A Feminist’s Guide To Getting Married

Criticism of marriage stems from a time when it meant ownership, submission and even darker imbalances between the sexes. As we all know, the definition of marriage continues to change. It’s up to our generation to figure it all out and rewrite the narrative.

I was quite ambivalent about marriage growing up. I didn’t date until after high school and was completely focused on my ambitions throughout university. One of my first jobs was at a wedding magazine in Toronto where I even wrote an article about how to put your spin on wedding traditions. 

After getting engaged, I regularly thought about how I could simultaneously be both a wife and maintain my independence. In some ways, I feel a responsibility to contribute to a new way of being married — one where both partners are fulfilled personally and professionally. I’ve read articles that talk about this new template and how we’re not there yet.

…But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first step is rethinking how we incorporate modern values into our engagement and wedding day. If you’re feeling somewhat at odds with this whole marriage concept, here are some easy ways to reconcile your feminist ideals with wedding planning:

Footing the bill 
Traditionally it was the bride’s family who paid for the entire wedding to show their appreciation to the groom for taking his daughter off their hands. While it’s rare for the bride’s family to pay for a modern wedding in its entirety, on average, they still contribute the largest amount. If it’s feasible, finance the wedding yourselves. If your parents are helping out, only accept equal contributions from both sides.

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Share the planning load
When one partner takes on the bulk of the wedding planning, it creates a disparity (and often discord) in the overall outcome of your wedding day. We’re working with a few of our vendors, which means I’m usually organising and attending most of the meetings on my own. It’s also part of my job to talk about our planning journey on my channels, so I’m a lot more involved than Nick. That said, we’re finding ways to get Nick more involved in the decision-making process, especially in areas like invites, budgeting and logistics. Make a list and divide it up evenly.

Choose your celebrant or priest wisely
Don’t underestimate the power of your officiant. Whomever you choose should be prepared to personalise your ceremony to suit you. Their role is to get to know you both and create a program tailored to your specific values, beliefs and personalities. We’ve chosen a progressive celebrant whose beliefs are consistent with our own.

Don’t get married in a church that doesn’t reflect your religious beliefs, even if it’s to please your parents. If you do decide to marry in a church, talk to the priest about choosing readings that are in accordance with your views. I can’t think of anything worse than antiquated sexist rituals like only having the female partner say the words, “to love, honour and obey…”

Keep your name

I have nothing against taking your partner’s surname. What I find problematic is blindly believing the female must take the male’s surname because of tradition. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered taking Nick’s surname. It would make things easier down the line and I absolutely love how Vanessa Lovett looks and sounds. That said, my surname is such a big part of my identity and heritage. I don’t have any brothers, so I feel even more compelled to carry it on. Before deciding you must take your partner’s name (if you’re entering into a heteronormative marriage, that is…) consider the alternatives. I’ve met couples where the male has taken the female’s name and I really wish that happened more frequently.

Do away with gender norms
Don’t feel like you have to conform to gender normative bridal party roles. I love attending weddings where the couple has opted for bridesmen and groomsmaids. You’re also not obligated to have to have a bridal party either. In some circumstances, it makes more sense to go without.

It’s also no surprise that brides are choosing new ways of walking down the aisle. Some walk alone, others walk with both parents or if you’re Kate Winslet, you can have Leo DiCaprio give you away.

Write your own vows
As a writer, I’m incredibly excited to write my own wedding vows. Since we got engaged almost a year ago, I’ve been thinking about my vows often and know I couldn’t handle reciting stock-standard vows that have been said a thousand times prior. Not only are vows the most significant part of a wedding, they act as a reminder as to why you’re getting married in the first place! Your guests are here to celebrate your love and your highs and lows as a couple. Of course, you can always supplement your words with beautiful poems and readings.

Even if you don’t think you have the writing skills to eloquently put your feelings into words, there are plenty of online and offline sources to inspire you. My friend, Lucy at Christchurch Weddings created a book, Notes From the Heart for this very reason. Full of prompts, jotting down ideas has never been easier.

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Marry a feminist
Being respected is nice, but sadly it’s not an inherent trait in all partners. You deserve someone who can understand why you’re angry when women are harassed, patronised or denied opportunities. When we read tweets about women being abused because they decided to wear shorts that day, it’s a relief not having to explain why this is infuriating. Who has time to debate why misogyny is bad with their partner?

Getting married doesn’t make you a bad feminist. I’ve had moments of guilt during the planning process. I love hosting celebrations of all sorts and planning a wedding has been so much fun (okay and a bit stressful). Let’s give ourselves permission to enjoy these moments. Love’s worth celebrating, right?

There are a hundred other ways to incorporate modern ideals into your big day, but these are some of the ones that are important to us. I’d love to hear your thoughts on feminism and marriage.

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Photos by Malia Rose.

7 thoughts on “A Feminist’s Guide To Getting Married

  1. This speaks to me on so many levels! Such a great post Vanessa! And so important to spread the conversation! Do what works for both of you, try to question why you are doing things, is it tradition, social norms, expectations or are you making decisions based on what works for both of you as a couple?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you, Ana. It’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot over the past few months and figured why not start the discussion… I like your idea to question why you are doing certain things. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to plan a day that reflects you both as a couple.

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  2. Amazing words Vanessa. You summed it up at the beginning by saying “It’s up to our generation to figure it all out and rewrite the narrative”.

    As a groom who ten years ago thought marriage was a show, a recipe for disaster or a social pressure, I soon realised that if for you as a couple it means a commitment and a vow then so be it! If you’ve entered the relationship and accepted the engagement then as a feminist you trust that your spouse supports your voice and opinion. Anyone that knows you and Nick as a couple would agree that he 100% supports you and I would almost say encourages that voice to be heard and gives you the strength to do make it be heard.

    What I hear when reading this is equality and understanding. It’s not bad to do more if you’re naturally more inclined, but understand that your partner needs emotional buy-in to the planning process so enable them to help in a way that they are naturally going to enjoy it. You’ll both enjoy it more if you’re doing it together!

    More people need to read this to help them understand what it’s like to be appreciated as equal #PGMSHARESTHEGOODWORD

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    1. Okay, well now I’m crying. Thank you so much for your comment, Shayden. Not only is it incredible to hear a male’s perspective on this subject, you eloquently put into words what I’ve been experiencing. You and Georgia are a wonderful example of a modern couple in the way you work together, complement each other and continually strive to be the best versions of yourselves. Nick and I feel lucky to have been part of your big day and to call you our friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Eric and I were just listening to a podcast about how feminists are making life decisions and trying experiences that feel good to them as individuals. It means going into unknown territory that will be exciting, but also messy. I loved your post and I always feel so warm and fuzzy when I have friends who understand and create relationships like yours. Congrats Vanessa.

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    1. Thanks, Brianne! That definitely sounds like a podcast I need to listen to – do you have the name of it? I like what you’ve said about heading into unknown territory that’s both exciting and messy — SO true! You and Eric have an incredible marriage that I truly admire. xo

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      1. I took one million years to respond. I believe we were listening to The Liturgists podcast – A good one on spirituality. I think it was the episode titled ‘woman’. It looks at different issues through art, science and faith. Highly recommend it.

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