Am I Still a Feminist if I Have a Frilly Wedding?


If feminism means no ruffles, we're out

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

pexels-photo-265705

Q: I was raised by feminist parents who taught me to be a strong, independent questioner of norms. And now I’m planning a wedding and am struggling with balancing my values with all the pretty, sappy things I love about weddings. I love tulle and lace and white dresses. I love it when parents walk their daughters down the aisle. Buttt these traditions also feel sort of icky to me, and these days it feels especially important to make sure my wedding embodies my fiancé’s and my egalitarian/feminist/progressive values. How do we balance our values with tradition and with my love of sparkles and tulle? Every decision is starting to feel like a minefield…

—Does This Tulle Make Me Look Like Chattel?

A: Dear DTTMMLLC,

Welcome, my friend. Have a seat. Pull up a chiavari.

Feminism and frills are not at odds. I know what you’re saying. There are some questionable aspects to weddings—some traditions rooted in the women-as-property thing, some stereotypes about hysterical ladies and their br*dezilla rages, some gross consumerism capitalizing on impossible beauty standards. I get it!

But what you mentioned very first is exactly the point. It’s not about abandoning norms, but questioning them. Thinking about the usual stuff we do and asking, “But why?” And then, ultimately, deciding which of those answers you’re okay with. Do you want to be pretty on your wedding day because society has instilled the idea that beauty is the measure of your worth? I mean probably! But does it change that you still wanna? Nah. And a reactionary assumption that anything lacy or shiny or perceived as feminine is immediately bad is also sexist. In short, it’s a complicated reality that we live in. And it’s just not possible to make all of your decisions without any influence from society.

But also, not all of your choices have to be perfectly feminist. Notice, I’m not espousing choice feminism here. Not every choice is feminist just by virtue of being the choice of a woman. Instead, get used to the idea that you won’t get it right every time. Pick your battles. You can’t die on every hill. I feel pretty strongly about supporting small businesses, but sometimes I buy a bulk pack of socks at Target because it’s what I can afford. Not every choice is inherently feminist, but if we want to keep living and breathing and functioning in a patriarchy, not every choice can be.

And realize, too, that not every not-feminist choice is an antifeminist choice. Follow what I’m saying there? You can make a decision that doesn’t promote womankind, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s setting us back.

I completely relate to hoping that your wedding reflects your values. So, what values are you reflecting? Are your parents walking you down the aisle because you’re your dad’s property, or instead because you’re honoring the way they’ve raised and cared for you? I’ll guess it’s the latter, and after all this time, that’s how most folks tend to read it. We don’t live in a bubble—our choices have meaning in a broader social context, apart from our personal intentions. But that meaning tends to change over time.

More than sussing out which traditions have long-ago roots in a patriarchal society (hint: just about all of them), embodying feminism in your wedding is about living it out right now. I’d argue that it’s less about the symbolism, and more about using your dollars to support women-owned businesses, making decisions in equality, sharing the burden of work with your partner. (Though when you want to tackle the symbolism too, we’re here for that.)

TL;DR: You can be a feminist in a fluffy white dress. Keep fighting the good fights! Just realize you can’t fight every one.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTIONPLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

 

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Laura C

    I love this answer. No one makes 100% politically perfect choices all of the time, because we just can’t. Be thoughtful about what you’re doing, don’t do anything that makes you feel too compromised, let yourself have fun.

    Also, you can always put twists on things. The letter says parents walking down the aisle…which is very different from father walking down the aisle. Especially if both people are walked down the aisle by their parents. I went to a wedding where the officiant noted during the ceremony that some thing or other where one person had to go first had been decided by coin flip. I insisted on walking down the aisle first in our wedding because I had come to hate watching the groom just sort of stand there waiting for the bride to come to him. You can do a lot of different things that express your values, while still wearing lace or tulle.

  • Ashlah

    At first, I wanted the entire answer (after just reading the headline, at least) to be a simple, lone “Yes.”

    And then, I was really, really happy to read the long answer that didn’t just promote choice feminism, which would have been the easy route, and instead acknowledged the complexities of making choices in a patriarchal world through a feminist lens. Thank you, Liz! My wedding was also a mish-mash of feminist elements and traditional elements and a few frilly elements, and I felt good about all of it because they were all conscious choices that I (/we) grappled with.

  • Katelyn

    Yes to every single thing Liz said! I, too, am a “bad feminist” – I fully recognize that several decisions I make both in real life and wedding land aren’t exactly pushing forward the cause.

    I’m beginning to learn ukulele (which is in and of itself a little bit “manic pixie” but it’s adorable and I love it) – and I totally suck at it right now. But I recognize I suck, try to identify ways I can improve, and am happy that I learned three whole chords and can play “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

    Why not just let our personal feminism be like that? I’m constantly fighting to keep that perspective.

  • Lisa

    Your conundrum reminds me of the essay “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress” by Susan Gilman. In it, she talks about trying so hard to be the “anti-bride” in the name of feminism and has to eventually confront (like Liz said) that it’s possible to be a feminist and not always make the feminist choice. Or that you can find feminism in unexpected places. (Gilman’s revelation takes place over several hours while staring at herself in the eponymous white dress at David’s Bridal.)

    You can reflect the values you hold dear by supporting them through the course of your wedding planning, and maybe that would be enough. Continue to question the “why” of traditions and see where you might make them more egalitarian if it turns out it’s important to you.

  • Eh

    I had a pretty traditional looking wedding but the choices we made were deliberate. I know people (especially from other generations) may take what they saw on face value but there was a lot more to the decision then “because tradition”. Actually if the only reason we were doing thing was “tradition” then we cut it out. We did do things because we liked them (e.g., fancy white wedding dress), and that might have been the only reason, but that was good enough for us. When we asked my in-laws to host the reception we weren’t thinking at all of tradition, we were thinking of logistics (1. I didn’t want to plan another thing, 2. we were having the wedding in the town they live in). My MIL said of course they would host it because it was their duty as the groom’s family. But the thing is if we were getting married in my home town then we would have asked my dad instead (and not have even thought about my MIL’s feelings at all since until she mentioned it I didn’t even know that was a thing).

    • Anna

      Yeah, it’s just sort of happened that my parents are contributing a lot to the wedding and fiance’s parents are paying for the rehearsal dinner, which is I guess a “traditional” way of doing it (and at least the former part out of a patriarchal marriage-as-transaction place), but also just fairly neatly corresponds to their proportional financial positions, so… I wasn’t going to push back against this arrangement of contributions and then be like “Oh but can you instead pay for this other subset of wedding expenses that add up to the same amount as the rehearsal dinner you offered to pay for, so I don’t feel like we’re conforming to wedding norms?”

  • Jessica

    I knew we hit the mark when all our guests knew what was going on, but my FIL (very conservative to the point of being anti-feminist) was not pleased with our ceremony but said he had a good time anyway.

    A+ answer, Liz.

  • jem

    This is the best answer and exactly what I needed to read. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Laura

    Also, every choice you make about your wedding does not have to be rooted in logic. My dad walked me down the aisle. Sure, there’s patriarchal symbolism there, but it was important to him and a meaningful moment for me. On the other hand, I flat out refused to wear a veil. Hated the idea of it.

    You may be the opposite, thinking “oooh, veils so pretty!” and be squicked out by the idea of your dad walking you down the aisle. At the end of the day, we can both be feminists. My wedding threw everything into a weird I Have To Make A Feminist Statement light for me, but then I remembered that how I behave the other 364 days of the year is probably more important in the scheme of things.

    • Lisa

      Or the other (roughly) 29,564 days of your life.

      • Laura

        Hahaha, I was going to do that math but felt too lazy :)

      • penguin

        Now I have that song from Rent stuck in my head… How do you measure, measure a year? Talkin’ bout… LOOOVE

      • rg223

        Yeah, I feel like this is the key piece that is missing from Liz’s answer for me – a wedding is one day of your life. We infuse it with all the extra meaning that makes feminist/non-feminist choices feel SUPER important, but many of the choices we are talking about are largely symbolic anyway. The real work of feminism affects others more concretely (activism, educating others, etc), and happens across a lifetime.

    • Eenie

      Also, not everyone will see the behind the scenes, thoughtful decisions and how each choice is or isn’t feminist. It’s just seen as a wedding. The important thing at the end of the day is that you and your partner are ok with the choices made for the day/weekend. You shouldn’t feel like you’re being morally corrupted or changing who you are. If you’re a frilly, visually oriented person, I’d expect a frilly, visually appealing wedding. Don’t fight who you are.

    • Eve

      Exactly, and I think a lot of it can be managing other important-to-you people’s expectations. I think of my (very traditional) friend who was super squicked out by the thought of her dad walking her down the aisle during the planning period, but finally decided to let him do it anyway because it was the one thing he cared about. And on the day of, nobody really thought anything of it to my knowledge. In the grand scheme of things, the couple made other decisions along the Feminist Statement lines, but the ones that weren’t aren’t inherently bad and were still very them.

      • S

        I will say I definitely notice when there are patriarchal traditions like the bride being walked down the aisle in a ceremony. If you’re friends with feminists, and you have these traditions as part of your ceremony, your friends are definitely going to be aware that these non-feminist things are happening and might have eye-roll feels about them – just, if they’re good friends and/or polite people, they’ll keep it to themselves and you’ll be none the wiser. I wouldn’t necessarily judge an individual couple for their choices, as I know balancing expectations is tricky, but I definitely have a naughty (unexpressed out loud) feeling of, “Oh, they’re doing that. In 2017. Cool, so much for feminism” when I see those things happening in a ceremony. (I blame it on the fact that at all the weddings I’ve been to, the father’s never NOT walked the bride down the aisle. I just get frustrated that even in feminist circles things don’t seem to be changing, although I know that’s not really true. So the feeling of “ugh” when I see it happening AGAIN is never aimed at the bride, but at The Patriarchy.)

        • Ella

          I would have a similar reaction. I hate when FOTB walks the bride down the aisle when it’s one sided, but would be fine with it if both partners were walked down by their parent(s). However, I wouldn’t tell you this about your wedding, and when it happens, I tend to assume it was important for the dad and the bride accepted because family.

        • penguin

          I totally get this reaction, but just because a bride is being walked down the aisle by her dad doesn’t mean she made that decision because the patriarchy said so. I’ve seen lots of suggestions here about having both parents walk you down, which is fine if that’s what people want. But my mom and I are estranged and don’t have a relationship. My dad and I are super close, and that tradition is something that he and I have both looked forward to for a long time. So he’s going to be walking me down the aisle, and I may not even invite my mother to the wedding. Not because patriarchy, just because that’s what makes the most sense for me and my wedding.

          • Lmba

            Yes, agree that it is super incomplete to assume the tradition was used for patriarchal reasons. As a personal example, I assumed my husband’s surname (eventually… Three years later, ha). I came to this decision because my original surname is an obviously British-sounding name that gave me all kinds of free passes c/o white privilege. My husband’s surname marks him as a POC and (statistically speaking) disadvantages him in the job market, rental applications, all the things. It didn’t feel right to have this disparity, and clearly he was Neva Eva going to be adopting the name of the colonizer, so… I assumed his, our kids have his, that is our family name now. It was really not a feminist choice because, yeah, it totally upholds patriarchal norms! But also, you know, it’s complicated.

    • Jans

      I had my dad walk me down the aisle. I’m close to him and am not close to my mom. I thought about having them both walk me in because of the symbolism and smashing the patriarchy, etc., but I just didn’t want my mom there at that moment. We did have both sets of parents stand up and give their blessing/”give us away to each other.” That was how we confronted the usual bullshit of a father giving his daughter/chattel away.

      Also- I got married in 2009, when sashes with dresses were really big. I tried on this rose pink sash with my dress that looked amazing with my skin tone and that I loved. I wanted to have that be one of the “colors”–but I didn’t, because I was worried that one of my friends would judge me for having a girly pink wedding. (I had a pale yellow sash that I did not love.) That was silly–if you like pink, or frills, or big poofy glittery dresses, more power to you. Feminists come in all colors of the rainbow.

  • K.

    We did some explicitly feminist things in our wedding, like walk down the aisle together (both sets of parents processed right before us and that was our way of honoring them). And we asked our friend-officiant to use our chosen language and to avoid things like “man and wife” and “you may kiss the bride.” But for the most part, I honestly didn’t worry about it? The symbolism of weddings are important, sure, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. Everyone makes compromises for all different sorts of reasons.

    Plus, wedding choices only matter or not in the context of your whole life. Just as I wouldn’t think my best friend is less of a badass feminist for having her dad walk her down the aisle (because she chose the micro of not crushing his feelings over the macro of the statement), if I was someone who led my life in a way that actively tore down other women, the statements of my feminist wedding choices would be completely meaningless.

  • JC

    I want to push back on the conflation between “traditional” and “patriarchal” that comes up occasionally. The two aren’t synonymous, in that traditions can be imbued with all sorts of meanings, some of which are patriarchal and some of which aren’t. Some couples are going to opt for a super non-traditional and super anti-patriarchy wedding, with a venue of an abandoned warehouse turned speakeasy and the couple both wearing orange and walking themselves down the aisle. Some couples will try to push back on what they see as overly patriarchal but embrace some traditions that have additional meanings. For example, I think I’d like to use traditional wedding vows, because I like that idea of making the same vows that my parents and grandparents made. There are even couples who will go with super non-traditional weddings that are VERY patriarchal. I went to one; it was bizarre. Multiple members of the groom’s family gave long speeches explaining why the wife should submit to the husband. Ew. Liz is right, your wedding planning includes questioning the purposes and meanings behind the choices you make. Some options are patriarchal because they subjugate non-cisgendered men as less than fully human and promote a dominating masculinity. Some options are traditional because they hold a whole host of other meanings that people have come to know and love.

    • Ashlah

      But it can be hard to separate the two, right? I mean, a lot of these traditions were created and upheld in and through the patriarchy, so sometimes they are one-in-the-same, or sometimes something might be traditional for multiple reasons, some of which might be considered patriarchal and some of which aren’t. I love that you want to say the same words as your parents and grandparents. I think that’s absolutely lovely. But what if those vows also have patriarchal connotations? (I don’t know which vows you’re using, but in this discussion, I think of the traditional vows wherein the groom promises to “love, cherish, and worship”, and the bride to “love, cherish, and obey.”) So I while I agree that traditional doesn’t always equal patriarchal, it often does, in a way that can make these choices really difficult. If a tradition is important to you due to non-patriarchal reasons, does that render the patriarchal aspects of it meaningless? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t choose to use that tradition anyway, for reasons personal and important to you.

      • JC

        Oh I completely agree. I’m reacting more to the use of the words as synonyms than to their complicated relationship. Recognizing that they don’t overlap 100% might actually make it easier to decide for yourself, you know what? This is a tradition that is meaningful because of X, Y, and Z, and calling it “traditional” doesn’t make it anti-feminist.

      • Lmba

        Yep, for sure. Some traditional vows are super problematic and I could never say them in a bajillion years. We used the vows traditional to my faith community of origin, which are exactly the same for each spouse. It was really meaningful to tap into that history.

    • emilyg25

      Yes! We walked down the aisle together, which is actually an ollllld Quaker tradition (the idea is that both people need to give themselves freely to marriage).

      • Jane

        That’s really cool.

  • BSM

    I really don’t have anything to add. This is the perfect response. A+++, Liz.

  • Kelly

    I would just say don’t let the pressure of ensuring your wedding appears 100% feminist to outsiders weigh you down. Like anything in life, sometimes you pick your battles. For me that was not being referred to as Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, or doing bouquet toss/garter toss-although in fairness those two things just make me squirm.

    Enjoy your wedding and embrace the aspects and traditions you do like- even if they don’t necessarily outward scream feminist. I don’t think you’re in danger of anyone revoking your card ;) Also, flowers and pretty dresses are just rad

    • Jess

      Right? Glitter is for everyone.

    • Her Lindsayship

      This is really important because even if you put forth a ton of effort trying to make your wedding The Most Feminist, there may still be those who don’t get that message. And really, do you even want your wedding to be a message? It seems to me that while such a personally significant event certainly has room for feminist choices, it’s also not a show. Your friends and family are not an audience there to critique your work. It’s personal, so do what feels meaningful and right for you, and know that the public will not be affected either way.

      • jem

        “Your friends and family are not an audience there to critique your work.” I need to tattoo this on the back of my hand or something. It’s SO HARD to remember this in the planning trenches

        • Jess

          I need this as a mantra in my life, TBH.

  • Emily

    So I always think of feminism as not enforcing patriarchal norms on other people. IE, you can be a feminist and get your hair / makeup / self all sparkled up – what makes it anti-feminist is when you try to force other women who may not have interest in it to do so or judge them for their lack of makeup / fanciness. Or you judge other women for their marital status / lack of interest in their own weddings. It doesn’t sound, LW as if you are doing this. It just sounds like you may want traditional elements in your own wedding which is totally fine.

    I love glitter. I’ve been over here trying to make glitter happen surreptitiously in the business formal / casual workplace for quite some time now. I also love to bake and cook and can be found often in my kitchen trying to make layer cake and pastry perfection happen. I think these choices can coexist with others in my life as long as they aren’t used as a weapon against other women.

    • Abs

      Weddings can be such a minefield that way though! As I wrote below, my stepmother and stepsister would never dream of attending a formal event (or an informal event) without a manicure. They’ve assumed I’ll get on the manicure train for my wedding, and if I say no, that’s me putting my views on beauty over a chance to spend time with them. Which will look to them like I think they’re shallow. When everyone has so many expectations, it can be harder to find that judgey/non-judgey line that it seems like it should be.

      • Emily

        Yeah I get it – harder in practice than it is in a thought exercise. I think even thinking through some of these things though and trying to approach them from a non-judgemental place like you are is helpful. It can make the whole interaction less tense.

  • Abs

    I’m mostly feeling good about the feminist symbolism of our wedding (the division of labor, a bit less so). But every now and then there’s a random decision that paralyzes me. At the moment it’s whether to get a manicure. I hate the feel of polish on my nails, so I’ve never done manicures. But my stepmother and stepsister think that they’re basically second only to showering, in terms of looking presentable. They’ve made an appointment for us all to go (not in a pushy way, in a hopeful way), and it would be a nice chance to bond with them that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Am I buying into a beauty ritual that I don’t believe in? Probably. But this is not the hill I particularly want to die on, so I suspect I’ll just go to the appointment.

    • Emily

      You can totally get clear / nude polished. I also just want to add that Kate Middleton, who is actual royalty, is often photographed with unpolished nails.

      • Abs

        Yeah I don’t love clear either, but it’s a workable compromise.

        • zana

          Or no polish! Just trimmed & buffed & massaged & moisturized or whatever!

      • BSM

        Or no nail polish! Just get them trimmed, filed, and buffed so they look neat and you get the bonding time.

      • Lisa

        Getting nails done and painted seems to be a more American thing than European in my experience. My host family in Spain joked that they would have known I was an American even though I fit in very well otherwise because I painted my toes.

        • sofar

          LOL I’d never realized that painted toes are an “American thing.” But now that I think about it, it kind of is!

          • Amy March

            Both as a matter of style and because if you actually require employers to pay a living wage, the cost of a pedicure takes it out of the realm of a simple weekly indulgence for most people.

          • S

            I’m confused. Do you mean you think employers in the US pay their employees better than everywhere in Europe? That seems…incorrect.

          • Ashlah

            I think she means the opposite. Pedicures are less common in Europe perhaps partially because they cost more, due to the employees actually making a decent wage.

          • S

            Oh, I see! Haha the wording just tripped me up. That makes sense. I’d be interested in knowing how much they cost worldwide! In Australia we do a much better job at paying people properly than in the US (we’re not perfect by any means, but at least better – we cannot for the life of us understand you guys and your whole deal with tipping! JUST PAY PEOPLE PROPERLY! I was watching Party of Five last night and they bragged about paying their employees $6 an hour and I almost died of a heart attack) and people still get pedicures fairly cheaply. I think pedicures might be less common here though, playing into Amy March’s theory, but that could also just be me not knowing anyone who gets them. SHRUG

          • Amy March

            Most salons around me charge $25 for a mani/pedi.

          • Lmba

            Wow, that is… Very cheap! I mean, our CDN is lower than your USD, but I have typically paid $50-60 CDN for pedicure​ only at a mid-range spa. Mani/pedi is usually $90-100.

            So, yeah, not a weekly ritual.

          • wow. yep. that is cheap. I’m in Sydney and the cheap places near me are more like $60. The cheap places also kind of look like sweat shops and I feel pretty uncomfortable going to them because I’m worried that the workers probably aren’t being paid properly…but I’m too stingy to go to the ‘nice’ places/small owner operated places which cost more like $120. So, I trim my nails and keep them clean and call it a day.

          • Amy March

            Exactly.

          • sofar

            My toes are painted 95% of the time, but I’ve never paid for a pedicure. It’s still pretty interesting to me that the bathroom drawer full of nail polish is distinctly American. I even take polish on vacation with me because I’ve had trouble finding it in foreign drug stores in the past. Never thought about why.

        • zero

          I’m European and I paint my toes! A lot of my friends do the same. :-)

    • Violet

      I got a clear coat, since my ‘maids were interested in getting their nails done. Stopped me from being annoyed during the honeymoon when it inevitably started chipping.

    • Vanessa

      You can get your nails manicured and buffed without polish. Basically a nice hand soak, massage, some cuticle oil, nails trimmed & shaped, and then buffed a little for shine. It would allow you to spend the time with them without ending up with something you won’t like.

      • BSM

        I mean… this is what my husband does when we go get pedicures together :)

        • Violet

          This is what my grandfather used to do! Though, on his own; he just liked manicures. : )

      • Jess

        The soak and massage is really the only reason I get manicures. I can trim/shape/polish my own nails, but it’s just so nice to have someone else massage my wrists.

    • sage

      I hate having polish on my fingernails, so I always just get them buffed when I go for manicures. The rest of the pampering is nice, and your nails still end up looking nice and shiny!

    • Amy March

      I hate other people touching my nails so sometimes I just go and hang out or get a chair massage.

    • Mary Jo TC

      I also hate the feeling of polish on my nails! It makes them feel heavy and smothered, like the skin underneath can’t breathe. I don’t understand the way the mani-pedi is always suggested as the first thing women should do for self-care. The last time I got a manicure was for my sister’s wedding, and I found the cuticle-cutting painful. I liked the massage part of the pedicure though. And I read a long expose in the NYT about how the salon workers are underpaid and mistreated and exposed to carcinogens. I have no desire to get another manicure, ever. But I didn’t come to that realization until age 28, and might not have had the headspace/fortitude/self-permission to take that stand during my own time as a bride, particularly with the family pressures you describe here. I like the others’ suggestions of clear polish, French tips, or just buffing as a compromise.

      • JC

        It’s never as satisfying as I want it to be! I leave thinking, well there’s an hour and $35 that I’ll never get back.

        • Violet

          That’s me and massages, but more time and more money to be tense the whole time while a stranger is touching me and getting the hair at my neck all oily. Ugh.

          • JC

            I think that I like massages, and then I go and they just tell me that I’m super tense. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to fix?

          • Violet

            Oh man, nothing like being judged by a masseuse for being too tense!

          • tempy13

            I cringe when I can feel the oil getting into my hair! I have extremely long hair and only wash it twice a week so it stays healthy. The idea of trying to wash just my hairline in the sink to get the oil out causes me a mental freak out. Which clearly is the antithesis of getting a relaxing massage.

          • Anna

            Not that this is a reason to get a massage unto itself, but if you do otherwise enjoy massages, any massage therapist should be willing to fulfill a request like “please stay below here” *points* “so the oil doesn’t get in my hair”.

          • tempy13

            You may have solved this problem which makes me feel about 4 years old when I request something and I think I have squeaky voice. I don’t often get them, because they can be so expensive, but now I’ll just request your simple recommending. Thanks so much, Anna!

          • sofar

            Yeah … never been a fan of massages. They do not relax me.

            A nice facial, on the other hand…

          • zana

            Man, I mean. Thai massages are awkward in a different way (like 2 person yoga), but there’s not usually any oil involved…

      • Violet

        I thought I was the only one who feels like their nails get too….heavy… with polish on.

        • Suzanne

          Me too. Yet somehow, I’ve never heard anyone express it. Heavy and suffocating.

          • Violet

            And like your nails are suddenly too thick.

      • Abs

        Yes this is exactly how I feel! Like my nails can’t breathe! Everyone has always given me funny looks when I try to explain it.

        • Liz

          My husband (once a teen emo kid) has described it that way, also, like his nails can’t breathe.

    • RisaPlata

      I always hated the feeling of polish on my nails, but I find gel polish is actually much more bearable. (This is the stuff that you dry under special LED lights.) I’m not certain why. Some things to know: Normal polish chips for me within 24 hours. Gel polish will last a week, and then peels off in large, satisfying pieces. (You’re supposed to remove it by scratching the polish and then sticking acetone-soaked cotton balls on your nails for 10 minutes, but peeling off is so much easier and I don’t care if it looks bad for a day or so during the process.) Normal polish tends to weaken my nails perceptibly until the nails grow out. Gel polish also does this, but less so. None of this is to say you should absolutely go to the appointment, because it’s up to you, but you might want to try gel polish if you do go. I actually bought an at-home gel kit and I love it. I don’t wear makeup on my face most of the time but I love feeling like I look made-up because my nails are done.

      • quiet000001

        Gel works better for me, too. Since I also have an at home kit I often don’t even pay for polish at the salon – just the hand massage and nail shaping.

        I’d definitely give it a try and just say no polish – the hand massage can be surprisingly relaxing and usually the applying polish part is a tiny fraction of the time you spend getting a manicure anyway, so you aren’t missing shared experience by skipping that part.

      • penguin

        I’ve had the exact same experience with nail polish! I never get manicures done professionally because my polish WILL chip within 48 hours, and then I’m upset. But I can do a gel manicure at home and now that I’m good at it, I’ve had it last two weeks. Also, totally agree about the peeling off in large satisfying pieces haha. One word of warning – if you peel the polish (like it isn’t popping off on its own), it will take a little layer of nail with it. Not a big deal unless you are doing it a lot, but it will weaken the nail a bit.

        Other tip – if you use gel polish, moisturize your hands/cuticles! It helps a lot.

  • Vanessa

    Some of our wedding decisions are thoughtful, well-discussed choices with important symbolic value. And some decisions are places where we take the path of least resistance. Planning a wedding is logistically, financially, and interpersonally challenging – sometimes you need to just give yourself permission to take the easy route.

  • Abs

    I would also add to all of this that how you make the decisions is so much more important that what you end up with. As has been said, it’s just one day of your life–it doesn’t matter what you wear or who walks with whom, it matters that you and your partner are figuring out how to decide stuff together, and figuring out how to position yourselves relative to tradition and family expectations. Which doesn’t always mean rejecting them, and certainly doesn’t always mean getting everything right.

  • Her Lindsayship

    “Do you want to be pretty on your wedding day because society has instilled the idea that beauty is the measure of your worth? I mean probably! But does it change that you still wanna? Nah.” Maybe writing that on my mirror when I get home today?

    • Anna

      Yeah, I really liked that. The solution to cultural indoctrination around what we want to do isn’t to deny that we want those things! Even if our preferences were shaped by problematic forces, that doesn’t mean they’re not our real preferences or that we’re not allowed to indulge them. Declaring wanting to be pretty on your wedding day off-limits for feminist reasons just removes that potential source of happiness for you and doesn’t solve the problem of society instilling the idea that beauty is the measure of a woman’s worth.

    • zero

      Exactly. Plus, we might still want to look beautiful even if the patriarchy hadn’t instilled that in us? Liking beautiful stuff is just a trait of humanity.

  • Anna

    We’ve been going through something similar with aspects of the Jewish wedding ceremony, and not just through a feminist lens but also fiance’s fairly antagonistic views on organized religion in general (for context, I was raised Jewish and at this point consider myself culturally Jewish but nonreligious; fiance was raised with no religion whatsoever, although his mom’s Jewish in roughly the same way I am).

    For instance, there’s part of the Jewish ceremony that’s a series of seven blessings, which – as, y’know, blessings – reference God a bunch, but for me, they’re the really strong you’re-officially-married-now indicator of my culture. Fiance pointed out that neither of us believe in God, and he thinks religion is actively bad, so he didn’t want any references to God in our ceremony. The compromise ended up being to use a really beautiful poetic translation of the blessings that sort of elides the God part as the more ambiguous “Blessed is the One who…”, but I definitely struggled with thinking: am I being a hypocrite here for casually referencing a God neither of us believe in, in what’s supposed to be a deeply significant and intimate event for us? Is fiance’s insistence that we leave God out of it altogether actually more respectful to the religious tradition I grew up with than my blithe assertion that we can say the words for the sake of my cultural heritage without really meaning them? Am I allowed to just think these words are pretty and/or include them because they make it “feel like a wedding”?

    • Violet

      I got married in a church because it was important to my partner, even though I’m pretty squarely an atheist. (I mean, sometimes I think it would be nice to believe in a god and afterlife, but I just… don’t.) Honestly, it didn’t bother me to say certain words when I didn’t believe them. It was like those parts of the vows were white lies. Sometimes I say “God bless you” when someone sneezes. The sentiment is the same whether I believe in God or not, is how I figure it.
      I drew the line at taking Communion (even though I’m baptized, so could have). I felt like that was going a step too far towards making an outward display of something I inwardly don’t feel. My partner was fine with that, and therefore didn’t do that, either. I’m positive not everyone would approve of my approach, but it worked best for my partner and me.

      • Anna

        I agree, but (an example of what made me conflicted about this, and sort of devils-advocate-ing) would you feel the same way about the “love, cherish and worship” vs. “love, cherish and obey” thing that got mentioned in another comment? Those are also words that many people say out of tradition, whether or not that’s actually a relationship model they subscribe to, but I definitely couldn’t say that while meaning “actually, we’re going to have an egalitarian relationship in which neither of us agrees to either ‘worship’ or ‘obey’ the other.” I think fiance feels that way about saying “Blessed is Adonai our God” or anything that implies God is responsible for giving us each other, which are sort of sprinkled throughout most “traditional” translations of the Jewish wedding ceremony.

        Clearly there’s a line, as you mentioned, for what things each of us is willing to say but not believe, and I think fiance and I have found words that are on the good side of that line for both of us, but it can be hard to find where the line is for you and even harder to figure out where it is for someone else.

        • Violet

          I couldn’t say “obey” (and didn’t) because I actively really disagree with that. Whereas unlike your fiance, I don’t actively disagree with religion. I just don’t have any in me. So I think he’s in a tougher spot because he’s really against it. Just as you say, it’s tricky to not only find the line for yourself, but make it compatible with wherever your partner’s line is.

    • flashphase

      :Waves: we were in a really similar situation, and we got around this by reading the original Hebrew (which has God language) but asking our friends and family to come up with their own interpretative blessings. Example: the blessing over the wine became one about a friend’s wish for us to have sweetness of life, no religious anything mentioned. I have less of a problem saying words in Hebrew that I don’t necessarily agree with – that part feels like honoring tradition to me – but I had a big problem reciting the literal translation in English. It was a good compromise between our heritage and our beliefs.

      • Anna

        Interesting. For me, the English translations are often just as ritualized as the Hebrew, like I don’t feel any more conflicted about “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the world…” than “Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech haolam…” because I’ve recited the words in both languages in enough ritualistic settings that the whole thing just becomes a chant. Fiance, on the other hand, is equally uncomfortable with both, albeit for different reasons: the former because talking about God, and the latter because he (understandably) doesn’t want to be stumbling over a language he doesn’t understand and can’t pronounce in his wedding ceremony.

  • Abby

    Excellent answer, Liz. I also want to add on the “frilly” piece that I always see that part of our generation’s feminism is that we get to take back the parts of femininity that we like. Hard-won feminist battles of prior generations often required women to align (or appear to align) themselves with patriarchal values (read: one must wear boring stuffy gray suits in order to be taken seriously in the workplace) in order to even be allowed into the conversation with the powers that be. And they got us to the table, and I can’t thank them enough for that. But now that we have (at least a few) of those seats, I view it as a very feminist a choice to be unabashedly feminine in whatever ways I want to be, because no, you shouldn’t have to look the way someone else decided you should in order to be viewed as a person of value. So you do you. If tulle and lace and white dresses make you feel like your very best self, own it.

    • Anna

      Right, there’s also the layer of: valuing things that are traditionally feminine and thus traditionally devalued, and specifically valuing people of all genders participating in/enjoying those things, is a totally feminist thing to do. Feeling like you need to be ashamed of your preference for frilly things is doubly a consequence of our patriarchal society, which heavily pushes that women should have a preference for frilly things and ALSO heavily pushes that anything women have a preference for is inferior.

      Which I think brings me to the conclusion that we shouldn’t feel ashamed for wanting tulle and lace and white dresses, but also those of us who have male-identified partners should ask them to consider frilly wedding attire as well as an affirmation of the value of feminine-associated things xD

      • Abby

        Yes! especially to “valuing things that are traditionally feminine and thus traditionally devalued, and specifically valuing people of all genders participating in/enjoying those things, is a totally feminist thing to do.” Frills aside, we have so much room for growth as a society if everyone is allowed to value and espouse traditionally “feminine” traits (like, for instance, Having Emotions or Caring for Your Family).

  • laddibugg

    Your partner’s parents can walk them down the aisle….just saying ;-)
    It makes things more ‘equal’.

    • Another Meg

      That’s what we did! It was great.

    • penguin

      Has anyone wanted to do that and just been thwarted by a skinny aisle? How does that work? I didn’t know if my fiancé would want to do this, but I realized that the path up to the gazebo where the ceremony will be is split by a couple fountains, so the path is actually fairly narrow. I’m not even sure if my dad and I will fit down the path side-by-side haha (but we’ll check before the day).

      • laddibugg

        If anything, your partner can still walk down the aisle by himself if you have to. I just always hated that it seems as if the male partner in a hetero wedding is supposed to sneak in from the side and ….just stand there lol. Let him have some spotlight too!

        • LadyJanee

          This was my issue, but our aisle wasn’t big enough for bother parents to walk with us. So my husband walked down with his mum and I walked down with my Dad and it was awesome! I figured it was his day too so he should get a grand entrance, not just me.

  • Rebekah

    I remember feeling kind of like this when I was wedding planning, although it was before my full embrace of feminism. What I want to tell the LW is that the wedding is just one day and just one event. The vows you make should be feminist, and the marriage you have from that day forward is going to be a better representation of feminism than your wedding, so if you want to wear frilly bows and sparkles and a tiara, lean into it.
    Like Liz mentioned, make feminist choices as much as you can, but don’t feel like “real feminists” don’t wear tulle. RBG wears lace. You can wear lace too.

  • Katharine Parker

    When I look at the history of some conflicted, oft-maligned kinds of femininity (fashion, makeup, shopping, in particular), these things have also been used to challenge the patriarchy and as ways for women to move outside the confines of Victorian femininity. Does the fact that wearing blush for a modern girl in the 1920s was a transformative experience make it so that the blush I’m wearing today does similar work in challenging the contours of acceptable womanhood? No. But makeup doesn’t have to be inherently unfeminist, and I appreciate the way that clothes and makeup create and have created opportunities for transformation that exist outside of rigidly gendered paths.

    This is also to say–is everything in a wedding inherently or historically unfeminist or patriarchal? Maybe, but maybe not! History can surprise us.

  • Another Meg

    This was how we did our wedding- we made some feminist choices and some non-feminist choices, but everything was done consciously. We stood up to family when it was really important to us, and compromised on things that mattered more to others than to us.

    It was a pretty enlightening experience, and it prepared us for our current adventure- preparing to parent. We’re going to try to use many of the same tactics to parent the way we want.

  • Rebecca

    When I was battling with the idea of wanting an engagement ring but feeling like I was letting down history’s feminists, my mum said, “Rebecca, the point of feminism wasn’t to tell you how to live. It was to let you choose how to live.”
    So embrace being able to choose and do the things that are important to you. You guys are already feminists and your choices won’t undermine that.

  • zero

    What stands out to me is that the stuff you like about weddings – like tulle, sparkles and lace – is not even stuff I’d see as tainted by the patriarchy. We all get to have tulle and lace if that’s what we like!

    Look, I’m a feminist who likes to dress feminine. And while I don’t believe in choice feminism in other areas (for example, I can’t get behind calling the decision to take one’s husband’s name feminist just because a woman made that choice) I think when it comes to fashion choice feminism is actually sort of right. There’s simply no way of dressing that’s feminist or non-feminist or anti-feminist. What would that even look like? So, anything goes with fashion, decoration and the like.

    • Ella

      I read an article (which I won’t share because it made me so mad) in which the author shamed a woman for wearing a white dress and claiming to have had a feminist wedding, and then explained that the author’s decision to wear a veil was purely for fashion and devoid of symbolism. ARGH I’m getting so mad again.

      • zero

        So according to that author the veil was a-ok but the white dress wasn’t? Haha.
        Personally I wouldn’t wear a white dress because of the symbolism of it and because I’m not one to go for the traditional choice, but of course it’s possible to simply like white dresses (or liking them more than one hates the symbolic aspects of it). I think tulle and lace are on yet another level though, I am not seeing a symbolic message in those at all!

        • Ella

          Yes that’s what she believes.
          The white dress is newer in wedding history and, from my understanding, was mainly popularised as a status symbol. The veil however is shrouded (pun intended) in patriarchal/religious symbolism going right back. I’m not saying I’d judge women for either choice, but if you *are* going to say one is just fashion and the other patriarchal symbol, I’d put it the other way than the author of that annoying article.

          I agree with you, I’ve never heard of any symbolism in tulle or lace other than prettiness, delicateness and therefore specialness. And I agree with your main point – I don’t think “feminist fashion” is a thing so if what we wear is not going to be actively feminist, you might as well just wear what makes you feel good.

  • zero

    I think another thing to consider is that there are more important things for a feminist than how feminist a wedding ends up being. I get why it’s important on a personal level, but it also seems like kind of a “white feminism” tendency to maybe navel gaze to an extent about one’s decisions with regard to one’s wedding and other highly visible aspects of one’s life that do not really end up having a profound effect on anyone. I say this as someone who does this myself and I even love to discuss how feminism shapes my personal life, but then I also want to look outward and focus more on how I can be an activist for feminist causes. In other words, feminism is about me, yes, but the way I live it should not be mainly my image in the eyes of others.

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