Like many feminists, I have always regarded the institution of marriage with some skepticism. While at one point in my life I thought I would never get married, I changed my mind when I met my husband, Chuck.
Being with him made me feel like I wanted to experience everything life had to offer — including marriage and whatever that entailed. I wanted to celebrate our love and our life together with the people we care about the most and honor our commitment to each other.
But marriage will always be a tradition borne out of the patriarchy. So there I was on our wedding day, a feminist dressed in ivory, clutching my father’s arm while he walked me down the aisle. Making a wedding “feminist” is a tough task — nearly impossible, and I found myself having to make concessions along the way. For example, while I originally wanted to walk down the aisle alone, in a nod to my independence, giving my dad his moment and avoiding hurting his feelings was much more important to me.
Luckily, I still found some ways to incorporate feminist values into my wedding that made me feel comfortable. This is not meant to define for anyone else what a feminist wedding is, and I do not claim that the way I did things is the “correct” way to have a feminist wedding. In fact, fundamentally I think what ultimately makes a wedding feminist is when the bride and her partner have the freedom to create the type of wedding celebration that feels right for them.
1. We picked a progressive officiant
We had a woman Justice of the Peace conduct our ceremony who was on board with the type of wedding we wanted to have and was willing to work with us to create a ceremony that reflected our philosophies. I met with her before the wedding and told her how important feminism is to me and gave her some suggestions of language I wanted her to incorporate in her remarks, like a reading from bell Hooks’ book, All About Love. She also let me veto several of the traditional customs in wedding ceremonies — like when the officiant thanks the father of the bride for “giving” her away — a notion that implies the woman is a piece of property being transferred from one man to the next. Our officiant understood what we wanted and didn’t want and became our partner in creating a customized ceremony.
2. We incorporated feminist readings into the ceremony
My husband I are not religious at all, so biblical readings were not an option for us. However, we both love literature, so I began looking at some feminist writers for inspiration. I ultimately settled on a poem by Maya Angelou and an excerpt from the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage. Both readings emphasized values I believe are crucial to a successful marriage — equality, fairness, and respect.