By Hilary Fischer-Groban
Did you know that in Western weddings, the bride traditionally stands on the left side of the groom so that his sword hand is free? To defeat anyone who would threaten this marriage by capturing the bride mid-ceremony of course. Pretty much every marriage tradition is rooted in upholding the patriarchy or some sexist nonsense.
Getting married is not a privilege I take for granted. Not only is my union recognized by my government, but I was able to choose my partner myself, without influence or pressure. Not everyone has these freedoms. If you do, why not celebrate them thoroughly? No matter what you end up doing, someone will think they could have done a better job, or be offended at some ritual you omitted. I promise, you will let someone down at your wedding — don’t let it be yourself.
So much of the advice out there is based on a set of fundamentally narrow guidelines: that there is a bride (planning the wedding and reading the article), that there is a groom (uninvolved except for needing to know where to tell his boys to show up), that the bride’s family pays for the wedding (and the bride’s mom is deeply involved in all choices), and that generally the point of the wedding is to make it as similar to other weddings as possible.
None of this struck me as applying to my union, so I’ve come up with some of the tips I would have wanted to read when I was planning my own wedding:
If you can, pay yourselves. Create a budget that’s within the bounds of what both you and your partner can afford, even if that means having a small wedding that you can split evenly. If your families want to give you financial gifts or sponsorship (which is nice of them!), have an in-depth conversation about what level of control you are comfortable giving up in exchange for these gifts.
Whoever pays for the wedding might feel they have control, and you might end up feeling beholden to their vision. Keep it between you and your partner and then at least any fights over financial decisions can stay between the two people who are actually getting married.
If you are thinking of hiring a wedding planner, and have the means to do so, it can be worth spending a few extra meet ‘n’ greets to find a planner who shares your values (hopefully you have already found a life partner who shares your dreams of equality??). Any planner who sends you a blank template for a First Look, bouquet tossing, garter belt situation might not be right for you.
My partner and I chose a planner who had a great portfolio of experience with cross-cultural and queer weddings, which indicated to us that she wouldn’t be afraid to break with tradition.
Not offering to lighten my partner’s skin for starters. Some photographers I looked at had before and after shots of their retouching process in which all the people of color (of which my partner is one) were white-washed.
I was also shocked by the sexist undertones of the wedding photography industry in general. Some photography inquiry forms ask questions about what would make the bride (only) feel the most beautiful on the big day, or position the entire inquiry from the bride’s perspective, as if that’s the only opinion that matters (and making the assumption that there is a bride involved at all).
The right vendor for me did not ask this, or assume I needed a “getting ready lingerie shot.” A lot of traditional wedding poses felt off: being carried away, being kissed on the top of the head (is this just me?), and anything that felt too much like my partner was sheltering me from a big, bad world. My photographer listened to these concerns and guided us toward more equal and powerful poses for our wedding day.
The venue is a great place to set your intention for the whole affair and determine where you want to direct this massive chunk of change. Don’t neglect your local non-profit, educational center, museum, or female-founded organization. Not only will you know a bit more about the actual ownership structure, you might find your venue fees are tax deductible if you book a non-profit. Double win!
I went with a female-artist focused art gallery (and yes, I will be making tax deductions). I felt I could compromise on things like better catering set-ups, more space, and more bathrooms to know that my money was going toward emerging artist grants and youth art programming. In a pinch, there’s always City Hall or a friend’s backyard.
You have more options here than you may realize. It’s possible to use your wedding to celebrate diverse chefs, artisans, florists, DJs, and designers. I booked a DJ who played a song I liked at a live music brunch. A huge risk in our planner’s eyes — she had no formal contract set up, no “wedding playlists”, and didn’t ask us for the standard “Do Not Play” list that so many wedding DJs operate by. Instead, she surprised us all with her willingness to DJ a wedding, and even learned a custom song for us on the guitar for our walk down the aisle.
And don’t forget your friends! If they’re interested and might be remotely qualified for the job, go ahead and interview them as you would any other vendor.
Love is love. But religion and tradition often dictate exactly who has the privilege of declaring your love valid, and there are many strong opinions about getting married in the same church, temple, or tradition as the rest of your family. I approached this part like a legal contract. I wouldn’t enter into any contract I haven’t read and don’t want to uphold, and the same goes for the words of the person marrying me. We read all the translations of the religious texts of our families’ traditions and were willing to include the statements we agreed with. There weren’t any, so we chose two friends to marry us who would work from a blank slate.
It took over a year for us to work with our families on the idea that we wouldn’t have a religious representative from either side present, and ultimately they were so ready for us to just get on with it they accepted our choices. So if you’re struggling — try wearing your family down with time.
Hey, this wouldn’t be a feminist wedding article if I didn’t mention that there are likely two of you in this thing. You should not expect to plan this on your own unless you want to. Before any planning goes underway, you and your partner need to sit down and have an honest conversation about how much you really want to spend, what wedding components are mandatories for you, and what areas you want to put your own spin on. You also need to talk realistically about the time each of you is willing to put in and what aspects interest you in planning. When your mother/grandfather/sister/bridal magazine/flight attendant/coworker/makeup artist/tailor tells you how to live your life, how will you both respond? Who gets to weigh in and who doesn’t?
It’s all about making choices and responding together equally. Oh, and if you want some vow ideas, you can borrow mine: I promise to love, honor, and never obey.
How did you make your wedding a step toward your feminist future?
Hilary is the Brand Director at Thinx Inc.