My (Not So) Feminist Wedding

A 1942 wedding with bride in traditional long ...

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In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on hiatus for a few days.  You know you missed me; you can just admit it. ;)

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter or other social networking sites, you may not know that I am now engaged to the most wonderful man in the world.  I’m biased, but that’s ok.

So, I have started the planning and the list-making and the budgeting and the thinking that comes along with being newly-engaged and, while Las Vegas is seeming like a seriously viable option (I kid), I’ve made the decision to have a relatively traditional wedding, despite the feminist implications, and I’m pretty excited about it.  When I was discussing this with the lovely Amanda, I mentioned that I felt a little strange about seeing weddings through a feminist lens and noticing all of the patriarchal things within weddings but giving that up in favor of a traditional ceremony and reception, she reminded me that feminism isn’t about doing everything differently, but about having the choice to do what you want.  And I have chosen to be more traditional than not, but I can’t help but notice some interesting intersections of a traditional wedding and my feminist beliefs.

So far, here’s what I have.  With commentary, of course.

1. I have a diamond ring. I am biased, again, but it is probably the most beautiful diamond ring I’ve ever seen.  When I was in the process of picking out rings, my brother said to me that he was surprised I wanted a diamond, but then he recanted that statement and called me a “traditional feminist.”  I’ve held on to that term ever since.  I do understand the political and social issues involved with buying diamonds, but the truth is, it meant something to Tim for him to buy me a diamond.  And it definitely meant something to me, and it was personal on both counts.

2. I want the dress. You all know the dress I’m talking about: That beautiful white one that makes you feel like a princess and makes you look busty and skinny all at the same time.  Yea, that one.  Movies should be giving young girls more female rolemodels that aren’t just princesses, but it’s OK to feel like a princess on this day, I think.

3. I want my mother and father to give me away. This could be seen as feminist or not so feminist, considering I want my mom and my dad to walk me down the aisle, but I do understand the historical implications of being given away as more or less a piece of property.  I, however, see it as being their child that they have guided through life and now they are guiding me into my new life.

OK, I’m getting a little choked up reading this.  I am so girly.  I’ll probably be blogging a bit about this for the next year or so because it (along with my master’s thesis on feminist blogging) will be consuming my life.  But now it’s your turn.  You know you’ve thought about it!  What has been, is, or will be part of your perfect feminist or not so feminist wedding?

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26 thoughts on “My (Not So) Feminist Wedding

  1. Our ceremony is fairly traditional, with some modified elements:

    -Just my dad is walking me down the aisle. My mom will be seated shortly prior by my brother. To me, my dad is acting not as my sole, like, authority figure, but as the representative of our WHOLE family.

    -But he doesn’t do the “who presents this woman” bit–he just sits down after walking me down. To me it doesn’t feel so much like giving away as walking with me.

    -Then all of our parents in both of our families pledge their support/offer their blessing.

    -Often as they’re seated, the mothers will light the two tapers that we’ll use to light the unity candle–this is/can be seen as their “chance” to do something equivalent to the “giving away.” In our case, both of our parents will go up to light these candles together.

    -Only my dad is planning to make a speech/toast at the reception….my mom wanted it that way: she cried last night as we were eating spaghetti with the bridesmaids, so she definitely didn’t want to speak in front of hundreds of people.

    -ABSOLUTELY NO garter toss or bouquet toss. Most of my friends, it turns out, have absolutely no desire to be “next,” and those who do, don’t need it. This is less a political statement than that I don’t know anyone who actually likes doing it….

    -My mom is decorating the bathrooms, and the women’s room has way more fun stuff than the men’s room. Sorry guys.

  2. Anna Liffey on

    I hope you guys at least did some research on that diamond and bought one from a socially responsible company that tells you specifically where that diamond came from.

    The deaths and mass rapes associated with the African diamond trade do not just go away because “it meant something to you”.

  3. Wait, what’s the feminism behind diamonds? I know the political issues…I myself don’t actually prefer a traditional engagement ring, but would kinda like something…but at the same time, I also think it’s only fair for the guy to get something too, whatever he decides that to be.

    The dress: I don’t look good in white, so there’s that.

    I told you this already, but my father would literally keel over and die if I a) eloped b) didn’t let him walk me down the aisle. (He’ll only suffer minor shortness of breath if I don’t get married in a church, so he agreed to live with that.) I have very feminist reasons for him NOT to do this, but my father has been envisioning my wedding since I was born. He tears up at Father of the Bride. I’m doomed.

    I asked my mom if I should have the both of them give me away when the time comes, but even she agreed that it was his moment. She didn’t think he was SO traditional that he’d want said guy to ask his permission before we get engaged, but I do think he’d appreciate giving his blessing.

    Trust me, when I get married, and trying to plan something that will please my progressive, liberal self and my very conservative, ITALIAN family, I will have plenty of writing matieral. :-)

  4. Congratulations, by the way!

    Congratulations, by the way! I am dating someone right now and know that we will get married in the somewhat distant future. People are surprised to hear this because they assume that being a feminist means you are against the idea of marriage (just like they think feminists are man-haters). I think that marriage is not against feminism, but rather makes you think about how a marriage can be a more equal partnership.

    The idea of talking about weddings with my significant other makes me uneasy sometimes, because while I don’t want the ceremony/reception to be unfeminist, I also want to keep some traditions.

    I don’t think it’s unfeminist to get a diamond. I really like the idea of both parents walking you down the aisle. I also think that wearing a white dress, while originally was worn because of its meaning (white=pure), I think it’s more traditional than anything. I mean, when are you ever going to wear a white dress again? Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to go with the off-white dress because of my skin complexion, but I understand your want for wearing a white dress.

  5. When it comes down to it, I tend to look at the wedding as great party, a celebration of two people coming together. Yes, there are traditions that tend to come along with it (unfortunate biblical passages, references and assumptions about the roles of a husband and a wife) but I think your friend is right. You choose. You have the wedding that YOU want. And more importantly have the marriage that you want. The wedding is symbolic – it is words and gestures and hopefully some wine and bad dancing. The marriage is living and breathing and growing and changing. I have always loved Khalil Gibran’s writing on marriage – just an excerpt…

    Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
    Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
    Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
    Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
    Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
    Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

  6. Jeannie on

    I stumbled on your blog recently and have been really enjoying reading it.
    I’m also getting married in the coming year and have been dealing with some similar issues. My engagement ring is a diamond, even though I told my fiance I didn’t need one, but it’s a Canadian diamond which is great and it is beautiful and perfect.
    I already bought my dress. I wanted something simple and non-traditional. I ended up with a beautiful off-white dress with red emborydery that makes me feel like a queen. There’s an amazing book by Naomi Woof called “Promiscuities” which is mostly about her growing up, but at the end there’s a chapter about her wedding and how she struggled with the idea of a wedding as well. I think that really helped me get past a lot of my mixed feelings. I love how she talks about how on your wedding day, women are reveared. And how the whole huge dress with laces and stays or buttons or whatever makes it like really enticing wrapping paper that your partner gets to unwrap at the end of the day.
    “Off-Beat Bride” by Ariel Meadow Stallings, as well as her blog by the same name, have also been great inspirations to me in planning my wedding with a mixture of traditional and non-traditional elements.
    Congratulations and good luck with your planning. I’d love to hear more about what you and your partner plan for your wedding.

  7. I think as long as you’re conscious of all this…. you’re ok! I like what your brother called you though, ‘traditional feminist.” lol And it’s also very true what your friend said. It’s about being ABLE to make the choices. You are more definitely allowed to feel like a princess that day, so go ahead and do it. Please just dont turn in to bride-zilla!!!! ;)

    I also think that many people dont value the different symbols and traditions of marriage anymore. There are VERY different meanings in the tiniest things. For me, it will be my mom walking me down the aisle. She has been my pillar and raised my brother and I from the get-go. Sad to say, but I know I’ll be pissy when it comes to even inviting my real father! Ugh… My step-dad could also walk me down the aisle (next to my mom), but I feel like that would cause too much drama. It’s funny how it’s supposed to be YOUR day, and you will end up trying to work and plan around so many others. Oh man Ash….. good luck with that! =P

  8. My dress was PINK. And poufy. Imagine Glinda the Good Witch (but without the sleeves). I wore a veil AND a tiara.

    On our (PINK) wedding cake, the “bride” was Sleeping Beauty and the “groom” was Batman. Yes, the actual toy figurines. When my sister dropped them off, the bakery looked at them and said, “But we don’t have any kids’ birthdays today…?”

    It’s your wedding day, plan it how you want to. :P

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  10. Cassie on

    Congratulations! I just stumbled onto your blog a few weeks ago and I hope that you continue to include posts about your wedding planning. I am planning a wedding as well and have been struggling with how to avoid all of the sexist things that a wedding often entails. I would love to hear your perspective as well as others.
    -My father will walk me down the aisle but there won’t be any of the “who gives this woman…” crap. I can give myself away, thank you very much.
    -We won’t be announced as “Mr. and Mrs. Steve ______”. Personally I think that sounds like I am now an extension of my husband rather than being an individual. We will be presented instead as “Cassie and Steve _______”.

    Have fun and good luck!

  11. Ashley on

    Thanks, everyone, for all of the wonderful comments and congratulations. I will definitely be posting more about the wedding details as we go along. I do believe that deciding to share your life with someone and becoming partners with them is a truly beautiful – and feminist – thing.

    Regarding the comments I’ve received here, via Twitter, and via e-mail about my diamond ring, I’m actually a little disappointed. If you’ve read my blog or have talked to me at all, you know that I am an extremely socially conscious person, and social consciousness does not go away just because you saw something shiny. I would hope you’d have more faith in me than that. Of course I did my research.

    The fact of it is, the purchase of ANY gemstone or precious metal or, really, jewelry of any kind requires research in order to answer several questions: Is the mining of this devastating the environment? Are the miners treated ethically? Is funding from these stones going toward sustaining terrorism (like tanzanite was a while back)? Are the people who cut and create the jewelry treated ethically? And those are just a few things to consider. So those of you who have your hearts set on any gemstone or metal or natural resource (coral, pearls, etc.), I hope you do your research like I did.

    And I hope you check the labels on your dresses and tuxes to make sure those weren’t produced unethically, as well. I will be doing this, but I thought that went without saying.

  12. Firstly, congratulations :-)

    Secondly, I’d be interested to know people’s opinions on ‘taking’ their husbands’ names. I’ve always railed against the idea as I feel it sounds like I’m his adjunct.

    On the other hand, if I did not do this, then I retain my *father’s* name – and I’m not his adjunct either :-/

    In reality, I very much doubt that my partner and I will ever get married, but if we do, I may change my name by deed poll to something different altogether – not necessarily at the time of the marriage though.

    Anyway, interesting post and discussion – will be back to read more :-)

  13. Ashley on

    @Cassie – I’m sorry you felt that way, and it wasn’t my intention to make you sound any particular way, so I have removed all reference to that strand of conversation. If there is any further confusion about what I allow in comments and what I don’t, please refer to my policy: http://smallstrokesbigoaks.com/the-policy/

    I would prefer not to moderate every single comment because I believe that takes away from the spontaneity of discussion on blog posts, so I would hope that everyone could respect my policy as it pertains to my outside-blogging life.

    That said, I apologize for editing your comment in a manner you disagreed with, but I think my policy is pretty clear. I did find your comment very enlightening, but need to keep it off my blog.

    Thank you for understanding.

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  15. Melissa on

    Hey Ashley! found this post after the name-game one.

    I’m actually surprised that you were surprised (and a bit hurt?) that people called you to task on the diamond thing. Not everyone gets a chance to read all of your posts or know you personally, so for people new to the blog, like me, it seems a reasonable question to ask. (Maybe you were getting heat from people who know you better?) Anyway, it never hurts to explain stuff that you think is obvious – in this case re: the diamonds, TONS of people do not know the enviro and social issues surrounding them, even awesome feminists ;)

    At any rate, I agree with the commenters that your wedding day is about reflecting the love, values and rituals that you and partner share. Sometimes, that’s a white dress! :)

    My dad died when I was young, so I had my mom walk me down the aisle. My husband walked down the aisle with his dad (his mom wasn’t there) first, then his best man and my best woman followed. (Then me). I liked that it balanced out the whole ‘giving away’ concept a bit.

    Also, I believe it’s the tradition to have both parents walk bride and groom down the aisles in Jewish weddings. I’ve only been to one, and that was the case.

    Anyway, congrats and thanks for sharing this very personal experience with us and opening it up to discussion – I’m sure it’s not always easy!

  16. Hey Ashley – Excellent pondering! Check out Ariel Levy’s writing about her wedding (She wrote Female Chauvinist Pigs, for the NYT and married her girlfriend)I think it was in the NYT. Really interesting!

  17. I love it when both parents walk both the bride(s) and groom(s) down the aisle, guiding their child to the next stage of their lives. At a straight wedding, if both sets of parents do it, it feels like the parents are presenting their son and daughter to the other. It’s more family-oriented. It doesn’t feel possession-y.

    Having said all that, you didn’t say Tim was having his parents walk him down the aisle so if he’s not, I hope I didn’t just totally put my foot in my mouth. Sorry!

    As for everything else, I think as long as you think about what you are doing, examine the patriarchal and feminist implications behind your choices, it’s OK. You had better believe Gloria Steinem got the ring she wanted.

    At the end of the day, it’s your wedding and the beginning of your marriage. Even as you blog about it, don’t let anybody make you feel bad about your choices. Because they’re YOURS.

    • Catch on

      Wedding rings are symbols of ownership. Engagement rings are even worse. No true feminist would wear an engagement or wedding ring or expect a man to wear one either.

        • Catch on

          Huh? I didn’t say what a woman can or cannot do. I’m not trying to stand in anyone’s way. They can do whatever they want as far as I’m concerned.

          However, wearing a symbol of ownership (the engagement ring being the most egregious), being required to obey and other similar traditional trappings of marriage are anti-feminism and anti-equality.

          • JChiasson on

            So are you saying that a woman who decides that a ring (engagement or wedding) is no longer a feminist or not upholding feminist ideals? Perhaps if she believes, as you do, that it symbolizes ownership, but that’s not necessarily the symbolism that all people place on rings. To me, my rings are a sign of my commitment to my husband, blessed by the people present at my wedding ceremony and very special to me. I made no vow to obey my husband nor did he make one to obey me, but the rings were a special part of our ceremony. They are circles, a symbol used since ancient times, that has nothing to do with ownership in my mind, the mind of my husband, or the minds of the people who were present at my wedding. I was not given to my husband, no one was bought or sold. Saying that no true feminist would wear a ring is offensive to us feminists who feel rings mean something special to us. Are rings necessary in a wedding? No. But please don’t put down those who decide to include them.

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  19. Catch on

    “So are you saying that a woman who decides that a ring (engagement or wedding) is no longer a feminist or not upholding feminist ideals?”

    No more than one who voluntarily chooses (her choice) to be in submission to her husband. Both are based on patriarchal traditions. I did not intend to and did not put anyone down. Saying that someone is not making choices consistent with feminism is not ‘putting them down.’ There is nothing wrong with not being a feminist if that is what one chooses as their course.

    • Ashley on

      I have to say, I’m with JChiasson. I have a ring, my husband has a ring. We don’t own or obey each other. We function together in a mutually respectful, loving, and beneficial relationship, which is what this entire blog is about, which you would know had you read anything besides this post. I love my ring, he loves his, and it symbolizes forever to us. And we are both feminists.

      Frankly, you don’t get to tell anyone who is and who isn’t a feminist based on one choice they may or may not have made. And you definitely don’t get to come here, to my space, and tell me I’m not a feminist because I have a ring. It’s a piece of jewelry. Feminism is a way of life – my way if life – ring or not.

      • Catch on

        Touchy, touchy! Sorry, not intending to anger or offend, OK? There is more than one school of thought on this. And it’s true that anyone is free to ID as a feminist, no matter what they believe, including women who choose to submit to their husbands and those who choose to wear wedding rings (not that the two things are necessarily related) because they are making the choice to do so.

        • Ashley on

          It isn’t being touchy. You came here to my space, commented on a post I wrote over 2 years ago, and told me that I’m unfeminist for wearing a ring. All this after I spent years cultivating and expanding on my feminist beliefs on this site and many other places. While I don’t think I should have to defend my space, I will if I feel pressured to do so. I do hope you read more of this site, though, as that will help you better see where I am coming from.

          • Catch on

            This is your space but you’ve left the site open for comments. Do you only want commenters to tell you how much they agree with you?

            Is your position then that a woman can believe and live in any way she so chooses and still be considered a feminist? For instance, if she chooses to submit to her husband, can she still be considered a feminist?

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