As I wrote about in one of last month’s Something Blue posts, Spencer and I are having a less than traditional ceremony in that we’re being married outside in a field, not inside a church, and his uncle will be doing the honors, not a preacher. However, I had planned to include many of the wedding traditions that, as a little girl, I learned to associate with these kinds of ceremonies. I thought nothing of my decision to keep these traditional elements because it didn’t really seem like a decision at all; they were things you did and that was that!
It wasn’t until going over the wedding schedule with my husband-to-be that I began to question these age old practices and recognize the sexism in weddings. I wish I could give you the conversation verbatim, but here’s how I remember it going.
Me: And then my dad will give me away, and…
Spencer: So how many cows will I be getting?
Me: Cows? What cows?
Spencer: You know, the cows. In your dowry? The ones I get when your dad gives you to me.
Me: Oh, Spencer, don’t be ridiculous. It’s just tradition.
Spencer: If it were any culture but the one you grew up in, you wouldn’t think it was tradition. You would think it was sexism.
And that’s what shut me up. Because it’s so true.
At one point in history, it was tradition for Chinese women to have their feet mutilated into 3 inch long nubs to secure a desirable marriage partner. Kidnapping brides before the actual wedding took place used to be commonplace all over the world. In some cultures today, it’s still traditional for girls to be married off before they reach adulthood.
I don’t agree with any of those things, so is it right for me to look the other way knowing the origins of some of our “normal” wedding traditions? The idealistic little girl that still exists somewhere in my brain is all for pretending like these negative notions aren’t a problem whereas the independent young woman that I consider myself to be has been throwing some shade her way.
Ultimately, I haven’t made a decision about any of it. Always one for compromise, I’m considering multiple options of tweaking these traditional elements to make them more modern and therefore not so sexist. For instance, does the officiant have to ask “who gives this woman to be wed?” Definitely not. I don’t see a problem with my father, someone who has always been such a strong, supportive figure in my life, walking me down the aisle.
But that isn’t the only wedding event that I’m currently questioning. Would my single friends want to be singled out to vie for my bouquet and a “guarantee” of their own happiness? Do my guests really need to witness Spencer de-garter me and then slingshot it out to a group of his unattached friends? These are the things that are keeping me and my feminist brain awake at night.