Okay, so we all know that the traditional American/Christian/straight white people wedding isn’t exactly the picture of gender equality, and don’t exactly reflect the power relationships that most couples try to embody these days. Let me first say that as white, straight, cisgender folks, we have a lot less to worry about with all this silly wedding business than most people. And I couldn’t be happier that marriage is now afforded to same-sex couples (it’s about damn time), but there are still all kinds of folks struggling to find where they fit into a multi-billion dollar, gender-binary wedding industry. But, it’s a big part of a lot of people’s lives, and it’s a big part of my life right now, so here it is.

My partner Marshall and I have been looking to find ways to make our wedding representative of us and the kind of relationship we have/want to continue to build for the rest of, like, forever. That means a lot of online searches (fun fact: I’ve found if you include the word “badass” in your wedding searches, i.e. “badass ceremony readings” or “badass first dance songs”, you’re more likely to find fun, non-traditional, secular wedding details from around the mystical internet). If you’re committed to looking for it, you can definitely find ideas, readings, on and on (I’ve included a few sites and blogs I’m loving these days below).

Now, I’m not only a feminist, but an anthropologist, so I can get REALLY cynical/boring/downright nerdy when discussing the great ritual that is a wedding. But, the fact of the matter is this: planning a feminist, non-traditional, secular wedding looks different for everybody. There are many traditions I’d like to do away with altogether: the traditional, creepy vows; that sad bridal march that plays when I walk down the aisle; tossing bouquets or garters (HARD pass on those)…and so we won’t be including those in our day. At the same time, though, there are a lot of things I know are representative of ideas that generally make my skin crawl–brides wearing white as a sign of virginity and purity (because, of course, those kinds of requirements are only ever required from women), the bride being “given away” as a transfer of property from one person to another, wearing rings as a sign of possession of that property…the list goes on (and, not surprisingly, most of these only really suck for women. Marriage ROCKS for dudes.)

But here’s the thing: I want to wear a white dress on my wedding day. It’s important to my mom, who raised me for the majority of my life on her own, that she have a moment with just me, and then with Marshall, where she “gives me away”. And wedding rings are pretty and we both want to wear them! So, those are things we will be including in our wedding day even though, as a feminist, I know they have a sketchy history. And it doesn’t mean I can’t have those things in a way that still makes me feel good about them; for example, we’re having Marshall’s sister preside over our ceremony and are writing the script ourselves. We bought my white (amazingly gorgeous, if I do say so myself) wedding dress from an independently-owned bridal shop (opened by a woman who left the corporate world because she was sick of the glass ceiling and wanted to be in charge of her own future–holla! Is there a better reason to open a bridal shop? Thanks again, Dream Bridal!) from a local designer. When Marshall and I got engaged, I felt weird about being the only one with a ring–so I proposed to him, too, and he wears a ring just like I do.

Marshall and I express our feelings about gender roles with our engagements rings.
Marshall and I express our feelings about gender roles with our engagements rings.

As a feminist (and so, so many other things), I don’t subscribe to a brand of feminism that tells women what to do. I certainly won’t let men do it, I won’t let society do it, and I won’t let other women do it under the guise of my own guiding principles. It’s not fair to restrict our options just because people have done them before in ways that are kind of gross and unpleasant. That’s like not trying delicious, balsamic glazed brussels sprouts with bacon at a fancy restaurant because your mom used to boil them as a kid and they tasted nasty (can you tell it’s almost lunch time?). Much better to pick and choose the cool parts, add your own flair, and enjoy the heck out of it, am I right??

At the end of the day, you gotta do you. If I really wanted to be a cool wedding hipster, Marshall and I would start by getting divorced or something, I’d wear red pajama pants, we’d eat mustache-shaped pickles (sorry, I don’t know what hipsters eat) and we’d call it a day. But it’s not just about being cool or different, it’s about finding little ways to remind yourselves and your guests that we have traditions for a reason–but that your relationship with the person you choose to marry is different than anyone else’s, so you get to do whatever the heck you want on a day that celebrates it!

Over the next few months as we gear up for this crazy wedding shindig, I’ll be keeping you updated with ceremony ideas (hello, beer unity ceremony), ways to not spend a total fortune (or to at least to make the best possible decisions about where and how you spend that fortune), and other feminist wedding musings…so stay tuned!

In the meantime, here are a few places I’m digging for fun wedding inspiration:

Offbeat Bride

Catalyst, the new Feminist Wedding Magazine (!!!!)

Can’t wait to keep sharing ideas with you.