As mentioned in my engagement announcement post, I have issues with a lot of wedding related hoopla. Beyond the extreme commercialism of today's wedding industry, many of the traditions are steeped in patriarchal roots. Even if they've become adapted to remain acceptable in today's society, they're still ultimately, at their core, traditions that creep me out.
In my last engagement (my ex and I broke up a couple months before the wedding), my then-fiance wanted a "traditional wedding" - for example, it was important to him that I wear a long white dress to look like a "bride", and I was struggling to reconcile that with my lack of interest in all things wedding. Besides the obvious sign that that should have been about the relationship in general, it led me to do a lot of reading and research into how various wedding traditions had originated.
Now I've found a partner who is on a more similar wavelength to me and we're planning a fairly non-traditional wedding. There won't be a white dress, aisle, or diamond ring. Fortunately, this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who knows me well, and no one's (so far) been offended by our plans or tried to talk me into doing otherwise (or maybe unfortunately? I've come up with a couple awesome comebacks that I haven't yet had the opportunity to use). However, I still thought it would be interesting to share some of the history I've found, discuss why people continue trying to justify following these traditions today, and why I think those are still totally justifications/excuses and don't change the completely anti-feminist nature of the choices.
Please note: I am not trying to insult anyone who has, or wants to, follow these traditions, or say that you're not a feminist if you - for whatever reason - choose to partake in things that derive from patriarchal restrictions. I do, however, hope that if you consider yourself a feminist, and yet don't see any issue with some of these things, that these discussions might prompt you to think twice about what they really mean to you. If you have your own reasons for doing something, then do that something! But it pains me to see people justify actions with reasons that are just a twisted version of the historical reason that is demeaning to women (and norms that are directly demeaning to women tend to be, in my opinion, indirectly demeaning to men, as well).
Even though these wedding-related issues are the ones I've chosen to take a strict stand on, I have in the past and will in the future give in to societal pressure and/or personal desires to do things that are ultimately not in line with my beliefs and values. Please don't interpret my writing this series of posts as indicating that I think I've figured it all out. It's admitting my own lack of perfection that makes me want to share the information I can about the times when I am able to uphold the values that I think are important, and hope that such discussion will help others and my future self be able to discern when it's worth taking a stand.
(Hell, even the act of getting married itself is grounded in patriarchal norms! Obviously, they can't all be avoided, and sometimes there are reasons one chooses to participate in them regardless.)
This discussion will take the form of periodic (weekly, if I get my act together) posts, each on a distinct tradition, such as engagement rings or being walked down the aisle. My hope is that many of you will join in the conversation in the comments, sharing your view on the issues, and how you tactfully avoided traditions you disagree with or reconciled participating in traditions with your own beliefs.
1. This is merely a hobby, so I'm not going to great lengths of research to find the most accurate information possible about the history of these traditions. I am trying to verify information to some degree to avoid continuing the spread of non-facts, but mostly this is a summary of the general consensus I've heard through out my life. Ultimately, I think how we treat these traditions has just as much to do with what we believe to be the origin of them, as the actual origin.
2. I am not trying to demean anyone who has chosen to partake in any of the traditions discussed. My goal is to spark discussion about what the history of these things mean to us today, how changing our language and treatment of traditions can affect our culture now, and, ideally, encourage anyone who wants to follow wedding traditions to do so as a conscious choice, not merely as a default that honors our patriarchal past.