This originally appeared on the Daily Life. Republished here with permission.
The idea that modern marriage excludes feminism is as absurd as the notion that you can’t be a feminist and enjoy casual sex.
As a feminist, the decision to get married wasn’t straightforward. 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 screw themselves.
As much fun as it is to get schooled in how to be a “real” feminist (“slut-shaming” is still bad, but “bride-shaming,” apparently, is fine), from planning to flower-throwing, it’s time to re-claim the wedding.
Don’t indulge any “she finally pinned me down, therefore she can organize it” malarkey. The idea that you’ll do all the planning while your partner takes the “just tell me when to show 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 do everything together. You won’t like all of his/her 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 will still direct all their queries to you, the lady bride who supposedly loves nothing more than color schemes and cake. Dividing the tasks means you can direct their badgering away from you.
Traditionally, only women wore a ring as a sign of ownership. Even though both parties now wear wedding bands, it’s still only the women who wear engagement rings. If this bothers you, either don’t wear one, or buy one for you partner too. Easy.
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 my partner gets nine out of 10 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.
Lord have mercy, how the dress will test you. 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 symbolizes virginity and is therefore oppressive/false advertising? Please, raise a glass to your contradictions, you glorious woman. Bustier 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 “Amish” to “Boobs McLegsley,” you can dress anyway you damn well please.
Giving The Bride 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 cows 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 much effort into his get-up, he’ll be the one to glide down the aisle, symbolizing 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 itself, be they nuclear family, foster parents, a pack of wolves, or Other. Feminism and gratitude, you see, are not mutually exclusive.
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 success at womanhood. Please, your worth is not based on how well you’ve matched table linens while charming your in-laws and monitoring the catering. Get yourself a game plan that excludes “being all things to all people.”
If your lady friends think it’s fun and not below their dignity to rugby tackle each other for a wilted posy symbolizing 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 female fight club for your bachelorette party?
In the end, what makes a feminist wedding is that you make your own choices independently and without fear. Ultimately, the best way to have a feminist wedding is to marry another feminist.
Melbourne writer Alice Williams is getting married in September. An ‘Optional Escape Pony’ has found its way onto the guest list.