By Emily D. Irvine: 5-17-12
There are few events in life as heavy with tradition as a wedding. As I have spent the last several months planning my own, I have had to think very deeply about traditions and which ones I will keep and reject when my wedding day arrives. In contemplating this topic, I have come to the conclusion that there are very few traditions that I will keep, for I have found that the vast majority of wedding traditions have archaic roots that go against absolutely everything I believe in. As with all of my beliefs, it is my opinion that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and the absence of these “traditions” in my wedding does not mean the presence of them in yours makes you an ignorant sexist. I am merely expressing why you will not see these common wedding practices anywhere near my wedding, as their presence would fail to make my big day a reflection of who I am.
Asking Her Father’s Permission
This tradition has slowly evolved to asking both parents’ “permission” for their daughter’s hand in marriage, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid. Sure, now it is seen as a nice gesture on the part of a prospective groom, but “permission” still bothers me. I see less problem with him asking the blessing of her parents, as well as his own, or at least informing them of his intentions. But I still feel the only person a man should be involving in his decision to get married is who he plans to marry. If you want to marry me, I am the correct person to discuss it with, no one else. Except perhaps the jeweler who will determine your payment plan.
How many brides when on the fence about wearing a veil are told, “how many times in your life will you get to wear a veil?” to urge them toward one. My answer to this question is, “I hope never.” This tradition dates back to several ancient cultures where very often, a man did not see his bride until after their wedding ceremony. She was brought to him with her face covered so that his commitment to her was not based on looks. If she was hideous, too bad for him, he already said yes. The lifting of the veil by the groom is also meant to symbolize the breakage of the hymen that will supposedly occur in a few hours time. In fact, newly wed couples would consummate the marriage on top of the pristine white veil and the following morning, it would be held up to the town, revealing a blood stain to prove that the bride was a virgin. Seriously? Does no one else find that incredibly creepy? Not to mention modern medical science has proved that the presence or lack of a hymen means NOTHING when determining a woman’s virginity. It can break for no reason whatsoever, or in extreme cases, be remarkably intact after childbirth. Or how about the simple fact that it is nobody’s goddam business? So as for a veil, no thank you, I will meet my groom face to face and he will see how hot I look for every second of the ceremony. I refuse to glorify any archaic beliefs about the female anatomy that suggest a woman is a slut if she does not bleed and experience pain on her wedding night.
“Giving Away” the Bride
Traditionally, a bride is walked down the aisle by her father, who is asked by the officiant, “who gives this woman to this man…” after which, she is handed off to the man she is marrying like she is the goal of a business transaction. This is because once upon a time, this is exactly what she was. The daughters of rich fathers came with huge chunks of cash in days of yore, and in marrying one, a man was assuring a rich father that his legacy would continue. Women were meant to bear sons to carry on the family name and family business, as valuable as proven brood mares. A woman was quite literally property, belonging to her father before marriage and her husband after.
I will walk down the aisle entirely alone. This is because I “belong” to no one now and will “belong” to no one after. I have consented to marriage by my own free will, and no one else has any say in who I marry or under what circumstances. I said yes to the proposal, I say yes to the marriage and I need no one “giving me away” to say it is alright.
(UPDATE: On my wedding day, this was the only one of these statements that I altered. My husband and I walked to the alter together. After all, it was OUR journey, and we took it side by side.)
“Mr. and Mrs….. Mr?”
We all know how wedding ceremonies end. “I now present to you, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Smith.” What? Once I get married, I don’t have a first name when addressed in public? I am to be the female thing that comes along with my big, strong man of a husband? I don’t think so. This “tradition” is meant to now establish the husband as the new “head” of his wife, the leader of the family they will make, the new authority. After all, a ship can’t have two captains. Pardon me, but screw that bullshit. I marry to combine my life with another, gaining an equal partner, not forming a nautical hierarchy. I will remain a Ms. and I will keep my status as an individual, thank you. I may add a name to my bank account and claim a dependent on my taxes, but I sure as hell will not submit to his “superior wisdom.” And along those lines…..
“Love, honor, and obey.”
Love: absolutely, above all else. Honor? More like respect. Respect him as a person, respect his feelings, respect his desires. Obey? Hell no. He may ask things of me, and out of love I may comply, knowing the compliance is mutual should I ask things of him. But obedience implies a leader and a follower, that I must do what he says no matter what. No. That is not love on either part, and that is not in my vows.
“I now pronounce you man and wife….”
These are dissimilar nouns. Man and woman, or husband and wife: pick a lane. Pronouncing a couple man and woman seems kind of stupid, so you can tell which lane I am in. Also, my strongest opposition to this statement is that it implies only men and women have a right to marry each other. I don’t commonly share my political beliefs, but I would have no opposition to attending a wedding where the couple is pronounced husband and husband or wife and wife. This closing statement is meant to seal the couple as entering a changed state of their relationship, one of eternal commitment and love, nothing more or less.
To me, the most important thing about a wedding is that it seals the relationship between two people in a way that is meaningful and precious to them and them only. The absence of these “traditions” is what will make my wedding just that, a celebration of my consensual unity with another person, not the sacrifice of the identity I have crafted over the course of life, nor the identity he has. We should not seek to change each other but to make each other better and more emotionally whole. A wedding should be in celebration of that new blessing, the start of a better life, one with love and equality, not control and uneven sacrifice.