An initiative of the National Women’s Council of Ireland


Feminist Weddings?

October 01, 2013 at 11:19

I think it started about an hour after I got engaged when I called my grandmother.  She started with the obligatory congratulations then got to down to a rapid stream of questions, the speed of which wouldn’t have been out of place in an exchange between Richard Boyd Barrett and the Ceann Comhairle – what did the ring look like?  Did I have an inkling that a proposal was coming?  Did he ask my father’s permission?  My sister, sitting next to me, then chimed in to ask if I planning to change my name?

To start off with, while I was unaware that my fiancé would be proposing on a moonlit beach in North Carolina, the idea that we were interested in spending our lives together was not a surprise.  Unromantic it may be, but it’s important to have discussions about views on starting a family, life goals and (since my fiancé and I are from different countries) plans as to where to live.  And no, he did not ask my father for permission – there’s something a bit cold to me about the idea that my father gets a veto power over the decisions I make as an adult woman, whether that be my choice of jobs, education or life partnership.

The truth is that there’s an assumption that all women have dreamed of a wedding with all of the clichés, without any hesitation about the history of the symbolism – the white dress, being passed from father to husband, even depending on which vows you’re saying, the promise to honour and obey your husband.  But for me, as a feminist, it’s impossible for me to ignore the implications and history.  But does that mean there’s something inherently un-feminist about getting married?  It depends on your viewpoint.  It is, if you believe ,as opponents of marriage equality do, that marriage is inherently stuck in a time warp, inflexible and unbending in the face of modern tradition.

But I just can’t believe that – marriage has greatly changed and evolved over the last hundred years.  These days, I can be the sole owner of property in my own name, my husband will not be able to legally beat or rape me and I can even keep my own name (despite pressure from those around me to change it).  While studies show that married women still do a disproportionate amount of childcare and housework, the gender roles within a marriage are becoming more flexible – almost 1 in 4 marriages include a woman who is the primary breadwinner.  Particularly now that marriage equality is becoming increasingly recognised, the idea of strict gender roles within a marriage is looking more and more unnecessary.

It’s impossible for me to forget about the negative history that has gone along with marriage, which is why I’m tailoring aspects of my wedding to coincide with my version of feminism: both of my parents will be walking me down the aisle, I will not be changing my name and I’m determined to implement my own vision of a ceremony which should be about two people coming together to share their lives, in front of the people who love us.  And if I want to shop for a beautiful dress or order a delicious cake, that’s ok – my marriage will have fun in it and beautiful times, as well as hard work and hard times.  But what I also know is that there’s no standard wedding and marriage anymore, luckily, I can find one which suits me and my feminist ideas.