Last week I talked to you about feminist engagement, and we all know what comes after engagement, a wedding!
Most couples want to reflect their personality in their wedding day and have a celebration that reflects their values. I assume that if you’ve got to this stage you have a relationship with your partner that is rooted in equality, that you’re a team. It makes sense that your wedding reflects this aspect of your relationship too. This doesn’t mean you have to eschew all tradition, it just means having a good think about what you want your day to mean to you. It’s about making deliberate choices because they are important to you, not because it’s ‘the done thing’. So if this means wearing a big white dress, having your father walk you down the aisle and taking your partners last name, that’s all good; and if not, that’s great too!
Let’s go through some of the traditions that exist currently, their meanings and the possible alternatives.
- The Groom can’t see the Bride before the wedding.
This is more superstition than tradition, and can definitely add to the excitement and anticipation. But some may think it seems silly to not wake up together on such a huge day. Instead you could wake up together but get ready separately, get ready together (which could make for some beautiful photographs), or you could be separate from the night before but have a ‘first look’ to calm your nerves before walking down the aisle.
- Having Your Dad Give You Away.
This comes from the historical idea that you are going from your father’s ownership to your husband’s. Obviously most people don’t see it this way anymore and it is more just a sign of him giving his blessing. Many brides couldn’t imagine walking down the aisle without their dad, but for others this may not be possible or just doesn’t seem quite right. If you aren’t sure, talk to your dad and see how he feels; if it’s really important to him you could always decide on a compromise. For example, both parents could give you away, or you could walk down the aisle with him halfway instead. You may even prefer to go it alone or with your best friend.
- The Big White Dress.
For me there are no rules about what you can and can’t wear, after all, it’s YOUR wedding day! Some see the white dress as a sign of purity, but it was actually popularised by Queen Victoria as a sign of wealth. Veils were worn by brides in ancient Rome to disguise them from evil spirits and the garter was traditionally tossed as a sign that the wedding had been consummated. More recently the idea has been that the groom removes it with his teeth. Ick to both of those! So if you want to go for sky high heels, a red jumpsuit or a plunging neckline I say go for it.
- The Bridal Party
Have you ever wondered why we have bridesmaids at all? And why they all dress alike? In the Middle Ages the purpose of the bridesmaids were to surround the bride dressed in white and fool evil spirits so they wouldn’t know which one she was. That way she wouldn’t be cursed on her wedding day. There’s no reason though why you couldn’t have a ‘man of honour’ or ‘best lady’. Don’t feel restricted to choosing your siblings or friends who are the same gender. You could encourage your bridal party to wear something they feel comfortable in if you would prefer something less formal, or ditch the bridal party all together and have friends and family participate in other ways.
- The Vows
Thankfully, the vow to honour and obey is rarely used now, but depending on your celebrant and where you are getting married, the wording may include nods to obedience or reproduction that you’re just not comfortable with. Make sure you read through the full ceremony before the day to make sure you’re happy with how everything is phrased. Alternatively, you and your loved one could just write them yourselves and make them truly unique to you.
- Tossing the bouquet.
Originally the tradition was to rip off pieces of the bride’s dress to give the other single ladies a bit of good luck, which then became throwing her bouquet so they could escape the crowd. This not only implies (wrongly) that all women are desperate to marry; it also singles out those who aren’t yet betrothed which could be seen as a little mean-spirited. For many it is just seen as a bit of fun, but how about instead having a ladies only dance (Macarena anyone?) or just a picture of you with all your closest friends.
There are so many aspects of a wedding that are negotiable, whether it’s because of your feminist leanings or because you’re just not into them. Thanks so much for reading and please come back next week for Part Two.