Is It Possible to Have a Truly Feminist Wedding?

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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8 comments

  1. Alison

    The biggest dilemma for me was not hurting my dad’s feelings. I really, really, really wanted to walk down the aisle by myself and hated the idea of being ‘given away’, but I intended no slight to my dad and wouldn’t have hurt him for the world. So I avoided the issue, didn’t talk about it until the very last minute when I asked my brother what he thought, he was sympathetic but the discussion was inconclusive.

    So I thought I had to just knuckle down and do the traditional thing, and it felt supremely awkward. I’d left it so late I hadn’t had time to play my dad the music or practice walking in time and he took the aisle like he was running for a bus! I wish there had been a diplomatic way I could have talked to my parents about this without feeling I was upsetting them.

  2. Ele

    Love this and we need to talk more about it!im getting married this year and we have thought about every aspect so it makes sense to our equal relationship we have worked so hard for.

    Firsty-my green dress with cape as its my fav colour.the bofs suit is as big a deal as my dress and hel keep it a surprise for me too until the day.

    Dads not giving me away, yea he was pissed but not as pissed as i wud be being given away. I find it insulting to me and my mum as she rasied me more!so me and the bof will walk down the aisle together-equally.

    Double barrel name- we are both joining new families so makes sense.and both have to do the pain in the arse paper work then!

    Im deffo saying a lil thank u at the wedding as is my mum. No big speeches from anyone was we dont like em!

    And cake is for looking pretty than eatting after sparkle candles have been lit just because-no cake in the face for us its too pretty and tasty!

    Also our weddings vegan but thats another story! Peace out xxx

  3. Ria

    …..does anyone feel like the author made all of these traditions wayyyyy too deep? I’ve photographed hundreds of weddings. The couple has ALWAYS fed the cake to each other, there have ALWAYS been both men and women giving speeches, most of my brides aren’t virgins and still wear white or ivory (I mean, isn’t THAT more of a rebellion anyway? To say screw your wedding tradition, I’m wearing white anyway?), couples who don’t care for the bouquet toss simply don’t do them (and I’ve yet to ever hear that tossing a bunch of flowers is sexist, but okay). If the ring is indicative of ownership, then why do both husband and wife wear a ring?

    But perhaps I wouldn’t be so bothered if the article hadn’t started off with this sentence, “almost apologising for my role in sending more sisters off to the patriarchal shackles.” So, are feminists male haters or are they not? Because I keep being told that feminism is NOT about hating men, and then I see comments like that. If someone truly believes they are being shackled into something and still wants to move forward, is that not a choice they’re allowed to make? Perhaps an ill-advised choice, but who am I to tell someone they can’t marry another person based on how I perceive that person to be, or heck even based on how I perceive the institution of marriage to be.

    I am a happily married woman. I love my husband, and counsel with him often. Our marriage is not perfect, which is pretty normal. But I have never felt subservient to him, nor do I demand that he is subservient to me. In my opinion, a marriage is mutual respect and love for each other, and counseling with each other as equal partners. However, there are some things I take charge of, and some things he takes charge of. But if someone has a different view of marriage and they are both consenting to that, it’s not really my place to suggest that they are wrong. Likewise, as it’s not my place to ever suggest that marriage is or should be synonymous with “patriarchal shackles” because yikes, what a terrible comparison to make, especially in this day & age. If that’s what marriage is for you, then perhaps you should not get married.

  4. Post author

    Why wouldn’t we approve your comment Ria? I think you have valid points. You’re also totally in agreement with what the author has written… Apart from the ‘looking too deeply’ part because they are what they are and its a proven fact that that’s where the traditions came from… (except the white dress one which is actually a myth!)

  5. ellie

    Your marriage sounds pretty good to me!
    I think inequality is so deeply ingrained in our society that we have to dig deeper to find out why women are not yet always treated equally to men. I think attitudes to marriage/wife’s/husbands CAN be an issue. Traditions can be poisonous and the excuse ‘but its tradition..’ i think it can excuse bad behavior and attitudes. I have witnessed wedding traditions that have made me feel uncomfortable- like the females not getting a speech or the dad being way too over bearing about their speech or the best man making sexist comments…

    When the penny dropped for me about feminism and the the need for it in our society I became awoken to all the inequality out there some of it so subtle and its scary- so i say question everything and decide for yourself what feels right and what doesn’t. This has deffo been the thinking behind our wedding planning and we are happy with it even it others not get it- we do.

  6. Rae

    The thing that most bugs me, and often seems to be over looked, is that officiants in heterosexual marriages so often still tell the groom he may kiss the bride (sometimes, it’s true, I’ve heard it addressed to both bride and groom with something like ‘you may now seal your vows with a kiss’ but that’s the exception I think). Does that not strike anyone else as weird?
    As far as I’m concerned only the bride can give anyone permission to kiss her.

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