Is It Possible to Have a Truly Feminist Wedding?

Esther Bellepoque

February 19, 2018

Can a woman who’s fought for equality still be comfortable as a bride? In an industry that’s dominated by sexism (I mean an engagement ring is a symbol of ownership and it’s only the woman who’s expected to change her name… and don’t even get me started on the fact that the whole wedding thing is automatically assumed to be the woman’s domain). Well, weddings and marriage don’t always look that great. But if it’s the commitment you and your partner want, there’s no reason why you have to leave your feminist beliefs behind when you say “I do”. Becky Hoh-Hale, founder of the Most Curious Wedding Fair, is here today to talk you through the options.

As the founder of a wedding show, it can be hard to reconcile my career of choice with my feminist beliefs. I can sometimes feel myself explaining what I do with an element of guilt, almost apologising for my role in sending more sisters off to the patriarchal shackles. But The Most Curious Wedding Fair takes the idea of a wedding day and offers it up to couples to own it, and this allows me to rest easy in our quest for equality. So, I thought it would be interesting to look at how women in 2018 can and are reconciling their empowered selves with those wedding rituals less palatable to the bad ass bride.

As you are here already on Rock n Rock Bride, it’s likely that sticking to tradition is not top of your list of priorities, but similarly you’re reading this because marriage is important to you and you want it for you and your partner. Hell, you may not even want to lose all the romantic symbolism set up by some of the time-honoured wedding traditions. So let’s go there, what do these traditions mean? What are their origins? How can you change them up, slip in important feminist acts and reclaim your wedding?

The Wedding Dress

First up, let’s talk about the dress. I think we all know what the virginal white angelic gown associated with brides is meant to symbolise (although this assumption is actually completely inaccurate as it was originally blue that was seen as the virginal colour because of the Virgin Mary. The white wedding dress only became popular after Queen Victoria opted to wear it when she married Prince Albert!)

Whether a white wedding dress is a symbol of whether or not you’ve had sex yet or not (and honestly, even your Gran is probably pretty much up to speed on where you guys are at with that, having lived together for three years already) if you think about it, it’s always going to be an act of rebellion to wear something other than traditional white or ivory.

The Cake

Now we don’t want to ruin everything… but apparently even the damn cake cutting is about your hoo-hah. There’s different stories about the tradition, at best the couple could cut it together but she had to feed the groom a piece to signify her servitude to him and at worst the bride would do it alone to symbolise the loss of her virginity (eye roll). Do with that what you will. So if you’re worried about the symbolism, definitely cut it together and feed it to each other!

The ‘Giving Away’

OK so the next one is a little contentious. Who gives you away? Our point here is not to take away the magic, the poignancy and life affirming moments of your wedding day. We are not saying there is not a place for these traditions. The role of the person who gives you away can be incredibly special, a chance to declare and pay homage to that someone who has had loved you and taught you about love. It’s a place usually taken by your dad.

There are people who feel a great loss if their dad is not there to do it, who would give anything for that moment, and for most dads it is a role that means the world to them. But on the other hand the tradition stems from the fact that the daughter was seen as her father’s property, and the ‘giving away’ of the bride was a business transaction completed after the groom’s family had received money for her! It’s not great is it?

But the key, again, is your own mindset. I personally loved having that time with my dad and in no way felt I was owned by him and now owned by my husband. It was just a sweet symbolic gesture of thanks to him and his acceptance of my partner into our family. It was my moment and the moment when our two families joined. And we wholeheartedly say you can have whoever you feel is right for you walking down the aisle with you – your mum, your mum and your dad, your brother… Walk it on your own or walk it as a couple. Do what feels right to you.

The Speeches

The other biggie, is the speeches. OK, where do we even begin? When it comes to WHY this tradition of only the men speaking exists, I’m afraid it’s seems it is not so mysterious – men were just seen as better at it than women and women were meant to just sit and look pretty, to be seen and not heard. In fact from a poll we did on our Instagram recently this was the most irksome topic of all!

Sure, it works for some people (like myself!) who to not want to have the pressure and anxiety of the task, but if you do want to stand up and be heard then jolly well do it! Or if you want your mum, your sister or your best friend to say a few words, then do that too. In 2018 there doesn’t seem a single reason for this not to happen – even Meghan Markle is reportedly doing a speech at her wedding and a royal wedding is arguably going to be one of most overly traditional of them all!

Throwing the Bouquet

This is can be a really fun and hilarious (especially after a few too many drinks) part of a wedding day, but the sexiest undertones are pretty disturbing. “Come on single ladies, it’s time to scrabble desperately for a bunch of wilted flowers because the victor will be the lucky babe who snags a man next!”

Whether you choose to do this or not, a much less gross way to do it would be to include EVERYONE in the scrum – boys, girls, singles, married peeps… share the embarrassment with every single person in that goddamn room!

Same-Sex Marriage 

Wedding traditions in themselves, came from the hetero-normative institute of marriage. So for same-sex couples it is even more likely that they’ll want to throw out the rule book and have a wedding that feels reflective of them and their relationship. Lia, a bride-to-be who recently commented on something else I wrote about feminism in weddings said, “As one of two brides, it feels like a political act choosing to get married and owning a structure which is so deeply patriarchal, particularly during moments of homophobia from family members since we’ve announced our wedding. Our bridal parties include best women, best men and best lesbians. If anyone walks us down the aisle it will be our mums. The majority of speeches will be from women in our lives, and from us! We’re keeping our own names and neither of us will be throwing a bouquet. Marriage is still a privilege that many LGBT people can’t consider, and it’s definitely not for everyone… Choosing the day and making it your own is the most important thing.”

And there we go. I say, take away all the limitations and do your wedding your way! This in itself is a pertinent and important act of feminism. It is not about squashing men out of the equation, I’m not saying we should delete these traditions from history, but make them mean something to you. Together you should own them, reclaim them and forge new paths. You’ve already chosen love and it’s OK to choose equality too.

Becky Hoh-Hale is the founder of Most Curious, the wedding show for style-savvy couples. It’s taking place on 2-4th MARCH 2018 at The Old Truman Brewery (London) and on the 25th MARCH 2018 at The Fire Pit Camp (Norfolk). Advance tickets are available now from £9 for London and £3 for Norfolk. Use the code ROCKCURIOUS at the checkout for 10% off!

We’re also giving away a pair of VIP tickets to the show of your choice over on Instagram this week so be sure to go check that out too!

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100 comments

  1. I have photographed 500+ weddings so would class myself as experienced.
    When i started in the early 80’s i spent £2000 on medium format equipment, which was the best camera for the job at that time. Amateurs would not pay that amount for the camera, and as a result you images were far superior to “guests” images. If these so called photographers could not look at any of the images they had taken until they were processed(like us pro’s in the 80’s) I don’t think they would have the confidence,We had the expertise to expose the film and pose the pictures correctly, and we only took about 60 pictures the whole wedding!!

  2. Great wedding photography is also about people skills and organisation. After years in the business I still went to seminars and always came back with a little more I learned.
    I have been brought images taken by “a friend” and asked if I can sort them out as they are crap. I won’t tell you my answer.

  3. I’m going to bookmark this blog and send it to every bride that tells me that our services are too expensive. You get what you pay for…

  4. It should be obvious that you get what you pay for, but I think the pricing for good photography can feel steep to some people. It is an odd business, as it is (on the high end) a luxury business that revolves around having relatively few clients per year and just putting a lot of work into each client to make sure they are supremely satisfied with both the service and the images. The issue is that when you do it right photos really look effortless. That said I don’t think that people should break the bank on their photographer. Having the best should not be your priority if it’s going to really affect financially.

  5. David Jones

    Honestly most women complained about their photographer regardless of how much they pay I have friends that paid 3,000 and their wives complained and I also have friends that paid 8,000 and there wives still complained.. This is the most important day of your life granted, however i dont think people invest in cheap photography because they dont want they exclusive 8-10k photographer. Its like do you think the people driving in a honda civic wouldn’t prefer to drive the ferrari, ofcourse they would. Women guilt their husbands to spending way to much money on an event that lasts 5 hours. And photographers charge you way more money just because they can, taking the same poses/combinateions for a sweet sixteen is half the price. There are amazing photographers out there who take spectacular wedding photos for under $1,000 i know because i searched forever and found one. Make your decision based on their portfolio and what you can afford. dont shy away from an amazing photographer just because she is less expensive.

  6. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had couples come to me & say they want to book a great photographer because they know a bride & groom that had a bad experience hiring someone cheap & inexperienced.
    As you say, not a good idea to overspend, but to budget for the best photographer you can afford…in my opinion (but then I would say this as I’m a photographer myself) even if that’s at the expense of the cake or car you’ll have for the day rather than for life

  7. THANK YOU for saying what so many of us photographers have been saying for a long time. While there are wedding photographers all across the board to hit every budget, brides just need to remember that if they do choose the “cheaper” option they themselves have no one else to blame if something goes wrong.

  8. Stop booking cheap anything and then complaining about it.
    You get exactly what you pay for. Be it your godmothers flowers, your friends free dj skills, or your sisters day of planning.

    Hire professionals and stop mixing in the crap.

  9. Like every one else I read the headline and jumped to the conclusions that everyone else did – cheap photographer etc etc. However after reading the photographers very personal and public response on FB I felt awful for believing everything I read. The pictures she shared were great for a £500 photographer but of course the paper didn’t show those ones? 45 mins late – yet she captured the bride getting ready and her arrival at the church?

    But I completely agree with the point Kat is making – when doing your research you cannot expect to go for the cheapest price and get the most expensive product – life doesn’t work that way x

  10. Lynn

    I experienced this as the photographer around 15 years ago. Back before digital and people were still using film. I was a student and photography wasn’t my major, it was a hobby. But a friend of friend was getting married and asked if I would take pictures for her wedding. I hesitated accepting the job because, I wasn’t a professional and this was a memory she was supposed to have for the rest of her life. She insisted that it wasn’t that important to her and that she just wanted someone there to take pictures on the day. I charged $150 for the job. $100 of that went towards film and processing. I used two cameras so that when I ran out of film on one I could just switch to the other. Well something was wrong with one of the cameras and the pictures taken with it had a black bar on the bottom of it. The bride was livid and wanted her money back. I apologized and said this was why I didn’t want to do the job in the first place because something could go wrong. I also said I didn’t have her money since most of it paid for film and processing and as a student that $50 was long gone. I never advertised as a photographer or even offered my services, I was basically badgered into taking the job then accused of ruining someone’s wedding.

  11. The money we spent on our wonderful photographers (McKinley Rodgers) was worth every penny. They were so lovely on the day and created the most beautiful images – even though I spent my wedding day with food poisoning (argh!) they did such a skilled job of making me look healthy and happy – I wouldn’t have changed them for the world. Best thing we spent money on! X

  12. Yes,i can’t agree with this more! And the same about our gowns.The cheap thing you are happy when you see the price and pay for it but unhappy when you see the real things in hand.

  13. Andy

    Whilst we’re on the subject, wedding magazines, blogs & venues are also culpable. They publicise, recommend & persuade couples to hire sub-standard photographers purely because those photographers either pay a commission to be recommended or they’re advertising clients. Couples are ‘duped’ as often by these (often rather expensive) one-hit-wonders & part with sometimes substantial amounts of cash based on nothing more than their 5 minutes of fame online. Some of the work that’s routinely churned out by many so-called ‘pros’ is nothing short of embarrassing.

    I personally think it’s worse when someone charging a great deal, falls way short of expectation.

  14. Absolutely!

    You choose to spend only £500 on a student photographer to document your wedding and frankly you should have no expectations whatsoever.

    That said, if one is charging for one’s services one should act prfessioally regardless of the amount invoved

  15. Really interesting article. I have read people saying “it doesn’t matter that the photographer cost £500… she charged so the pictures should have been professional.”. But no they shouldn’t. You get what you pay for. The fact the girl was cheap means you are getting someone who can’t charge the going rate… for a reason. A lesson to potential brides and people who think they are “professional” photographers. And before I get a million responses saying that this is not the case and that there are great photographers out there charging £500… yes there may well be, but for every great £500 photographer out there, there are 999 absolutely awful ones who should be saying they are a photographer let alone a professional photographer.

  16. I agree. Anyone who hires a jackleg needs to accept their share of the responsibility for that risky decision and realize you get what you pay for. Hard lesson.

  17. alex

    If you read the all story, there are 2 versions of this story. She sent more then 250 photos to the clients and not 15, and much of the photos the press is showning on that wedding are in fact photos taken by FRIENDS of the bride at the wedding and not the photograph (thus, the poor quality).
    Seems to me some journalist made a total invention to gain notoriety. Trash tabloids. nothing more.
    You should read the real version of the story as explained by the photograph and not this weird married couple… They had their nice wedding photos…300 of theme… what are they after ? fame ? money from press magazines ? Maybe.

  18. The issue is that there is NO barrier of entry into professional photography. Like other readers have said – I spent thousands of thousands of dollars on “pro” equipment back in the day that is now replaced by cameras 10x as good and 1/4 of the price. Add to that the sheer amount of average/poor images we see on a daily basis thanks to the phones, and peoples ability to judge a great photo has declined rapidly. It’s very sad. And whats worse is that there are some talented shooters out there who want to work for cheap, thus driving down the rates for the entire industry. What I’ve seen is that those photographers, who once worked for cheap, now want to get paid more but they cant because they shot themselves in the foot. We, as an industry, have shot ourselves in the foot.

  19. Wedding pro

    So right. It’s your wedding, your money, your consequences. It’s too often we see champagne dreams on a beer budget. If you don’t have a lot of money, do some diligent research on your vendors. Ask questions, look at reviews, look at past work. It’s great to find people who are newer in the industry who are truly dedicated to provide great service and who will work for less to build their experience. However, hiring inexperienced vendors does not guarantee all will go flawlessly. The true pros that charge professional rates are the ones that bring that to the table. You can’t compare the two. Order a burger from McDonald’s and it will feed you. It may be sloppily thrown together, may be missing the lettuce because someone new is training on the line. But it’s a $4 burger. So you know what to expect. Eat it. Now if you order a $18 burger from a steakhouse, it better be cooked and presented perfectly, accompanied by great service. If there’s an issue you have a legitimate complaint. Same goes with wedding vendors. We are not all the same exact burger and experience.

  20. Claire

    It’s not just the photos, it’s the experience on the day. My Uncle is doing our photos as our wedding gift, and he’s not a professional photographer (Shock horror! You’ll regret that, most important day of your life, don’t cry when it all goes horrifically wrong etc etc). However, he did the same for my brother a few years ago, and it was so lovely having him do the photos. He’s been the photographer at loads of weddings of friends and family, not because he’s the best photographer in the world (he’s certainly not terrible though) but because he’s amazing at putting large groups of people at ease (he’s a policeman by day) and he’s fun! There’s no uncomfortable smiles or fakery, because everyone knows him and he’s a laugh. That’s worth more to me than a few arty shots of my shoes or someone who knows their way round Photoshop.

  21. Stephanie McKenna

    Package price is not always indicative of quality work. There are some photographers that charge way too much, in my opinion, for photographs that are not technically great. They charge for their artistic “talents.” I know that I will be underpaid for 2016, but I’m taking the hit so I can have a well-rounded portfolio with a constant flow of weddings throughout the year, so that for 2017 and beyond my pricing structure is grounded. I know “newbies” can have awful work, but on the same note so can the “pros.”

  22. Such a brilliant and important article – every bride and groom need to read this!! Not to show them that they should hire a professional wedding photographer (because I totally understand that not everyone can afford one) but just so that they are aware what the possible consequences of getting your friend or someone “who is just starting out” to shoot your wedding are!! Would love to use this as a guest blog post on my blog 🙂 xx

  23. I can say the title is straight to the point! Having read the post, I am not sure I agree with everything you have said. Cheap does not always mean bad standard. However, in reality it probably does. You have many brilliant photographers trying to break into the market and in order to achieve this they undercut many of the professional ones. Would it be correct to say we all had to start somewhere? The answer is yes. In balance not everyone can spend £2000 on a wedding photographer as you have brides and grooms who might only have this budget for the entire wedding. To conclude I think the market is open to variety of different price points and it’s down to the bride and groom to make the choice which is most suited to them. On the flip side you are correct to say if you go for a cheap photographer then risk is much higher. For this reason you should not be too surprised if the images don’t turn out the way you had wished for.

  24. Wow, I could not agree more! Just last week I was approached at a wedding by a couple with a sob story about how they had been let down by their photographer. I was horrified so asked “who did you book?” They replied “Can’t remember his name but it was a deal on Groupon” My sympathy instantly vanished. Great post as ever

  25. So true and well written Kat. I’m always amazed when I get enquiries and discuss all the lovely things they want from their wedding – vintage bus, gorgeous church and country house, vintage dress – and then say they can’t believe how much photographers cost, budget of £500!!!

  26. Firstly, the Daily Mail loves a story about a nasty photographer ruining a bride’s big day, so a pinch of salt is required when reading such stories. “You get what you pay for” is an absolutely false statement in the area of photography as it assumes that a higher price equals better quality, service etc. Does anyone really think that a high key family portrait taken by Venture Portraits and costing £750 is necessarily better than one taken by another photographer in his studio that costs £400? Venture photographers are employed because of their affability and selling skills, not their skill with a camera. Some wedding photographers are expensive because they are good businessmen and are able to make the maximum amount per wedding. Others charge a lot because of high overheads but that does not mean that their work and service are better than someone who can thrive by charging less. As was said earlier, there are some brides/grooms who will always find fault regardless of what they paid for their photography; some people are just complainers and there’s always a tabloid waiting to publish their pain. It is wrong to assert that a relatively cheap wedding shoot will leave a bride disappointed whereas she’ll be overjoyed if she spent £2000 more. Due diligence, research and clarity about expectations is the key to couples being happy with their wedding photography.

  27. Great article but I think I would have to agree with Anthony Benjamin when he says ‘Due diligence, research and clarity about expectations is the key to couples being happy with their wedding photography.’ I think this is a very good point. There tends to be a certain amount of snobbery in the wedding photography industry in regards to the amount of money charged.
    If you pay a lot for a service there is no cast iron guarantee you will receive the amazing service that was promised.

  28. Sadly it is not going to stop. Digital makes it more and more accessible and FB makes it easier than ever to set up a business, show off a few images of your own (possibly more from the workshop you attended…). However, using the word ‘cheap” is a bit much for me. Everyone is on budget. Some are £££££££££ and others are just £.

  29. Excellent article and as others have said couples must be prepared to do the work necessary in terms of choosing carefully a photographer who provides everything they want at their budget.

  30. I think this is great Kat but all photographers start somewhere. There’s no harm in offering your services on a budget at first but make it very transparent to bride & groom as expectations are set and of course have a contract in place 🙂

  31. I came to this post after reading your tips on getting great wedding photos. Couldn’t agree more that couples should choose their photographer very carefully. After all, the only thing that’s left after the day is finished are the images!

  32. Great post! It seems that here in the UK, we’re well behind countries like the USA in terms of how wedding photography is valued. I see “decent enough” photographers over the pond charging $4,000 – $8,000+ and getting all the work they need. Wedding photography isn’t just about what you do with a camera, it’s who you are as a human being and what you bring to the atmosphere. Sometimes couples need to be gently prised open and encouraged – this is where the real wedding photographers excel. Getting the confidence of a couple and helping them to blossom isn’t anything to do with f stops and ISO!

  33. “You pay peanuts, and you get monkeys”, someone once said! But on a more serious note, there are some great points made in the article above, and in the comments. More than ever, particularly with couples increasingly turning to Instagram to find their photographer, it’s crucial that couples do their due diligence, and ask the right questions of their photographer. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a photographer that happens to be at the start of their journey as a professional, but couples should be clear about what they expect and photographers must be honest about what they can deliver.

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