It’s 2018, and you can have whatever kind of wedding you want. This means you shouldn’t feel handcuffed to tradition. Many wedding traditions are beautiful and romantic. Many others are holdovers from back when women were not considered legally or socially equal to men. As you start planning your wedding, consider some of the less-than-feminist wedding traditions and how you can update them for today’s world.
The engagement ring
Even amidst the current wave of feminism in the States — the Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement — the overwhelming majority marriage proposals are still done by the man in heterosexual relationships. But even if he does do the asking, an engagement ring doesn’t need to be part of the equation. The tradition of wearing a ring on your finger to demonstrate to the world that you’re “taken,” while your husband-to-be wears no such thing, stinks with the vestiges of women-as-property.
Alternatives: If it seems like your man is going to do the asking, convince him to spend the money he would otherwise spend on a ring on something that’s meaningful to you both, like a romantic trip or a down payment on a house. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, take matters into your own hands and do the proposing yourself.
The white dress
Even though only about 3% of Americans wait for marriage, white dresses haven’t shaken their association with purity (even though Queen Victoria had no such thing in mind when she set the trend). Take some time to think about what your wedding attire and its symbolic implications mean to you.
Alternatives: Wear something you love — white or not, dress or not — that makes you feel fabulous. (We suggest something with pockets.)
The bride’s parents footing the bill
The tradition of the bride’s parents paying for the wedding evolved from the dowry. As such, there’s absolutely no reason to follow this tradition. And, since the modern American wedding costs an average of around $35,000, putting that financial strain entirely on the bride’s parents isn’t fair or practical.
Alternatives: The money conversation is tricky, especially since the people paying for the wedding usually have a large say in the planning process. Also, most parents will probably still see this as the way things are done. Start honest conversations with everyone involved as soon as possible after the engagement. You may even want to talk to your parents before you get engaged, to see what their expectations are.
Every couple and family situation is different. Consider having both sets of parents split the cost. Or, if you have the means, pay for the wedding yourselves.
Being given away by your father
Back in the day, the father was literally giving away his daughter to her new husband. Today, you can revamp this tradition to simply be a symbolic way to honor your parents and everything they’ve done for you up to this milestone.
Alternatives: You and your partner can each have both your parents walk you down the aisle. Or, you can both go ahead and strut it alone.
Traditional vows often have explicitly and implicitly possessive and gender-role-heavy language: the groom vows to protect and the bride vows to obey? Um, no thank you.
Alternatives: If your officiant is writing your vows for you, ask to see and approve them beforehand. Or, even better, write your own vows that highlight the respect, dedication, and equality in your relationship.
The bouquet and garter tosses
For me, these two traditions take the cake for most disturbing. I cringe at the thought of dragging my single girlfriends out on the dance floor to pretend-wrestle for my bouquet. And there’s no way my poor husband is crawling up my dress in front of my boss and my grandma to toss my still-warm garter out to his guy friends like a t-bone to a pack of dogs.
Alternatives: Find fun activities to do during the reception that shed the sexist undertones. Either involve both partners’ undergarments or leave undergarments out of it altogether. My preference is to just dance.
Taking his name
Whether you’ve built up a professional reputation or not, your name is your identity. The tradition of the woman taking the the man’s name is yet another relic of a wife being property of her husband.
Alternatives: Most people mainly worry about sharing a last name if they plan on having kids. If you do plan to have kids, discuss the options with your partner. Consider giving your kids a hyphenated combination of both of your last names, and possibly taking on that hyphenated name yourselves. Or, get creative and make up a new last name for your new family.
The symbols you display and actions you take during your wedding should reflect the values that you and your partner share. More importantly than anything else, your wedding should truthfully celebrate your love.