Do you feel torn between your feminist values and your wedding day plans? Maybe you’re not sure if ‘proper feminists’ should even get married. Well this feminist believes that falling in love - and celebrating it however you like - is a human right.
It’s true that the history of marriage is more problematic than a Miss World contest judged by Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump - but there’s nothing inherently sexist about two people choosing to commit to each other.
So if you want to get married, of course you can have a loud, proud feminist wedding. Here are some ideas for how…
Let women speak!
And that means you! Speak when you want and how you want. Maybe you want to stand up at the reception and pour out your heart with love and gratitude - or to shock your relations with your filthiest anecdotes. The point is: your voice is important. Of course you can choose not to speak - just don’t be silenced by other people’s expectations.
Whatever your gender, if you’re worried you might be overwhelmed by emotion if you make a speech, here’s a little tip from a celebrant: read it through - out loud, on your own - again and again and again. The emotion gets easier to control the better you know your script.
Inviting women to speak goes for everyone in your wedding party too. If your sister or best friend would do an amazing speech, then ask her. Don’t let patriarchal power structures decide whose voice gets heard. It will change the mood of your whole day when you make choices that involve and include a truly diverse line up of speakers.
In fact don’t determine anyone’s role by their gender!
Choose a mate of honour, a best bud, a hodgepodge bridal party of people you want by your side, regardless of which toilets they use. If your dad wants to walk down the aisle with you but you feel uncomfortable about the symbolism, you can ask your mum or another important parent-figure to join you as well. Or why not re-think your entrance altogether and find a different way to enjoy a special moment with your dad? Nothing in a wedding ceremony is set in stone; a good celebrant can work with you to create a traditional feel - if that’s what you want - that has been subtly tweaked to bring it into the twenty-first century.
What some people insist on calling political-correctness-gone-mad, others call being thoughtful. I’m hoping that, since you’re reading this article, you don’t think there’s anything over the top about choosing your words carefully to avoid causing pain to others.
From your invitations onwards, the language you use about your wedding will set the tone. It’s not a big job to double-check your words aren’t making assumptions or perpetuating gender stereotypes. Chances are what you’ve got written is absolutely fine!
If you’re having a religious or registrar-led ceremony, you can ask to see the script and explain to your officiant how important equality is to you both. Even if you’re going for a church wedding, the days of promising to obey are long gone.
The lovely thing about working with a celebrant is you can research who’s out there and then choose someone who really shares your values. From suppliers to friends and family, if you give the key roles to people you trust and explain to them how important it is to you that your wedding is a feminist event, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to kick patriarchal nonsense into the long grass.
Spend your wedding pound wisely.
The wedding industry is full of female entrepreneurs running businesses that allow them to pursue their passions, often at the same time as juggling parenting or caring responsibilities. If you choose to send your wedding budget in the direction of female-run businesses (and most especially businesses run by women of colour, disabled women, queer women or anyone who just might have chosen self-employment after being marginalised in the workplace) then your money will be helping those brilliant, determined women to have more control in their lives.
If you are sourcing products and services from bigger companies, ask about their employees and contractors. Do they earn a living wage? Do they get maternity and sickness pay?
There’s so much to do and think about when you’re wedding planning - not to mention the little question of staying within your budget - it’s hard work to be an ethical consumer. If you end up buying your wedding shoes from Primark, it doesn’t undo the good you’ve done by supporting some small, local businesses as well.
Be proud. Be yourself.
My last tip is to embrace your choices with absolute confidence. Getting married at all is a choice - and every detail of how you do it is up to no one but you and your partner.
When the prenuptial hormones take hold, it can be easy to get swept along by pressures you thought you were immune to. If anyone dares to make you feel like you should change yourself or your body in any way just because you're getting married, spot this as the BS you know it to be. Whether you respond with a silent feminist mantra, a ranty WhatsApp to someone who understands or a righteous roar of fury, know that you're not alone. It's not OK to make you feel like this and there's an army of women and allies out there who are with you.
If you’re not comfortable in a flouncy white dress or if high heels make you feel like your feet are being slowly crunched in a vice, just don’t. Your partner wants you to see you looking like yourself and it would be truly horrible if your wedding day was ruined by clothes or shoes that actually hurt you...
BUT! Equally feminism means women being free to make their own choices. If your gender expression is ultra feminine, that doesn’t make you a less good feminist. I used to fret when my daughters begged for princess dresses and nail varnish - I once even gave my little girl a construction play set when she’d specifically requested a tiara. (She was livid!) And then I thought: hang on, if I had a son who asked for pink clothes and ballet shoes I’d be falling over myself to give him whatever he wanted - to show him he’s free to explore his feminine side just as much as he wants. So if boys can embrace the feminine then of course girls and women can too. And if you want to wear a sparkly floor-length ball gown and glue individual diamonds onto your eyelashes then you go for it!
There’s no one template for a feminist wedding - it’s just a celebration of love between two people who believe in gender equality. You really can do it however you like. The most important piece of wedding advice I can give - which is basically always the same, whatever the question - is to do what feels right and don’t lose sight of the things that matter the most to you.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we marry them.
Are you planning a feminist wedding? Looking for a feminist wedding celebrant? That could be me! I'm based in Cheshire but I conduct ceremonies across the UK and beyond. If you'd like to chat, give me a call on 07792 959586, ping me an email (to firstname.lastname@example.org) or have a nosy around my website. I'd love to hear from you.