10 Subtle Ways to Make Your Wedding More Feminist


Equal opportunity feminist party planning

by Stephanie Kaloi

12 Easy Tips For Your Feminist Wedding

One of the more difficult realities you come up against when planning a wedding, especially in feminist circles, is just how deeply entrenched in patriarchal traditions weddings are. This reality is made extra complicated by the fact that so many of those patriarchal traditions might be things we’ve actually been…kind of looking forward to as we conceptualize our weddings. Rock, meet hard place. But luckily, there are lots of ways to make your wedding more feminist, without having to take the whole thing apart and put it back together again. Because that’s exhausting and we all have jobs.

Before we dive in to what those are, it’s probably important to go ahead and state the obvious: what ultimately makes a wedding feminist is entirely personal. For one person, that might mean wearing a big, poofy white dress while still signing her birth name. For someone else, it might mean a mom walking her son down the aisle. It’s about making choices that support the women in the wedding (regardless of whether or not any women are actually getting married.)

This also means nobody has to do any of these things to have a feminist wedding, but: while feminism is definitely about making the choices you want to make, I think it’s also about making choices that contribute to the advancement of women in general. It might not seem like neglecting to toss a wedding bouquet does much of anything for women’s rights, but what if it impacts your tween cousins and makes them realize that marriage doesn’t have to be the big, ultimate goal to strive for? That’s pretty heavy.

So with that in mind, here are ten somewhat subtle ways to feminize your wedding, (written mostly for the women in the equation, but applicable to all):

1. Read your vows first

If you’re a female marrying a dude, one of the coolest ways you can subtly give the middle finger to the patriarchy is to take your wedding vows first. I spend a lot of time shooting weddings, and when it came time to officiate the wedding of a friend, one of the first things I realized is that I really, really wanted to ask her to read her vows first. I did some reading online to find out why men always go first, and the internet chalked it up to the age-old property-owning white dude thing—men go first because they’re men. Surprise, surprise: you can totally go first if you’re a woman, and your wedding won’t come crashing down around you.

2. Make people ask your fiance questions, too

People love to assume that only one party (typically whichever one presents as female and/or more effeminate) has all the cards when it comes to wedding planning and baby raising. But this isn’t true—two of your are getting married, so two of you should be spewing forth your opinions, and people should be asking both of you what you think about this, what you want to do for that, and so on. When it comes to parenting, I make a point of politely deflecting questions to my husband every time he’s at a doctor’s appointment until they start asking both of us the questions, and it works pretty quickly. The same can go for wedding vendors, and this kind of equality should be expected.

3. ditch the “groom” if there isn’t one

If you’re two women, few things will be as maddening as the number of wedding vendors who will refer to you as a bride and groom out of habit (and probably feel awfully embarrassed about it). You should expect your vendors to have gender-neutral contracts, to treat you like they would treat any other couple, and to remember that you’re a bride/bride (or partner/partner) duo and that’s it. One slip-up is perhaps forgivable, but after that? Don’t be afraid to step in and make people recognize.

4. RESEARCH THE TRADITIONs

When it comes to weddings it turns out that few traditions aren’t rooted in antiquated attitudes about marriage. For instance, you know how you’re supposed to save the top layer of the wedding cake? Have you ever wondered WHY that exists? It turns out that the tradition stems from the high cost of wedding cake—couples would save the top layer to eat when they had a baby shower. So unless you’re planning on breaking out that layer of cake to toast your impending child within 12 months, don’t worry about it (unless you just want to eat old cake, which is cool).

5. then Change the traditions you love to work for you

Sometimes there’s a tradition (example: circling the groom seven times in Jewish weddings or breaking the glass at the end) that you love the idea of, but not the execution. Guys, it’s 2015: there’s nothing stopping you from circling one another in turn or stomping on the glass together. If you’re including any bit of tradition in your ceremony but it doesn’t sit totally right, see what you can change to make work for you (without potentially angering family who may feel strongly about your cultural history).

6. Get engagement rings for both of you

I secretly love it when I’m shooting engagement photos and I realize both parties are wearing a ring. I mean, open relationships aside, you’re both off the market, right? If one of you is getting a ring, I don’t see why the other shouldn’t, too. Rock those rings, ladies and gentlemen.

7. ask women to speak about you

When it comes to speeches about the couple, I think it’s wildly important to hear from men and women. I know sometimes it just happens that your best friend is a dude, and your husband’s best friend is a dude, and oh man your dad has been planning his wedding speech for thirty years, but surely there’s a woman somewhere (like… your mom?) who has something to say about you. This is another point that is subtle but powerful: it’s easy to exclude women’s voices from the bigger parts of the day. It’s also easy to include a woman, and I bet you know a whole bunch of them who love you.

8. Don’t draw a wedding party based on gender

One side doesn’t have to be all women and the other side all men just because that’s what everyone expects. I know you guys know it doesn’t have to be this way, but for some reason the idea of mixed gender wedding parties still ruffles a lot of feathers, and it is all too easy to get talked back into doing things the way everyone expects because you’re “supposed to” and it’s “just how it’s done.” So let me reassure you: people don’t actually care, and it’s really cool to have your actual, real friends standing at your side the day you get married—not your partner’s female cousin who would really rather stand by him and not with a bunch of girls she’s never met before. Of course, you could always ditch the segregated wedding parties altogether, or make a point of everyone getting ready together before the ceremony. There are lots of ways to skin this cat.

9. Pay attention to your language

The language of your wedding vows, that is. If one of you find that you’re having to accept and/or take a lot more than the other, mix up the wording and create vows that are focused on equality between partners, not one person having to love, honor, and respect the other without expecting the same in return.

10. think about your wedding portraits

It can be extremely easy for a wedding photographer—even a really, really good wedding photographer—to default to those gendered poses that you see everywhere. You know, when the guy has his head turned to the side (or you can’t see his face at all) while kissing you. Anything that makes one of you a prop while the other is the focus won’t do, and it’s totally ok if you mention this to your photographer before you start shooting—or even during the shoot.

What other ways (subtle or not so subtle) did you make your wedding more feminist?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Kate

    Plus: Make a speech!

    • EF

      I gave the speech at our wedding because, hi, lawyer and frequent public speaker here, and shy scientist on that side. It was a great decision!

  • Elizabeth

    My brother’s wedding was a month ago, and I didn’t think about it at the time, but the bride definitely gave her vows first. And they wrote their own, so they were very equal and rooted in love. I’d been thinking of writing vows before as probably too complicated for me to manage (I’m an engineer, not a poet) but they had such a lovely impact and so clearly came from the heart. (Afterwards I told my brother that the vows were very sweet and they made me cry and his response was ‘not as much as me, nobody cried as much as me’.)

    The other fun thing they did was after he stomped on the glass she rolled her wheelchair over it a couple of times to really get it good (the glass was wrapped in a couple layers of cloth).

    • M.

      I read my vows first, now I think of it, but not intentionally. I never noticed there was anyone who went first before, but now I’m glad it worked out that way.

      Writing our own vows (we agreed certain points to hit, but the rest was a surprise to the other person during the ceremony) was a huge highlight, and I recommend it if you think you can do it (we also wrote our entire ceremony but I know that’s not for everyone). It was the most meaningful part of our wedding. I had so many nice comments. A friend told me that of the 5 weddings she went to that year it was the one where she really felt like she saw people get MARRIED rather than just “have a wedding,” and friends of my husband who have known him much longer than I have said, “I’ve never heard him talk like that. It was amazing.” People were very affected, as were we both individually. It was so fun!!!

      • Jess

        That really puts words to what I want from my wedding – I want people to see me get married, not have a wedding.

        • M.

          It was truly the best thing I think anyone could have said to us about it. I think about it a lot, and am glad we were successful, as that was what we set out to do, if not quite so explicitly.

  • EF

    +1 to the non-gendered wedding party. strangely both he and i had 4 guys+1 woman on each side, just because that’s how our friend groups work. and though big wedding parties aren’t typically a thing in britain, we got a ton of positive comments: ‘how great it was that all your close friends were up there with you!’ ‘did you see their looks of support and joy!?’ ‘now i understand why you call your best friend your twin brother even though you aren’t related!’ etc etc. it was great.

  • savannnah

    Discussions like these and many others I have had make me pretty jealous of my sister and her wife. They got to take a look at planning a wedding from a much more egalitarian and fresh start to begin with. I feel like I have to constantly be pushing back at all the norms from the minute of proposal to honeymoon (and beyond) It seems exhausting but also very necessary to my relationship, where we are striving to make informed and intentional wedding choices.

    • jspe

      I totally hear what you are saying, not trying to party poop – but just a reminder that we (meaning two-lady couples) have to deal with a whole bunch of other baggage in exchange for the “fresh start.” And while it was awesome to not have to fight some of those gendered norms, people still foisted them on us. wanting for one of us to be “the man” – either in dress, behavior, or expectations. I’m laughing as I write this, not chastising you! Seriously, people just say weird shit. Why would I wear a pantsuit if I’ve never worn one to another dressy occasion? Sorry, still obviously recovering.

      What helped the most for us planning our wedding was having friends, mostly straight, who had planned very thoughtful and explicitly feminist weddings that we could model ours on. Point being – it may seem hard right now, but you are totally setting the stage for other friends of yours to have an easier time making those choices, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation.

      • savannnah

        I totally agree, there was also a lot of assumptions made by other people at my sister and her wife for their wedding. I think I am more concerned about my own gender baggage and assumptions than other peoples, as part of a hetero couple I have this artificial framework I can always default to which may not fit us, so its as much about checking in with why we are doing something as it is about dealing with other peoples opinions.

    • Nell

      Also, like jspe said, not to party poop. . . but people STILL have all sorts of gendered assumptions if you are a lady partnered with a lady and one of you wears pants. Some masculine-of-center brides are super psyched to get to do all the traditional groom stuff, but not all are. It can be infuriating to deal with people who don’t want to acknowledge your totally awesome short-haired fiancee as an equal partner in wedding planning.

  • Rachel

    In the ceremony I am currently writing (Egads! 56 days to go. Cue breathing exercises), I am including a dual family presentation. After our officiant says, “who presents this bride” and all the people in my family say I do one right after the other. I am including an additional subtle poke at the patriarchy by following with: “And who presents this groom?” with the same family I do’s from his side. Excellent idea about mixing up the vow orders too!

  • Another Meg

    I walked down the aisle with my mom and dad, and so did my husband. All of the parents were really excited about it. We did the non-gendered parties thing and just referred to them as teams, which worked out pretty well for us. And neither of us changed our names, which I had to be very upfront about because we’re the only couple like this on either side of the family.

    We had our dads make short speeches, but didn’t ask our moms…which I now regret. It turned out that they both got to speak, because surprise group poem, but I wish I’d thought more about that.

    I didn’t realize the thing about men reading their vows first. I kind of assumed it would be the other way around to “lock it down” as soon as possible. So that’s pretty interesting. My husband read his vows first, but only because I got to pick the order (I won the coin toss!).

  • jubeee

    We just met with our officiant, he’s a local mayor, gay man and former Planned Parenthood board member. He gave us his vows and encouraged us to change what we want. They are completely gender neutral, real progressive and reflective of modern marriages. He also said right away “I assume you won’t want to be given away” which I loved. Its amazing to work with people who already share your values!

    • SarahJ

      Yay for open, progressive officiants! I had a wonderful, reform, female rabbi who encouraged us to make the ceremony our own, and really research the traditions to make sure we knew what was right for us. She suggested, for example, that I think carefully about wearing the bedeken veil (which covers the woman’s face) and consider the importance of wanting to be not only heard, but SEEN at my own ceremony. She also suggested we break the glass together, which I wouldn’t have thought of without her.

  • Lauren from NH

    I have to call out this part from number 5, “If you’re including any bit of tradition in your ceremony but it doesn’t sit totally right, see what you can change to make work for you (without potentially angering family who may feel strongly about your cultural history).”

    This advice seems to recommend you just give up on changing traditions to fit you if it upsets your family. I thought people who got married were adults and got to (respectfully) determine for themselves the culture of their baby family, no?

    • Amy March

      Well, sure, but I think there are probably many examples where changing a tradition too much becomes disrespectful. I read this not as “you must do a tradition if skipping it or changing it would upset someone” and more as a warning against appropriation type changes. I don’t have a ready example but I’m thinking for some traditions it’s possible to change them so much that it becomes disrespectful culturally and better to skip them.

      • Lauren from NH

        I see where you are going but I can’t really think of an example either. And considering at least one member of the couple would be from the culture, I would think 9 times out of 10 they would legitimately be in a place to critique and change traditions. I am skeptical that this disclaimer was included for such a tiny likelihood of misstep.

        • Amy March

          I’m picturing, say, instead of just him smashing the glass, the two of you drinking from it together- I can see someone legitimately feeling like that’s not that tradition, you’re using if disrespectfully.

          But I also just fundamentally disagree with a to hell with it screw them mentality on tradition. There’s plenty of room to both be respectful and considerate and make changes as necessary, and I think that’s exactly what the suggestion was.

          • Lauren from NH

            If you are using a tradition in a way that makes no sense and it’s not even that tradition any more, then yeah maybe don’t do that or understand that it’s a separate thing.

            I don’t know who was advocating for a “hell with it screw them mentality”. My position is only that it’s appropriate that the couple celebrate their marriage as an expression of their culture. There certainly is room to figure out how to execute that, but I read it as family veto power if they have FEELINGS, which just no.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            I think that note is more of a “think of all the angles when you change traditions.” No, family doesn’t get an auto veto on everything just because something makes them upset. But it’s about picking your battles. You have a lifetime with your family. Sometimes it’s worth it to swallow some discomfort for the sake of the people you love, who have likely been thinking of your wedding longer than you have, for the sake of their feelings. Not because they have veto power, but because you love them.

          • Marie

            This is a perfect response, Maddie.

            Lauren, you’ve shared A LOT about your family adjustment issues. I feel like you’re reading #5 coming from that space.

          • Lauren from NH

            You know what I probably am. Like all people, I carry my experiences with me, but that does not invalidate my opinion.

          • Marie

            No, but some times it can make you pretty defensive and unable to ever see things from another’s perspective because you’re too wrapped up in defending your ground.

          • Lauren from NH

            Huh I could say the same about all of you, who have had less complex cultural experiences. Instead I choose to believe that we are both right based on our experiences. Your consensus opinion applies to lots of people and my counter opinion also potentially applies to lots of people who share my experience.

          • Marie

            I married someone from a vastly different culture- we don’t even have the same citizenship and I live in his country. So I think be careful assuming that I don’t have experience with “complex cultural experiences”

          • Lauren from NH

            Okay duely noted. I am not really sure where you are going with this. I had a difference of a opinion and voiced it respectfully. I don’t have anymore to say relating to the original post so I won’t be checking back again.

          • Lauren from NH

            I think we will have to agree to disagree because frankly that sounds like nearly the same thing to me.

        • Kay

          Here’s an example that might be relevant here: in my culture it is tradition for the father to give a gift to the newlyweds. Historically, it’s about property – the father gives a gift to the husband as a way to get the couple started, with the understanding that the husband is now responsible for providing for his wife instead of the father providing for his daughter. The background gives me All The Icks. But my father doesn’t think of the history, he thinks of it as a way to show support for us. If I told him I wanted to skip the gift entirely, he’d be heartbroken. So instead, we asked both sets of parents to be involved. It will be a family gift, and our fathers and mothers will say a few words about their hopes for our life together. We’re all satisfied with this, and I’m pleased it was a compromise instead of a fight.

          • Lauren from NH

            It’s great that there was an acceptable solution in the case you mentioned, what if there wasn’t?

            Compromise/surrender (don’t mean that to sound so combative, but for lack or a better word) are always technically options, but what if you are faced with one of those issues where a compromise is going to significantly go against your beliefs? Do you compromise anyways because your parents will be upset? It’s this scenario my original comment was addressing based on my read of number 5. I would say no, it’s your life event therefore if it comes down to it, your cultural beliefs come first. It seems others would disagree.

          • Kay

            Well, I can only speak for myself, but in that case if my dad had come back and said “No, only I can give a gift because I own you and now your husband will own you” we’d have much bigger problems than the gift. So no, I don’t think people should compromise their beliefs entirely for tradition. I totally support people having knock-down drag-outs to defend their positions if necessary, but this article emphasized subtlety and often compromise and reframing fits with that.

          • LP

            I read point number five as way gentler than that. To be fair, it’s titled, “Change the Traditions You Love to Work for You.” Figuring out traditional wedding components isn’t always a matter of individual beliefs vs. family desires. My spouse and I both had mixed feelings about some traditions. My husband was day-dreamy about the idea of seeing me for the first time as I walked down the aisle, but we also both wanted an egalitarian processional. We had mixed feelings and got creative, and ultimately, we took our parents’ feelings into account because we wanted them to be happy too and we weren’t totally sure what the *perfect* solution for us was anyway. So yeah, on one hand – don’t partake in traditions that undermine your values. But on the other – when you feel conflicted about something, if your loved ones’ feelings help you decide, all the power to you. Sometimes compromise is ok, and participating in patriarchy-rooted tradition here and there doesn’t negate my feminism.

        • raccooncity

          Even in a non-appropriation sense it can be better to skip tradition if you’re messing with it. I think it’s fairly traditional, in mine/spouse’s culture, to invite first cousins to the wedding. We don’t know most of Mr. RC’s cousins that well, but we live a block from one and hang out semi-regularly. We wanted to invite him, but not the other cousins. Mr. RC’s parents said it would be easier for them to not invite any cousins (skipping the tradition of having them there) than to invite only one (a modification of the tradition), so we respected that and didn’t invite that cousin.

    • TeaforTwo

      I think that for a lot of us, there’s a give and take where family is involved. There are some cultural traditions that are going to be personal must-haves, some that are flat-out never going to be involved and some that you might not necessarily CHOOSE your ownself, but will choose because they’re important to your family and your family is important to you. Two examples from our wedding:

      -In a traditional Anglican wedding, the only readings can be from scripture. I know that some officiants are flexible on this, and I also knew that my father wouldn’t want to be. So as much as I would have loved to have someone read Tony Kushner and Wendell Berry at our ceremony, we had a reading from Isaiah instead. I decided it was more important to make my family comfortable, and that Tony Kushner was not the hill I was going to die on.

      -On the other hand, I was absolutely NOT going to have anyone “man/woman” language in my wedding ceremony. The traditional Anglican liturgy has a long description of marriage that has a lot of stuff about “the union of man and woman” etc. I asked our officiant (my dad) to say “the union of two people” every time that came up, because using gendered language would have alienated a number of our guests (including the bride and groom). He probably would have been more comfortable leaving the prayerbook the way it was, but that wasn’t somewhere I was wiling to compromise. (Plus, if you’re going to raise your daughter to have a strong sense of justice and to be stubborn as hell…you have to be prepared for the consequences.)

      • Lauren

        I have to ask, because that sounds brilliant: What reading by Wendell Berry would you have chosen? I adore his writing, but it had never occurred to me before right now that he probably has some passages that would be perfect.

        • TeaforTwo

          I had initially thought of the poem, the Country of Marriage. I love these lines:
          Sometimes our life reminds me
          of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
          and in that opening a house,
          an orchard and garden,
          comfortable shades, and flowers
          red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
          made in the light for the light to return to.
          The forest is mostly dark, its ways
          to be made anew day after day, the dark
          richer than the light and more blessed,
          provided we stay brave
          enough to keep on going in.

          Instead, as part of her toast at the reception, a friend read this excerpt from an essay, Form: On Poetry & Marriage, or something like that. I like it even better, and come back to it often:

          Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you—and marriage, time, life, history, and the world—will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.Forms join us to time, to the consequences and fruition of our own passing.

          The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife—no one knows with certainty what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying “awhile”: to find out what they are staying for. And it is the faith of all of these disciplines that they will not stay to find that they should not have stayed.

          That faith has nothing to do with what is usually called optimism. As the traditional marriage ceremony insists, not everything that we stay to find out will make us happy. The faith, rather, is that by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought.

          • Lauren

            Thank you so much for sharing that :)

  • PW

    Great article! As a soon-to-be wedding officiant, I wrote the ceremony for the couple getting married, and made it a feature that every time I mention them or they both have to say vows or repeat words, I swap them round. So one goes first one time, the other the next. A little thing, but every tiny step towards equality is one worth taking.

    • Our officiant did this and we loved it!

    • BSM

      Our officiant did this too! She also had ideas for ways to incorporate our families into the ceremony (which we did not do because I’m very much not close to my family), but I loved her top suggestion which was a flower-giving ritual that involved only the Moms. She explicitly told us that her reasoning for doing it that way was to make her ceremonies more feminist–it made me feel awesome to pay her for her services knowing that!

  • Laura C

    I did not realize that men always go first in reading the vows, which is funny given all the other gendered things I had noticed and sworn to do away with in our wedding! I don’t even remember which of us went first. What we did do: starting with the engagement pictures, tried to steer clear of visual cliche. We were aided in that by the fact that we’re about the same height, so a lot of the adoring-gazing-up-at-the-man stuff would have been downright difficult to do.

    I said I’d rather we walked in together, which my husband nixed, so I said we could walk in alone or with our parents, but we both had to do the same thing. We walked with our parents. I went in first, because one of the wedding things I hate is watching the groom slink out and stand there waiting, with the bride making this big symbolic trip to him.

    We worked really hard on gender equity in who spoke, because we had noticed how often it’s toast after toast by men. At our rehearsal dinner, all the toasts were by men or man-woman couples, but at the wedding, our officiant was a woman and half the toasts were by women. Oh, and there were three readings and a song — one reading by a man, one reading by a woman, one reading by a man-woman couple, and the song done by a woman.

    And our vows were completely equal, as in we said the same things and if there was anything gendered in them, it would be a surprise to me.

    • Laura C

      Oh, and maybe my favorite thing I’ve seen was something at a friend’s wedding — can’t remember if it was the part of the Jewish wedding where the bride circles the groom or some spoken part — was the rabbi saying “going first as the result of a coin toss…” Definitely at that wedding they both circled each other.

      • Nell

        As two women, we did the following to deal with the circling tradition:

        Bride A circles Bride B one time, Bride B then circles Bride A one time, then we sort of did a do-si-do around each other. BAM! Tradition re-invented!

        • eating words

          We did a similar thing! I circled her 3x, she circled me 3x, and then we held hands and walked in a circle together (while I tried very hard not to step on her train).

      • Kat

        Lol I love the coin toss idea.

    • Kayla

      Having the same vows was really important to me. At first we talked about each writing our own, but I realized quickly that I wasn’t comfortable with us promising different things to each other.

      We also went back and forth with each line, so it went, roughly (these are not our actual vows):
      Me: I promise to love you
      Him: I promise to love you
      Him: To care for you and support you
      Me: To care for you and support you
      Me: Through hardship etc.
      Him: Through hardship etc.
      …and so on.

      • M.

        Our compromise for this was to decide on 4-5 things that we wanted to promise each other jointly and the format of the vows (“I promise..”), plus the same ending sentences. Then we wrote our own versions, with some extra things in as well that fit our individual needs. For example, I thanked him for his patience and generosity with me (I struggle with OCD and anxiety and he is so supportive – only he knew what I was truly talking about) and promised to practice patience with him. I also promised to remember that “different does not mean wrong,” which is only my struggle, not his. Etc. In this way, we promised each other the same core values of the marriage, as well as acknowledging the individual contributions we make. It worked well for us as a middle ground.

        • Kayla

          That sounds lovely.

  • Nell

    The walking in order was a HUGE issue for us. We’re two women, but one of us wore a suit and one of us wore a dress. We wanted to have our parents walk us each in, and besuited bride wanted to walk in first, but we didn’t want only 1 of us to be acknowledged as the bride.

    Here was our solution: We told all of our close friends who were NOT in the wedding party to stand when the first bride walked in (in straight traditional weddings people only stand for the bride, who walks in second). We also had our officiant say “Please Rise” as soon as suited bride hit the aisle.

    • pajamafishadventures

      Even in a more traditional heterosexual marriage I really like it when people rise before the first person walks in, be that person a bride or groom

    • eating words

      I hadn’t even *thought* about people rising for the bride at my wedding, and as the first bride to process, was totally (happily) surprised when everyone stood for me. Such a good idea to tell people to stand if you’re wearing a suit or otherwise not presenting in a way that people expect for a ‘bride.’

  • Juliet

    We did lots of great feminist things! And some of ours weren’t so sublte :)

    -We walked down the isle together.
    -I wore a blue dress.
    -I didn’t change my name, and we used both our full names on all of our wedding correspondence.
    -We removed all gendered language from our vows and any language about faithfulness and honor, because I find it icky.
    -We didn’t use “husband and wife,” in our vows and printed materials. We used partner, spouse, etc.
    -We skipped several traditions (these aren’t necessarily patriarchal, but removing them made the wedding more ‘us’ and therefore more feminist): no wedding parties, no bouquet or garter toss, no first dance, no father/daughter or mother/son dance, no fathers’ speeches, no cake cutting, no send off.
    -We had a ‘pie receiving line’ where we both put on aprons (and looked ADORABLE) and served our guests pie for dessert as we greeted them. It worked really well and was very fun, even with 125 guests.
    -We took group pictures with friends by school or organization instead of by gender (for example, with both took pictures with everyone from our high school, our college, sports teams, etc.)

    • chrissyc

      I love the pie receiving line idea! It’s a good way to make sure you greet all of your guests (or at least as many as possible!), plus it’s a great act of hospitality to literally serve your guests.

    • Pie receiving line sounds amazing!!

    • Lizzie

      We did a lot of similar things–walking in together, red dress for me, keeping our names, “let them seal their union with a kiss” instead of “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” no parent dances, etc. But it was because it just felt better not to do them, and I didn’t think of many substitutions as being particularly feminist. But now that you mention it, they were, and I’m giving myself a retroactive pat on the back for it!

  • Sosuli

    I want to share my little feminist rebellion in our wedding plans. I kind of like the bouquet toss as something fun (having caught a couple myself), but I’m not a fan of the implications that and the garter belt thing have and I really don’t want anyone going up my dress during the wedding.

    Instead of that at our wedding, we’re doing a Moomin toss. If someone hasn’t heard of the Moomins, they are the characters of Finnish author Tove Jansson (google them) and appear in a cartoon strip, children’s books, TV shows and films. I love the Moomins and they are a really integral part of my childhood. So both me and FH will be throwing a Moomin toy each into the crowd of wedding guests, and whoever catches them gets to take them home. This may be in the top 3 things about the wedding I’m excited about.

    • Ant

      The Moomins <3 <3 <3

    • M.

      1 MILLION POINTS FOR MOOMINS!!! Ahhhhhhhh!!! (Our spoon rest in Moomins :) And I have my childhood Moomin bedding ready for when my currently-gestating baby is ready for a real bed. Eee!)

      ETA: Also a badass wedding idea! Go you.

      • Sosuli

        Thank you!!! I am super excited about this. I’ve also found an Etsy seller that does Moomin caketoppers… WAAAAANT. In fact, who am I kidding, I’m just going to order these now… https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/247955046/kissing-wedding-moomins?ref=listing-shop-header-2

        • M.

          GET IT. Right now. I’m waiting.

          • Sosuli

            Yeah. I did actually just order those. Good start to the weekend! ETA: Haha, now when you click on that link, it says “Sorry, this item has already been sold”… Yeah, TO ME!

    • Lizzie

      LOVE IT. Because Moomins.

  • AP

    We’ve been working on our ceremony this week and I definitely just moved my vows ahead of his;)

  • NewHere

    These are all great and we are doing many of them. My favorite is that my male fiance is wearing my dad’s engagement ring. My mom was not about to be the only partner wearing a ring during their engagement 30 years ago and we had the ring resized for my fiance. A new feminist tradition in our family!

  • Lauren from NH

    My favorite feminist part of our wedding was walking in together. More than anything else that communicates to me we are adults, equals, and a team from beginning to end.

    For me it also in a good way takes some of the traditional power out of the ceremony. The ceremony was (and this may sound obvious) ceremonial. Our marriage already had a living breathing life of its own that could not be made or unmade by this day. There was no giving away, not official in the eyes of god, there was just us. The ceremony was really just giving our community a little window into the beautiful thing that we have. I don’t know that this wedding philosophy is feminist persay, but there you have it.

    • TeaforTwo

      Yeah, I think that definitely comes down to what your idea of marriage is/what you think is happening at the ceremony.

      I know lots of people for whom their wedding felt like just a formality (or just a party!), or who say that marriage didn’t change their relationship.

      For us it was something huge. The ceremony was important to both of us, and we were both of the opinion that we weren’t married until we were married. The symbolism of walking in separately (each of us escorted by our parents and massive sibling groups) and then leaving together really fit for us: honouring the big families we come from and love, but creating a new family/primary loyalty.

      The feminist part for us was that there was no mention of “who gives this woman” etc., but I think that taking the power out of the ceremony is something separate from feminism. (Still legitimate, just not necessarily feminist.)

      • Lisa

        Something I loved about the Catholic ceremony is that there was no “who gives this woman” or question of anyone objecting. It’s believed in the church that there are two adults entering into a commitment together, and no one else has a say in the matter if the couple has made the decision to proceed with the sacrament.

        • Amy March

          Except the priest, who at least around here won’t perform the ceremony unless you’ve sat through a day’s indoctrination on the magic of natural family planning.

          • Lisa

            Yes, there is typically a marriage preparation class required by the church, but its form and content vary greatly depending on the region. Our class in the Chicago diocese was more about problem solving and finding areas that might be pain points in our relationship that we could continue to discuss after the class; the instructor made a brief mention of NFP and said, if we were interested in learning more, we could read the book we were given or discuss it with him after class. It certainly wasn’t the focus of our class, and I haven’t heard of anyone else who experienced what you mention until you brought it up. Usually it’s only touched on and not expounded upon.

          • chrissyc

            Agreed, my husband and I were married in a Catholic church, and our experience sounds similar to yours–a very brief mention of NFP with the majority of the preparation focused on things like resolving conflicts, talking about money, etc. I do want to emphasize that marriage preparation can vary widely by diocese. For example, (and I’ll mention that this does not occur in my diocese, so I have not experienced it myself and have only heard of it through friends) there are some diocese that require a complete NFP course that spans multiple months so the woman can track her cycle and show her records into the instructor, to prove that she understands the method. So hopefully most prep courses are similar to ours, but it’s not unheard of for an extensive course on NFP to be required.

          • Daisy6564

            My priest said something along the lines of: “We’re all adults here and you have to make the decisions that are best for you” and left it at that when it came to the topic of birth control and NFP. LOVE my church!

        • Lauren from NH

          We actually used the objection line that you often hear in movies to make a little joke. The wedding was at our college, which has a tradition of throwing freshmen in the pond on their birthday. So we wrote in a joke about throwing anyone in the pond who objected as a little homage to the college culture we met in.

        • TeaforTwo

          To be fair, the objection isn’t usually on just any grounds. I have only ever heard officiants ask if anyone knows a reason why X and Y may not lawfully marry. They’re pretty much just asking if either person is married to someone else, or if the couple are brother and sister.

          I am surprised it isn’t asked in Catholic ceremonies. For some reason I thought it was a legal requirement, akin to when the couple is asked to give their consent.

          • Caitlin

            There’s legal paperwork that is required prior to the ceremony that states the same thing in a Catholic ceremony.

          • TeaforTwo

            Well, there’s legal paperwork for anyone before the ceremony that states the same thing…I think the purpose of asking for objections is to find out if anyone in the crowd knows that the couple were lying ;)

            I mean, I understand that our government systems have evolved past just asking a crowd. I just think it’s a funny throwback to a time when that was the only way to make sure!

        • Daisy6564

          Also Catholic here and I was pleasantly surprised by how feminist I found much of the Catholic ceremony. I literally had a knot in my stomach when I went to research and plan our ceremony since I had already promised both sets of parents we were doing a mass. I was afraid I was just going to have to deal with some antiquated sexist crap to get to the parts I valued.

          Lo and behold, the old Catholic tradition is actually that bride and groom walk in together, there is no longer much gendered language, no objection, no giving away and vows start with equal consent statements. I was able to get on board with it all, and had my gay best friend do a reading to be a bit subversive.

    • I’m going to have to talk to my SO about this because tbh, my ideal wedding day is us getting ready together and then walking down the aisle together. I feel like we are already a team and I love the idea of us approaching our wedding day as a team already rather than “we are now coming together”.

      • Eenie

        This is what we’re doing. Although we’re going to make sure we honor our families in some other way during the ceremony. We’re a team, but holy hell did our parents have a lot to do with how great a team we are.

        • We definitely need to do this too. My parents won’t be attending but we’ll need to honour his parents in some way and I’d like to honour my siblings in some way too. We haven’t talked a lot about the structure of the ceremony yet so I’m actually not too sure yet what he’s envisioning…. hmm

          • Eenie

            You could do a family blessing or ask them to choose a reading and someone to read it (on behalf of the family members). They could process in before you. You could ask them if they have any ideas.

        • Lauren from NH

          Our parents (both widowed) walked in together and then when we got to the front we gave them our flowers (my bouquet to my mom, his shoulder flower garland, my invention that kinda ended up like a UFC belt, to his dad) hugged them and then the ceremony.

      • Skully and I got ready together and it was the bestest thing ever. It did wonders for our nerves to have spent the whole day together before the ceremony.

        • I feel like this would help me too! I know I’ll be nervous and probably stressed and I really just can’t imagine who else I would want to spend that time with. I’m not sure if he’s got any “getting ready with the grooms-team” dreams though…

          • Depending on when the ceremony is and how the room is set up, you may be able to do both. While I was doing my makeup, he wandered off to hang out with his sisters and nephews for an hour or two. We didn’t insulate ourselves from others as much as decide that we didn’t want to artificially seperate ourselves from each other.

          • Kayla

            We did both! We had breakfast together, and he hung out with us while all the makeup-wearers were having our makeup done. He left to get dressed with his groomsmen when I was ready to have my hair done and put my dress on, so we spent about an hour apart and both had a little bit of getting-ready-with-our-people time, but the rest of the morning we were together.

      • Lauren from NH

        Yeah to me, we were already living together and due to the wedding we were already making financial and emotional decisions together – that’s marriage. We were already doing it. (And technically in our case we were already legally married – small details lol.)

      • AP

        We’re getting ready together, which our photographer is also really excited about because this is the first time she hasn’t had to run back and forth. We’re having casual ceremony with no attendants so it just makes sense, plus it will help calm my nerves not to be expected to take care of everyone else’s feelings/outfits/makeup and just focus on getting the two of us ready.

    • Sarah E

      That’s a beautiful way to put it, and how we felt about our wedding, too. Beautiful, important, but not the making of our relationship. In fact, we included a bunch of language in our ceremony to say that explicitly. <3

  • It’s a small thing, but when I wrote our ceremony I alternated the order our names were said during the ceremony. So it was “Addie and Skully will now say their vows”, then “skully and addie stand before you…”, etc. I said my vows first but he did the ring bit first. We alternated men and women for our readings. Both of the speeches were from women but the prayers were from our dad’s. Our flowers girls AND the ring bearers got to toss something (paper flowers for the girls and plastic washers for the boys) because Skully thought it wasn’t fair that only the girls got to throw things.

    It wasn’t particularly feminist but instead of cutting the cake and feeding it to each other, we served each of our parents a slice of cake. It avoided that awful will they won’t they smash cake in each other’s face question.

    • We did the alternating order of names as well and continued to alternate order throughout the ceremony, e.g. he said his intentions first, I said my vows first etc. I hadn’t thought about it too much before we planned the ceremony, but our officiant approached us with the idea and we ran with it!

  • Our officiant was very particular in helping to draft the ceremony to remove a lot of the gendered language throughout the ceremony. He altered the order in which our names were said and we alternated between who did what first (intentions, vows, rings etc). At the end of the ceremony rather than saying “you may kiss the bride” he said “you may now kiss eachother”. I also really really wanted to do a bouquet/garter toss, but rather than inviting single ladies/men for our respective tosses, we invited EVERYONE out on the floor and did not tell them why. We upped the ante by offering a bottle of tequila as a prize for the catcher of the bouquet/garter. It worked out well and I totally loved that my Aunt who made my cake caught the bouquet (my uncle loved that they got tequila out of the deal)!

    • jubeee

      Our officiant uses “You may now enjoy a loving embrace!” I really love it!

    • Kelsey

      Hell yes!! One of the most fun weddings I’ve ever attended had a SUPER competitive (it was a rugby wedding, and that’s how we roll about everything) bouquet toss. I really wanted that, without the single lady overtones, so we offered up first choice of donut to the catcher and we tossed both of our bouquets. People loved it! And the winners were so proud :)

  • Kelly

    We “MC’d” our own ceremony and it was awesome! We stood together and each said some words to welcome everyone and thank them for coming and we each did a reading about what marriage meant to us. Invited our parents up to give readings, as well, and then invited our officiant friend to join us and she gave a lovely speech, made things official, and introduced us as married. We loved it and our guests did, too!

  • Kat

    I’ve been thinking of alternatives to the bouquet/garter toss because a) I hate seeing a pretty bouquet get torn apart, b) Girls fighting over flowers is against my sensibilities and c) the garter tradition give me the creeps. My favorite thing I’ve seen (probably somewhere on this site) was having a bouquet-shaped pinata to whack, LOVE pinatas, love candy…..perfect solution.

    • RoseTyler

      A bouquet idea:

      During your reception have any couples married over X number of years stand up (or raise their glasses or whatever) and gradually increase the number of years until you figure out the couple that has been married the longest. Present the bouquet to said couple.

      • JDrives

        We did just that, but in a dance. So the DJ called all the married couples to the dance floor, and started by saying “If you have been married less than an hour, leave the dance floor.” Har har, that was us the newlyweds, so we sat down. Then it was less than a year, less than 5 years, and so on, until the last couple standing/dancing (my grandparents – 50 years!!). Then we gave them the bouquet! My grandmother was so touched.

        • RoseTyler

          That sounds amazing!

      • A.

        I would have loved to have done this and we almost did. But after thinking it through, we realized we had too many widows and widowers (some very recent) in our crowd…I think it would have been hard for them. (Just something to consider if anyone is thinking about this!)

      • TeaforTwo

        Know your crowd for this one! If anyone has recently lost a spouse either from death or divorce, this might really, really hurt someone’s feelings.

        • BDubs

          Oh gosh yes!

      • quiet000001

        You can do a riff of this for pretty much anything you want – closest birthday to the wedding day might be a good one, or person who travelled the farthest. Know your people and what will work/be fun/be emotionally significant, whatever note feels best for your event.

        If your florist does a ‘throw’ bouquet as part of the floral package, or you’re willing to give your bouquet away, you could split it up yourself (or ask for it to be split up in the case of the throw bouquet) and give the flowers to key people you’d like to show appreciation for. (One bouquet for each mother/grandmother, split it up to individual stems – discard anything that isn’t going to work standalone like filler – and give one to the people in attendance who helped you through that last month of grad school or whomever else you really want to say a special thanks to.) Or just give the whole bouquet to someone you particular want to honor – maybe someone really made an extraordinary effort to be there for your celebration, something like that.

    • Lizzie

      We did a bouquet toss, and I agree it was sad to lose my lovely bouquet. I said hell no to having a garter taken off my leg, though, so we found an old ugly garter in a box in my now-husband’s house (I still don’t know where it came from, but it was free), wrapped it around a football, and threw that into the crowd. No leg baring necessary. The pinata idea sounds amazeballs, though!

    • Kate

      FWIW, a lot of florists make a literal throw-away bouquet, so I wouldn’t worry about the first part. I had to tell my florist many times that I wasn’t throwing one so she didn’t need to make it, but alas it showed up on that day.

      But hear, hear on girls fighting over flowers and strange men sticking their heads up your dress.

    • Audrey

      We just… didn’t do a flower toss or garter toss. No one complained, or at least not to us!

      • Bklyncyclone83

        I bet nobody even noticed it was missing. That’s what we did.

    • Bklyncyclone83

      Great fun idea!

  • guest today

    These are great suggestions – provided you’re planning on doing a secular ceremony or a ceremony with a fairly progressive/flexible religious sect. We had a Catholic wedding (not the full Catholic mass, because only one of is Catholic), so we didn’t have a whole lot of choice on how to structure our ceremony. Planning a Catholic ceremony is sort of like a “choose your own adventure” story – the priest gives you a booklet that essentially lays out the script for your ceremony, but every so often you get to choose certain readings, prayers, and invocations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make some subtle feminist statements. And so, here are my tips for a feminist Catholic ceremony. Apologies for the gendered language, but there’s no way around it – the Catholic Church has not yet gotten to the point of embracing marriage equality …

    – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops actually recommends that both the bride and the groom should walk down the aisle accompanies by their parents as a symbol that “the bride and groom enter freely and equally into marriage.” I was raised by my aunt, so she walked me down the aisle. My husband was accompanied by his mom and dad.

    – ask women who are important to you but who might otherwise go unacknowledged at your wedding to do the readings (our readers included my husband’s god mother, his “aunt” who is actually just his mother’s best friend, and a very dear family friend who might as well be my grandmother)

    – choose your readings wisely. There are a lot of options that focus on the importance of marrying virtuous god-fearing woman, which, blech. But there are also some beautiful passages that express equality in love. For example, I recommend a reading from the Song of Songs, which the commentary on the U.S. Catholic Bishops website describes thus: “Parts of the book express erotic love. The gift of sexuality is affirmed and portrayed without apology. There is radical equality with both lovers desiring to share in it with equal intensity. Love is seen as a communion of souls.” (Bonus points if you get your 92 year old almost-grandma to read this one in a sweet Southern accent).
    – One of the standard intercessions used in the Prayer of the Faithful talks about life beginning at conceptions. If this doesn’t mesh with your beliefs, you don’t have to include it. Actually, you don’t have to use any of the standard intercessions at your ceremony if you don’t want to. This is the one place where the Church actually encourages couples to go “off script,” so feel free to write intercessions that are meaningful to you.

    • Laura

      Actually, the traditional Catholic wedding rite has the bride and groom process down the aisle together as a couple, which I think is a nice, egalitarian message (in fact, not advocating harder for this is my husband’s biggest wedding regret, as he really liked the symbolism)

      Also, the recommended readings are not technically your only options, although your local priest’s willingness to go “off-script” may vary. If you have a favorite, more feminist reading that you love, ask if it can be swapped out for one of the recommended options.

    • Lauren

      We got married (part one, because our families live on different continents and we are having another ceremony in a month! commence freak out!) in a Catholic ceremony and walked in together following the priest. It was perfect, I loved it.

    • Laura C

      I’m trying to remember the wording, but a friend of mine who had a Catholic ceremony with mass, the priest did say something very pointed (in a positive way) about equality. Driving me nuts that I can’t remember because at the time I really remarked on it.

    • shannonly

      We’re getting married in an Episcopal ceremony which is very similar, and we are walking in together behind the (female!) priest.

      I love that you had your 92 year old almost-grandma read the Song of Songs passage. Amazing!

    • Keeks

      Yes! We’re having a Catholic ceremony and I was pleasantly surprised at how equitable we could make our ceremony. At least 1 reading/response in each section was relatively neutral (i.e., not sexist or sexual) which made our choices easy. My dad is still walking me down the aisle, but we’re skipping the bridesmaid processional and having my fiance process down with his parents right before I do.

  • eating words

    Aside from having two brides, here are the feminist/equality-centered things we did in our Jewish ceremony:
    – Each of us walked down the aisle with both parents (hers are long divorced and on good terms, and it was SUCH a nice moment for everyone). No bridal party; we were preceded just by my 2-year-old nephew (and his mom, my sister-in-law) holding a sign that said “Here come the brides.”
    – We each circled each other 3x and then did one circle together
    – There was no giving anyone away, and no language about possessing or having
    – We wrote our own ketubah text to make it about two equal partners committing to one another; and we chose female witnesses
    – We used an English reinterpretation of the seven blessings in which each blessing is based on a female biblical figure, and had women close to us read them
    – At our rabbi’s suggestion, we added Miriam to the traditional Jewish vows, so, roughly translated: “Behold you are consecrated to me with this ring in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Miriam.”
    – Each of us broke a glass.
    We had so many people tell us what a meaningful and beautiful ceremony it was. Lots of sunglasses and sniffling.

    • jessica

      This is great, I especially love adding Miriam, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before. Kudos!

      For those looking for a feminist Jewish wedding ceremony, I always recommend the ceremony Rachel Adler developed in Engendering Judaism (last chapter). Instead of the typical ketubah/vows, she wrote a “brit ahuvim” (lover’s contract) and replaces the traditional vows/ring exchange with a ceremony rooted in Talmudic partnership law, thus emphasizing two equal partners rather than the traditionally imbalanced man/woman ceremony. Of course, not all rabbis will officiate at this and this can be earth-shatteringly different or subtle depending on what one knows/expects of a Jewish wedding, but I offer it to those seeking something beyond the wonderful adaptations above.

  • BSM

    One caveat to #2: I think it’s a useful tip, but I also felt like an idiot doing that. It made me feel like I was deferring to my now-husband in a the-guy-holds-all-the-cards kind of way. So, much like everything else in this world, YMMV.

    • Kayla

      We split up our responsibilities, so I would say things like, “Fiance is responsible for handling all catering-related matters. Please ask him.” That way it was clear that there were some things where I was the point person, but there were also things that were his job.

      I wish I’d been even more direct about it with some of our vendors though.

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, it would be tricky. I did my best with wedding planning ish, but it didn’t always work out. My “polite deference” included more like “please copy both Spouse and I with your reply so we can all stay on the same page,” or “Spouse and I will discuss it and let you know” So that even if I was the one handling communications up front, we reiterated joint decision making.

  • Can we talk about how amazing the Ms. + Mr. signs posted in the name change post were? I had absolutely no desire for a Mrs. + Mr. sign and thought they were a bit cheesy when I saw them on Pinterest before but I am SERIOUSLY into that Ms. + Mr. set up.

    • CMT

      Oooh, I didn’t see those! Want!!

      • Ilora

        I’m always late to the commenting party due to my work hours, but in case you couldn’t find them, they were mine!

    • Lauren from NH

      I would wonder if most people would just misread them, due to how ubiquitous Mrs. is, but maybe it’s still awesome…

      • Ilora

        They’re pretty legible, it would have been more likely that people thought I messed them up. I was so darn proud of them though that I kept showing them off, so most people knew before the wedding.

    • MB

      They are fantastic! My fiance and I both have PhDs and I’m planning on doing Dr & Dr signs for us. Towards the end of my degree, getting the Dr title at the end was one of the few things motivating me to finish, and I definitely want to include a (maybe not so) subtle hint that I am NOT a Mrs :)

      • Eenie

        I love it when the woman in a male/female relationship is a Dr and uses it everywhere. One of my friends is a pharmacist and her husband kept saying he’d get his JD so they could be the Dr’s.

        • Amy March

          Ha! Cute, but people with JD’s don’t use Dr. as a title :)

          • Vanessa

            I mean, we do jokingly.

          • Eenie

            Yeah, they meant it jokingly. It was the only doctorate that he could finish at the same time as hers. He’s actually getting a PhD in Nuclear Engineering.

      • Sosuli

        That’s an amazing idea. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I’m working on some bunting for our wedding that will say “Dr & Mr” on it… which will only come in handy if I manage to stop procrastinating on APW and actually finish editing my dissertation…

        • MB

          YES!! All the fistbumps for Dr & Mr :) Good luck your dissertation!!

  • JDrives

    Our feminist things (and I say “our” and not “mine,” because my husband and I planned this as a team and made all of these decisions together!) were pretty subtle. But, I wove the intentions of equality throughout the planning process. For example, I asked my mom if she wanted to walk down the aisle with me and my dad, or be part of the ceremony in some way, and she declined. So I walked down the aisle with my dad.

    Other feminist aspects:

    – We addressed the invitations to “Mr. and Mrs. Spouse1Name and Spouse2Name Lastname”
    – We wrote our own ceremony and vows, and I switched up the order of our names throughout.
    – It actually never occurred to me than men traditionally go first in the vows – we talked about it and agreed that me going first was best because we both knew that his would make me a weepy mess, and then I wouldn’t be able to get through mine!
    – We did say “husband and wife” but not “man and wife,” and “you may now kiss!” instead of “you may now kiss the bride!”
    – There was no friggin’ bouquet toss or garter-hunting-under-dress-in-front-of-150-people.
    – We chose a woman-owned catering business.

    I admit that I wore Spanx for the ceremony…THEN THREW THEM IN THE GARBAGE during the reception. If I could go back, I would change that choice from the get-go, but otherwise, it was an awesome wedding and planning process that reflected our shared values (with some compromises).

  • emilyg25

    We walked down the aisle together and it was just the best. I loved the symbolism of it, of course, but my favorite part was the time we spent in the house all by ourselves, watching our guests gather and listening to the opening, and especially that moment where we looked each other in the eye, opened the door, and stepped into our new life together.

    • K.

      We did the same and it really was amazing. We had a laugh right beforehand too (kind of punch-drunkenly) that some of our traditional family members were probably starting to get nervous that we had a runaway groom situation on our hands, since he wasn’t standing up there.

    • Sarah E

      Walking in and out together, hand in hand (or arm around each other at the end) was wonderful. And I, at least, really needed him as my anchor amidst the swirl of balancing family, friends, and logistics. Totally totally recommend.

      • emilyg25

        Oh, yeah, this reminds me. I was A MESS on my wedding day and I’m glad I got to spend so much time with my husband-to-be. He’s my rock.

    • RoseTyler

      ** that moment where we looked each other in the eye, opened the door, and stepped into our new life together. ***

      happy sigh!

  • Kayla

    My #1 tip for having a more feminist wedding: Marry a feminist.

    • Lizzie

      BOOM. You win.

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  • Bsquillo

    We had some subtle feminist elements in our wedding (aided by the fact that we wrote most of our ceremony ourselves):
    -When sending out invites or thank-yous, I believe I most often put my name in front of my husband’s.
    -We didn’t have a “who gives this woman away” section in our wedding.
    -My brother stood on my side as part of the wedding party.
    -I made sure our officiant said “you may now kiss” instead of “you may kiss the bride,” and “husband and wife” instead of “man and wife.” Also, though I changed my last name, I was adamant about never losing my first name and being announced or addressed as “Mrs. HisFirst HisLast.”
    -We totally skipped the bouquet and garter toss (partially because I have few single female friends, and my husband was totally weirded out by the garter ritual)
    -We also skipped any parent-child dances (our families aren’t really a dancing crowd anyways)
    -We had a jam session instead of a huge dance party, and my husband and I brought our instruments and sat in for a tune (okay, maybe not a specifically feminist example, but super fun!)

  • Sarah E

    We didn’t examine too closely who would go first in the vows/ring exchange, I don’t think we even really decided until that moment. We did a self-uniting ceremony, so with the exception of invited involvement (parental blessing, readings, etc), it was just us up there with the microphone. We got up to say our vows and he said in an undertone “you go first” or something. Then I did and he said, again, as an aside “shit, you almost got my crying, I should have gone first.” which was a nice just-us moment in front of this huge crowd.

    We also had massive involvement of friends on that day, with zero designated wedding party, which was wonderful. All the fun of friends helping and laughing and hanging, none of the stress of matching outfits or ranking relationships.

  • Corinne Keel

    My husband and I got married less than two weeks ago—whooo! We did a lot of these (planning together, mixed parties, matching vows, ditching a lot of old traditions, keeping our names).

    My favorite part was having no pre-wedding segregation between us at all. We woke up together, we got ready together, the wedding party toasted together in the hotel suite, and we all rode to the wedding together (along with our parents too) in a big bus. We were both visible and greeted our guests before the ceremony. The last thing I wanted to do was hide away with my wedding party (which included two of my brothers–the third officiated). After the ceremony it was hard to get much time together because we were talking to and partying with our guests—I’m so glad we didn’t spend the morning apart!

    If I’d read this article beforehand, I wonder if we would have switched up the order we took vows. I had my own little inner interpretation on the traditional order. It felt to me like having him go first kind of put the ball in my court, i.e. he committed and then I got to be the final word that sealed the deal. In other words, I still saw it as a gendered tradition, but as one that favored the woman’s ability to consent and actually form the marriage with her words–rather than pledge herself to the man and hope he accepts her.

    • BDubs

      Congratulations, newlyweds!

    • chrissyc

      Congratulations! The no pre-wedding segregation is a great idea… it can help calm nerves, plus you can maximize your time with your spouse on your wedding day. And I love that you greeted your guests before the ceremony. My husband and I are pretty introverted, so for us it was great to spent the minutes before the ceremony alone, giggling together… but we had also considered using that time to greet our guests to help set a relaxed, fun mood.

      • Corinne Keel

        Greeting our guests was initially my Mother-in-Law’s idea. I took her to see our venue and she got really excited about the beautiful outdoor space and relaxed vibe. When she suggested it, it just felt right.

  • ckd02006

    “…so many of those patriarchal traditions might be things we’ve actually been…kind of looking forward to…”

    I feel this so hard. For me it’s the “walking down the aisle with your dad” thing. I am SO not on board with the whole giving-away thing, and I do NOT need an escort to the altar thank-you-very-much, but… I sorta still want that moment with my dad. Seeing him walk my sister down the aisle at her wedding was so meaningful, and I want to share that with him. Even though the tradition is rooted in a patriarchal history, I’m grappling with whether it’s enough to tell myself that that’s not what it’s about for me, and be ok with still doing it. Basically, is it possible to reinvent the meaning of a tradition while keeping it’s form?

    • BDubs

      One of the meaningful tenets of being a feminist is Thou shalt not belittle another person’s feminist beliefs. You should follow your heart on your wedding day and walk with your father, cut cake, whatever. The people in attendance should love you and support you as you enjoy certain traditions that are deeply personal.
      I really REALLY wanted to throw a bouquet at my wedding but there were exactly TWO unmarried woman in attendance and that seemed pretty heavy-handed as far as the marriage baton being passed. So I asked that ALL the women in attendance to come try to catch the bouquet as a souvenir of the wedding. It was fun for me to follow the tradition I wanted and the guests were good natured about it. Ultimately my bridesmaid’s two year old caught it and everyone was happy.

    • Aubry

      Maybe you can try to find a way to make it work for you. A friend of mine is having her dad walk her to the front of the seats, have a hug moment, and then she will walk to meet her fiance all by herself. For her, it is the handing off and “who gives this woman” kinda language that gets the feminist hackles up. But her dad wants to walk her, so they are compromising.

    • Kate

      Same here. My dad walked me down the aisle (my Mom didn’t want to and also walking down the aisle and our father/daughter dance were the only things I remember imagining about my wedding as a kid) but there was no question of ‘who gives this woman’ at all. I like Aubry’s idea below. Or maybe you have roles for both sets of parents (depending on each of your situations) so they’re both ‘giving’ their children to the other person. But, overall it sounds like it’s important to you and I think you should do what will make your heart happy and worry a little less about your head in this situation.

    • cyanpineapple

      No one gives me away but myself, but my father is walking me down the aisle, and FH’s mother is walking him down the aisle (my mother and his father are both dead, so there’s nothing intentional about the parental genders). Feels like a good way to make us equal while giving our parents a role in the wedding.

    • Bklyncyclone83

      In Jewish tradition, both parties are escorted by both parents down the aisle (assuming both have both parents living). We did this and like it. We did not do any circling because I did not want to and also the (female) Rabbi never even suggested it, so I think it is a more conservative tradition, not reform (not that I could have done it in my dress very easily anyway with very little space!) we did not toss flowers, we did not do any garter thing because I hate both of those things. We had same-gender attendants, just so happens because our friends and siblings are our same gender. We did father/daughter and mother/son dances because we wanted to do it. The Rabbi read our progressive Ketubah language out loud, which constituted our “vows” such as they were (there are no vows per se in Jewish weddings). Everything was just as we wanted it to be, which is saying a lot since we did not really know what we wanted at all in the beginning.

    • Caitlin

      I grew up in a very much feminist house – from both my mom and dad – and it’s taking my dad some convincing to walk me down the aisle. He is still adamant that he “doesn’t own me,” that I am “my own woman” who is strong and doesn’t need him to walk her down. I countered that I can still be all those things, but still want her dad to walk down the aisle with her! So he agreed. :) You can still have some of the more traditional things in your wedding if you want, not because you have to. That’s how I see it.

    • Katy Baranoski

      I am having my dad walk me down the aisle because he and I are VERY close, but instead of having the officiant ask “who gives the bride blah blah blah” my officiant will be asking if I am coming of my own will and accord, with my family’s blessing/love/whatever, to which I will obviously respond YES! The officiant will then ask with whom I come and whose blessings accompany me, to which my dad will respond “she comes with her father, , and is accompanied by the blessing of all those present here today” or something along those lines. That way I still get the special moment of walking down with my dad, but there’s no implication of ownership.

  • Lynly

    I just emailed our officiant and asked to be addressed FIRST during the vows and rings. I’m a feminist, but I couldn’t even see the nuance in that – thank you!! Also, definitely eating the crap out of the top layer of our wedding cake!

  • LizStanton

    I just got married on August 29th, and we had a fiercely feminist wedding. We kept some ‘traditional’ elements, but we did everything that we wanted to do, and nothing that we didn’t.

    I walked myself down the aisle (an experience I wanted to show I was doing this on my own). Our ceremony started with a line from the Supreme Court decision on marriage, included community vows, multiple amazing feminist readings, vowing to be true partners, and even the F-word itself! I was so extremely happy with our officiant, who really put together a beautifully feminist ceremony.

    Oh! And we had a three-legged race for the bouquet, which most of the (younger) guests participated in. It was amazing.

    Now, if I could have gotten out of having my uncle’s asking why the wedding was so overtly feminist and asking about baby-making all through the reception, that would have been lovely…

  • Angela

    We are doing the following:

    Comfortable wedding-ee clothes we can both move around easily in. For me the is a tea length white dress with purple accents (shoes, petticoat, sash) and for him this is a suit and chucks.

    I am walking down the aisle unaccompanied.

    We are both changing our names to a portmanteau.

    No bouquet toss. No garter toss.

    No being announced as Mr & Mrs…

    5 of the 6 bridal party members are women.

    All 3 readers are women.

    I am giving a speech. My Dad will not be.

  • Jessica

    We are getting married in Quebec (we live in Alberta) and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a bridal name change there is not part of getting married. I’m always looking for ways to make our wedding equal and balanced. We has also decided to walk in together and do as much as possible together…who knew all the small things would count? I also have always hated the bouquet toss but never realized WHY until this post! Thanks again APW!

  • Lauren Hamilton

    My parents didn’t give me away. Both of our sets of parents said, “He/she gives himself/herself, with our full support.”

  • Erica

    My FIL officiated, and without me even asking, added some feminist elements. We took turns going first with vows and things. He made a point of talking about how we are partners and equals in our marriage. Then instead of “You may now kiss the bride,” he changed it to, “You may now kiss the groom.” A lot of it was a surprise. Like the “You may now kiss the groom part.” So that was a fun surprise that had us all laughing. There was no “giving away” moment. My dad did walk me down the aisle, but he stopped at the front row of seats, we hugged, and then I walked the rest of the way by myself while he took his seat.

  • Some of the things we did, that meant the most to me, in an effort to make my wedding feminist:

    **We had mixed-gender wedding parties (Some of my husbands best friends are women, and for all that I also love them, we wanted them to stand up with him. My cousin-who-is-like-a-brother was my “brideslady”)
    **We shared the decision making responsibilities (My husband is into the details, just as much as I am, so this was both feminist & true to us.)
    **We only hired vendors who were down with gay marriage (this was 3 years ago, fwiw), and we worked with as many small, local business as possible (rather than large corporations)
    **Language:
    -Our officiant said “Now you may kiss” (instead of “now you may kiss the bride”)
    -I was really adamant that we weren’t introduced as “Mr and Mrs His Full Name” (in part because I kept my name, but more importantly because I didn’t give up my own first name!!)

    -The readings we chose were really powerful (to us) and feminist, either directly or indirectly. They reflected love as a genuine partnership, which is how I see our marriage.

  • I’ve found this process of crafting a personal and feminist wedding (and marriage) really fascinating. Even the smallest things blow my mind. Last night, it turns out my future husband, raised by a single mom and very open-minded, had no idea what Ms. was. He thought it was for divorced women (“you know, after Mrs”). He was amazed, just about gob-smacked, that it was such a recent title and that I was already using it (uh, since I could pick at all) and that I was struggling with being excited about Mrs. and also loyal to Ms. We both just sat there open-mouthed at each other for a while. And then laughed.

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  • Kaylee

    We had a mixed gendered wedding party..my only brother was my man of honour and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. People were worried about the small details: will he take pictures with the girls or guys..will he walk in with the brial party..will he carry flowers.. (yes yes and no); but it was really non event.

    Also we weren’t going to do a flower toss but the florist gave us a throw bouquet…so we made all the single men come up! It was awesome!

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  • Mildred Thomson

    Great article! My sister last year wore this http://www.happybridesmaids.com/da-vinci-60206-bridesmaid-dress.html

  • Laura Bennett

    We had both sets of parents answer the question about giving this man and woman to be married. I don’t like the traditional idea of giving away the bride (on this forum, who does?), but on the other hand, both my husband and I are deeply rooted in our birth families, and if either family had been opposed to the marriage, yeah, that might have been a deal breaker on getting married. I also wanted to acknowledge all of the work that our parents had put into raising us, and crafting us into the people we are today. So it was really important to me that both families spoke their role in 1. having created this person, and 2. handing them into the marriage.

  • Jenna

    My favourite is “You may now seal your vows with a kiss” instead of “You may now kiss the bride.” Our officiant messed up and said it the traditional way out of habit and I was so disappointed!

  • Kimberly Cooper

    My husband took my last name instead of me taking his. It’s interesting the reactions we’ve gotten. Most people exclaim “That’s so progressive!” I just always thought it was odd that the woman always changes her name. Why is it any more weird for him to change his?

  • Anon

    The biggest feminist break from tradition we are doing is ditching the father-daughter dance in favor of a mother-daughter dance.

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  • Jessica McCammon

    As soon as I started reading this, I immediately planned to have my boyfriend’s mom give him to me – just like my father-figure will give me to him! =]
    I know I could just as easily forgo the whole thing, but I want to include my father-figure as a sentiment to what he means to me.
    I’m fortunate that my boyfriend is certainly on board with whatever feminism! (It helps he’s had his daughter-water (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtIrKLh7Gz0) already.)

  • Love this post! One of the things I love about feminism is that it opens up the window of opportunity to more choice.