Two weeks ago my boyfriend–err, fiancÃ©–got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Ever since he slipped the sapphire ring on my finger, my head has been spinning. The feminist part of my brain and the part raised in a traditional Catholic family are fighting a constant war. And it’s giving me one hell of a headache.
Weddings shouldn’t be that big of a deal anyway, right? At least, that’s what the feminist part says. These days it’s just a little commitment ceremony with a big party attached at the end. Lots of booze, free food, cake, music”¦ fun! Not like the transference of property it used to be. But in America we still hold dear traditions that hold over from those women-as-chattel days, in form if not in spirit. Do I want those as part of my wedding?
Seeing as both my fiancÃ© and I come from heavily traditional Italian Catholic families, fighting the perfect white wedding is an uphill battle. My grandmother was crushed at my brief remark stating that I didn’t want my father to “give me away.” My fiance’s grandmother was stunned at the notion that I wouldn’t be changing my last name to his. My mother simply shakes her head in disbelief when I say I’ll be wearing a blue dress instead of big snowy cupcake of a gown in virginal white. And how dare I not want to toss my bouquet into a crowd of traditionally lonely, shrill harpies dying to nab a man? It’s tradition, you just do it!
Don’t get me wrong, feminism is about choice. Brides who choose to wear bleach-white, hurl overpriced botanical grenades and have their dad walk them down the aisle can absolutely be feminist, too. Even the tradition of marriage itself can be seen as unfeminist–like mentioned before, it used to simply be a way for a husband to get ownership of his wife and her property transferred from her father. In the end, it all becomes a spiraling mass of doubt. Am I even betraying my pretty radical sensibilities by wearing this engagement ring?
I’ve already made some concessions. We’re getting married in a Catholic ceremony despite my myriad objections to the Church. It’s important to my fiancÃ©, to my family and to his. In return, I have insisted that there will be no readings from woman being created from Adam’s rib, no “I now pronounce you man and wife,” and no “obey” in the wedding vows. There will be a million little compromises like this one–planning a wedding with a cultural template is hard enough without completely deviating from the floral-scented roadmap–but, in the end, will I come out feeling good about it?
My fiancÃ© is, if anything, making me feel better about it. When I told him I’d probably cave and let my dad give me away, he was flabbergasted. “I’m his only daughter, I don’t want to completely break his heart,” I told him sheepishly.
“That’s not the Alexis I know,” he said. “Ever since we started dating you were adamant that your father wouldn’t be giving you away at your wedding. It’s not what you want. You should respect your own principles, your dad will just have to deal with it. It is our wedding, after all.”
All this and we haven’t even set a date yet.
All weddings–at least the big ones–have some family drama. Half of all crappy romantic comedies could not exist if that wasn’t true. We’re just adding another fun layer onto the normal issues of keeping Aunt Gertrude away from the booze and making sure Uncle Jim and Grandpa don’t get into a fight. Likely we’re looking at a long fifteen months of lectures about taking traditions too seriously and handing out women’s studies books to sixty-year-old relatives. That in addition to picking out centerpieces and clothes and ceremony music. I thought this process was supposed to be fun? Probably just another lie society told me.