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Questions Every Feminist Bride Must Ask
Who Will Pay for the Engagement Ring?
If you're reading this, odds are there is already some bling on your finger, or at least on your horizon. But just because your beloved has already popped the question doesn't mean you can't consider the feminist ethics underlying your new jewelry.
In Western culture, the tradition of giving and receiving an engagement ring is loaded with sexist (and capitalist) undertones, which don't quite match up to how most people view their marriages today.
So what does this mean for a modern feminist like you? Do you have to choose between your belief in gender equality and your love of all things sparkly? Absolutely not. If you're concerned about the ethical connotations of your engagement ring or the power dynamics and gender stereotypes it perpetuates, you have have a few options for keeping your morals and your jewelry box intact:
- Buy him a similarly priced engagement gift. You could get him something similarly wearable like a watch or some very expensive cufflinks. Or if he has a special hobby (golf, hunting, a collection of some sort), you could splurge on a gift related to that.
- Pay for half the ring. It's not uncommon for couples these days to share equally in most expenses, so why not this one? Plus, if you spring for half the cost of the ring, there's a good chance you'll end up with a much nicer ring than he could have bought on his own.
- Chalk it up to a concession to tradition. Maybe the ring thing isn't a feminist battle you're willing to fight. After all, symbolism is just that: a symbol. And the great thing about symbols is that their meaning can change over time. Just because engagement rings were sexist in the past doesn't make wearing one mean your relationship today is any less equal.
Will I Change My Last Name?
Whether you love your "maiden" name or have been waiting since childhood to drop it like a bad habit, the decision on whether to change your name after marriage is a politically loaded one. Change your name, and it's like you're giving up your individual identity (while your groom gets to hold on to his!), but keep your name and you're faced with all sorts of awkwardness: What will the kids' names be? Can people still call you "Mrs."? Will the groom's family be offended? It's easy to get swept up in everyone else's opinion, but ultimately this is your name that you're going to have for (hopefully) the rest of your life. Spent some time thinking about how you want to be known and let other people worry about themselves.
Who Will Walk Me Down the Aisle?
At some point you have probably imagined your dad walking you down the aisle, and your dad most likely has as well. This is a tough issue for feminists because, while we obviously take issue with idea of our fathers (or anyone else) "giving us away", most of us also care deeply about our dads and don't want to crush his dreams on a day that's supposed to be full of happiness. If the symbolism of having your dad hand you off to your fiance is just too patriarchal for you to stomach, consider asking your mom to join you as well. Your fiance's parents can escort him , too. The fact that you're both being delivered to the altar might make you feel a little bit less like property than if it's just you.
Who Will Pay for the Wedding?
Traditionally, the bride's parents pay for the wedding, and many couples follow this custom today. But given that this is very much in the same vein as the tradition of a dowry, it's reasonable that modern feminists take issue with it today. Really the most feminist option would be to resist the demands of the Wedding Industrial Complex (and, while we're at it, the system of capitalism as a whole!) and get married at the county courthouse for the price of a marriage certificate, but no one is perfect. If you must take part in the spectacle of conspicuous consumption that is the contemporary wedding reception, there's a more feminist way to figure out cost sharing than assuming your parents will foot the whole bill. Nowadays, it's perfectly acceptable--if not expected-- for the bride and groom share a great deal of the cost if not the whole thing, and if the groom's parents except to invite a lot of people from their side, then by all means let them contribute.
Should I Wear White?
As with engagement rings, the tradition of wearing a white dress on your wedding day comes with some pretty uncomfortable cultural baggage. Whether you're a virgin or not, as a feminist you know that that's no one's business but your's and your partner's, so there's no need to broadcast it to all of your guests. Whether you go with the white dress is completely up to you and how you want to look on your big day. Just don't let others' sense of morality dictate your choice in color. However, for those of you who want to put the kabash on the whole virginity symbolism altogether, you're in good company. Plenty of brides--feminists and nonfeminists alike--are letting their personality shine by wearing wedding dresses of every color.
Why Am I Getting Married?
Obviously this is a question everyone should ask themselves before walking down the aisle, but the high divorce rate suggests that some people aren't thinking about it hard it enough. But any feminist worth her salt will spend plenty of time analyzing and discussing what marriage means to her and her betrothed before saying "I do." If you're getting married for the wedding, to make your families happy, to stop "living in sin", or because you've never considered an alternative, then maybe you need to slow down on the wedding planning. Do some self-reflection and talk to your partner about what kind of life you want to have together and how marriage will contribute to that. It could be that you're actually completely happy without being legally and financially bound together. Why mess with a good thing?