Planning a wedding, you soon realise that wedding planning itself, (like, perhaps the institution of marriage) has clearly defined gender roles which possibly don’t conform to your feminist ideals – and quite rightfully so.
So can you plan a “feminist wedding”, or rather, how can you plan a wedding that doesn’t contradict the very idea of feminism?
Can you even be a feminist and get married?
feminism |ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m| noun [ mass noun ]
the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes
Feminist has become somewhat of a ‘buzzword’ over the past decade, shirking its bra-burning connotations of the 60’s, and becoming a more respected description of both men and women.
Like many, I’m shocked that there ever, let alone still, exist those who don’t consider men and women to be equal, so how, and why, can I go along with ‘marriage’ or a ‘traditional wedding’?
How are traditional weddings anti-feminist?
Marriage, and therefore the act of planning your wedding and getting married, has historically been oppressive to women (like sex, money, education, career opportunities, advertising, etc).
Some critics assert that marriage will always remain a symbolic institution signifying the subordination of women to men.
Clare Chambers points to the sexist traditions surrounding marriage and weddings; she writes
- Symbolically, the white wedding asserts that women’s ultimate dream and purpose is to marry, and remains replete with sexist imagery: the white dress denoting the bride’s virginity (and emphasising the importance of her appearance); the minister telling the husband “you may now kiss the bride” (rather than the bride herself giving permission, or indeed initiating or at least equally participating in the act of kissing); the reception at which, traditionally, all the speeches are given by men; the wife surrendering her own name and taking her husband’s.
There’s more than just that, though – consider: the engagement ring marks the woman as ‘spoken for’ or ‘taken’ (the man wears no ring to show he is betrothed), the bride’s parents paying for the wedding because its her ‘dowry’, the bride’s father literally and figuratively ‘giving her away’ because until her marriage she is his property; and after: her husband’s.
Anyway, let’s switch things up and make your wedding a little more feminism-friendly!
9. Rethink the traditional ‘Give-Away’ of the Bride
You don’t have to continue the custom of “father walking daughter down the aisle to transfer ownership” ritual, just because it’s “tradition”. Have both parents walk you down the aisle, or do so on the arms of your siblings, maid-of-honour, or even walk the aisle alone, as I did.
This is only the beginning, though – whether you are “given away” by your father or not, actually think about the traditions you might otherwise blindly follow. Some customs you may love the idea of, so go ahead and follow them. If they don’t really speak to you on a personal level, though, trim down on tradition.
8. Pick a progressive officiant.
Your choice of celebrant will have a huge influence on the feeling of the wedding ceremony – choose someone who has beliefs and values consistent with your own, who is prepared to personalise the ceremony to suit you. We had a friend become a celebrant to marry us, otherwise we’d have had Melanie Stuart who says:
My role as your celebrant is to get to know you both, and create a bespoke ceremony tailored to meet your specific values, beliefs, culture, personalities or quirks. You are a unique couple – your ceremony should be too.
Don’t underestimate the power an officiant has to affect the vibe of your ceremony, if not the entire wedding. We had so many nice comments on our ceremony, and attribute that to our celebrant Andy.
7. White Wedding?
Only if you want to! I didn’t, I wore pink! Wear a white dress, or don’t, if it doesn’t speak to your personal taste and feminist feelings. For many, a white wedding address is simply dated, if not false advertising if you know what I mean.
“Wear whatever makes you feel pretty or handsome” as friends of ours said on their wedding invitations instead of a wedding day dress code.
P.S. Yes, I was totally inspired by Gwen Stefani’s pink ombre wedding dress by John Galliano when she married Gavin Rossdale in 2002!
6. Write your Ceremony Accordingly
Some elements of a wedding, however “traditional” cannot truly coexist with feminism, and the vow “to love, honor, and obey,” must be one of those.
We not only personalised our vows, but completely switched up a reading during our ceremony: taking the “Good House Wife’s Guide” of the 1950’s, reversing the gender roles, so reading to Blair:
Touch up your make up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. She has just been with a lot of work weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. Her boring day may need a lift.
5. Feminism = Equal Pay
The long-held tradition that the bride’s parents pay for the wedding, while the groom’s parents attend and enjoy the benefits, has its roots in dowries.
According to The Knot’s 2015 Real Weddings Study, the bride’s parents cover 44% of the wedding, the bride and groom cover 43% and the groom’s parents cover 12% – WTF.
If at all possible, either have the bride and groom’s family contribute equally, or (shock, horror) pay for it yourselves (we did!).
4. Bridesmen and Groomsmaids…
Don’t feel you have to conform to gender specific bridal party roles, and that includes the speeches. Choose your besties, whether male or female (yes, men and women CAN be friends!), dress them as you like, and have a couple from each side make speeches.
Two of my best friends made speeches at the reception, and another read the Irish Blessing during the ceremony.
3. Keep Your Own Name
A new study conducted by Facebook shows that younger women are opting not to take their husbands’ names in marriage. The statistics, which show that a third of all married women in their twenties chose to keep their own names, whereas only 12 percent of women in their 60s decided not to take their husbands’ name, have been hailed by some as a sign that younger women are “embracing feminism“.
For many, taking your husband’s name is to be submissive, to lose your identity, and be subservient.
Contrary to “embracing feminism” I chose to take my husband’s name. I liked his name, and I wanted to have the same surname as him. My father died when I was 18 years ago and my mother remarried – my maiden name hadn’t been one I identified with “family” for a long time.
2. Wedding Planning – Share the Load
While I don’t expect your fiancé is going to help you choose the stationery colours, fuss over centrepieces or fret over flowers (or am I being sexist and conforming to gender roles?), don’t let wedding planning fall squarely onto your ‘to-do’ list.
Divide the tasks: grab the little white book, head to ‘first steps’ and give him every second item on the list!
1. But the absolute, most important thing you can do to have a “feminist” wedding…
MARRY A FEMINIST.
Criticisms of marriage for being anti-feminist hark back to a time when marriage meant ownership, submission, possibly even (legal) violence and marital rape and other imbalances between the sexes.
Marriage, however, is NOT inherently oppressive to women. Sexist men are oppressive to women. Whereas once, marriage unit meant ownership, now it signifies partnership. Marry a man who is a feminist – that is he considers you his equal, and your marriage will can be a feminist one, as will your wedding be.
Oh, and make him do the cooking and cleaning once in a while, even if he’s not as good as you are.