Planning My Big (Hopefully) Feminist Wedding

Two weeks ago my boyfriend–err, fiancé–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 fiancé 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 fiancé, 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 fiancé 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.


5 replies on “Planning My Big (Hopefully) Feminist Wedding”

Oh girl. I feel you. “It’s hard being a feminist and getting married.” was how I answered just about every inquiry about wedding planning last year. Hang in there. Offbeat Bride is your friend – if only for images of happy guests at weddings just as different or even crazier than yours will be. The joy of your friends and family can help lift you back up when you feel that 100% justified anger at patriarchy/tradition/wedding industrial complex. It’s not the wedding they’re happy about; they’re happy for you and your future with your husband. You can be happy and angry at the same time.

walking down the aisle: Do what feels right. My husband and I had lived together for years, and walked down the aisle together – a last minute, felt right for us decision.

bouquet toss: I invited everyone, men, women, married, single, whatever, to try and catch the bouquet – and that went over really well. But you’re totally married whether you do it or not.

I have a totally over-bearing mother (seriously-she totally overstepped on something, and in the apology e-mail, she did the exact same thing I had just bitched her out for!) and my advice is…

For the people that feel like they must have a say, find something that you don’t care overly much about, and have those people do it. Like, say, chair covers. Give ’em a budget, some general guidelines, and let them do their thing.

Conversely, things you feel strongly about, they have ZERO involvement in. Like when you’re meeting with the priest to plan the ceremony, they don’t get to come. Or maybe even know when it occurs.

Have a stable of go-to responses when they start bugging you about stuff: “Haven’t decided yet” is a good one. “I’m not discussing this with you, bring it up again and I will hang up the phone/walk away” and then do so.

And for the Dad thing, which would make you feel worse? The being given-away or making your Dad feel bad? That’s something only you can answer, but you can have your father give you away while still being true to yourself. There are lots of smart people here who can help you find a way to make it happen,

I had my mom and dad walk me down the aisle, and when we got to the end, my husband’s dad (who officiated) said “who gives this woman to be married?” and my dad said “her mother and I do. We’ve put up with her shit for 30 years, she’s your problem now. Good luck with that.” Seriously. I loved the idea of them walking me down the aisle, not to give me away, but because I love them to pieces and it was like they were escorting me to the beginning of a new journey in life. As I am anti the whole “giving away” idea, we thought it would be funny to turn it on its head a little bit. It totally cracked everyone up and set the tone for a ceremony which we laughed and joked through. It might not work out quite so well in a more traditional setting, I will admit, but maybe having both your parents walk you would kind of keep with tradition appearance -wise and buck it at the same time?

While I am very lucky that nobody pushed back on my ideas too hard, I have SUPER fundamentalist Christian in-laws, so there were some tricky conversations that needed to be had, so if you ever need someone to bounce “leave me alone and let me do it my way” ideas off, I’m here! I started writing for P-Mag as DIY Bride, so I am happy to help any way I can!

Congratulations and good luck with all the planning! I’m pretty sure all weddings are a mass of swirly family drama, especially if you have opinionated relatives and a strong tradition you’re trying to compromise with even a little bit, but I’ve only watched the process, not spearheaded it.

Leave a Reply