My name is Claire, and I am a feminist.
And if you believe in equal opportunities when it comes to education, careers, healthcare, justice, and safety, for women and men, then you’re a feminist too!
Getting married is one of those occasions that’s steeped in tradition and symbolism. But of course anything that’s steeped in tradition and symbolism doesn’t tend to be particularly progressive.
When I got married last year, there were a number of areas around our wedding that felt a little dubious for me, particularly when I looked into the meaning behind some of them.
For generations, so much about weddings was emblematic of a patriarchal society, and while now they’re more fun, personalised and empowered affairs, particularly in our part of the world, there are still some customs that belong in the dark ages.
The thing about equality though, is it’s all about doing what feels right to you.
So today as part of our Healthy Happy Bride series, I’m going to talk about a few ways to make entering that old institution called marriage, feel as modern, authentic and empowering as it should.
Think About Traditions
As I’ve written before, I think it’s important to take the traditions that mean something to you, and leave the ones that don’t sit right.
On my wedding day, my dad walked me up the aisle, I wore a white(ish) dress, and I took my husband’s name. But I didn’t toss a bouquet to my gang of girls, we didn’t cut a cake, we didn’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen and I didn’t vow to honour or obey.
So much of wedding tradition is tied up in purity, producing children, and giving yourself up to your new spouse. Don’t just do things the way they’ve always been done, question them!
Do a little research into the symbolism behind the different aspects of your wedding and be informed on what they mean, (like did you know a wedding cake is actually for the bride’s fertility and a garter toss comes from a medieval ‘bedding ceremony’) and decide if they’re right for you.
You Do You
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be feminine. There’s nothing wrong with spending time on your hair or make-up, going for facials and having your nails done, or getting excited about your wedding dress.
My bride-to-be friend and I were laughing a few weeks ago when she was trying on dresses, about how we instantly turned into stereotypical girls the minute she got into a white dress.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in all the excitement and glamour of a wedding. But likewise there’s nothing wrong with not giving in to societal pressures to look a certain way on your wedding day either.
Whether you wear a face full of make-up or no make-up at all, feminism is all about choice.
Gender Equality Throughout
If you’re planning your wedding with feminism in mind, you shouldn’t limit the conversation to just you and your other half. The roles your guests play in your day should be equal too.
This might be in the form of how you word your invitations; for example not inviting your guests on behalf of the bride’s parents or addressing straight couples by the man’s name (Mr & Mrs John Smith are cordially invited…).
It might be in the form of your favours; avoid having something like fans for the ladies and cigars for the gents, or ‘his and hers’ decor or cocktails.
Or it might be in the form of the roles you assign your friends and family; try having both parents walk you down the aisle, ask your mum to make a toast, or mix up the bridal parties.
Keep in mind the traditional gender roles in all aspects of a wedding and shake them up where you can, whether it’s throwing a mixed hen and stag party, getting ready with your other half, or having a mother-daughter dance.
Likewise, avoid giving into all those stereotypes about a ‘ball and chain’, pinning down a man, him having his ‘last chance to bolt’. Those outdated cake toppers with the bride holding a shotgun, I’m looking at you!
From who pops the question to who books the florist, when it comes to a straight couple getting married, there are so many parts of wedding planning that end up falling on one side of the gender divide or the other.
Grooms will often sort the food and music, brides will deal with the flowers and the decor. Try to play as equal a role in wedding planning as much as you can. There’s nothing worse than seeing a wedding where the bride’s stamp is all over it, and the groom is simply sticking on his suit and turning up.
Planning a wedding together is not just a matter of balance, it will make your wedding, and marriage, all the more meaningful and rewarding.
Make a Speech
Brides put so much work into their wedding days, and in particular their wedding day look, but then they tend to just sit and listen quietly through the speeches.
That whole idea of being ‘seen but not heard’ really bothers me!
Whether you make a personalised statement with your vows, join your other half for the thank you speech, or make a speech of your own, women should feel empowered to speak up on their wedding days.
And that goes for mothers, sisters and bridesmaids too – why should guys get to have all the fun reminiscing over hi-jinks from your single days or making everyone well-up with sweet stories from childhood?
Hand over the mic!
Get Feminist Influences
It’s easy to get swept up in wedding planning. You find yourself suddenly passionate about things you didn’t really care about before, – for me it was napkin colours and foliage garlands – you’re hearing lots ideas and opinions from friends, family, blogs and magazines, and all too often, you start to lose yourself a little.
To stay on track, look to feminist influences throughout your wedding planning, The Feminist Bride, A Practical Wedding, Catalyst Wedding Co. and The Bridechilla Podcast are among my favourite resources for brides looking for real talk advice, untraditional inspiration, and information on the symbolism behind wedding customs.
I found this episode of The Bridechilla Podcast with Katrina of The Feminist Bride particularly helpful ahead of our wedding.
Don’t Pass Judgement
I can’t tell you how many people have passed comment on me taking my husband’s name after our wedding, from ‘I wasn’t expecting that from you,’ to ‘I’d never change my name for a guy’.
Women make choices for all sorts of reasons, for their partners, for their families, or for themselves. Sometimes it’s as a compromise or sometimes it’s because it means a lot to them.
You never know what’s going on in someone’s head, or someone’s relationship, so it’s not for us to question anyone else’s feminism credentials. We’re all just trying to plan great parties, meaningful vows, and make memories, am I right?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on planning a feminist wedding!