Thoughts on Maintaining Feminist Values Whilst Planning a Wedding

feminist wedding11

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?

Thoughts on maintaining feminist values whilst planning a wedding

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

15 thoughts on “Thoughts on Maintaining Feminist Values Whilst Planning a Wedding

  1. This is a really interesting article that I’m sure isn’t just isolated to this case as society continues to evolve and change. I could go on and on to share my views on a topic like this but I’ll try to keep it short and simply say why is this article labelling these views as feminist when it’s clear the author’s partner (assuming a groom) shares the same views? The author clearly states they are not thrilled on being labelled bride and groom but yet we’re now OK to become feminist and isolate these views to be strongly associated to just women? These views aren’t feminist, they are personal views to you and your partner, you have decided to ditch some traditions and not others and what you choose to do is bespoke to you as a couple. Any groom is as much part of a wedding as a bride. Yes it is hard to change views from parents and other close loved ones but remember those traditions may have been important to them and we shouldnt forget that. Everyone, male and female are individual, with different thoughts and views you’ve just got to be true to yourself and do what you want. This blog is a truly amazing representation of all types of wedding from black dresses, non traditional vows, to celebratory parties and not a single wedding on this blog ever looks the same.

    1. Hi L,

      Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of a belief in equality between men and women, so a person of any (or no) gender can be a feminist- the groom in the article is therefore expressing feminist views.

      1. Should have come from me, not Anon… I agree completely with you L that its important to be true to yourself and do what you want, that’s for certain! x

  2. You have summed up a lot of what I feel about my own wedding and I suppose many of the reasons I have been putting it off too. I love weddings and almost every one I have been to had been fairly traditional, I’ve had the best time, I’m so happy for them etc but I can’t really see my own wedding fitting with the same aesthetic. As trends change, boundaries are pushed there is less of a societal pressure but it can be hard to get through this with family and friends who don’t have the same exposure to different ideas and the notion of ‘your wedding, your way’.

  3. Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    This piece has stuck such a chord with me I’m almost chiming!
    It can be so hard to balance principles with the desire to keep families happy. I know my parents are utterly proud of me but sometimes I can feel my mum thinking “oh god if the rampant feminist in her could just stay quiet for one day”. But it’s such a symbolic day (I’m purposefully not saying “the most important day in our lives”!) that it’s so important to stay true to yourself and to enter your marriage as yourself, and an equal.
    Congratulations on choosing someone who sounds like an amazing partner, who values you as an equal and is helping you to uphold what is truely important. I wish you a wonderful day and a long and happy marriage!

  4. Thank you for writing this. It sounds as though you and your partner are on the same page which is wonderful, and I’m sure those who you feel aren’t being as supportive as they might be realise (or will realise) that the fact that you’re planning this wedding according to both your values is what’s most important in the long run. I’m lucky that, although my boyfriend’s quite traditional, while planning our wedding we’ve talked through every element of it and made sure it fits with us.
    Ultimately who wants to go to a wedding where the couple getting married feel uncomfortable! I’m sure you’ll host a wonderful day because of the thought you’re putting into it.

  5. I was amazed when planning our wedding how many of our (I’d assumed) nontraditional friends and family told us how we HAD to follow certain traditions . And happily because my now husband and I were very clear on our own ideas, we simply ignored them with a nod and a smile. I had read during my planning a quote that I kept returning to in the face of these people…. if at the end of the day we are married, then it has been a success . That seemed to calm any worries I had and returned all conversations back to the real purpose of the day. We spent the night together before and ate a McDonald’s, got ready together in the morning and went for a lovely breakfast just the two of us, had no cars and instead took a black cab, I had a gold dress, wore a cardie instead of a veil, kept my bouquet to decorate our home rather than throwing it and insisted on no speeches, first dance or cake cutting. Low and behold…. it was a magical day enjoyed by all and we were indeed married when we went to bed that night. Stick to what YOU want. I promise you you will annoy someone regardless of how you do your day…. just make sure it’s not you and the person you marry!

  6. Such a well written piece and one I can really identify with. I can and am abiding by some traditions I am wearing white (but did look at coloured dresses and short styles) mainly as I know my fiancée will like the dress and we are hoping for sun as we are getting married in August. I am having a bouquet I love flowers and we are having a cake mainly as I love cake!
    Some traditions I am not comfortable with and I too am staying with my partner the night before (although getting ready separately), I am walking down the aisle with both my parents and my sister is my bridesmaid so a family trip down the aisle really and I too am unhappy with the assumption regarding name changing and titles so will keep my name and title but may move to Ms in time.
    It is shocking that in 2016 we have to justify these choices but hopefully articles like your and blogs like LMD will make it easier to have your day your way without having to justify your decisions.

  7. To me being a feminist is choosing what feels right for you regardless of society’s views on women – in this case whether that is following tradition or not.

    In my case I wanted to follow some traditions – taking my husbands name, the white dress, dad walking me down the aisle. But on the other hand we slept in the same bed the night before the wedding, there were no tuxs or suits nor throwing of bouquets.

    You always need to remember it’s your and your partners marriage so you need to do what feels right for you as a couple both on your wedding day and going forwards into marriage. Trust me you need to have that attitude primed and ready if you decide to have children!

  8. I’m not having any bridemaids, although everyone is disappointed when I say we aren’t having any. They ask who is going to organise the hen party if I have no bridesmaids (I want to do it myself) and other ridiculous questions. We don’t want any speeches either. I don’t particularly want to be ‘given away’ as I’m not an object to be given. But it’s what my parents want so I’m going along with that one. At the end of the day, it’s your day to celebrate your relationship and love, so do what you want! No one else’s opinion matters.

  9. Quite right too! The symbolism is important, and if it doesn’t tie with what you believe, you should definitely go another way (some of it is downright creepy when you look into it).

    The thing which has shocked me at the last couple of weddings I’ve been to is that the Bride didn’t speak. In fact, no women gave speeches. Not even a ‘thank you for coming’. It felt very, very odd indeed, tbh. We have a voice! Hope you have a lovely day!

  10. Yes! You’re bang on! I got married last year and found lots of the wedding traditions dated, sexist and not very ‘us’. (although I have absolutely no problem with other people sticking with traditions if they’ve considered what they mean and it’s right for them – do what you’ve gotta do guys). I’ve kept my own name. We didn’t have favours or bridesmaids (the old traditional symbolism doesn’t sit well with me). I didn’t toss a bouquet. I wasn’t ‘given away’. My husband saw my dress ahead of the wedding. I made a speech etc.

    I was surprised how many people, including friends my own age, were surprised by these choices – although once the wedding was underway no-one seemed bothered at all. It’s interesting that tradition can mean so much to some people – even if it might be out dated.

    I have to say, I heartily recommend you both spend the night before the wedding together. I was the most wonderful decision we made. We woke up together, my husband brought us breakfast in bed, and we spent a magical hour chatting about what was about to happen, sharing our hopes for the day, enjoying the anticipation and excitement before the big shebang and merriment kicked off. It’s one of my favourite memories of the day.

  11. I had a huge worry that people were going to tell me I looked ‘beautiful’ all day (because that’s what they say on Don’t Tell The Bride and in films). That would have made me feel so awkward and weird…and quite patronised (?) in the end I’d built it up as a big thing in my head and on the day people were just saying me and my now husband looked nice / really happy. So I spent ages agonizing about something that didn’t happen. I also wore red, gave a speech, had a best woman who gave a hilarious speech, had a sister of the groom and brother of the bride speeches… no chucking flowers about… my fiancee helped me choose my dress and saw me in it… (I don’t wear dresses ever, and would have really really preferred trousers… although on the day I barely gave it a second thought), both parents walked me down the aisle (again, I hated the aisle idea — thought it yukky and didn’t want to be the object of attention… turned out it lasted about 5 seconds and was actually quite fun and exciting seeing everyone who’d come so far to be at our wedding all at once). We also got our celebrant to have it so that I said my vows first — to make up for the sexist nonsense of our registry office ‘legal’ wedding where there was space for our dads occupations on the form but not our mums.
    Anyway. Point of this rambling post is that the things you worry about might not be as bad as you think — and people are totally weird about weddings, especially parents. I had all sorts of stupid arguments about things like canapes (wish I was joking) . Now we just look back on it and are faintly embarrassed. Just know that after the wedding your mum will be telling everyone she’s ever met how great you looked (FYI, red dresses look amazing in photos. Frida Kahlo vibes) you won’t think about what your wearing once during the whole day, and you have made a brilliant decision to spend the night before the wedding together — I did and the photographer said I was the most relaxed bride she’d ever met — all because I’d had 10 hours of lovely sleep 🙂 xxx

  12. I’ll have to agree with Gael: In the end your mum will be proud of your dress, especially if she sees how much you love it. My mom had some problems adjusting to the thought of a non-white dress as well. But on the day she and everyone else loved it, commented on how absolutely special and how much “me” it was and how refreshing it was to have a bride in a different kind of dress – in my case, a short swing style blue one. And I’m so happy that I decided on a dress I can now wear for ballroom dancing. We did stick to some traditions like the bouquet tossing and the cutting of the cake (some small things we didn’t mind to keep the traditionalists happy), but other than that, we did our own thing (spending the night before together, not having a special car, both having just one best woman, my fiancee talking my dress ideas through with me and even accompanying me to the seamstress). And while I didn’t keep my name because we did want to share a name AND carry on his family name (my maiden name is already carried on by my sister and her husband), we really entered the wedding as equals and walked down the aisle together with our priest. In fact, that was my favorite part of the day, walking into the church together with the man I love more than anything – especially more than some oh so important traditions.

    So by our first-hand experience: As long as you’re happy and everyone can see that, everyone, even the more traditional people, will love your wedding, simply because they love you! Even it they would do things differently themselves – it’s not their wedding, it’s yours, and all of your guests would rather see a relaxed, happy wedding couple than an uncomfortable one because you stick to traditions you don’t really like. So don’t worry about it, as long as you stand behind your decisions regarding your wedding, everyone will love it in the end when they see the final result. Just make sure the food is good (let’s face it, for the overall picture, it really comes down to that, not on how many layers of white tulle you’re wearing).

    Have a wonderful and most special wedding!

  13. Annabel, I completely understand your thoughts here on the traditions of weddings. I tied the knot 2 years ago now, and I really struggled with indecision on parts of the wedding. In the end, I got Scarlet Events to help me out and reassure me on my decisions. I’d recommend getting a wedding planner for any women with the same struggle!

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