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Bridal Party: Let's Get Married

Hello, Bitch readers! As you may or may not know, the summer wedding season is upon us. Much like the various holiday seasons, this can be a fraught time of joy, frustration, excitement, and a deep commitment to avoidance and procrastination.

Since I'm going to be writing about this joyous-ish season over the next eight weeks, I thought I'd take the opportunity to establish the context through which I'll be exploring the various facets of nuptial nuance. This seems especially important given the fact that weddings are an extension of relationships and relationships are deeply personal things. Not to mention that marriage in general is quite the hot-button topic.

old-timey illustration of a chubby baby in a wedding dressLet's start at the beginning. I was not one of those little girls who dreamed about her wedding day. I didn't have a particular aversion to it; I was just too busy trying to figure out how to use a battery and some wire to open up a new dimension in space-time or drawing treasure maps for my little brother. When my friends wanted to play wedding, I always tried to re-direct because I hated wearing dresses. I avoided princess games for the same reason.

As an opinionated teen (who of COURSE knew everything), I decided that the institution of marriage was generally a sham designed to subjugate women and promote unjust and immoral economic aims and therefore I would not be participating in said institution. Then eventually I met my partner and one thing led to the inevitable next and the discussion of marriage arose.

For years I held steadfastly to my teen-conviction as he presented every possible pro-marriage argument—romantic, legal, economic, you have it—for why we should get married. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that, at the time, we were in a long-term same-sex relationship (my partner transitioned last year) and all of the news coverage of same-sex couples being treated unequally in hospitals, with regard to estate matters, etc. led me to believe that it would be a good idea to have some civil protections. I didn't want some homophobic nurse deciding I didn't have the right to see my person in the hospital.

There was also the not-small fact that my partner and I had spent years putting a lot of energy and work into our relationship. It's not an easy thing, to get to the place where you can comfortably say "I can see being an old fart with you." We wanted to celebrate that, demarcate it. Our future fartiness.

long-distance shot of Michael and her partner at their wedding, standing on a cliff in the sunNow we're what my partner and I call "not-married." What is "not-married," you ask? Well, it's what sometimes happens when you are in a same-sex relationship that feels like it should be taken to the next level, but you live in a country that won't let you legally do that, and so you have a big ol' bash in the wilds of Northern California—a state that likes to give you many of the same rights as straight-folk marriage, but call it a domestic partnership. So I've been "not-married" to my "not-husband" now for a year and a half.

Given my general suspicion of marriage, we decided to eschew every possible aspect of tradition when planning our wedding. We wanted it to truly be a celebration of our particular relationship, we didn't want to go into debt over one weekend, and we wanted to be able to enjoy the day and remember it.

Most importantly, I wanted to be able to wear my dress to cocktail parties.---->

Every aspect of our wedding was symbolic of some aspect of our relationship we'd spent the last seven years working hard on and were proud of, from the location, to the invitations, to our vows, rings, and participatory ceremony. We even limited our guest list only to people who were actively involved in our lives, either individually or as a couple. Thirty people were in attendance, including us.

Throwing the traditional template out the window was the best thing we could have done.

Even with my not-marriage, though, I continue to have extremely complicated feelings about the institution of marriage itself. My not-husband semi-frequently bemoans my lack of romanticism about the whole thing, but much as I love him, I just can't shake the nasty feel of the history marriage. But I, like every human, am a complex person. I believe in ritual as a means of integrating life's changes and as a way to formalize and bring intentionality to the organic. A wedding ceremony is nothing if not a ritual; a way to honor your past with a person while acknowledging a deepened commitment to moving forward together.

Which brings me to the point of this story. Yes! I have a point!

the cover of a bridal magazine full of wedding tipsPop culture loves to tell you all about weddings and marriage. The messages tend to be played out, often troubling, frequently boring, and overly invested in economics. Movies, TV, magazine articles, Facebook ads, and blogs want you to do this or not do that, tell you what you should look like, what you should buy, say, write, even how you should kiss when the "big moment" arrives.

This series will not be that.

I'd like to spend the next eight weeks with you looking at the history of weddings and marriage in Western culture, talking about how marriage is used as a tool of civil and economic inequality, and how the gender binary plays a role in how we think about weddings and helps to fuel the wasteful consumerism associated with THE SPECIAL DAY. Mainly I'd like to look at how anyone can say NO to the pitfalls of the wedding industrial complex.

That sounds kind of heavy, though, huh. DON'T WORRY, that's just the first half of the series.

I've also written a lot about fashion and art and culture and aesthetics, so we're totally going to spend the second half of the series looking at outfits and decorations and fun stuff, too. Just not in a bossy way.

So. Let's get married!! Or not. It's up to you.

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Comments

18 comments have been made. Post a comment.

YES! As an ambivalent (to

YES! As an ambivalent (to traditions) bride, I will very much enjoy this blog.

Imagine a tv show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos

Yay! Also, did you listen to David McCullough Jr.'s commencement speech?

The opening paragraphs take on weddings: "Can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent... during halftime... on the way to the refrigerator. "

In that vein ...

I drive by an ad every day on my way home from work. I think it's from a local heart-health clinic or something. It has a close-up photo of the smiling face of a (caucasian, blonde) young girl, with text along the lines of, "Be there to dance at her wedding." It bugs me every day. I've honestly tried to imagine the same ad with a male child, and I just can't see it. I can imagine an ad that said, instead, "Be there to celebrate her college graduation," so I end up wishing I could change it to that every time I pass it.

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Yes! I'm so excited for this

Yes! I'm so excited for this series. Even though my boyfriend and I have the option of getting legally married, I'm not terribly excited about joining the age-old institution for the sake of tradition. I can't wait to see what you write about in the coming weeks!

Yes!

So excited for this feature! I found http://offbeatbride.com/ when I was looking for anti-wedding industrial complex rants and wedding planning advice in the same blog. It's a fantastic site with great essays and lots of features on actual offbeat and nontraditional wedding and commitmment ceremonies. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a feminist queer friendly wedding planning online community. 

I was critical of marriage

I was critical of marriage too, before I got engaged to my (trans) boyfriend who lives 5000 miles away. Luckily we are allowed to get married in his country, as it's the only way we'll be able to be together. it's nice that you and yours are able to at least live on the same continent together without getting married, but I really hope this series doesn't turn into one of those "ABOLISH MARRIAGE" circle jerks.

Hm

That's too bad about you and your boyfriend but I'm glad you can get married in his country if that's what's best for your relationship. I wonder though, what makes you think that Michael (who is married, for what it's worth) wants to abolish marriage? I certainly didn't get that sense from her post at all.

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This should be fun! I'm smack

This should be fun! I'm smack in the middle of talking to my partner of seven years about the next step in our relationship. We know we're going to get married, but we definitely have some things to work out around being married and what it will mean for us. These are extremely difficult conversations for us, for a number of reasons. BUT good and exciting conversations, too! So I think it's timely (personally) and should be fun to look into some of these issues here.

And to join in the fun already: I wasn't one of those young girls who didn't think about marriage as a kid. All my aunts and uncles were getting married all the time, after all! But I was the little girl who, instead of playing that it was my own wedding, had a seriously organized imaginary wedding planning business going on. I had imaginary clients and everything. That's what kind of weird little kid I was. :-)

Sorry to get off topic here,

Sorry to get off topic here, but...
"Hello, Bitch readers!"
Lol, that has to be the funniest greeting/start of an article ever!

Thank you!

I am in the beginning stages of planning a wedding and am just so lost in all the bullsh*t that I don't know which way is up. I am queer and was with women for years, but am marrying a man which is complicating the whole thing. I am very anti-patriarchy but the history of marriage is based on this structure and the glorification of heterosexual relationships. I am so excited to celebrate, have fun, dance, feel beautiful and happy with the person I love most, but it takes so much effort to keep all of the messages I am confronted with at bay so we can build this ritual together in the right way. Thank you so much for writing about this and I will be a devoted fan to the blog!!

This sounds like it should be

This sounds like it should be great, and as someone with a confused and ambivalent attitude to marriage I'm looking forward to it. A celebration of the love of two people is always a beautiful thing, but jeez what's with all the official-ness surrounding marriage? I've never understood people's desire to sign a piece of paper saying they're going to be in love forever; I'd rather just *be* in love and let that speak for itself.

An interesting take...

This should be an interesting series, especially for someone like me who has always felt so abnormal for not liking weddings/wedding dresses/all things bridal. The Knot Wedding magazine/guide has never done anything for me. On the flip side, I am pro-marriage (I myself have been married for several years). I just don't like all the pomp and ceremony and commercialization that comes with it.

Bookstore Girl

Looking forward to this. It's

Looking forward to this. It's such a confusing topic!

Something I'd like to see: a discussion of surnames. My partner and I have discussed it and plan to get married down the track. The surname thing troubles me. Thoughts that fly through my head: I don't want to lose or necessarily change my name; I don't want him to feel like he has to change his; if we have kids, what happens if we give them a hyphenated surname and they chose to marry someone with a hyphenated surname when they grow up - where does it end???

Agreed! The name thing is a problem!

Agreed! The name thing is a big problem, and one I have often thought about with respect to navigating the last gasps of patriarchy. So many progressive women I know will keep their last name but then their kids always take the man's name, no question. And it amazes me that women will still even take a man's name, which to me seems to hark back to women being property of the man.
My partner of 10 years and l long ago decided to avoid the marriage thing - its history is too fraught with patriarchy, consumerism, fairy tales, religion, you name it. I don't need a ritual or the approval of church or state to validate my love for my partner!
One thing, we are finally getting around to looking into the paperwork thing for hospitals etc - that is the advantage of a traditional marriage... However we have successfully navigated the ICU in the past so not sure it's a big issue..

name changing

I enjoy the idea of combining two names into a new name for both partners, or children, if they happen. So if your last name is Fox and your partner's name is Garces you could become the Farxces. For example. Or your new last name could be Gax. It becomes a fun game to play, though admittedly I don't personally know anyone who has done this.

Yes!

I'm very excited about this series. I haven't been very ambivalent about marriage itself, but I've always been pretty ambivalent about weddings. I did play "wedding" a few times with my sisters as a kid, but this was mainly because my mom had a long nightgown that was white, soft to the touch, and made us think of a wedding dress (and we had to take turns playing the bride, groom and priest, so we all played all the parts). What can I say? We bought into what society wanted. And as I've gotten older, my thoughts on weddings have broadened into everything from "Why the fuck would I want to spend thousands of dollars on one day when I could spend that on things like a fun honeymoon trip, a new house for the newly married couple, or even just putting it straight into a savings account?" to "I don't want to plan a day that involves my mom having to communicate and plan with my dad and crazy step-mom". I've also thought about specifically having a wedding just so I can fill it with nontraditional rituals (like wearing a different color dress, or having my mom walk me down the aisle, or walking the aisle by myself, or walking down the aisle with my husband-to-be...apparently the aisle-walk has taken up most of my thinking).

Anyway, my point is really just, yay for this blog series! I'm excited.

I did not dream of marriage either

I did NOT dream of marriage as a young girl either! I've been a maid of honor in a close friend's wedding and also my sister's wedding. I love them both so I supported their decision, but still, I'm unsure of marriage. I agree that it's an institution that perpetuates inequalities. But I do know that I still want to find a partner that wants to make a lifelong committment to build a life together. (I'm still hopeful after a painful break up from a seven year relationship.) So I'm very excited about this blog series!

Can't wait for this!

As my subject hints, I am very excited to read the next updates about this wedding mania!

As a heterosexual female, I am honestly really disappointed by the way the wedding industry focuses on the bride and subjugates her to a role of supposed and expected superficiality and obedience. Despite the fact that I am 22 and single for each of those years, I do look forward to the day I get married. I want the special day to be just as special for my future husband as it is for me. I 'm not hiring a wedding planner to make sure my dress matches the ribbons on the pews and that those ribbons then emulate the fondant on the wedding cake which in turn is then supposed to be a reflection of our relationship, and all that jazz.

I find it ridiculous that people can be so bold as to think that a "perfect" wedding makes a "perfect" marriage. A good friend of mine is getting married in a little under two weeks. I am a bridesmaid. This is my first taste of "the true industry" and it is entirely overwhelming how much a "true bride" is expected to do to make her wedding unforgettable. The food. The cake. The dress. The invitations. The photographer. The decorating. The flowers. The music. The lights. The bouquets. The bridal party gifts. The table arrangements. The ice sculptures. The list goes on.

I'm not taking my husbands last name. I'm not making a single day all about me. I'm not forking out thousands of dollars on minute details I won't remember. I'm hopeful to think that the institution of marriage is not inherently a scam, but it is quickly spiraling down that path in Western societies. But at least I won't be.