Feminist Weddings

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How can you tell if you’re at a feminist wedding?

No, that’s not a joke, although there’s probably a joke in there somewhere. (I’m lousy at telling jokes.) But seriously, what makes a wedding feminist? If the father doesn’t give away the bride? If the bride keeps her last name and is introduced that way?  If the bride’s vows leave out the obedience bit?

Those are all places to start, I suppose. And they are typical answers that Second Wave feminists would have given back in the day. Actually, they may even have gone a step further and advised women to skip the marriage part altogether. After all, isn’t marriage just a construct of a patriarchal system?

Traditionally, yes. But today’s feminists are rethinking marriage and coming up with some new ideas. Marriage can be a contract between equals. It doesn’t have to signify “ownership,” even ownership of each other. It may be purely a statement, a public declaration that this relationship is exclusive (unless it’s an open marriage; that’s a subject for another post). It can be a celebration of your love for one another. But most people also want marriage–and the wedding–to be a reflection of their values and beliefs.

So if one or both of you are feminists, then you are often seen as part of a counter-culture. You don’t exist in the mainstream of society. So it makes sense that your wedding will also be “off the beaten path.” But in what ways?

First of all, economically. Not buying (literally) into a wedding with all the bells and whistles shows that you have not been sucked in by the wedding industry. The average cost of a wedding today is in the $20,000 range. This is because most people plan their weddings according to a template: there have to be engraved invitations, a rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, a bridal gown, tuxedos, bridesmaids and groomsmen, rings, wedding cake, reception, flowers, place cards, favors, gifts for the bridal party, a professional photographer, something old, new, borrowed, blue–the list is endless.

Second, philosophically. A counter-cultural wedding is an “examined” wedding. That is, everything is scrutinized for its appropriateness. The bride and groom don’t just accept all the traditons, but pick and choose which ones are most meaningful for them. They don’t just do everything for the sake of appearances, or because everyone else does it, or because it’s always been done that way. (That’s a misconception anyway: weddings are constantly changed. Did you know, for instance, that it wasn’t until after the Civil War that brides began to wear white?)

The feminist wedding therefore will reveal a feminist philosophy on the part of the bride and (hopefully) the groom. But feminists are not all alike. Some like the idea of their fathers giving them away, some prefer both parents giving them away, some don’t want anyone giving them away–or “taking” them for that matter (because they are, and want to remain, their own persons.)  Some like the symbolism of two becoming one for eternity, some want to downplay that symbolism by not having rings or not lighting a wedding candle together.

For more tips on how to have a feminist wedding, click here.

For how to have a reasonably priced wedding, click here.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

2 thoughts on “Feminist Weddings”

  1. I have my own name thank you — if he doesn’t take my name, does that mean he is undeserving of me? Shouldn’t the faithfulness be mutual?

  2. If a woman is unwilling to take her future husbands last name she is not worthy of him. If she does not comprehend the significance of the “obedience” vow then she does not deserve to be married. It’s not the obedience of “do everything I say” it’s more or less commitment to each other saying, “I’ll be faithful to you.”

    p.s. I’m a woman.

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