Last week, I sat down to write a blog post on wedding traditions and how to navigate them. Actually, I devoted an entire afternoon to the subject - drafting and redrafting the post, pausing and angsting over my words in a fashion I usually reserve for writing I’m being paid for.
I started out with a list of traditions (name changing, giving away, white dresses, etc), how Mr Musings and I would be handling them, and why my decision wasn’t the be all and end all. Then I scrapped that version in favour of a brief “feministy” analysis of each tradition, with some explanation for my own decisions.
Finally, about an hour before the post was scheduled to go live, I freaked out and deleted it altogether.
This is weird, because in the process of actually planning a wedding, none of these issues have worried me in the slightest. Feel like my name is integral to my identity? Keep it. Don’t like the whole “here comes to the bride, isn’t she beautiful” thing? Walk down the aisle with Mr Musings to keep the attention evenly divided. Like white? Wear a white dress. Prefer not to imply a woman’s greatest achievement in life is getting hitched? Don’t do a bouquet toss. Don’t like arbitrary gender divisions? Have a mixed gender bridal party and hen’s do/bachelorette.
Easy peasy. Dunzo. No stress.
But the prospect of writing this all down and attempting to justify it? Was decidedly more intimidating and more depressing. For one, explaining why Mr Musings and I weren’t doing the things we will not be doing served as a nasty reminder of exactly how sexist (and heterosexist!) the institution of marriage can be – and let’s face it, is at its default. Which in turn raised the question of why I wanted to engage with the institution in the first place. (To which I would respond that just because the institution is problematic doesn’t mean you have to engage with it in a problematic way.)
I felt even weirder about attempting the justify the conventional things we will be doing: the white dress, for instance. Or the fact that, even though we discussed marriage for a year before Mr Musings proposed, he still, well proposed. And I didn’t buy him an engagement ring. As I wrote and repented for my “bad feminism”, I couldn’t help but think of Phoebe Maltz’s ongoing chiding of Slate writer Jessica Grose: “Can’t she just admit to having some conventional desires, and, as the kids say, own it?”
And finally, as I indicated in my first post in this series, planning a (mostly) non-traditional wedding has made me more sympathetic to traditional brides. Being “given away” may feel to me like being treated like chattel, but to most women who do it, it marks a nice moment with Dad and the transition from one life stage to another (although I prefer the Jewish tradition of both partners being walked into the ceremony by both parents). I may delight in having a mixed-gender wedding party, but to someone else, a girls-only group is about honouring women. To someone who grew up in small town Christian America under the Bush administration, wearing white might be a siren song to virginity. For me, growing up an atheist in Australia, it’s not.
Traditions are the first thing most people think of when we talk “feminist weddings”, but I feel like they are pretty well trodden ground. Most of us are up on the symbolism, and the choice to partake or not to partake in a particular tradition – between being a “good feminist” and a “brainless bridezilla” – usually isn’t a question of not thinking. It’s a matter of what we like and what we don’t, what has meaning to us and what doesn’t, and – in many cases – trying to keep a complicated mix of highly invested and highly strung family members happy.
For my part, I remember when Mr Musings and I got engaged, one of our friends emailed to say, “I am counting on you to keep it funky, fun and feminist!”
And I think we have. Will it be a textbook template of a “feminist wedding” or 100 percent politically correct? No, but that wasn’t our goal going into it, either. We just wanted to plan a wedding that would incorporate as many of the things that matter to us as possible, and none of the things that irk us (or me, really – let’s face it, I am the more easily irked!). Just like everyone else, really.
Next up: Weddings as women’s work.
Elsewhere: Food and beverage (What Would Phoebe Do?)