Wedding Wednesday- Can you have a Feminist White Wedding?

by - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This week one of the only real wedding things I got done was to discuss the specific nuances of the wedding liturgy with the Episcopal bishop who is marrying us. I actually feel really good about the changes we made (not to mention having a priest be so open to my thoughts on things like whether God actually only works in two genders):
~we avoided any readings about Adam's rib or the woman's role or any such nonsense.
~We also were very careful to expunge any language that would suggest marriage is just between a man and woman. If people want that in their wedding, whatev, that is their prerogative, but since we don't believe that at all, it doesn't fit what our marriage is about, so our wedding shouldn't be that way either.
~Finally, I tried to get rid of any heteronormative language, because people come in more shapes than just male and female.

 I do think these changes have refocused what our wedding and faith are about. At the same time, the exercise brings to light that even with the best intentions, by even choosing the church wedding there are concessions that we probably have to make.
~First of all, there is no denying that the Boy is a (you guessed it) dude and I am a lady, and because of that we receive benefits that we wouldn't get if that wasn't the case.
~ Also, the church, even a pretty  liberal one like the Episcopal Church, is still a patriarchal institution that works on a hierarchy. This becomes really clear when you start seeing where the language doesn't naturally bend. Apparently there is now a strain of liturgy which refers to God as being Mother and Father instead of just Father. As much as this seems like a recuperative action, it comes off as kind of half-assed and awkward. Is God both male and female, or is God an entity bigger than gender? I honestly don't have an answer to that question (though since sex and gender seem like pretty human constructs, you can guess which way I lean.

So the more I think about this critically, the more hang ups I have about my own wedding. In general, I felt like I was doing pretty well.
~First of all, I am marrying another feminist (one with a weird amount of knowledge of early suffrage), so I don't have any anxieties about my freedom or identity as being at risk. I am in general really proud of our relationship because I think we are good at supporting each other and sharing all our responsibilities.
~We are skipping a lot of the creepier traditions (hello, garter toss!) and are trying to approach the whole thing as a "we" thing. This, like a graduation, is a chance to celebrate things that have already happened with all our family. This isn't a transaction with goats, or becoming adults, or me leaving my family for another.
~We are trying to be as ethical as possible about where we are spending our money, focusing on local and independent sellers. If I am feeding a machine, at least let it be a cuter more homespun machine! 
~Last, and most important, we are actually doing it together. I have had people sort of pity me because so much of our wedding spurs debate, but honestly I love it. I love that has been a collaboration. I just think it's cool, and I really like having a partner who cares as much as I care.

At the same time, I am wearing a white dress. And some sort of veilish thing. And my Dad is walking me down the aisle (but he's not presenting me, or whatever that is). So maybe I am failing. I have written more than one blog to justify the white dress from a feminist perspective (about a week ago Bitch posted an article about the white dress's historical root, which has nothing to do with purity, but is instead about nationalism and royal pride in craftsmanship... which is pretty awesome if you ask me. Eat that like every freaking episode of Say Yes to the Dress Hotlanta). Every time I tried to justify it, it came off as silly and kind of petty- here's the truth; paired with all my feminist stuff is a love of family and traditions and sentiment and such. If things go as planned, I will never get the chance to do the whole bridal get up again, so I am doing it. The whole way. Which is pretty much how I do all holidays, embracing it with my own twists and traditions. I think this is working the same way. I recognize that this comes with lots of icky stuff, but I also feel like I look really nice, and even if this isn't a priority in my everyday life, I'm weirdly looking forward to it for one day (though I am starting to feel more and more nervous about the whole being the center of attention thing). Sometimes the norm can still mean something to you.

There are all sorts of blogs just on this subject (it seems to have been a trend started by Jessica Valenti in 2009). An amazing percentage of them seems to be about managing the guilt of being a feminist planning your wedding, grappling with the feeling that you are potentially failing at having any sort of radical existence. The scary part of this is that to some extent, you are right. You are accepting a bunch of shiz that we are all supposed to want to reject, except that you really do want to be with this person and you want to dance and eat cake. You continually notice more and more concessions that come with that simple decision (it bugs me that I am less offensive to certain conservative people I know). I have noticed though that people are generally pretty open to the fact that we aren't a super traditional couple (at our shower, a bunch of people wished us more travel and adventures... no one wished me the ability to cook).

The other big recurring blog topic is the name change thing, which honestly I still don't know where I land on. I have been trying to talk the boy into taking my name as his middle name (since he doesn't have one anyway), but he bounces back and forth on that too. I think we will get there when we get there. The truth is that is sounds really awful ot not have the same last name as my own kids, but I also would really miss being Greene.

I would love to say this feminist guilt is a  functional wedge, constantly bringing things back into perspective and staving off my potential bridezilla tendencies. In a lot of cases this has generally been true- the goal of the wedding is to throw a party, not a stageshow starring me and all my sparkles. But, when I am having anxieties about making people happy or that everyone is going to look at me, I find myself just sort of piling guilt on top of stress instead of using my knowledge that beauty is a social construct or other such musings to make me feel better. You can reject the whole "this is the biggest day of your life" thing, but it is hard to ignore that this is probably the most I will be looked at in one day ever. At least I hope so. Ooooh baby, this has turned out to be a long one! But it is on my mind, and there are no good answers to these questions, so it will probably be an ongoing debate for the rest of my life.

You May Also Like