Author Archives: Rachel Darwin

I Do … & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride – The Perfect Bride

When it comes to the expectations put upon a bride, the patriarchy has done us all a great dirty wrong by creating yet another unattainable standard for women to try to meet. I know— shocking, right? This one tends to go by the cliché of the ‘perfect bride’.

The perfect bride will look the most beautiful she has ever looked on her wedding day. She will be an effortless host to her friends and family: gliding about like a silken swan; laughing in all the right places; glowing when appropriate; accommodating for each individual attending, as if they themselves are her personal guest of honour. And… she will manage all of this on potentially one of the most emotionally-challenging, mentally-demanding, physically-exhausting days of her life, without making it seem like any work at all. The perfect bride, simply put, will not be human. Or, in other words, she does not exist.

Ask yourself… is the thing your friends, family and significant other most love about you the fact that you are perfect? No. It isn’t. And even if you were perfect (which you aren’t, none of us are), let’s be honest… it would probably be the thing your friends and family loved you in spite of, not because of. Who wants a perfect friend? Who can relate to or connect with or be vulnerable around perfection? So why strive for it on your wedding day?

I’m saying this because, though it was magical, memorable, joyous, elating, happy, fantastic, wonderful, special, hilarious, emotional, spectacular and incredible… my whole wedding day was not perfect from start to finish. And I believe I’d be doing the readers of this magazine— and the ethos of what it is to be a Rock n Roll Bride— a disservice to pretend otherwise.

Strike one in pursuit of perfection (and I’m pulling no punches here, reader): I had such bad diarrhoea for the whole morning on my wedding day that we started referring to the downstairs loo as “the scene of the crime”. I’m not sure if it was the gluten the night before or if I just had a nervous tummy, but it was like the scene from Bridesmaids and it was not okay. Strike two: During the journey to the venue, I had my first ever anxiety attack and had to get out of the car.

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I Do … & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride – Changing Your Name

Can you believe it, our real bride’s penultimate column! We can’t wait to share how Rachel’s Tolkien inspired garden wedding turned out in our next issue, but for now, she’s discussing a topic that pickles every feminist bride’s brain at least once – should you change your name when you marry or not?

People often get my surname wrong. Even though I’ve spent my life spelling it out for people down the phone (‘B – E – Double T – E- S – Worth’), over the years I’ve been Butterworth, Butterscotch and even Battleworth. But, despite the 31 years of typos—and the fact that I often just say ‘Jones’ when making a booking to avoid confusion— Bettesworth is my name. And I’m extremely attached to it.

I always liked coming first or second in the register at school (unlike Kat, who hated coming last and then married a man whose surname was even further down the alphabet than her own! Sorry, Kat!). I like my name’s uniqueness. I like that it connects me to my beloved late Grandpa, to my parents, to my own family tree.

And yet, by the time you read this, I am going to become someone else on paper… because I have chosen to take my husband’s name when we get married.

I find this phrasing so interesting. Traditionally, the bride ‘takes’ the name of her new husband. Not ‘is allocated’ or ‘is given’. She ‘takes’ his name, implying that she had some say in it, when actually it was more to do with the ownership of the woman exchanging from her father to her husband, by name; a non-negotiable component of the transaction of marriage.

For me, the use of the word ‘take’ suggests that the ‘she’ in question gains something. But what? And, in turn— because where there is gain there tends to be loss— what is ‘he’ losing? He holds onto his own name, his prior identity, while she becomes someone else. What is that implying; that before becoming someone’s wife she was without meaning; that her years as a Miss are irrelevant now she is a Mrs?

And excuse me, his title doesn’t even change. From now on, each time she introduces herself to someone new it comes with a relationship status notification. Roughly translated, ‘Hi, I’m Mrs So-and-So’, means, ‘Hi, I’m married’. His introduction is ambiguous; it doesn’t matter either way whether he is married or not, while she is defined by her status as a married woman from the start. Is that not oppressive? Is that not the covert patriarchy chip-chip-chipping away?

Whatever your gender and whoever you’re marrying— whether you’re changing your name or not— like so many wedding traditions, we have to admit: the origin of this one is sticky. Right?

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I Do … & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride – The Hen Do

We’re following Rachel‘s journey of planning her feminist meets rock n roll wedding; this month she’s talking all about having a feminist hen do.

A friend of mine once described a hen weekend she had just been on as ‘the cheaply-veiled death of feminism, marinated in prosecco’. Every time she’d watched one of the hens putting their lips to a penis-shaped straw to suck a drink through it, she’d pictured the suffragettes turning in their hunger striking graves. Admittedly, as she said this, her fingers were at her temples, still recovering from the effects of being marinated in prosecco herself. But it’s not exactly a unique opinion, is it? There are heaps of people who think the whole hen party thing needs a reboot.

I know the term ‘hen party’ isn’t used globally. In the States, the ‘bachelorette’ is the thing, but the term ‘hen’ is, in itself, irritating; a centuries-old name for a gathering of women that indicates a whole lot of clucking, preening and brooding over eggs, as if these are the only possible outcomes for a coming-together of females. I mean. Kindly cluck off.

I have been to one ‘traditional’ hen weekend in my life and made a decision that, for me, that was it. I witnessed the unnerving regression into the hierarchical, competitive friendships of our school years that can happen around a hen when I walked into a restaurant bathroom one lunchtime in my hometown of Bath, only to find women clustered around a hand drier, like students in the girls’ loos at school. They were telling one of their party— who was crying— that she had to go home because she’d upset the bride. ‘We’re not mean girls,’ I heard one of them say as she arranged a taxi to take the crying woman away.

I have received those minute-by-minute, spontaneity-intolerant emails from the Maid of Honour— the ones that Dolly Alderton tore apart so exquisitely in her memoir Everything I Know About Love— that tell the bride’s female friends what to wear, where to be and when to be there… and to send payment for this sequence of compulsory, often-mortifying activities ‘ASAP please, ladiessss!!!’.

I have seen intelligent women puckering up to ‘Kiss the Miss Goodbye’, as if once she’s married, they’re never going to see their friend/cousin/sister again. I have had a conversation with a female acquaintance at an engagement party, who told me that, during that year, she had five female friends getting married, and with the hen weekends, the weddings and various bridesmaid duties for some of them, she was looking at a cost of around £3000.

So, at the risk of ruffling feathers (or even starting a coop!), let’s just think about all this for a moment and ask ourselves… WHAT THE CLUCK?

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I Do… & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride: The Bridal Party

Our real bride columnist Rachel got married in September this year. We’re following her journey of planning a feminist meets rock n roll wedding.

I’m sad to say I’m the only person I know who has ever been “fired” as a bridesmaid. I was eighteen and the bride was in her early twenties. As the big day came closer, I realised I was expected to pay for my own no-so affordable bridesmaid dress, shoes, hair, make-up, travel and accommodation over the wedding weekend, and for the hen weekend, including all the activities and meals out. I absolutely could not afford to do this, and neither could one of the other bridesmaids who was also in her teens.

I constructed a careful message to the bride, explaining that we simply didn’t have the money and asking if we could maybe talk on the phone about how to make it work for everyone. Minutes later, I received an all-caps response telling me “THIS IS MY WEDDING DAY!!! NOT SOME BIRTHDAY PARTY!” and that I needn’t worry because I was no longer welcome at her wedding… “OR HER LIFE!”.

When I responded, she didn’t reply and we haven’t spoken since. I now realise that this probably wasn’t about me at all, there was clearly a lot else going on and she snapped, plus we were all very young. I still think it’s sad that one day became more important than years of friendship, though. I still think it’s sad that when her marriage ended a couple of years later, we were no longer friends.

When it comes to writing this column, there are a thousand directions I could take. I’m going to stick to the thing I’ve known since that experience when I was eighteen… that my friendships with the people I ask to be part of my bridal party are more important to me than one day of my life, even if it is my wedding day.

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I Do … & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride – The Origins of Bridal Traditions

Our real bride columnist Rachel got married in September this year. We’re following her journey of planning a feminist meets rock n roll wedding, culminating in us sharing the big day in our last issue of the year! This month she’s been thinking about wedding
traditions.

I thought I had a handle on the major bridal traditions and the gripes many of us have with them. Lots of you reading this may have already decided to scratch out the word ‘obey’ from your vows, for example. A lot of modern brides also wrinkle their noses at the idea of ‘being given away’ and what that actually used to mean (that the literal ownership of the bride was changing hands from father to husband). Many have even come to believe that the first dance is tired and unnecessary. Not me, though – it’s my one chance to feel like I’m on Strictly Come Dancing. But I get it. It’s not for everyone.

It turns out I had no idea about the murky origins of so many staple wedding moments. For instance, did you know that the garter removal — that moment where the groom takes off the bride’s garter with his teeth, in front of his nephews, his grandma Joyce and his new father-in-law (I’ve seen it happen from many a stage as a wedding singer and it is never anything other than excruciating, please don’t do it) is the very distant descendant of a medieval tradition that would happen at the end of the wedding feast? Right before bedtime, someone would shout, ‘GET HER!’ and the congregation would launch upon the virgin bride, ripping off pieces of her dress to help unclothe her before the naked part of the nuptials. The bigger the chunk of dress you took home, the better the luck apparently. It’s worth nothing that this gang-undressing is also considered by many to be the great, great, great grandparent of catching the bouquet, as it’s in the same family of ‘taking home a piece of the bride for luck’.

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I Do… & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride – Finding Your Wedding Dress

Dress: Katya Katya

Our real bride columnist Rachel is getting married in September this year. We’re following her journey of planning a feminist meets rock ‘n roll wedding. You can catch up with the series here, or subscribe to the magazine to read them first!

I’ve watched Say Yes to The Dress with my mum for years, so when the first big COVID lockdown ended and all the bridal boutiques were only allowing one or two people to accompany the bride, I felt fine about not taking a big entourage. More often than not, a big group can end in tears, and not the I-just-found-my-dream-dress kind! My auntie is a keen dressmaker, and generously gifted me a budget for my wedding dress, so I went with her and my mum.

To start with, for me, wearing white (or ivory, whatever) is always how I’ve pictured myself on my wedding day. Not because I want to present myself as pure and celebrate my pre-marriage chastity, but because it’s what I want to do. I also want to wear a veil. Not because I want to demonstrate modesty in the presence of God and my future husband, but because they feel fabulous and look amazing. That’s just my personal approach. Whatever anyone wants to wear on their wedding day, if it makes them feel their most confident, comfortable and happy, they should just do it.

Besides colour, there were four things I wanted to be sure of about my dress:

1. I wanted it to be made by an ethical, environmentally conscious brand that values its employees.

2. I wanted a dress that worked with the parts of my body I am not confident about, without feeling caged-in by corsetry and boning.

3. Given that this is the most expensive item of clothing I’ll ever own – and the fact that wearing anything just once is neither sustainable or responsible, even if it is a wedding dress – I wanted to be able to repurpose the dress and wear it again.

4. I wanted it to make me feel like Galadriel, elf queen of Lothlórien… because I’m a massive geek.

Dress: Katya Katya

For me, the place that offered all of these things was Katya Katya in London. Before I went to Katya Katya, however, I went to Maisie Darling in Lutterworth. My fiancé and I are having a humanist ceremony, which is still not considered a legal marriage in England or Wales (lots of petitions to sign online about that idiocy if you want to look into it). To get the legal bit done we’re heading to the registry in my hometown the day before the big day. I was planning to wear a dress I already own for this, but my auntie’s gift means I’ve been able to find a wedding dress for this ceremony too. I plan to sell this dress after the wedding (on stillwhite.com or bridalreloved.co.uk) and will be donating the money to Girls Not Brides, a global partnership committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls all over the world to fulfil their potential.

When I first saw Katya Katya dresses on Pinterest, I fell in love. And when I discovered their strong ethos – in-house production exclusively using fabrics from Italy and France to reduce ecological footprint; ensuring great working conditions for employees and paying them all a national living wage; offering a dress-shortening service after the wedding so the dress can be worn again – I knew without doubt that I wanted to find my dress with them. Not only that, but pretty much all the elements of their dresses are interchangeable. For example, as someone who doesn’t feel confident about her upper arms, Katya Katya will be adding sleeves to my dress. Female-led, Katya Katya really seem to understand how to help their brides feel their most confident.

Dress: House of Mooshki
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