Let’s face it ladies, although the wedding day is supposed to be all about us, the wedding ceremony and many wedding traditions are steeped in patriarchal values. Take the position of best man for example. Legend has it that in antiquity brides were often taken by force and the best man was there to help the groom fight off her rescuing kinsmen. In that same vein, the bride stands to the left of the groom so that his right hand is free to reach for his sword should those rescuing kinsmen appear.
If you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely that you plan to have a marriage based on equality and partnership with your husband, so why not infuse your wedding ceremony with a little woman-power. After all, in marriage as in other areas of life it’s always best to start how you plan to finish.
Here are seven ideas to bring a little feminism to the wedding party. You can use some or all of them. You may also choose to have a completely traditional wedding. Feminism is about choice and the choice is yours.
1. Don’t Let Yourself Be Given Away
Time was a woman went from being the property of her father to being the property of her husband. This transfer of ownership was accomplished by the “giving of the bride”. If the idea of being “given away” makes you cringe, you may opt to enter solo or you and your groom can enter together. If you don’t want to completely forego tradition, the officiant could ask ” Who supports Mary’s choice to marry John” or use other less sexist language.
2. Wear A Colorful Wedding Dress
The white wedding dress is an undying tradition among Western brides. It’s said to represent the brides purity and virginity. However the white wedding dress began less as a symbol of purity and more as a symbol of status. Prior to the Victorian era most brides simply wore their best dress on their wedding day and few saw the sense in buying a dress that would only be worn once . That all changed when Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert in 1840. Prior to this wedding, English royalty typically wore embroidered crimson robes for weddings. Victoria herself chose to buck tradition when she opted to wear white because it was her favorite color. After the royal wedding, the white wedding dress became a symbol of wealth and status.
Queen Victoria also reportedly took only the 2nd and last bath of her life on her wedding day. Aren’t we glad that tradition didn’t catch on?
3. Take The Lead In Reading The Vows
Traditionally the groom is asked to read or recite his vows first. This supposedly symbolizes his willingness to take the lead in marriage matters and to be the head of the home. However you can shake the dust off of this tradition by having the officiant address you first. It sends the message that you don’t plan on always coming in 2nd in the marriage.
4. Ditch The Sexist Language
You’ve probably never noticed how sexist and male-centric the ending of the standard wedding ceremony is:
- I now pronounce you “man” and wife.
- You may now kiss your bride.
- I now present Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
How about asking your officiant to give those words a dose of equality? Instead you could opt for words like:
- I now pronounce you husband and wife.
- I now pronounce you married.
- You may now seal your vows with a kiss.
- I now present Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Smith.
5. Rethink How Or If You Will Change Your Last Name
Modern brides “and” grooms have plenty of options instead of the standard practice of “her” taking “his” last name; especially in California where the Name Change Act of 2007 allows the bride and/or groom to change their surname at the time that the marriage license is obtained. Couples or allowed to state on the license what the post-marriage name will be. The bride may take the groom’s name or vice versa. One or the other may hyphenate their names or join their names together to create a new name. There is no additional name change fee if the name is changed when the license is purchased.
6. Feature Female Voices And Readings
Hire a female officiant ( shameless plug, IKR ). Have women to deliver readings and poetry during the ceremony. For even more feminist punch, feature readings writers offering a feminist perspective on love, romance and marriage.
7. Take The Driver’s Seat, Literally.
My favorite scene from Legally Blond II was Elle behind the wheel as she and her new husband drove away from their wedding. I thought, “What a subtle, yet unmistakable nod to girl power.” I doubt there’s any more powerfully feminist statement a bride can make than hopping into the seat of the getaway car and driving off into the sunset.
Rev. Connie Jones-Steward is an expert at creating non-sexist and femnist wedding deremonies. Visit her website at www.officiantlady.com