for himself anymore. I’m his legal heir (imagine buying a house, then having his siblings and parents get half of it). I’m allowed to be informed by doctors. I’m called by the police, the firefighters or anyone else in case something happens and if he leaves me, he has to support me in case we have small children until I can go back to work. I don’t know how this is in your country, but if we’re married, we have to pay less taxes – around 1,5 k less (!!) each month (!), too. Moreover we get back one year worth of taxes, means a marriage pays itself.
Everything I said applies vice versa and nearly everything could be codified by several contracts, but it could all be done by marrying, too – and you don’t forget to codify anything.
But it’s breaking her heart, I can tell. I tried looking into a civil union as a sort of half way as they don’t have the millenia of history as an almost ownership thing, but those are only available to same-sex couples.
A civil union is the exact same thing as a marriage. There’s no difference, only how it’s called.
Maybe you could try to see it as some sort of contract instead of ‘a love celebratory’. You don’t need the dress-and-flowers-party, you only need to sign a legal document that says you’re willing to be there for each other.