It has always been the norm for couples, after a prolonged period together, to get married, but lately, it seems that more women and men are rethinking that standard. In media, shows like Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress paint young women as wedding-hungry and all pining for proposals. But for some couples, this is far from the truth.
It is a very personal decision, whether or not to get married, just as it is when deciding to have children. It is a huge commitment and step in a relationship that does not necessarily have to be made. There are many that are very happy without combined banking accounts and wedding registries, and there are those that need marriage to feel secure. But if you're considering marriage, or even accepting because you are being pressured by friends, family, or society- then you need to rethink it. If your significant other is proposing, that means they are ready for a commitment- to spend the rest of their life with you. If you (or they, for that matter) are not comfortable getting married, then there is no reason you should. A couple can stay together, be just as dedicated, and just as happy (or even happier) without conforming to the "couples must be married eventually" standard.
Even marriages, when they do happen, don't look the same anymore. Besides the many that end in divorce, even the happy ones sometimes have a different dynamic. The most obvious of these are the same-sex marriages that have been legalized in many parts of the United States, a wonderful victory for human rights. And even the more "traditional" heterosexual marriages can be different. Husbands stay home to take care of kids, women can be "breadwinners"; the whole institution seems to be a bit...freer.
So when deciding whether you should get married, ask yourself: what are my reasons, am I being pressured, and what type of relationship would benefit me and my partner?