Originally published on Daily Life and cross-posted here with their permission.
As a feminist, the decision to get married wasn’t straight-forward.
Although I believed in equal rights pre-engagement and am confident that won’t change on signing a marriage certificate, a little voice at the back of my mind kept saying “But you can’t be a feminist and get married!”
And yet it’s precisely because of feminism that modern marriage still represents the transferal of women’s ownership about as much as a white dress represents virginity.
The idea that modern marriage excludes feminism is as absurd (not to mention insulting) as the notion that you can’t be a feminist and wear a “too-tight, too-short and too-low dress” and enjoy casual sex.
We’ve done away with “to love, honor, and obey,” and the pronouncement of “man and wife.” The medieval tradition of “fingering the stocking“: literally checking the bride’s stockings for signs that the marriage had been consummated is now laughable, but hopefully not so quaint it’ll be revived at any hipster weddings.
The first step to having a feminist wedding? Get really clear on why you want to do it.
Is it based on a fear like being “left on the shelf” or shaming your children? No? Great! Tell anyone who would have you prove your feminist credentials to go doink themselves.
As much fun as it is to get schooled in how to be a “real” feminist (sex-shaming is still bad, but bride-shaming, apparently, is fine), from planning to flower-throwing, it’s time to reclaim the wedding.
1. The Planning
Don’t indulge any “They finally pinned me down, therefore they can organize it” malarkey.
The idea that one person will do all the planning while the other partner takes the “Just tell me when to turn up and where!” approach belongs in 80s sitcoms.
The best way to ensure an equal division of labor is to split responsibility for major tasks rather than attempting to be across everything together. You won’t like all of their decisions, but at least you’re not doing everything yourself.
Prepare yourself in advance to disappoint some people.
You may be a feminist, but some guests may still direct all their queries to you if you’re a woman or a feminine-presenting non-binary person, since society assumes you’re supposed to love nothing more than color schemes and cake.
Dividing the tasks means you can direct their badgering away from you.
2. The Ring
Traditionally, only women wore a ring as a sign of ownership. Even though both parties now wear wedding bands, it’s still a commonly held belief that only women wear engagement rings.
If this doesn’t work for your partnership and/or bothers you in any way, you can choose not to wear one or buy one for you partner, too.
If monogamy is your thing, wedding rings can be a handy short-hand to others.
Not such a problem for me as I haven’t been hit on since 1998, but by some weird alchemical reaction, my partner gets nine out of ten coffees for free, regardless of the café. Totally unfair – why should I pay for coffees when he doesn’t have to? It’s anti-feminist.
3. The Dress
Lord have mercy, how the dress will test you, should you and/or your partner choose to wear one.
You think your self-worth isn’t defined by your appearance until the day you crash, sobbing in a heap because all anyone asks about is the dress, leading you to draw the conclusion that how you look is A Big Deal.
Get everyone out of your head and ask yourself this: “What outfit, dress, pantsuit, or otherwise, will do me the most favors at the least emotional cost?”
Can’t wear white because it symbolises virginity and is therefore oppressive (or false advertising)? Please, raise a glass to your contradictions, you glorious human being.
Button-down shirt and wide-legged pants? Go ahead, express yourself.
Short white dress with cleavage? How very November Rain.
Being a feminist means that on a scale of “Cover It All Up” to “Let It All Hang Out,” you can dress anyway you damn well please.
4. Giving Away
If you’re keen to continue the custom of “father walking daughter down the aisle to transfer ownership,” at least throw in a few head of cattle while you’re at it. Go on – a couple of daisy-chain collars and you’ve got yourself some bovine bridesmaids.
Seriously, though, modern life offers so few opportunities for striding regally, why not take advantage?
Since my partner is putting so much effort into his get-up, he’ll be the one to glide down the aisle, symbolising the transferal of ownership from his six groomsmen to me, two cats, and a second-hand couch.
One nice way to keep, but modify the “giving away” sentiment is to acknowledge those who raised you both within the ceremony proper – be they nuclear family, foster parents, pack of wolves, or something else.
Feminism and gratitude, you see, are not mutually exclusive.
5. The Reception
The key to a feminist reception is to flush out any hidden anxieties about your wedding being a reflection of your rank at the waterhole or worth as a person.
Please – your worth is not based on how well you’ve matched table linen while charming in-laws and monitoring catering. Get yourself a game plan that excludes “being all things to all people.”
6. Bouquet Toss
If your friends think it’s fun and not below their dignity to rugby tackle each other for a wilted posy symbolising their desperation to get married, then go ahead!
But if it’s contact sport you’re after, why not cut to the chase and go fight club on your big day?
In the end, what makes a feminist wedding is that you make your own choices independently and without fear.
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- A Vision For Marriage and Much More Than Marriage: Unfolding the Layers of Liberation
- I’ll Get Married When (And If) I Want To: 6 Reasons to Stop Asking Women When They’re Tying the Knot
- How to Survive Engagement Season: A Guide to Healthy Marriage Expectations
- An Anti-Marriage Feminist Gets (Happily) Married
Alice Williams is a Melbourne author and yoga teacher. She also writes for the Daily Life website and teaches Media Writing at the University of Melbourne. In her spare time she enjoys fixing toasters and reading about unlikely assassins. You can check her out on her website and on Twitter @AliceWillalice.