Is Feminism Affecting Sexist Wedding Traditions?

Today, marriage and relationships between two sexes are the most equal they have been in all history. After reciting their vows, women are now not pressured by society or traditional norms to live their life as that of a housewife. Modern couples have newly found freedom to choose which house-work chores they favour most to do.

Equality is more prevalent in society today than ever. So, it does seem somewhat peculiar that the act of marriage is not close to that level? Rather, and unfortunately, it is still heavily patriarchal and packed with sexist wedding tradition after sexist wedding tradition! Looking back only a few decades ago you’ll realise how many sexist and outdated traditions and duties we have created. These traditions are still around and in constant use in modern day weddings.

I love a wedding just as much as the next person. Nevertheless, feminism has shown me the great extent of sexism involved in the act of marriage today. My advice would be that before tying the knot, have a think as to whether the traditions of the day represent you individually. If they don’t, perhaps you want to break the rules by going against the societal norm. Here are a few traditions to consider to help you to begin your brainstorm.

Wedding Reception - Sexist Wedding Tradition
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The Father Walking the Bride Down the Aisle

A sexist wedding tradition at the ceremony is that the father of the bride walks his daughter down the aisle. This is a beautiful and proud moment for the two to share. Regardless of this, the roots of this act were not always so innocent.

Centuries ago this sexist wedding tradition was more about possession than anything else. The head of the household – the father – saw his daughter as part of his family possession. It was his choice to allow the marriage or not and to approve each aspect of it. Due to the father’s ownership, he would walk his gorgeous daughter down the aisle to give her away. In return for marrying his daughter the father would give the groom a large total of money as a thank-you. Times have greatly changed since then but that is the reason that father’s do this in the first place.

With that being said, some feminist brides have already changed the game by refusing to follow this sexist wedding tradition. Instead, they walk down the aisle with both parents at once with themselves in the middle; identifying, appreciating and celebrating both people who raised her. Or, she just walks with her mother if she so chooses. Some brides even solely walk down the aisle alone to give themselves away. This goes against the societal norm in every known regard.

The Bride Taking Her Husband’s Surname

It’s almost second nature to think that, when two genders marry, the woman shall take the man’s surname. Yet, there is no legal reason that states that the man’s surname is to be taken by the woman and not the other way around.

Marriage Certificate - Sexist Wedding Tradition
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This double-standard and sexist wedding tradition maintains the belief that a woman’s identity is interchangeable but a man’s isn’t. It suggests that the woman is better being known by her husband’s surname rather than her birth identity, which isn’t true.

Although it is now old-fashioned to follow such a sexist wedding tradition, some brides still choose to take the surname willingly. This is likely because they believe that having a single surname for the family represents unity. I see it as quite a a romantic gesture to give up a part of them as special as their surname. Couples who have, or want children in the future, often choose to have the same surname when married. This a major reason as to why a woman will change her name, emphasising a traditional family unit.

If a bride opts to take her husband’s surname then that should be respected. Despite this, now, countless feminist women tying the knot are taking a more equal approach. An approach that is more suited to them and not societal norms. Why not? Women have accomplished amazing things, just as much as men, under their birth surname – they should be celebrated equally. Some couples choose to have a double-barrel surname made up of both of their last names. Amazingly, some men have taken their wife’s surname – that is quite a step towards marriage equality!

The Men Doing the Wedding Speeches

Another sexist wedding tradition is that the men do the speeches with women taking the backseat. This may be unfair to women but it did become a custom factor of the day. They would just stick to the status-quo and keep quiet. There are plenty of times when women have had to accept patriarchal traditions but our wedding day should not be one.

Wedding Ceremony - Sexist Wedding Tradition
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It is 2018 though and we are making progress, thanks to the rise in feminism. The mother of the bride, sisters, girlfriends and even the bride herself, are now wedding making their own speeches. This sexist tradition is quickly going out of style quicker than some may have thought! Apparently, even Meghan Markle – now The Duchess of Sussex – gave her own speech at her royal wedding. That is impressive and truly represents how far women have come from only a few decades ago.

The men of the wedding can still be given the opportunity to give a speech, but along with women. That way, it denotes equality and is that much more special for both the bride and groom. The world knows that women can speak for themselves and not just sit and look pretty; it’s time for the men to hand over the microphone.

Getting the Father of the Bride’s Permission to Marry

A man has never required permission to marry his partner, however, women have. A woman, who is just as strong-willed and independent as her other half, can give her own consent to marry.

Even though it is a sexist wedding tradition, it’s somewhat understandable why it began centuries ago. As I mentioned previously, the father sees his daughter as a family possession. The daughter’s partner would have to ask him for his permission out of respect.

Fast forward a few decades and feminist brides are doing things a little differently. Some couples seek permission to marry from both sets of parents to make it more equal. Others, rather than asking for permission to marry, ask for their parent’s support instead. This shows that the bride-to-be is still honoring her father without giving up on her independence as an adult as she can give herself away. This also emphasises teamwork and the first step of doing something so special as two families coming together.

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The Bouquet Being Thrown by the Bride

Perhaps one of the more fun wedding traditions is when the bride throws her wedding bouquet into a sea of women. With tension running high, hands out-stretched and their game faces on – think Emma and Liv from the film Bride Wars – are we portraying  women in a positive light? A light that depicts such strong and clever women as somewhat desperate to marry. It is worth noting that men do not play a game of this nature at a wedding.

In recent years some couples have chosen to change up the how the game works. This way it is more just about meaningless enjoyment and less of a sexist wedding tradition. Some have chosen to take out the game from their day whilst others have made it more inclusive by welcoming all women, not based upon marital status, to play. The game is seen solely as a celebration of women and the bride, not at all about future marriage.  In this instance, the bride’s bouquet signifies good luck and whoever catches the bouquet wins a prize too. I think that this is a great idea; there’s nothing wrong with some friendly competition.

Choose What Suits You

No matter the traditional components of a wedding day, it does come down to the personal preferences of each couple. One couple might believe that the traditions are far too sexist, want to throw away the rule-book and take a modern approach. Whereas, another may want to include and embrace the traditions fully and what they each signify to them and their families.

Pretty Crockery - Sexist Wedding Tradition
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None of these traditions are necessary for a beautiful wedding day. So, do what suits you – it’s your prerogative. We all have the power to make intelligent decisions that work best for us individually. You aren’t dishonouring women if you choose to only have the men make speeches on the day. Nor are you going to be nastily judged if only your mother walks you down the aisle. The good thing about traditions is that that’s all they are  – traditions – you can break them.

If you need any help with preparing for the day, check out these expert wedding planning tips and tricks. Or, if you are struggling with finding the perfect dress, flick through these wedding dress trends for 2018. You’ll surely find your favourite style.

With everything said, if you are in the process of planning your wedding, good luck for the big day! 

Post Author: Elissa Cynamon

Elissa Cynamon
I am a fashion graduate passionate about establishing a career in journalism. You’ll regularly find me writing poetry, going to dance classes or baking delicious vegan treats for my friends and family. More often than not, with a chai latté in hand. Follow me on Instagram @elissadanielle_

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