Smashing the Patriarchy a little at a time
It can be really hard to get married AND be a Feminist because of all these traditions. And if you choose to keep some (like, I don’t know, taking your husband’s last name as a woman) you can get some serious lash back from your strong valued friends. The first thing you need to keep in mind though is a wedding is a celebration of love and however you choose to express that, as a couple, is not wrong. Your friends who might have strong convictions may scoff at you for the things that you choose to do, but as long as you’ve looked at the different aspects of a wedding and have made the intentional choice to include that tradition in your wedding, you’re doing this right.
Most of this particular post is written for a straight cis couple, and that’s because I find the lovlies in the LGBTQ+ are already pretty amazing at refining the wedding day to make it about them and the traditions they want to keep. A big part of this is because there is no “template” for what a wedding with two men should look like or a wedding between a non-binary person and a trans woman.
Keep in mind, if a tradition is NOT for you, that’s FINE! Don’t keep a tradition that you hate just because it’s “Tradition”. Tradition is just a bunch of dead people telling you what to do!
The Tradition: Walking Down the Aisle with Daddy
While the idea of entering into your marriage escorted by the man who helped raise you and form you into the amazing woman you are today is a beautiful one, a lot of women have issues with it because:
A) you’re not a piece of property to be traded from your father to your new husband
B) you 100% wouldn’t be who you are without the hard work YOU put into becoming this human
C) it’s not as if you haven’t been living with your spouse-to-be for the last 3 years already
D) mom was totally there too
It’s origin: This traditional straight up comes from children being seen as property; sons are the ones to carry on your name and your legacy, and daughters were good for trade (even if they took a bit of investment before they were worth much). Your father handing you over was a business deal between either the groom and the father of the bride or between the families of the bride and groom. Yeah, that bit is gross, but it doesn’t need to be.
How you can modernize it: Firstly, you can scrap it all together. You are an amazing woman and you don’t need anyone dragging you down the aisle to the person that YOU are choosing to marry. But it can also be really nice to include your dad in your wedding in this “traditional” way, as long as we decide that the origin of the tradition contributes NOTHING for why you’re doing it. You can also have mom and dad walk you down. Or your brother, or your aunt, or ANYONE you feel really contributed to helping you become who you are today. This doesn’t have to be a symbol of the passing of property. All this is is the people who have supported you leading up to this day are there to continue to hold your arms so you don’t trip on that paper thin aisle runner you thought you needed.
Another sweet way to modernize this tradition (though I’m a bit bias because this is what I did for my wedding) is you and your SO can walk the aisle together. The way I looked at it was “We aren’t just starting this journey together; this has been 3 years in the making, so let’s continue this journey together when we enter into our wedding.” Take this tradition and mold it however best suits you and your spouse.
The Tradition: The Ceremony
It starts with “who gives this woman” and ends with “you may now kiss your bride” and if that makes you uncomfortable, yeah, I don’t blame you. There is so much about a “traditional” wedding ceremony that can make your skin crawl but the good news is that more often than not, those traditional ceremonies are only done on TV and in the movies and in reality, officiants are so much more awesome at making sure that the words spoken at your wedding, celebrating your love, reflect who you and your spouse are more than those “movie moments”.
It’s origin: Well we all know that women are property of men (see above) so all that crap in firmly ingrained in the words of a wedding ceremony, tying a piece of property from one man or another.
How you can modernize it: If you’re going with a catholic ceremony (and possibly other religions, I’m somewhat ignorant on non-christian ceremonies and their restrictions) you might have a hard time re-writing the words for your ceremony; however, if you’re going with a good ol’ government officiant, you have a bit of free reign. And if you get any push back on the words you want to use, it’s fairly easy to fire your officiant and find a new one without losing a deposit.
Some phrases in that “traditional” ceremony you may want to refigure:
- Who gives the bride to this man?” asked of the father of the bride
Easy, don’t exchange any words here. Give your daddio a quick peck on the cheek and have him take his seat; no words needed aside from maybe “I love you”
- Okay, not a phrase, but always having the dude go first like “Do you Collin take Rose to be your wife” then asking Rose the same question. Or having the man read their vows first or exchange rings first.
Solution, change it up! Collin can go first for the vows (he is the crier after all) and Rose can give her ring first
- Do you promise to love and obey…
Yeah, don’t promise this unless this is a mutual agreement of words that you and your spouse want to use. Instead opt for personal vows or something like “Do you promise to love your spouse and attempt to help them whenever they ask for it” or something far more eloquent.
I now pronounce you husband and wife-
Change up the order; “I now pronounce you wife and husband” or leave gender out of it! “I now pronounce you as married!”
-you may now kiss your bride!
“- you may now kiss the bride!” “- you may now kiss the husband!” “- you may now share your first kiss as a married couple!” “- you may now make-out like teenagers in front of your parents with no shame!”
The Tradition: Bridesmaids
For some reason, society has this idea that if you’re a woman you only have female friends, and if you’re a man, only male friends. God forbid you have close male friends as a woman; gosh, are we sure you’re not cheating on your spouse to be with them? I’ve even heard some of this nonsense at a wedding with two grooms, one of which had some groomswomen. First off, this groom identifies as gay has has zero attraction to women; but I digress.
And don’t get me started about how assigning gendered names to your group of people ostracizes the non-binary loves you have in your life.
It’s origin: Bridesmaids were traditionally dressed similarly to the bride so that bad spirits had a hard time figuring out which one was the bride so the bride wouldn’t get snached by them. And the best man was in place so that he could defend the groom with his sword from anyone who might come steal the bride. It kinda sounds like the whole wedding party are all there to help protect/entrap the bride.
How you can modernize it: Again, you can just scrap the wedding party all together. The maid of honour and the best man are now more commonly used for witnesses for the marriage licence, but you don’t need anyone standing up there with you, if you don’t want them. Your witnesses can be anyone. You can also choose to sign the marriage licence at a different time with whomever you want as a witness.
If you still want to have a wedding party (which is a totally legitimate option!) try renaming your bridesmaids and groomsmen to bridespeople or I do crew or cheer squad. Feel free to throw any friends on your side, don’t limit yourself to women because you’re female and be sure to discuss with your entire squad what they feel comfortable in. While the attendants you choose might be all cis female, they may not all feel comfortable in a dress, so be sure to ask them and don’t make them wear anything they’re not 100% comfortable in!
The Tradition: Bouquet and Garter tosses
So I love this tradition, but this is a personal thing. I think its silly and fun and if you come from it from the right perspective, this can be a super fun tradition; however it definitely has a lot of gross undertones. Like the idea of whomever catches each will be the next married (and to each other), and it can seem like a cruel game sometimes too. And the groom getting up under the bride’s skirt in front of their friends and family can feel super skeevy because maybe that should be reserved for a time a bit more private.
It’s origin: So the bouquet toss comes from a time when everyone saw the bride getting married as a fortunate woman and they wanted some of that luck, so they would literally tear the clothes she was wearing off of her body so they could all carry a token of good luck. The brides started throwing their bouquets to distract the female guests as they made a run for the door. That slowly evolved into whomever got the bouquet got good luck and would be the next to be married, because getting the chance to marry was good luck.
I actually wasn’t sure where the tradition of the garter toss came from so I had to look it up. According to my good friend, google, the reasons are exactly the same as why we toss the bouquet; so that it apeases the crowd as the couple make their exit. It sounds like they split it into the bouquet for the women and the garter from the men so that there was “equal” chance. And eventually, the idea came around that the two lucky recipients of these articles of the bride’s were going to get hitched. This is especially yucky when the girl who catches the bouquet is like 9 and the 30 year old groomsman gets the garter.
How you can modernize it: Again, aside from tossing this tradition out the window, there’s a lot you can do to change things up. Instead of asking the single people to try to catch the bouquet, bring back the idea that the bouquet actually brings luck, and ask everyone who could use a little luck to try to catch the bouquet. Or get all the married couples on the dance floor and slowly ask the people who have been married for the shortest times to take a seat until the people who have been married for 50 years are the last ones dancing and award them the bouquet! Instead of the groom going down on the bride to get the garter, skip that part and have the garter in his pocket, ready to toss. Or instead, have the bride remove the groom’s tie for something to throw. You can also choose to do one or the other; they aren’t mutually exclusive traditions.
The Tradition: Not including the mother of the bride in ANYTHING fun on the wedding day
There are so many ways that the father of the bride and the mother of the mother of the groom are incorporated into a “traditional” wedding day, from having a first look with dad seeing his baby girl in her dress to having a dance JUST for the groom and his mother, but what about the other part of the parenting team? There’s usually at least one other parent for each partner (if not more! I’m looking at you, step parents!) and they kind of just have to sit back and watch as their SOs (or ex SOs) get to enjoy so much of their child’s wedding day with their child.
It’s origin: We’re gonna go back to the woman is property thing here. That’s why dad is so involved with the bride. And if I’m not mistaken, the reason why mom gets to be involved with the groom is because of the whole heteronormative culture we live in. Women should be paired with men and men with women.
How you can modernize it: Ladies, include your mommas! Men, include your fathers! It can be as easy as walking with both your parents down the aisle to having a dance with the parent of the same gender as you. If you feel weird doing this (that’s okay; no one should dictate your comfort) try including all your parents in other ways. My favourite way to include each parent in the dances is to start dancing with your own parent, then half way through the dance, switch out for your new parent. Brides start with dad, move to father-in-law, grooms – moms to mother-in-laws. And anything that you have one parent involved with try to involve the other as well. Things might seem like they get more complicated with step parents, but they don’t have to. All these people are here to celebrate your love, celebrate with them by including them in a way that makes you happy.
Regardless, be sure to talk with your parents about their expectations with your wedding day. While their expectations do not need to have any pull in what you actually do, but this way you can have a conversation and they aren’t surprised when they’re under or over included by their standards in your wedding day.