I’m not a very traditional girl. For example, at my wedding, my only bridesmaid carried my son (her godson) down the aisle ahead of me. I do believe that was a fairly strong indication to the assembled guests that the bride was not a virgin.
As much as I’ve loved them, every wedding I’ve attended has been pretty much the same. Beautiful bride in long white dress, gorgeous bridesmaids in matching colours and men in suits. The feminist in me is sometimes surprised at this standard wedding fare. And let’s be honest, it’s a little samey.
Is it time the modern bride got a feminist make-over? April Fraser (pseudonym), feminist and mother-of-the-bride writes in the SMH:
In many ways, I was an outstanding mother of the bride. I smiled and supported and suggested. I accepted all decisions about the guest list. I praised the choices of colour scheme and table layouts. I did none of the expected interfering. But, in truth, that part was easy: I had no opinions. In other ways, of course, I was useless. I could not provide the reassuringly confident judgments needed on flower combinations or style of photography or lettering on the wedding invitations.
Having spent the ’70s fighting the common assumption that a traditional wedding was every girl’s dream, I was stunned to discover that it seemed to have become exactly that. I had failed to take in that the traditional wedding had made such a spectacular comeback and, more shockingly, that it had resurrected itself with (almost) all the gender-role trimmings in place.
How had that happened? In the ’70s, I naively thought we were fighting off gender assumptions not only for ourselves but also for women of the future. Why should it be the man’s job to propose? We just agreed to get married. Why should I advertise my unavailability when he did not? I had no engagement ring. Most publicly of all, why should I be given away by a man? I remember enjoying our small visual contribution to the feminist cause as my mother and I walked down the aisle together.
And then, more than 30 years later, what did I find in my daughter’s 21st-century wedding organiser? That if the bride’s mother is a widow, the bride should be given away by “a relative of mature years, an uncle for example”. Oh, and that the toastmaster should refer to the bride’s mother in the absence of the father as “Mrs John Jones”.
I can hardly claim to have been the most rebellious bride of my era, though. I did wear a white dress (bought off the peg); I did have two bridesmaids (in summer frocks); and the bridegroom did wear a suit (wide-lapelled, flared brown pinstripe, clashing beautifully with the best man’s mauve). I reassured myself that we embraced those traditional elements to appease our parents. Now we, in the parental role ourselves, are embracing them again, only this time to appease our daughters.
For ageing feminists like me, our daughters’ decision to go for the full froth-and-flowers function can be baffling – even something of a betrayal. My three strong and independent daughters and their friends expect to be proposed to, advertise their status with expensive engagement rings and agree that it is the groom’s duty to decide on the honeymoon destination. They also seem prepared to plan the wedding details for months. The wedding industry, of course, has risen magnificently to the occasion and expectations seem to have grown exponentially. In the 1970s, our photographer stayed for an hour, did three other weddings on the same day and delivered the proofs by the end of the reception. Now the photographic event begins with a prenuptial photo shoot, followed by dawn-to-dusk digital recording of the day itself.
Does feminism have a place in weddings? Do women give it all up for the one day they want to be treated like a princess in a Disney movie? Did you have any modern touches at your wedding or was it traditional all the way? If you’re not married and think you might like to be one day, what do you have in mind?