What a fascinating thread! I popped over to this forum because I was going to start an "election day rant," but this is much more fun!
Personally, I think people say "congratulations" because it's what you're "supposed" to say. It's an "event" in life - like turning 50, or having a baby, or graduating college or something. We've got plenty of friends that we've congratulated upon receiving their divorces!
As to your original comments about wanting to "send them my condolances for giving up their life, freedom and independence" - if that's what they're doing when they get married, they deserve condolances. Granted, I wouldn't book a vacation to Jamaica with a friend without telling my hubby about it, but in my mind, marriage is about a commitment to a relationship. In fact, I love my hubby so much, the only person I WANT to go to Jamaica with is him!
In my first marriage, we expressed the same feelings you do, Hope. We didn't want marriage to be something that got in the way of our independence. Hubby wanted to go to college, so I lived in Chicago and he left for NY. I wanted to move to NY because I want to pursue a career in finance, so I arrived a couple of weeks before Hubby was leaving for India to continue his studies. He lived there for a year - I flew over to see him for two weeks. The long and short of this story is that in 7 years of marriage, we actually lived together for about 3 of them, a couple of weeks and months at a time.
I was NEVER into dating, and it was really convenient being married. I could go out on "friendly" dates without ever having to worry about somebody putting the moves on me. It worked for me.
...Except that in the end we really had nothing in common and we didn't enjoy being together. So we got divorced.
On the other hand, Gary and I had dated in high school. He looked me up by tracking down my parents, and he called. He was in Seattle and I was in NY. We talked on the phone every night for 3 months, and I flew out to Seattle to spend Christmas. We got married while I was there. It is almost 13 years later.... and we ended up becoming partners in business, and I'd say that for the first 7 years of our marriage we never spent any time apart. None. Literally. We've never spent a night apart, and the only reason we've spent any time apart is because of business - there are times when we just need two of us, lol!
Gary is my best friend, my lover, my partner in life, my business partner, my cat trapper, and the man I dream about. When we run out to pick up the dry cleaning - we both head for the car! When we see the Doctor, he comes into the little room with me and vice versa. I'm certainly capable of doing it alone - and did until I was 30. But it's so much nicer to do it together.
Now? I can't imagine my life without him, and I don't want to. And I totally don't feel like I gave up my life. To you and others looking at our relationship, it may appear that I gave up my freedom and independence. To me - sharing everything I do and everywhere I go adds a beautiful, incredible dimension to life that I'd never before experienced.