Is it possible to plan a feminist wedding? It depends on who you ask. Marriage as an institution, of course, was historically about a property transfer between a father and a husband — that property being, of course, the bride — rather than love, companionship, or any of the other modern qualities we associate with marriage.
And while marriage has changed in every conceivable way since those days, some people believe that due to its history, it's impossible to reclaim it as a feminist undertaking. However, may feminists disagree, and believe that having a feminist marriage (and a feminist wedding) is totally possible — and that feminist values don't contradict the institution of marriage, but instead enhance it. And for many people, the legal benefits you receive once your relationship is legally recognized by the state — like insurance, or the ability to find out important medical information about your partner — are too important to go without, no matter your take on the history of marriage.
For all these reasons and more, many feminists tie the knot. But just because you're getting married, doesn't mean you have to go along with traditions that you find sexist or questionable — or include traditions in your wedding that you don't feel reflect your values, simply because other people expect them of you. Weddings don't have to be about living up to the expectations of others — and bringing the principles of feminism into your wedding planning can help you make sure that your wedding is a reflection of you and your own values.
I’m one of those feminists that decided to try to reclaim my wedding; here are six tips (based on my own experience) for planning a wedding that is true to you and your beliefs.
1. Think About What You Really Want Your Wedding To Be
Your wedding is about you and your partner, not anyone else. You don't need to feel pressured by anything — whether it's tradition or Pinterest — to do things a certain way. Decide with your partner what kind of day you want to have. Small and intimate? Big and festive? Quirky and fun? Casual and laid-back? Themed? It’s up to you — because the day is a reflection of who you are and what you think is important.
My partner and I initially planned to have a medium-sized event, but once we began looking at venues, I promptly had a panic attack in the parking lot and became convinced that we should just elope. We took that opportunity to step back and think about what really mattered to us in a wedding, and what felt was true to who we were. We ended up having a 30-person celebration at our favorite restaurant and everything about the day felt perfect to us. We didn't have to stress about catering, decorations were minimal, and we had time to spend with every guest that attended because the crowd was so small. We ended up focusing on the elements of the day that mattered to us, not what other people thought we should prioritize — and the day was so much better for it.
2. Pick Traditions That Are Meaningful To You
The wedding ceremony comes with so many rituals and vows attached to it, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and just go along with all of them, or take a complete pass on all of them. But I found that researching the meaning behind the rituals of the ceremony helped me decide to include the ones that felt meaningful to me, and pass on the ones that didn't represent traditions that I wanted to have as a part of my wedding.For example, my partner and I are both from Jewish families. We knew that getting married under a chuppah was traditional but did not necessarily know why. So we looked into it. It turns out that the chuppah symbolizes the home. This “home” lacks furniture as a reminder that the thing that makes a home is the people in it, not the possessions. The chuppah is open on four sides to welcome the love of friends and family. We loved this, because we try to not be materialistic and relationships with our loved ones are important to us. So we chose to get married under a chuppah because it was meaningful to us. Each aspect of our day was researched and included for very intentional reasons, which helped us ensure that everything about the day was in line with our values and beliefs.
3. Don't Think You Have To Spend Tons Of Money
Feminism is about more than just dismantling the patriarchy. For many feminists, it also includes the fight against white supremacy, heteronormativity, and capitalism — but that last point can prove particularly difficult when planning a wedding.The average American wedding costs $26,444 — an amount of money that very few couples can afford. But many people feel pressured by tradition to spend far beyond their budget — since we're told that our wedding is a "once-in-a-lifetime day" from the time we’re little girls, we may feel like we're somehow missing out if we don't spend like crazy on every aspect of the wedding. Sadly, a lot of wedding-related businesses will exploit this kind of thinking to make money, and sometimes, going along with this can land a couple in wedding-related debt before their life together has even really begun.You don’t need to buy into it (pun intended). You're free to spend as much as you want on your wedding, of course — but know that don't need to spend to make your wedding "special." Often, a wedding that draws from the life you two have created together will be as memorable and meaningful (if not more so) as a spare-no-expense wedding. When planning my wedding, we outlined our "big ticket" items that were important to us (my dress and the photos!) and everything else was handmade. My bachelorette party was just me and my friends hanging out at my house making the wedding decorations, and our chuppah was made from tree branches from my mother-in-law's backyard. These touches felt personal and we didn't feel like we'd spent our life's savings on a one-day event. So if you feel pressured to pay more than you want for your wedding, resist. Tap your friends for help with decorations and photos. Make a wedding playlist on Spotify. Have a potluck. Get married in your favorite restaurant. Head to City Hall with just you and your boo. Elope. There’s tons of ways to avoid the wedding-industrial complex and still have the perfect day you’ve always dreamed of.
4. Write Your Own Ceremony
What better way to ensure that your wedding ceremony reflects your values than by writing it yourself? We wrote a wedding ceremony that represented our relationship and beliefs — by including text from the court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in our state (Massachusetts), using language that was as gender-neutral and egalitarian as possible, and cutting out the phrases “forsaking all others” and “until death do you part” (we’re not currently non-monogamous, but that’s not off the table for the future, and we also believe that divorces don’t necessarily mean that a marriage was a failure). We were left with a ceremony that meant more to us, because it really symbolized what our marriage would be about.
5. Wear Whatever You Want
You knew I was coming for the white wedding dress, didn’t you? Hey, if you want to wear a white dress, go for it. But the symbol of the white dress comes with some heavy cultural baggage — it is, of course, rooted in the value of virginity and purity in women (even if that wasn't its original purpose). In a day and age where 95 percent of Americans have premarital sex, I think the jig is up. I’d love to see the emphasis on the tradition of the white wedding dress fade, and have white become just one of the rainbow of options when it comes to wedding dresses. Don't succumb to social pressure about what you're "supposed" to wear. Instead, wear whatever the hell you want. What makes you feel fabulous? A pink dress? A blue dress? A tux? A bathing suit? Your day, your rules. Wear what you like (that's me up there in the rainbow dress and leopard print coat!).
6. Think About Who Will Walk You Down The Aisle
It’s traditional for a bride to be walked down the aisle by her father so he can “give her away.” It's fine to walk down the aisle with whoever you want — but you may want to consider options besides a solo walk with your dad, too. These options might stray from tradition, but could be more personally meaningful to you, especially if your dad is not on the scene, you want to support others who may not have fathers, or you want to take a stand against the roots of the tradition of "giving her away," which was originally about the transfer of property. I chose to walk down the aisle with both of my parents, because it meant a lot to them. You can walk in with your partner as a sign of unity and solidarity. And since you’re a grown-ass woman with agency who made the decision to marry the person you love, walking yourself down the aisle can be a symbol of that, too. If being walked down the aisle by your dad is a tradition that feels meaningful, you can walk in together, too — but with an awareness that while this tradition may have sexist roots, you two are expressing something very different.But above all, remember: don't feel guilty if you do decide to incorporate a tradition that doesn't feel feminist to you. The real thing that makes a feminist wedding feminist is the intention and awareness used to plan it — and the most important thing about the day is that it feels true to you and your partner, and that you feel good about it.