In response to an article that challenged that you can’t be feminist if you are getting married, I asked the same question last year – and the resounding response was YES of course you can! So today I am putting together some tips on how to plan your own feminist wedding.
The definition of feminism is often greatly misunderstood. As if feminists are women that hate men and want to banish them from planet earth and I’ve come to realise that the word can in-fact intimidate some people. So let me bust some myths first…
What is feminism
Feminism simply means equality – in black and white feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
So yes, you can be any gender and believe in the advocacy of women’s rights on the equality of the sexes. Mr Nu Bride was most definitely a feminist groom. He helped plan it (after-all it was his day too!) we wanted the same for our wedding day and indeed we wanted the same equality marriage values going forward too.
Western marriage is indeed steeped in SO much tradition it can be easy to see why people will be conflicted by the sanctity of marriage and see it as not very progressive for feminists, but I look at it like this; Gone are the days where women got married to stay at home where your partner – (typically the male) would work and provide, while you would ‘keep house’ and put food on the table. In the absence of being a full-time parent, most couples both work, both have their own dreams and ambitions and business ventures. You can still be married and strive towards equality within your own marriage and the roles you carve out for yourself and there lies the key; defining your own values in your relationship and how you want that solidified on your wedding day.
Enjoying traditions doesn’t mean you can’t have a feminist wedding, if you understand the history of them and they are in alignment with your values – keep them. If not change it up or ditch them. You are allowed!
This is one of the simplest and most powerful ways of adding a feminist touch to your wedding day – your choice of language.
I remember having this conversation with my best friend. Traditional vows have never rocked my boat and I was definitely not keen on “honour and obey” AT.ALL. Honour and obey who? But to her, the wedding vows were not “real” unless they were traditional.
For Mr Nu Bride and I, we wanted to make a commitment using words that meant something to us and only us. Not words that had been repeated by so many other people . We wanted to write our own promises to each other based on our relationship and our values. That is what led us to having a celebrant led wedding so we could write and recite our own vows. So you have a choice. If you are having a religious ceremony – there is usually an alternative to the ‘honour and obey’ part of traditional vows and if you are having a civil or celebrant led ceremony, don’t be afraid to write your own – you can draw inspiration here.
What’s in a name
This history behind changing your name came from something called coverture law; where on marriage, a woman’s legal rights and obligations were absorbed by those of her husband, believing the husband and wife became one upon marriage; where the wife did not have the right to own property and make contracts in her own name, just her husbands. (I know, I know!)
Thankfully this profoundly gender biased law was first altered by the Married Women’s Property Act in the mid 19th century and was eventually abolished. So those who marry and choose to keep their partners name have the choice to or not, and regardless BOTH names hold the same legal standing.
SO now, some couples feel happy to take on the husband’s name. Other couples choose to double-barrel their names and take each others, especially popular choice for couples having same-sex marriages, or those already with children.
I was (and still am) really attached to my maiden name – of course it forms so much of my identity – I’d been practicing my squiggles and signature since I was a child and to suddenly have to change it felt odd and still feels odd, over 5 years later, if I’m honest. It still doesn’t ‘look right’. I found it hard to let go of my maiden name completely, so decided to keep my maiden name for professional use and use my married name for everything else. A happy compromise.
Subvert Wedding Party Gender roles
Be fluid with who you choose to be your supporters on your wedding day.
You don’t need to be bound by gender. If your best buddy in the whole world is female and you want them to play the role of “best man” or your best buddy is male and you want them to play the role of “maid of honour” change it up a bit and use them in that role! They don’t have to be a bridesmaid, just because their sex doesn’t conform to pre-historic patriarchal traditions. Have your best woman, or person of honour! Mix up your wedding party supporters.
I went to a wedding last year where a Catholic Priest just could not get his head round the Best Man actually being a ‘Best Woman’ – I was quite surprised at how unprogressive this thinking was. Of course they got over it in the end. Their issue, not yours. Be clear about roles in advance with the people who are marrying you and all will be well.
Also, if you’re having wedding favours or wedding gifts this is another simple way to add equality by ditching gender specific favours and gifts and simply having something inclusive for all like an experience day voucher, or lottery tickets!
Wear whatever the hell you want, in whatever colour you want.
Jumpsuit, separates, traditional ball gown, elegant evening dresses, a suit. You name it, you can wear it. And as for colours, it’s great to see brides, especially, becoming more confident with their wedding colours.
White traditionally signified affluence and purity in western weddings, which let’s face it – most of us are NOT virgins when we get married anymore. If you like the idea of wearing a white wedding dress and it flatters you wear it, but if you can change it up. Champagne gold is a really popular colour at the moment as an alternative to white or off-white. The beauty of having a western wedding is choice and if you are adding your culture to the day this is a great time to add bold and bright colours that are relevant to cultural traditions.
Up the Aisle
This is one of the most patriarchal traditions in the wedding world that causes the most conflict for people who want equality led weddings.
Historically this tradition comes from the thought that daughters were their father’s property (I know, I know) and the act of “giving her away” was the exchange of ownership from the father to the groom (I know, seriously) and at times this included a monetary exchange. (Good Lord!)
But if you think in modern terms, now the act of having someone enter with you, is more a gesture of support and thanks rather than as an exchange of property.
I loved nothing more than having my Dad by my side. I love my Dad, he soothed my nerves and I felt very proud having him there with me. I wouldn’t have had it any other way – it was quite an honour and a privilege that I know we don’t all get to cherish.
The words you choose during the ceremony to depict this moment can help too – instead of “who is giving this person away” it could be “who presents this couple to be married”, or “who gives their blessing for this union”. Or just a simple embrace at the end of your entrance. Totally different meaning. Work with your celebrant to find equality-minded language that works for you.
If you really aren’t keen, or it’s simply not appropriate to incorporate this tradition, alternatives can include entering the aisle with two people who matter – re: both sets of parents, step parents, a brother, entering on your own or walking in together (which is in-fact a Swedish wedding tradition). Your wedding, your choice!
Use your voice
Ladies. Please take the mic.
One of the ways to have a wedding day with feminist values is to have your say. Again another patriarchal tradition we’ve clung onto is that the husband should speak on behalf of their new bride. (As if we suddenly we lose the ability to speak when we say “I do”) As you can see, this was not a tradition we upheld . I mean why on earth wouldn’t I want to say anything? That and the fact Mr Nu Bride HATES public speaking)
In addition, tradition dictates that our fathers should speak about us and the best man/men. That’s a lot of testosterone. How about a bit more oestrogen, eh?!
If you are both comfortable with public speaking, your guests will love to hear from you both. It doesn’t have to be long, hilarious or convoluted. Just a few words from your point of view and thank you’s.
Same applies to any best women you might have, the speeches don’t have to be all male led, as well as the gents who want to speak, get mum on the mic, your best woman and you too if it feels right.
Header image: Devlin Photos