I am a feminist and a bride, which are two surprisingly conflicting roles. Anyone who has gotten married before and identifies as a feminist is probably saying "Ummm, duh," right now, but before I got engaged, I really didn't even consider that those two roles would conflict. I can say that without a doubt, reconciling my feminist self with my bride self has been the most difficult part of wedding planning for me.
Why is it so hard? Well, the label of "feminist" is brand-new compared to the long-standing label of "bride," and the label of "bride" isn't exactly steeped in the tradition of gender equality. The dirty secret of weddings is that for centuries it was a property transaction between the bride's father and her new husband. Things that today are cute traditions have long, patriarchal pasts. All of a sudden, for feminist brides, the decision about whether to participate in these traditions becomes fraught with conflict.
There's a laundry list of patriarchal traditions for brides to consider and to fret over.
Should I change my name? Should I wear an engagement ring? Is it OK if I have a father-daughter dance? What about a bouquet and
garter toss? Who will pay for the wedding? How should we word the invitations? Should I wear a veil?
Then there's the thought process. On one hand, I want to wear a veil because I think veils are pretty, but on the other hand, I know that a veil is an outward endorsement of my virginity. So if I wear a veil, does that mean I'm supporting the idea that a woman's worth to her husband is based on her chastity? And if I wear a veil in spite of its less-than-empowering past just because I think it's pretty, does that make me shallow? Even worse, does it make me a bad feminist?
That's the most difficult thought of them all. I feel guilty, like I'm letting down womankind, when - after considering all of my options - I choose the patriarchal tradition. I feel like people will see me wearing a veil (or dancing with my dad or throwing my bouquet) and not know that I'm doing it in spite of its traditional, anti-feminist connotations. When people see a bride who rebels against tradition by not wearing white or walking herself down the aisle, it's a clear statement. But when a bride has a relatively traditional wedding, how do people know whether she's reclaiming the sexist traditions or endorsing them?
I want to stay true to myself, but maybe my wedding isn't the place to make a statement about the patriarchy, feminism, and gender roles. Maybe it doesn't matter why I'm wearing the veil as long as I feel beautiful. In the end, I need to focus on what's right for me, my future husband, and our wedding and base my decisions solely on that. And really, what's more feminist than that?