Being Black, Feminist, Thoroughly Girly, and Conflicted

Angela Davis, bell hooks, and several others have written about the distance between mainstream feminism and women of color in the Women’s Liberation Movement, as the workplace was often touted as a site of liberation and the private home as one of oppression. For many women of color and working class women, the situation was absolutely reversed, since enslavement labor had been the means through which Black women were abused and exploited. So the home and the act of caring for their families domestically was an area in which they could have some measure of autonomy, of escape, of value for them and their families outside of the capital value that they produced.

I think many of the rituals and changes that women are expected to participate in when they get married reveal the same type of tensions. Things that might seem outdated for popular feminism may actually be points of pride for women who have historically been denied access to a certain mode of femininity. If you are a member of a group of women that has been constantly caricatured as mammies and welfare queens, sexually pathologized, and whose inequity has been attributed to broken, abnormal, and matriarchal family structures, then bearing the title of Mrs. and taking your husband’s last name can actually be displays of resistance. If you have grown up seeing constant media reports on the fatherlessness of Black children and the unmarriageability of Black women, then having your father walk you down the aisle and flashing your ring can both be points of pride.

But as a Black feminist Africana Studies scholar who constantly brings the insights of my work into my life, I just don’t get off that easy. I realize the way in which tradition and the politics of respectability have sometimes been a form of self-defense and resistance for Black women, but I also realize that patriarchy within our communities still operates in our lives. What women-of-color feminists advocated was an intersectional politics that could look at race, class, and gender as simultaneously operating forms of denying resources and power to marginalized people. We have to question patriarchy in its institutional operations (family being one of those institutions) and its cultural manifestations, for they are indelibly linked.

But I am a critical gender-conscious scholar with some seriously problematic guilty pleasures. I did beauty pageants and music video dancing and do not regret it, I watch the Miss America Pageant and Bridezillas pretty faithfully. I am a complicated person, and sometimes this complication feels downright hypocritical. And my desires for what I would want if I ever got married were shaped long before I started becoming critical of marriage and its accompanying traditions. I grew up in a large extended family where marriage was not necessarily an expectation. I’ve been to more funerals and baby showers than I can count but not many weddings. I was always taught to be independent and to take care of myself, but at the same time I was nurtured on fairy tales. So I was confident that I’d be a pretty princess with or without a prince, but that if I got a prince I wanted all that big, sparkly, even stupid stuff that comes along with it.

So there’s no neat conclusion here. For me, just living is an ongoing process of trying to reconcile my intellectual interests and political beliefs with my personal choices. As a bride, I am exercising my right to question patriarchal and Eurocentric tradition where it matters to me and live with the contradictions where it doesn’t. A few of the things I have struggled with:

The Ring: Okay, not much of a struggle. I was ready for marriage before my fiancé was, so it was reasonable to me that he signal his readiness through a creative proposal and sparkly jewelry. My ring is an aquamarine with an Akan adinkra symbol carved into the band. It was created by hand from a jeweler we know from Leimert Park, an African American cultural enclave in Los Angeles. Now, I actually did somewhat resent that I looked claimed while L was bare handed, so I bought him a ring, got down on my knee, and proposed back soon after we got engaged. He loved wearing his ring but recently lost it while roughhousing with his little cousin. (He had not listened to my suggestion that we get it resized.) When he went to the jeweler to try to replace it before I found out, he instead saw the ring he wants for his wedding band so decided that he would rather save the money for that and fess up. This close to our wedding, we need every dime, so I was pissed but let it go. So much for gender equity on that one.

Themes: One of the themes of my wedding is a principle of Kwanzaa: Ujamaa, cooperative economics. If I was going to spend this kind of money, I wanted to put it back into my community. My venue is a public county facility, a youth center that rents out a multipurpose room to the public on weekends. All of my vendors so far are small African American-owned businesses based in Inglewood and South Los Angeles. I’m very proud of this, and it has also saved money, as my venue is ridiculously cheap and I had a prior relationship with my vendors where they have been willing to work with my budget.

The Ceremony: Both our parents will walk us both down the aisle. Our ceremony will open with a request from the elders present for permission to proceed and a libation, an African form of prayer to call the ancestors to witness the ceremony. Our officiant is a female ordained elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and also a prominent theologian who studies Africana religions, and will perform a ceremony that is spiritual but not Christocentric. We will say our own vows, our community will make vows to support the union, and we will jump a broom.

Party Stuff: My mother has insisted that we cut a wedding cake, which we will. I asked L whether he wanted to do the garter toss and he responded, “Hell yeah.” As that is one of the strongest opinions I have gotten from him regarding any aspect of the wedding, that is the end of that discussion. And if he gets to throw something, so do I. Our guest list of mostly older family members may find some aspects of the ceremony unsettling, so I think its good that the reception is going to have those familiar elements. Our brunch will have Creole soul influences and our DJ will do a lot of classic hip-hop, reggae, and Afro-Cuban salsa.

The Dress: Long story. I wanted an elaborate and unique dress that would simultaneously capture a sexy silhouette and African aesthetics and ended up with a simple strapless lace gown from David’s Bridal. (The power of clearance prices!) Our budget is too tight to go back now so I have committed to loving it. It really is very pretty, even if I am not screaming, “I’m different! I’m challenging Eurocentricity!” as I walk down the aisle. And it has left me with some room in the budget for a custom cowry shell headpiece.

The Name Change: Jury is still out. I definitely want to change my name. I like the idea of taking on a new identity and identifier for this new stage in my life, and think it will help to set boundaries with my family, signaling that I now have more families that I am obligated to. I just don’t think that I should be the only one to have to contemplate that choice. L is willing to change his name, but as he is named after his father, that could get funky. We may both take my last name as our middle names and use his last name, but not sure yet.

I did not allow myself to think about my wedding much before I actually got engaged. But when I did imagine it, I had all of these grand ideas about how it would be different than anything else anyone we knew had had. Budget forced a lot of these ideas out of the picture, but that has turned out to be a blessing. The wedding that I am planning is less about the impression that I want to make, about the message I want to send, about proving my commitment to my cultural identity or feminist point of view—it’s about what makes sense for me, and the man I love, and the families who are coming to support us, at this moment in our lives. Maybe in ten years when we renew our vows and throw another party I’ll be more evolved. For now, I am sheepishly satisfied with the Western traditions I kept intact, and thrilled about the ways in which I am departing. And I am finally excited about my Pan African (sort-of), feminist (sort-of), practical (I hope) wedding.


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  • Megan

    When a writer that starts off with a nod to bell hooks, you know there’s going to be some great, challenging stuff in there. One of the most well thought-out posts I’ve seen in a while.

    • KW

      I had the opportunity to hear bell hooks speak about 2 years ago. Great and challenging indeed, I hope to have that opportunity again someday.

  • elisa

    I love both your commitment to your principles, and your keen, witty awareness that you’re engaging in constrained optimization– you can’t have it all, you can’t do it all, so you put your money and energy where returns are highest and most meaningful:

    “I am exercising my right to question patriarchal and Eurocentric tradition where it matters to me and live with the contradictions where it doesn’t” A million times yes!

    And the David’s Bridal dress…”The power of clearance prices!” Love it :)

    This fits so nicely with the other posts from this week: the choices we make– stay home, put kid in daycare, buy a white dress, buy a dress at the mall– are determined not only by our preferences, but also by our resources, both financial and emotional (and spiritual, for some). Sometimes we have to sacrifice in one dimension (ie. forgo the “most feminist choice”, cf discussions about name changing and working) in order to flourish in another (eg. a happy home-life). We’re so quick to judge people’s choices, while forgetting that *everybody’s* got to make them…so thanks for being delightfully frank and funny in describing your own decision-making process and internal contradictions!

  • Excellent post. I especially like her point that her wedding is about “it’s about what makes sense for me, and the man I love, and the families who are coming to support us, at this moment in our lives.” That feels very feminist to me–it’s making choices that work for you and your family, while you exist in the real world. (Although it sounds like Jalondra has still created an extremely thoughtful wedding in terms of her background and her relationship to the world at large as a black feminist woman.)

    Also, I’d kind of love to see the pictures from this wedding afterward. Follow-up post?

    • Yes! I really want to see the custom cowry shell headpiece!

    • Claire


  • KW

    I hope you do a wedding graduate post, I would love to see how it all comes together. :-) Conflicted or not, from this outsider’s perspective, you seem to be treading those waters well.

    • meg

      She better! We all want to see :)

  • What an empowering read to start my day! I’m really pleased to read Jalondra’s perspective here, as it’s not one I come across often. I particularly appreciate the way you explain your preference to change your name. I, too, see a name change as a signifier of a changed life state.

    Please submit your wedding graduate post! I can’t wait to get a glimpse of your cowry shell headpiece (and that aquamarine ring!) :-)

  • This was awesome! I loved reading about something that I am essentially unfamiliar with, and the writing was beautiful. Please, please, PLEASE, submit a wedding grad post… I’d love to see pictures of your beautiful day!

  • Sarah

    This is a beautiful post and I am sure that your wedding will be amazing because you have thought about it and taken all of these varying factors into account. Based on your post, I can tell that you are an amazing woman.

  • Great post! Thank you for painting another color in the world-is-not-black-and-white discussion. It is so interesting to see different sides of the feminine struggle coin.

    I also love the idea of the budget being a blessing: it forces you to be honest about who you are and what you want when forming your priorities.

    • Granola

      As in so many areas of life, at least in my experience, creativity comes from constraints.

  • Lib

    Thank you so much for this post. The idea that mainstream feminism often leaves out the particular experiences of women of color is something that never occurred to me until I was teaching in a school where the student/parent population was predominantly African American.

    As a good young feminist I knew that I would never take a husband’s name, or even need a husband to raise my children. Working in my school I was surprised to learn what a point of pride it was for many woman to be a “Mrs.” when so many of my students came from single-parent families. This really challenged my idea and world view. At the same time my co-teacher (also African American) had a hyphenated last name and more of a traditionally “feminist” outlook. As with most things, there is no one-size fits all answer. People are individuals before they are demographic groups.

    As for having conflicting pressures and values sometimes, I can relate. I too rush home every Friday for Bride Day on TLC, though I will deny it under oath. My values of ecological sustainability, fair trade, and human rights mean that I usually shop at second-hand stores and from local artists. My love of bargains and not spending all of my time hunting for necessities means that sometimes I shop at Target. We are all multidimensional and every one of our decisions often has multiple conscious and subconscious motivations.

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece. And thank you as always to APW for broadening our perspective.

    • Right? I’m obsessed with wedding shows. Its weird, because few of those weddings have anything in common with my own. Lately I stay away from the big bucks ones and do reruns of stuff like Rich, Bride Poor Bride and Whose Wedding is it Anyway that actually feature smaller budget weddings.

      Your interactions with parents and your co-teacher point out that people’s relationship to feminism is also a class issue. I am sure that even those parents who are proud to go by Mrs. are perfectly confident in their ability to raise their children without a man, even if that symbolic association to their husband is important.

  • Kelsey

    Amazing post- thank you for writing, Jalondra!

  • Laura C

    I love this post. Thank you so much for it. The first few paragraphs set up the tensions you’re working within so beautifully (and offer a broader perspective) and then your solutions to the specific problems of how you make your vision work in the reality of your budget etc … well, let’s just say the dress one in particular is speaking to me right now.

  • Class of 1980

    “Our ceremony will open with a request from the elders present for permission to proceed and a libation, an African form of prayer to call the ancestors to witness the ceremony.”

    Well that did it. Thanks for making me cry on Monday morning!!! What a beautiful tradition.

    I loved this post. Thank you for pointing out that the workplace wasn’t experienced as the holy grail of liberation by all women. The workplace can be one of the most marginalizing of experiences if you lack power or a voice in how you are treated.

    This lack of acknowledgment has been a failure of feminism (and society) and must be dealt with.

    • Oh yes. I had to leave a job that was literally tampering with my self-esteem and making me such an unhappy person and I know cases of ex-colleagues who needed therapy after leaving the same company, because they kept pushing people down,making people feel like what you do is not important…The lack of voice and acknowledgement of a job well-done can be soul crushing.
      I finished my contract and then left because I was not going to quit, though my husband had been encouraging me to do so, given how he saw it was affecting me. I feel like another person.

  • Celina

    While I am already an avid reader and lover of APW, this post makes me even happier to be a part of this community. As an African-American bride, just about everything in this post are issues that I have considering and grappling with. Specifically, with the name change- I will be receiving my PhD before my wedding and people have asked me of I will change my last name and be Dr. His Name. I’ve given an emphatic ‘I’ll be Dr. Maiden name and Mrs. His name’ response. Why? Because I accomplished my goal to be a Dr. but I am proud of the fact that I am getting married, especially as a well-educated African-American woman. Being called Mrs. His name displays that pride for me.
    As far as the actual wedding is concerned, I will be doing libation ceremony at the wedding, vows from the family/friends to support the union, and primarily using African-American vendors as cooperative economics is my absolute favorite Kwanzaa principle. My ceremony will be at American Beach, north of Jacksonville (my hometown), the only beach that blacks could use during segregation.
    Again, love, love, love this post. I have to turn my phone off now because I’m about to take off. But I’ll be back to join the discussion when I land.

    • Love it! I’ve spent some time on African American wedding websites and have been disappointed that, while they have a lot of pretty pictures of Black brides, most don’t offer anything in terms of finding these alternative choices and Black vendors…and I have found in dealing with friends and family that often Black folks can be more defensive of “tradition” than anyone else. So its good to slowly start finding people who share my values and priorities

  • Rachel

    Oh wow, this was a fantastic post. So thoughtful and exactly the kind of thing that’s missing from a lot of mainstream feminist blogs/websites.

    A couple of my favorite lines:

    “If you are a member of a group of women that has been constantly caricatured as mammies and welfare queens, sexually pathologized, and whose inequity has been attributed to broken, abnormal, and matriarchal family structures, then bearing the title of Mrs. and taking your husband’s last name can actually be displays of resistance.” THIS. SO MUCH THIS.

    “For now, I am sheepishly satisfied with the Western traditions I kept intact, and thrilled about the ways in which I am departing.” I think a lot of us can relate to that!

    And I second everyone above who is dying to see that ring and a wedding graduate post!

    • Thanks! I really love the indie wedding movement and APW has absolutely become my wedding planning bible, if it wasn’t for this site I might have given up on having a wedding this year at all. But I have sometimes been frustrated in not seeing more women of color with more perspectives on feminism-in a community where the independence of women has always been taken for granted, where the relationship between women and the dominant society rather than the men in your lives has been shaped by economic property relations, that symbolic stuff just doesn’t always have the same connotations. Still, I think these “traditions” shouldn’t be assumed to be universal and that fear and defeat should never be the thing that stops us from going outside of the box. APW has given me a framework and a rhetoric (f*** it if they don’t like it) for all kinds of choices that I am making.

      • Nicole

        Great piece. I’m in the beginning of the wedding planning process and while I love APW and everything contained here, it’s always nice to see and read about an African American (wedding) experience. I can definitely identify with the complications you discussed. I think being in my Master’s program has only added to those complications, in good ways though.

  • Liz

    Really wonderful post to read this morning.

  • Lauren

    I am obsessed with this post. To me, this is the pinnacle of feminist ideals: critically engaging with one’s own cultural history, and determining for oneself the best course of action to either uphold productive values or subvert unproductive ones. Truly inspiring.

  • This sounds like it will be a beautiful , unique and fun wedding (I wanted to start dancing as soon as I read about your DJ) that will also honor your origins.
    My mother in law is Surinamese, and a lot of the traditions you mention sound familiar. I love studying / knowing / honoring where the things we do come from, from food, to traditions, to music influences….
    (I thought I hated lace, and it turned out, it was the lace gowns that totally stole my heart. .You will be lovely. And maybe you can capture African aesthetics in other details?) (Already your ring sounds amazing).

  • Thanks to APW for exposing us to so many different struggles women have with wedding planning. I am seriously happy to hear Jalondra’s new voice and perspective here because understanding how other people face and deal with the struggles we all face, can help us on our own life paths.

    Which is why I’m feeling badly that I had a seriously hard time connecting with this piece. I’m feeling a bit bewildered because I don’t have a strong disagreement with anything said here nor do I think that any thought within the piece is shocking or even uninteresting…I just don’t get it. It’s obviously well written by an intelligent woman who has put a lot of thought and energy into her life and her life choices – all things I can totally get behind.

    I think at the end of the day I probably just don’t share the same values with the author and most comments here and for some reason, that makes me feel bad. Probably because I want to learn and understand more about feminism but so much written about feminism makes me feel this way. And then I end up feeling like a failure as a lady. I’ll keep trying though as long as guys keep publishing. Thanks for making me push myself.

    • sara p

      I don’t think you need to feel badly about not being able to connect with a piece… if you’re open to listening and learning more about people who have different values and experiences ( and it sounds like it!) then I think you’ll keep learning about feminism. And then maybe feeling that connection will come more easily. I’ve just started reading about feminism (from all its perspectives) pretty recently, and some of it has been challenging, but it’s all been good for me.

    • Nicole

      At the end of the day I think feminism is just another facet for us to discuss how to me a good person. It’s about realizing and embracing choice. It’s about being open and listening to other perspectives. It’s about celebrating womanhood and recognizing the ways patriarchy has done a disservice to both women and men. It’s realizing that while we as women may be fighting under the same mantle of feminism, it doesn’t always mean we want exactly the same things. Don’t feel bad. You’re trying to learn and better yourself. You’re open to different perspectives. That sounds great to me.

      • It may be helpful, also, to think about feminism not as something you learn about from books and blogs, but something that is lived. “Feminism” is a term that has been given, usually retrospectively to the struggles of generations of women who have struggled against gendered injustice, and it carries a lot of baggage, some deserved. Many of the Black feminist and womanist scholars that I read talk about getting their gendered view of the world, and their belief in the value and capabilities of women, from the lives and examples of their un (institutionally) educated, domestic worker mothers. But I think all women have women in their lives who have these types of analysis of the world and their own conditions within it but aren’t doing it in academic language. And I think that what I was trying to point out above is that some of these symbolic choices, like being walked down the aisle by your father or taking your husband’s name or doing a bouquet toss, do not make or unmake a feminist. There is also no rule that you have to identify with feminism as you perceive it to live an egalitarian life with your partner.

        • Anon

          Agreed! Feminism is not a set of rules. To me, the point is to be ourselves, and make the space to relate and respond to our world and others in ways that are empowering and enable us to grow. Thanks for sharing your journey.

        • Jalondra, I just saw this response so I’m not sure if you’ll get this but I wanted to thank you for your additional thoughts and perspective. Your comment did actually help me understand better not just where you were coming from, but what I was struggling with. Thanks so much!

  • Karen

    This was a beautiful piece. I really appreciated reading your perspective. And the picture is beautiful! Just had to say that. I appreciated your thoughtful academic analysis and then how you related it to your own experience in planning your own wedding. I thought it fit well with the Tradition theme.

    Also, I was curious why this piece didn’t have an introduction to set the context. Usually APW includes an introductory statement. Just curious.

    • Emily

      We’ve been experimenting with our introduction model for the last couple of weeks. :)

    • Maddie

      Hi Karen,

      To respond to your second question, as APW gets more and stronger content each month, we’re realizing that some posts just stand on their own, and the staff has little to say that would enhance or add to the piece. That was the case with this post, and might be for future ones as well!

      • Karen

        Thanks for the response, I appreciate it. This site is truly the best wedding planning site on the web. Thank you for all you do.

      • Jen

        Cheers to this intro experimentation, and I think you made the right call on this one: strong content that totally stands on its own!

  • C

    Reading this, I sat up in my chair and pumped my fist several times, which got me some very strange looks from my coworkers.

    Thank you. For offering up such a thoughtful perspective. For embracing all the complexity and ambivalence of the middle ground and talking about it so eloquently. My last several weeks have involved some very painful struggle over gender roles/equity/feminism as our engagement rushes headlong into marriage. I’ve been tempted to give up, returning to my vastly over-simplified original position that because there’s no easy way to work this out, I want no part of marriage at all. But your thoughtfulness and creativity in navigating to a place that’s right for you, your partner and your family helped shock me out of my whiny apathy. Thanks for exactly the right inspiration at exactly the right time.

  • Parsley

    “I am a complicated person, and sometimes this complication feels downright hypocritical.” While the complications and seeming hypocrisies of my life are a different mix from yours, I very much connected with this. Thank you for a window into your navigation of complex terrain. It is helping me reflect on my own.

  • I would like to give this post a standing ovation. This is amazing.

    • I kind of slow clapped.

      • Granola

        I went with the repeated “F*uck Yea!!!!” mental monologue…

  • Stalking Sarah

    If there were ever a post that, in a nutshell, explained how APW is different from all the other wedding-related sites out there, THIS IS IT.

    • Class of 1980

      Oh yeah … not the usual fluff at all.

  • “What women-of-color feminists advocated was an intersectional politics that could look at race, class, and gender as simultaneously operating forms of denying resources and power to marginalized people.”

    Yes, so much yes. If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s probably not doing much good for *anyone* in the long run.

  • Anne

    Well written, incisive, and personal! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective.

  • Sarah

    This is one of my favorite APW posts ever. Simple, real, honest and very thoughtful.

  • I have nothing to add except that this post was great.

  • Excellent excellent post! The jumble of contradictions and nuances of being a modern black woman are part of what make a real, authentic, thinking, breathing, living human being. I love how you’re doing it.

    And this:
    “Our guest list of mostly older family members may find some aspects of the ceremony unsettling, so I think its good that the reception is going to have those familiar elements.” Well done: Not compromising your vision and principles, but realizing that hey, man it’s a wedding and the old folks need something too.

    Also this!:
    “ended up with a simple strapless lace gown from David’s Bridal. (The power of clearance prices!) Our budget is too tight to go back now so I have committed to loving it. It really is very pretty, even if I am not screaming, “I’m different! I’m challenging Eurocentricity!” as I walk down the aisle. ”

    This is why I keep coming back here even though I got married over 3 years ago!

  • Liz

    Wonderful, wonderful post!

  • Paranoid Libra

    Growing up in an area of white middle class I never realized what power being a Mrs. could have. You have helped actually in reconciling my struggle with getting to my hyphenated name change that there are women fighting for that chance and I now even realize how much more a lesbian couple might be fighting for that ability to be considered a married Mrs in the US.

    Also your ceremony ideas just sound so awesome. I just love holding onto old traditions of ancestry from the libations that would go back to your African roots, but still jumping the broom from the days of slavery when that broom was really all an enslaved couple could really do during such a bleak portion of our history in this country. I think it can be important to having a connection to the past in this right of passage kind of way, but not necessarily having to do it exactly as it used to be.

    And I am dying to see your ring as a huge albeit very biased fan of the non-diamond engagment ring. As well as another woman crossing fingers for a grad post.

  • Well said, Jalondra. And as an Afro-Caribbean feminist who continues to struggle with some of these ideas in life post-wedding (blessedly waaaay post wedding-planning), it was refreshing to see them written about in this space today. Well published, APW.

  • Louise

    This is a fantastic post. Thank you, Jalondra and APW!

  • Grace

    Yes. Yes. A bajillion times yes. So much of this I could have written. Thank you for perfectly reflecting the challenges of being all that you say above. It helps a ton to know that I’m not alone.

    This totally got me: “So I was confident that I’d be a pretty princess with or without a prince, but that if I got a prince I wanted all that big, sparkly, even stupid stuff that comes along with it..For me, just living is an ongoing process of trying to reconcile my intellectual interests and political beliefs with my personal choices.”

    When I’m in my community of (mostly older, second-wave, not-black) feminists, I feel so….silly, and frivolous, and ashamed of my desire for the big white wedding. Particularly because we already live together and are having a long engagement until after grad school when the big wedding is affordable. I feel like I’m being judged when I share my 2015 wedding date and my disinterest in “just getting it over with and going to the courthouse” because I feel like I’m entitled to the big day that will commemorate our commitment to each other and the creation of our new family. Like you’ve it’s been a rare thing in my family and rather than seeing the WIC as a racket to be avoided, I see it as something that I’m lucky to get to enjoy.

    Anyway – thank you and APW for sharing this!

    • Grace, our engagement will have been 5 years at its completion while we finish our respective studies and save up enough money to have a wedding. You are getting married, and that’s what’s important. Not when or how. Solidarity fist bump to long engagements.

  • Granola

    Oh. My. God. This is 1. F*cking AWESOME. and 2. One of the best things APW has ever published.

    I’m so thrilled that you shared it with us. Your perspective is so thoughtful and opens up lines of inquiry I’d never considered before. I hope you enjoy the hell out of your wedding and please do consider letting us see how it turns out.

    Also, just in general, Good for You!! Way to rock wedding planning and stick to your guns while letting slide what needs to be let slid.

  • Heather

    When I saw the title of this post whilst sitting at my desk this afternoon I squealed with excitement and starred it for later so I could give this post the time and attention deserved.
    Thank you thank you thank you Jalondra for this post- it was a beautifully written well articulated post that both inspired me but made me full with pride. Please know that as a fellow black feminist- I Am with you in solidarity and contradiction.
    I grew up in a traditional Jamaican household with a mom that taught me to be fiercely independent. Still to this day I wear a ring on my left finger that my mom gave when I was 11 with the message: ” I want u to take this ring as a reminder that you come from a family of strong women and you don’t need a man to buy you anything” with that kind of upbringing (my mom was awesome) and a phd in cultural anthropology I’m constantly questioning my actions and motivations. But marriage and my relationship with my fiancé is a priority in my life. I also love fashion and project runway and I won’t be apologizing for it anytime soon.
    Thank u for articulating so many of the issues I grapple with and thank u for sharing the details of your thoughtfully planned wedding. I wish you and your hubby to be all the best.

  • Casey

    Wow. Great post.

  • Juliana

    I just don’t understand this defensiveness. European traditions aren’t your traditions, so don’t do them? This manner of thought doesn’t seem terribly edifying. There are secular wedding traditions that as a traditionalist Catholic bride, I will not be incorporating into my wedding (fiance and I walking down the aisle together sans parents and no kiss.) I’m not doing those things because they have no meaning to me. I just don’t see why this woman needs to defend her choices in this way.

    • Maddie

      I don’t think this article is really about defending choices, so much as talking about the larger cultural conversation surrounding weddings, feminism, and race. When you’re part of a minority group, your actions can be taken as much more than just personal choices. They are often seen as representative of your minority group, so it’s not as easy as “just do what you want.” And this piece is the author grappling with that pressure along with the pressure coming from the dominant cultural narrative that says “This is what a wedding looks like.” It’s a process, and one that raises a lot of interesting questions.

      • I was born in the US and know that as a woman born and raised in Western culture, I have as much of a claim to it as anyone else. But as an Africana woman, as a woman of African descent, I think it is so important to question that this Western culture is always the first and best option…African American people do have cultural practices of our own, but often this culture is undervalued and dismissed. And if you are the descendant of slaves, you don’t usually have that direct explicit link to specific African languages, practices, because you don’t really know exactly where your family comes from, you have to work to actively seek and create that if it is something that you desire. Everyone who knows me knows that that active reconnection, that assertion of the value of Africana cultures, and that questioning of the things that we take for granted as universal and valuable are all so much a big part of my career and my daily life. So I felt like my wedding should reflect how I generally live. For me, reconciling myself to those elements of Western tradition that I do very much like, such as a ring and lace dress was a process that has required very intentional thought. I think its a similar process that many APW brides who sometimes wonder if they are “giving” in on doing the more traditional things are going through, and this is a space to share that process, not necessarily to defend it.

  • itsaprocess

    Y’all! This is the most helpful things I’ve read about weddings (on this site or any other), ever. I got engaged a hot second ago, and I’m already struggling with my own discomforts around wanting to get married in the first place, wanting a ring, and wanting a wedding (or not wanting a wedding and doing it anyways). As a self-identified radical woman of color (Brown, not Black) living and breathing this whole academic-activist lifestyle, it’s incredibly difficult to reconcile all of the conflicting desires and politics I feel and believe in. I mean, while I want to be excited about my engagement, I also feel like I should give trigger warnings for heteronormativity on my FB page, despite the fact that it would never change the fact that I’m actively participating in the celebration of my own straight privilege. I’m happy and I want to share that, but not at the expense of my friends who will never enjoy the benefits of marriage because of their genderqueer identity or their sexual orientation. Also, planning an interracial/ interclass wedding comes with its own set of challenges, from the fact that my in-laws are not going to understand the words to the music we are dancing to, to food choices and the desperate hope that no one on either side will make some awful remark after having too many mojitos.

    So, yeah, I only hope that I can get through this process and come out with an experience half as lovely as the one Jolanda is creating. It’s not easy being complicated. Thank you for making it seem okay to approach it as a process, to be conflicted, and to embrace the fact that there might be a lot more to “unpacking” the wedding than we have time for in a single lifetime, much less a single engagement.

    I’m bookmarking this article and I plan to return here whenever it seems like there is no way to pull this off without hating myself and everyone I’m about to be related to, to say nothing of the institution of marriage as a whole. I wish I could whisper in the ears of the editors of APW and get more articles by WOC, more discussion about being part of an interracial couple, more frank conversations about mental health and marriage, and a “how to” on handling bringing together a family with a history of abuse and keeping everyone safe at the same time. You know, just for starters. I know that these are not challenges I’m alone in facing, but I also know that they are difficult to take on in the same breath as a discussion about tablescapes.

    Jolandra, thanks again for your thoughtful and honest piece. I can’t express how much it is going to help me realign my thinking and (hopefully) stop beating myself up for wanting to fight oppression and arrange bouquets on the cheap at the same time.

    • Wow. So glad the impulse to submit my own internal dialogue (when I definitely should have been studying some radical women of color theory) had this effect. Best wishes on your wedding!

  • Jen

    Just wanted to echo the praise for this wonderfully insightful and badass post! I agree that it’s one of the best pieces ever published on APW. Well done!

  • Gloucesterina


    Thank you so much for this post and the opportunities for dialogue you’ve created here. I really value how much your post delves into the structural and systematic issues that structure choice-making for women, and especially women of color.

    I find it’s so easy to get stuck in the capitalist consumer model of thinking about “choice” because it’s all around us–I choose to buy this thing and not another; I choose to do that thing which is feminist, or I don’t choose that other thing. It narrows down feminism to the choices which are before a particular individual woman and imagines her as something disturbingly like a consumer.

    You’re writing about a feminism that is not merely about individual, internal attitudes and choices (though your writing is full of personal feeling as you navigate some complicated terrain!); it strives for equality and fosters powerful cultural critique. Thank you again for sharing your writing with us.

  • Taryn

    I want to thank you for posting this well thought out article.

    I have been extremely conflicted with feminist views and the institution of marriage, and wondering what that would/could mean to me one day. I want to be the best feminist I can be and resist marriage altogether, but I wonder how I could navigate that in a relationship in the future.

    Your insight and ideas have been very helpful. Supporting black-owned businesses and using community spaces seems more beneficial to Black society than not getting married at all.

    Thank you so much! Keep up the good fight, phenomenal woman. <3

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  • CG

    I LOVE THIS. This is honestly the most helpful thing I have found in my internet search of non traditional weddings. I don’t want to read about how conflicted someone was because they were trying to match their stationary to their linens….these are the real things I am concerned about! Thank you thank you thank you!

  • yoursisterinthestruggle

    Thanks for sharing this. I can definitely relate.