We started this year boyfriend and girlfriend. We’re ending it husband and wife. 2014 has been a ride!
Getting married is so fulfilling to me. I have spent so much time and effort in my life imagining the day, the dress, the man, the veil…and two Saturdays ago I got to have the very best day of my life (so far!). I still feel charged up with the amazing love and warmth that permeated that day, and we haven’t even been able to take a honeymoon yet.
But there is another side to weddings that isn’t always obvious to guests, but which comes all too clearly into focus the moment a woman gets engaged. Traditions. Etiquette to be considered. Opinions. Opinions. Opinions. I was only engaged for four months, but that was PLENTY for me, thank you very much. If you’ve recently gotten engaged, I feel for you. Especially if you happen to be a woman. Especially especially if you happen to identify as a feminist.
People you don’t even really know will volunteer their opinions of everything from flowers to name-changing, often with the very worst of timing. The Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) is far more real than I would have ever believed before I got engaged. There are enough ‘rules’ about weddings to make you truly worry that your marriage might be doomed before it even begins if even one DIY mason jar or totally-sustainable vegan flower petal is out of place. I mean, your Beloved totally cares who sits next to whom and will totally not love you if the cake doesn’t have the most perfect, personalised, DIY topper. Not to mention that you should totally listen to people like the Duggars and believe you’re doomed to impure wedded corruption if you live together before marriage. Duh.
Ugh. I admit, I fell prey to some of the toxic thinking that floats around in the wedding ether. Little girls imagine their weddings for years and are encouraged to buy into the WIC from a very young age. In my community in Colorado, ‘purity’ before marriage was taught in schools from a very young age. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t have a good grip on what being a wife is…so I started to fall into long-out-of-date traditions and ideologies. Never in my life have I been so conscious of my gender and how it is perceived by others.
I know that patriarchy plays a big role in weddings, around the world and throughout time. At other times, I felt like rebelling completely and refusing to be traditional. I read articles like this that made me question the very traditions I was seeking to incorporate. I’ve identified as a feminist ever since I knew the word, as far back as second grade. All these contradictory feelings and ideologies made for a lot of headaches and more than one smudgy makeup teary day (thank you for always being there, Russ!). I wanted to live up to my promise that I would not marry until the GBLTQ community was free to do so in my own country. That got a big boost in the form of the Supreme Court decision that led to a majority of US states now proceeding with same-sex marriages. But so many still cannot marry the partner they’ve chosen. I felt conflicted.
So what’s a feminist bride to do on her wedding day? Whatever the hell she wants. And whatever the hell her partner wants. Together, we made decisions about the ceremony and shared the load of planning.
Feminism is the ability to make choices, and do what you like as a woman or a man, or any other gender identity. I like a veil over my face. I like a long white dress. I like my rings. I like changing my name to a double-barrelled one (a surprise to me!). I decided to keep some traditions. I decided to bin others. I felt ‘meh’ about some, and they happened or didn’t happen without me desiring to control every single detail of the day.
Having a feminist wedding is as simple as doing it the way you want, resisting the WIC and all its crap-infused gender bullshit. This is part of why I wanted to DIY much of the wedding, to claw back from the industry the things I was able to make with my own hands. But we also had a packaged wedding at a hotel. I wanted to make sure that we did not include ‘obey’ in the vows or have a true ‘giving away’ at the end of the aisle. We made this explicit with the wording of the ceremony:
“In many cultures, including our own, it has long been a tradition for the father of the bride to ‘give away’ his daughter, but I know that Coleen’s father, Mark, is not here today to relinquish any form of ownership and nor is the groom here to claim any! But I know that Mark was delighted to walk Coleen down the aisle today and that both families were delighted when Russell and Coleen announced their engagement.”
But I wore my veil over my face, only removing it when I reached my husband at the ceremony table.
We spent the night together before our wedding, against traditions in many countries including both of our own. It was a night like almost any other in our life together, a bit of assurance that we had already made the choice to live in a relationship long before, and that no ceremony could cement what more than two years together already had.
The most important part of a feminist wedding? A caring, equal partnership that is already established. The rest is just the celebration!
Much of our wedding was traditional. Much of it wasn’t. The most important part was that it was what we wanted to do. Our love will keep growing, and we’ll keep changing as our lives together go on. The celebration was important, but more important was the established, equal, loving partnership that it sealed. I love being a wife, and I can’t wait to find out more about marriage!