When my husband and I got married in October 2010, I was just starting to explore what it meant to me to be a feminist. I had a very clear picture of what I wanted my marriage to look like — equal division of household chores, open and honest communication, keeping my last name, etc. — but I wasn’t sure how to make my wedding a more feminist one.
The problem I kept running into was that most weddings look pretty much the same with a few variations thrown in. Mostly, the bride and groom stand in front of their friends and family, vow to love each other forever, kiss and have a great party. Was there anything that could make the ceremony more feminist? At the time, it seemed difficult to break from the norm because I wasn’t aware that breaking from the norm was possible, so I ended up adding in my own touches to make the wedding more personal and, therefore, more feminist.
Our families were involved in almost every aspect of the day. Both of my parents walked me down the aisle, and no one was asked to give me away. We had my uncle marry us and he was happy to talk about gender equality in his speech. My sister-in-law made cupcakes instead of a huge wedding cake. We decided not to do the traditional garter and bouquet toss and, instead, added a mother-daughter dance to the traditional parent dances.
In the end, my wedding was exactly what I wanted it to be, and, I believe, it was pretty feminist as far as weddings go. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research for my friends on ways to make weddings more feminist, and here are some ideas I’ve found.
Ditch the Engagement Ring
Weddings have traditionally been about transferring property of a woman from father to husband. Now, this starts with the engagement ring, which marks the woman as “taken.” Furthermore, diamonds have long been steeped in controversy regarding where they come from and at what cost. The best way to start off a feminist wedding is to ditch the engagement ring or, if a ring is important to you, shop for conflict-free diamonds or other stones and metals that are ethically mined, or for vintage rings. Another option is to have engagement presents for both the bride-to-be and groom-to-be, making the engagement process more equitable.
Write Your Own Vows
Remember when Kate Middleton and Prince William got married and everyone was wondering whether or not she would vow to obey him during the ceremony? (Spoiler: She didn’t, and Princess Diana didn’t either.) Wedding vows are often the most archaic of everything associated with weddings. I remember at the wedding of two of my friends, the bride had to pledge to have children. Afterwards, she wished she had edited the vows a bit more. Words matter, especially to feminists, so choose your words carefully when you are writing your vows. You can write your own, of course, or you can write them with your officiant and have him or her tell you what to repeat. Either way, make promises you want to keep, or else the ceremony will lose its meaning.
Celebrate Marriage Equality
At another friend’s wedding, instead of party favors, she had a board with white knot pins and asked all of her guests to don one for the ceremony and reception. On the top of the board was a sign that said, “Everyone should have the right to tie the knot.” Marriage equality is a very important topic in the feminist world, and what better place to make a statement about it than at a wedding? I know many people who have decided to abstain from getting married until everyone has the right to do so and, while that is a great idea, if you can’t or don’t want to wait for whatever reason, draw attention to your cause so people are made aware of it, and follow that up with a donation of some of your wedding money to an organization that reflects your values.
Choose Your Vendors Carefully
Money talks, and the wedding industry sees a lot of money changing hands. Choose your vendors carefully and make sure they reflect your values. If you want to stand for marriage equality, choose a photographer who has photographed same-sex ceremonies. If you are concerned about the environment, choose invitations made of recycled materials or opt for digital invitations. The list goes on and on, but one thing remains the same: you get to choose your vendors, so make sure they stand for the same things you do. You and your fiancÚ should come up with a list of questions for each vendor, and in those should be questions about what their values are.
Do What You Want!
One of the best ways to make your wedding more feminist is to throw tradition to the wind. If you do some research on why some of the traditional wedding events started, you will find that they are not feminist in the least. The garter toss, for example, dates back to the 1500s when the bridesmaid and groomsman were to get proof that the wedding was consummated and stole the bride’s clothing for good luck.
Keeping the cake frozen for a year after the wedding stems from the fact that cakes were so expensive that they had to save a tier of it for a baby shower, assuming that there would be a baby coming along within a year after the wedding. When you know what these traditions mean, it’s a lot easier to get rid of a lot of them and do whatever you want at your wedding. There are some great websites and books out there that can give brides and grooms all kinds of ideas for what to do at their weddings like Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding, so check them out and plan the wedding you want.
Photo Credit: Katsunojiri