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Women’s rights and garter tosses: confessions of a feminist bride-to-be

22 Sep 2017

In part five of her blog, bride-to-be Sophie Elliott considers whether or not her wedding will be 'feminist' enough

Photo: Sophie Elliott

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Is it possible to throw a feminist wedding? When I first started planning my wedding, I was determined to make it as feminist as possible. From eschewing traditions such as walking down the aisle with my dad to wearing a dress that was non-stereotypical and colourful, my aim was to make my wedding as nonconformist as I could. But that quickly changed.

Not only am I going to walking down the aisle with my father, I’m also going to be wearing not one but two lace, floral-embellished Enzoani wedding dresses. My surname is going to be changed to my partner’s, we’re going to exchange rings and vows, and I’m having bridesmaids and a hen party. For all intents and purposes, it is a completely traditional wedding. The only thing slightly different in my wedding will be that only women will be doing readings during the ceremony, and we’re going to ensure that women have a voice during the speeches as well. We’re not having a sit-down, three-course dinner – but from my experience, that’s not very common nowadays anyway. I most certainly will not be partaking in the garter toss tradition (yuck), and I probably won’t throw my bouquet (mainly because it’s costing too much for me to want to ruin it).

I might be adhering to certain wedding traditions, but that doesn’t make me a bad feminist. Compare my upcoming nuptials with those of women throughout history. Weddings used to be an inherently anti-feminist, anti-woman act; you were literally ‘given away’ by your father (sometimes for a dowry), you took your husband’s name because you became his property, and, a lot of the time, you didn’t even have a choice in your spouse-to-be at all.

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Photo: Sophie Elliott

I, however, have been living with my partner for the past six years, so the implication that my father is ‘giving me away’ is laughable. I do not belong to my fiancé, nor am I with him because I was forced. Furthermore, we are paying for the majority of our wedding costs ourselves. It might be a traditional ceremony, but at the end of the day we’re viewing it as a celebration of our love for one another; nothing more, nothing less.

So is it possible to have a feminist wedding? Of course it is, in theory. You could enter the room and walk down the aisle together, double-barrel your names, and wear a special dress that isn’t particularly wedding-y. You could opt out of an expensive celebration and DIY everything to eschew the wedding industrial complex. But does that really make you any more or less feminist than any other woman? The only thing all of that would do is prove a point to the outside world. I already know that I’m a feminist, that my fiancé is a feminist, and that the majority of my friends and family are feminists. The fact that I’ve succumbed to the world of tulle and lace and personalised wedding favours doesn’t lessen that fact or make it less believable.  

My fiancé and I have a saying for when we’re watching terrible TV: “turning off the feminist switch in your brain”. Every now and again it’s OK to enjoy something that isn’t stereotypically feminist; if you’re not hurting anyone else, there shouldn’t be a problem. And that’s how I’m viewing my wedding. I’m turning off the feminist switch for one day, but that doesn’t negate my views on women’s rights, misogyny, or our patriarchal society as a whole. In fact, once everyone has had a few drinks and the evening has begun, I’m sure we’ll have some lively conversations and debates on the subject.