the vintage trend: feminist weddings, altar your thinking!
Old = patriarchal wedding traditions
New = consumerist ‘bridezillas’
Borrowed = societal pressures from bygone days
Blue = feminists!!!
For those who have decided that a “married feminist” is not an oxymoron, it’s time to reconsider the meaning behind those wedding trappings and discard some of the traditions from an act that is so, well … traditional.
Being a feminist, a vintage fanatic and a romantic at heart – I decided to go for a vintage inspired wedding, and not a big fat white wedding. Why? Because with a vintage wedding you are guaranteed uniqueness. Vintage is normally associated with the 1920s to 1950s – an era that can be associated with everything from Art Deco and Hollywood glamour, to Sinatra, Jazz, Rockabilly and Swing. Vintage inspired weddings capture a certain type of romance – you know, the golden Hollywood era kind of romance? Weddings are steeped in tradition, and what is tradition without nostalgia and history?
For me, there was something magical about recreating elements of the past that I love and combining it with my modern ideals and fancies. I felt it hypocritical to go traditional with my wedding; the virginal white dress, the veil covering my face and all that. Once we meet the person we want to make a commitment to, we are expected to suddenly change our personalities and care about a big expensive ring, an even bigger virginal white blingtastic dress and to spend a fortune because it’s our “big day”. Quite frankly, I find this a bit demeaning – why is this supposed to be so important to the bride only, the highlight of her life?
The consumerism of the wedding industry made me feel similarly uncomfortable, as I’m sure it does many other people. For feminists like me, some women’s decisions to go for the full froufrou-and-flowers function can be baffling – even something of a betrayal. The wedding industry, naturally, has risen magnificently to the occasion and expectations seem to have grown exponentially, despite the fact that budgets are often tighter. The average Australian wedding costs $50,000 thus forcing many people to deviate from the prescriptive and expensive norm.
Perhaps there is a more positive interpretation of this apparent paradox in society: that woman today can afford to play gender-specific roles at their wedding because in reality we assume an equality in marriage that we were not afforded in the past. Understandably, the beautiful aesthetic of a unique vintage inspired wedding combined with a modern union is very much a popular option, and the one I plumped for. Essentially it would seem that we sistas are increasingly doing it for ourselves and turning towards an alternative – whether that be a vintage wedding , an arty, thrifty, personalised affair, a do it yourself wedding, or a small service somewhere obscure – where the onus is on having their loved ones around and more importantly, on the couple’s bond.
For some couples, it is a brave choice not to compromise their ideals considering how powerful and all-pervading the wedding industry is. It is even on the TV now; Bridezillas and My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings are huge hits for example and couldn’t be further from a feminist ideal of marriage.
Plenty of women who don’t necessarily identify themselves as feminists are taking the alternative route now, and for them it is not necessarily a stand against patriarchal traditions but just a new take on the something old. While researching for the wedding, I did find myself having to trail through far too many cute, fluffy sites that seem to dominate the wedding blogosphere. Vintage wedding blogs are appearing in their droves offering women a real alternative to the traditional white wedding, and this can only be a positive move away from the traditional glossy white wedding magazine shoots, piling pressure on the bride. There are now some feminist wedding planning sites out there too which I enjoyed reading and taking inspiration from. Reading that women like me were also getting married made me feel like less of a failure as a feminist, as I struggled at times to accept that getting married was not giving in to patriarchy.
There are conflicting identity issues that arise when you become engaged. I battled with whether or not to change my last name, almost instantly. I opted for changing my name (said in a whisper as this seems very anti-feminist) but I simply wanted to have the same name as my husband, as it is a pretty Irish name and it confirms an important change in my life. Some scoffed at this, ‘ha! Some feminist you are’ – which annoyed me intensely. Being a feminist does not mean you have to be a spinster for the rest of your days. Getting married to a man is not giving in to misogynist traditions. Not anymore. Kissing goodbye to traditional gender roles and agreeing to a partnership of equals, we looked forward to our wedding and ignored the scoffers.
I used to sing Dutch singer Anouk’s song ‘Nobody’s wife’ religiously as an angry teenager, vowing to never get married, and I never played at being a bride as a kid. I didn’t have a fantastic view of marriage for lots of reasons, and saw it as a rubbish deal for women in general. I didn’t want kids and I still don’t. Growing up, I began to identify myself as an informed feminist, and there were plenty of issues that continued to make me question the idea of marriage: the father “giving” the bride away, women taking their husband’s last name, the white virginal dress, the awful veil which came about from arranged marriage, where the groom wouldn’t see his bride until she reached the altar (gasp), the vows promising to “obey” the groom. And that only covers the wedding!
According to Disney movies and TV shows, once you got married, women were implicitly expected to take care of the home, the husband and the kids, and, oh yeah, live happily ever after. What I hadn’t bargained for however, was the power of being in love. My husband is fabulous, and an equal partnership is as important to him as it is to me. We talked about our wedding and decided to make it all about us, incorporating some old and new traditions that fitted into our Celtic heritage and background. I wore a gold satin dress and a peacock feather headpiece. We drank whiskey out of a Quaich during the ceremony and we had a cake made entirely out of cheese. I did not agree to obey my husband, we didn’t have traditional pretty candy favours – instead we donated money to a cancer charity. No top table, just lots of small, round, sociable tables. A small rebellion, but it was our rebellion nonetheless.
My final thoughts; when planning a feminist wedding, stay true to your ideals and remember your strength as an individual, your love as a couple and your priorities. It is your life and your choice after all.
(Image credit: 1.)