As much as I am looking forward to tying the knot, I do have some worries about the day itself (as I’m sure other people planning a wedding do also); trying not to trip on my dress as I go up the aisle; whether people will enjoy all the little touches we’ve been working so hard to achieve; how we’ll cope being the centre of attention for a whole day – the list goes on.
Recently however, I have also started to worry about the tradition of marriage itself and what it means to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my future husband with all my heart and there is no doubt in my mind about marrying him whatsoever – but the connotations around marriage bother me, and are, I have to admit, beginning to cause me some anxiety.
Since we have started planning our wedding, the feminist in me has taken issue with a lot of the traditions that we are supposed to uphold. The whole idea of being a ‘bride’ scares me a little (OK, a lot!). Why can’t I just be a person who wants to get married to another person? The labelling of ‘bride’ and ‘groom’, for me, throws up a whole host of expectations which I don’t feel like I can or want to live up to.
A lovely friend wrote in our Christmas card a little after we got engaged, ‘You will make a beautiful bride’ – it was a lovely, kind thing to say, but it was the first time I had been labelled a ‘bride’ and it freaked me out. I think the reason may be because there seems to be so much pressure to be ‘beautiful’, to be a ‘blushing bride’. All I want is for me to be me, for my fiance to be him, and for us both to be able to declare our love for one another like grownups in front of their family and friends. Why do I need to now have a label?
Challenging wedding and bridal tradition
There is so much pressure for the woman getting married to be a certain way, not just in looks (wearing a white dress, having a veil, looking beautiful) but also in how we’re supposed to act. In my view, a ‘bride’ is someone who is very feminine and girly and who has huge excitement at the prospect of upholding wedding traditions. Am I wrong? And please don’t get me wrong – I don’t think this is what a bride should be; but it is what I feel this is what society deems a bride should be. Planning my own wedding has made me realise how un ‘girly’ I am. It has also made me realise how many typical bridal and wedding traditions I don’t want to uphold. And through all the expectations around our wedding, I feel I’m somehow going to be letting people down because of this.
A non traditional dress
It really saddens me that people are so invested in these traditions of marriage that it makes them un-interested in the more personal and genuine ideas my fiancee and I have had. Right from the start for example, I have been against the idea of wearing a white dress. I just don’t see the point; white is not a colour I generally wear, and I want to wear a colour that makes me feel like ‘me’, and confident and special. I was absolutely stoked when I came across the perfect dress whilst on my lunch hour, the Phase Eight ‘Rosa’ dress – a beautiful long red dress, with the most gorgeous floral tape work.
When I showed my mum my dress for the first time, her initial reaction was to ask whether the colour would go with the bridesmaids dresses. I know she probably didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but I had been so hoping for a more positive response than that – for her to share my excitement.
My mum saw me upset that evening but still chose not to say anything positive about the dress – there has been no comment to this day that I look nice in it. Mum seems much more excited about my younger sister’s bridesmaid dress, and every time she’s tried it on, she’s gushed about how wonderful my sister looks in it, and how much it suits her. I haven’t said anything to her about it, but it really hurts. I’m not sure she means to be this way – I’m convinced it’s because my dress doesn’t fit her vision of ‘tradition’. It makes it very hard for my fiance and I to stick to our guns about not having a ‘traditional’ wedding.
Taking on your husband’s name and entering marriage as equals
Another big one for me is the assumption that the woman will take the man’s name. Before we became engaged, the idealist in me had assumed that in 2016, people would know that couples are entitled to take whichever name they please as their surname. My fiancé and I had talked to our families about the subject of what name we’d take before we were engaged – stating that neither of us felt comfortable with me assuming his last name, but that we still both wanted to share a last name.
I think our families thought we were joking when we said our plan, ‘if we ever got married’, was to combine our names to make a new name (using a double barrelled name would sound ridiculous with our names, as they are both long and it would be too much of a mouthful!). But in fact, this is exactly what we are planning to do, and it makes me so happy to be doing something we both feel comfortable with. It declares us as equals and represents what we are doing by getting married; taking what we were before and with it creating something new and special that is just for us.
As much as our families might disagree (or still think it is a joke!), we have decided to stand firm on this – despite the anxiety caused by knowing we’re not pleasing some people.
Sticking to what you believe in
The wedding is now less than a month away, and we are trying to keep it as much ‘us’ and as tradition-free as we can. It’s not that I loathe tradition – but I do very much feel the reasons behind many wedding related traditions are rooted in sexism. So,
- my dress is red
- there will be no bouquets tossed
- nobody is giving me away (both my parents are walking me down the aisle)
- my fiance has seen me in my dress already (he was there when I bought it), and,
- we will be spending the night before the wedding together (which is how we will be the most relaxed on the night before the biggest day of our lives).
It has been a long and rather difficult journey to arrive at this point in our wedding plans, but I feel proud that we’re sticking to what we believe in with our wedding. Love My Dress has been a massive help and support with this – I truly love reading the blog posts which feature brides who didn’t adhere to tradition. The private Love My Dress Facebook group is a lovely supportive network of brides who are going through the same issues, and which makes me feel like I am not alone.
The author of this feature would prefer to remain anonymous but is one of our lovely blog readers who has asked to contribute to ‘From The Heart’ – a series where we hand the blog back over to our readers on a Sunday to write about all matters of love and life. If you would like to contribute a From The Heart piece of your own, we would dearly love to hear from you. It doesn’t matter what it’s about and it doesn’t have to be related to weddings at all – we’re looking for honest, authentic, personal, sad, happy, family, relationship, marriage, health, light-hearted, serious, baby, trying for baby, children, career, simple, complicated – real life issues. We just need you to write from your heart. Keep it upbeat and witty, or share your thoughts anonymously on a more challenging or emotional subject. Please drop me a line at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you, Annabel x