Kaytlin & Ben

*Kaytlin, Graduate Student/Professional Job Seeker & Ben, Dental Student*

After this morning’s Ask Team Practical, we figured there was no better way to end the week than with an overtly feminist wedding. Because sometimes when people make blanket statements like, “Feminist weddings don’t exist,” the best you can do is point, and say, “Oh look! There is one!” And it turns out feminist weddings are a lot easier to find than say, heffalumps. So here is Kaytlin, proving it.

How being a feminist made my wedding rock.

I’m a queer-friendly, shaved-head, rainbow-wearing, Vagina Monologues-performing feminist. My partner, Ben, is a quiet, levelheaded, subdued, anti-sexual assault, pro-choice, dental schooling feminist. Getting married was a little outside of the box for us. And yet, we took the plunge anyway.

Coming from a rural, conservative town in Southern Illinois, it was difficult for people to understand why we had been together for six years and gasp we still hadn’t gotten hitched. It was even more difficult to tell people that, well, not everyone can get married, so why should we? So we conveniently let school and money and family and age and everything else speak to why we didn’t get married sooner like other people our age (to be sure: twenty-two and twenty-three years old, respectively is still very young to get married). Finally, we were getting ready to graduate from college, move into our real first home, and begin graduate schooling—a pretty grueling, time consuming process. Suddenly, it seemed like if it wasn’t going to happen now, then it wouldn’t happen for another four years—at least.

And even still, Feminist Kaytlin nagged at me. “Patriarchy,” ze* cried, “Institution. PROPERTY. Blood Diamonds. Tradition. Bullsh*t.” And I didn’t know what to do. I hid my engagement ring in my Gender Studies classes for fear of being called out as a phony. I told a few people that we were engaged but, “You know, it’s no big deal… I’m not excited about it or anything…” (I was so excited!). And I struggled. So I wrote a blog. And I researched. And I realized that a lot of my mentors and heroes and role models were MARRIED women. How did they do that?! How did they give into this industry and still manage to be awesome? And then I knew what I had to do. (Spoiler Alert: The answer is “get married and be really good at it.”)

So Ben and I sat down with one of those books that you buy automatically because you think it will plan the wedding for you (it doesn’t). But what it does do is lay out everything that you are supposed to do and makes a convenient list of things to cross out. Like a garter toss, a groom’s cake, and a crazy hectic schedule that requires you to reduce your calorie intakes to 250 calories a day, preferably all celery, and give up those things that we like to call responsibilities. We made a list of the things that we really important to us, like beer.** And then we set a very, very small budget and said this will work because it has to. I found APW and my feminist wet dreams came true.

“But Kaytlin, none of this sounds like your wedding really rocked. I mean, anyone can say that…. What did being a feminist have to do with it?” you may be asking yourself.

Well, you are right. I imagine that most weddings are pretty awesome, feminist or not. But what was particularly awesome is that through the wedding process, I discovered what being a feminist meant to me. It meant that Ben and I made decisions based on our values and beliefs, and it meant that I was willing to advocate for those things without fear of being judged as hypocritical. It meant that I was willing to make people uncomfortable: like letting them know that we, as a couple, recognized our privilege of being able to be married, and that we wished that everyone could have that privilege, or rather, what it really is—a right. It meant telling people “no.” And “yes.” And it meant that, for one time in our lives, Ben and I were going to be the center of attention and we were going to use that as a platform to tell the people in our lives what was important to us, and that, to us, was social justice.

That, to us, looked like a wedding ceremony that was largely secular, though held in the church I grew up in. It looked like a ceremony that was opened with the court decision from Massachusetts that legalized same-sex marriages. It looked like silly poems for readings*** and a humorous pastor who dubbed us “Benaytlin.” It looked like using my grandma’s vintage ring that was made from her original wedding set (no blood diamonds). It also looked like a wedding program that explained marriage traditions and why we were shirking or subverting them.

While we certainly value our marriage and we take our commitment to each other very seriously, we also take marriage equality and LGBTQ rights very seriously, and there are some things that are NOT better left unsaid.

During the reception, we danced, and people boozed, and we had a homemade photo booth that turned into the makeout spot that every good party has. And people loved it. And I love it.

The greatest compliment we received was that the wedding was “so Ben and Kaytlin.” And that, to me, is a feminist wedding.

The Info—Photography: Candice Ivie / Venue: Highland Masonic Lodge / Invitations: Glö / Photobooth Video: Put together by Ben / Kaytlin’s Ring: Her grandmother’s / Kaytlin’s Dress: Jasmine Bridal / Kaytlin’s and Bridesmaid’s shoes: TOMS / Ben’s Outfit: Express / Ben’s Shoes: Converse

*ze: Gender-neutral term; I imagine Feminist Kaytlin is pretty androgynous.
**For real, though, Ben is a beer connoisseur and a microbrewer. This was huge.
***”I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard and “A Lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton

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  • Beaula

    1. That bouquet is stunning.
    2. The black dress that person dancing is wearing, is AMAZING and I want it,

  • **Beer. No explanation needed.

    <3 all of this. Well done.

  • Emilie

    “Spoiler Alert: The answer is get married and be really good at it.”

    This is why I love A Practical Wedding. I’ve been reading this blog throughout college, and it’s both comforting and empowering to have people like you (not so far away from me in age) claiming and owning this marriage thing–this FAMILY thing. I feel like I have a whole community of big sisters teaching me how to embrace love while retaining my bad-ass-ness.

    I’m sure when it comes time for my boyfriend and I to plan our wedding (pre-engaged), we’ll revisit this post to remind us how our wedding really can be a platform for social justice.

    Great post! And Congratulations!

    • meg

      I love you college readers so much!

      • Caroline

        I feel like in the past, oh, month or so, I’ve realized there are a ton of college (specifically undergrad) folks on APW which is awesome, since I’m in undergrad and have felt sometimes like the baby over here. But nope, there’s lots of us.

        Also, Kaytlin, I love your post!

        • Ashley

          Another college reader! :) I love me some APW. I found it sophomore year — I’m now a senior, and I make sure to read it every day. I’ve learned so much, not just about weddings, marriage, and being a woman, but being a good person.

          This post was fantastic and really hit home. My boyfriend and I are planning on getting engaged come graduation, and we really want to recognize our friends who are fighting for their right to marry.

  • Laura

    I love this post and this wedding (and this dress)! Yay Kaytlin!

    Also – Could you share more about how you opened the ceremony with the MA same sex court decision? Did you explicitly cite the decision? Did you use the exact language or interpret it? Etc etc? I plan to do something along these lines and am curious how other people go about it.

    • We had the officiant read this:
      “Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations.

      and then in the programs we explicitly stated (and cited) that it was from the MA decision so it was pretty seamlessly integrated in the ceremony.

      I hope that helps a little.

      • Leslie

        Who wants to spend their whole reception explaining why we aren’t doing the garter toss? Excellent idea!

        I’d also love to know what/how you shared in your program to explain the things you were “shirking or subverting”

      • Stephanie

        My husband and I did that* too, in our programs, and we got more compliments (even from family members of an older generation who had previously indicated ambivalence towards gay marriage, as opposed to civil unions!) on that than on almost anything else! Also, your post is fantastic — you and Ben and your wedding sound awesome :-).

        *”That” meaning we included the language from Goodridge.

      • Caroline

        We also used this portion and a bit more and had our officiant say it and where is was from. We had a totally secular wedding and thought that this was a good replacement for the definition of marriage usually described in religious language.

    • We just got married on September 1st (!!!) and used an excerpt from Goodridge vs. Department of Health to open our ceremony. For us, it served as our definition of marriage, a context in which to view the remainder of the ceremony. Our officiant read this first, and the rest of the ceremony followed from there.

      From “Goodridge Vs. Department of Health
      By Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
      “Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the ‘welfare of the community.’ It is a ‘social institution of the highest importance.’ … Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

  • Peggy

    I love you Benaytlin! I find that the many weddings I’ve been to fade from memory, but yours will never be forgotten!

  • so perfect. and yes, being a newlywed at 21, I totally understand kind of wanting to hide your engagement/marriage in fear of people judging, but I’m glad you didn’t give a shit (about plenty of wedding things) and just did your thing anyways! hooray Benaytlin!

    also, your dress is gorg :)

  • Lauren

    “But what it does do is lay out everything that you are supposed to do and makes a convenient list of things to cross out.”

    BAHAHA yes! I pore over lists in my day-to-day (because I love being type A so much) so lists, even of things I don’t want are so helpful! The Kn*t wedding app is so perfect for this, in a backwards kind of way!

    Also, I’m so sad I got my dress, because yours is stunning. And a stunning day overall!

  • Kay

    I am the proud mother of this bride and absolutely enjoyed the entirety of this wedding…from the shower (which had no stupid games but did have the guests make oragami flowers to decorate the church and reception hall) to the service which truly was a “Benaytlin” experience (with a CD of love songs burned by Ben as part of the program) to the reception which was an ecclectic group of wonderful friends and family. Ben & Kaytlin are wonderful people to know and love…and my life has been graced by them.

  • Lauren

    What an awesome wedding! It looked so fun and genuine, while still allowing you to stay true to your beliefs :)
    I’m currently planning my own and was wondering what traditions you spoke about in your program – and why you didn’t include them. I plan on ditching many conventional traditions and am interested in your ideas and perspective.
    Thanks and best wishes on your marriage! :)

    • Well starting with the shower, I was sure to articulate that I didn’t really want gifts because I didn’t want our wedding to be about consumption (and because we were already living together and didn’t need a lot of “things”) so my wedding party surprised me with a donation to a feminist organization that supports entrepreneurship for women. Ben and I both wore engagement rings – which is becoming more mainstream but subverts the idea that women are property. Along those same lines, I used the walking down the aisle part of the wedding as more of an honor thing so actually, my brother walked me down the aisle and that was a bit of my gift to him. As I mentioned, we didn’t do a garter toss or bouquet toss or a groom’s cake or anything like that. Also, we don’t really support the cut flower industry (unless of course they are locally grown – but we didn’t know what that was going to look like, as we live in the hot and humid midwest so we decided to not gamble with it) so we decided that we would make origami flowers and pinwheels. We also had joined bachelor/ette parties where we started out at a brewery and ended up at a piano bar…we wanted to use this time to celebrate our togetherness as opposed to our separateness. And finally, we tried not to use much gendered language in our program. I don’t think husband or wife was ever said. We are accustomed to “partner” language so we tried to reflect that as much as possible.


      • Emilie

        “Ben and I both wore engagement rings – which is becoming more mainstream but subverts the idea that women are property.”

        Yes–I’d love to hear more from couples who do this about how it works and how people respond.

        • Ashley

          My husband and I both wore engagement rings! I feel like for many women, wearing a ring on their finger is such a reminder and an impart-er of the “I’m engaged!” feeling, so I wanted him to have that, too. It was important to me that he initiated the proposing, so during pre-engagement I bought him a bentwood ring (the idea being that a wooden ring looks less like a traditional wedding ring). The day before I suspected the proposal would go down, I wrote a letter asking him to marry me and I stuck both in my bag. I was right and after he asked me to marry him, I returned the sentiment. He ended up wearing his engagement ring on his right hand.

          Most people’s reactions were along the lines of, “Oh, of course guys should [and/or can] have engagement rings! That makes so much sense!” And just like it made me happy to see my engagement ring every day, it also gave me joy to see his.

          • Emilie

            This is super helpful and super awesome. Thank you. Love the idea of a wooden ring.

        • Ondrea

          My guy got an engagement ring because I proposed and once we finally got the right size (I was half a size too small!! grr) he hasn’t taken it off much. :) We decided he should wear it on his left hand since the ultimate purpose of the engagement ring is to show that you are out of the dating game and to the best of our knowledge the left hand ring finger is traditional finger for that. He was quite tickled all the way around and proudly shows it off. He really liked the idea of publicly displaying he is taken pre-wedding and was quite impatient to get the original re-sized so he didn’t loose circulation in his finger when he wore it. I have enjoyed his ring because it symbolizes what is to come. It was also really awesome to be able to give him something tangible to hold on to as a symbol of my commitment and intent as we navigate the rough grad school/job market/building-a-life waters. Had he been the first to propose I was still going to get him his own ring anyways so he had the same experience I did. The responses from other people have all been positive if a little baffled at times. Nobody has been outright rude.

          I do find it interesting I’ve had a few people ask about my engagement ring and why haven’t I gotten one yet. The answer boils down to budgetary reasons with some indecision from me on what I want and again, nobody has been rude but they are sometimes a little baffled that I am ok with not having one. I suspect it has kept some of the WIC questions at bay from strangers because the ring I wear on that finger is low-key.

          • Emilie

            How lovely. Sounds like his ring was a really positive experience for both of you.

        • Jenn’s Mom

          I have to admit that my husband had to ask for an engagement ring, it never occurred to me. But once he asked for one it made perfect sense and we chose it together just like we chose mine and he wore it for the 2 1/2 years we were engaged just like I wore mine. The only difference was that my wedding ring was chosen to go with my engagement ring and his wedding band replaced his wedding ring. Responses from others – they assumed that it was a wedding ring not an engagement ring,

  • Gorgeous pictures, even more gorgeous words to go along.

    I’m reading and thinking “rural, conservative town in Southern IL.” Yep, me too. Wait! Is that the EvUCC? That IS my rural, conservative hometown in Southern IL. Fun to see a bit of home in APW.

  • Nora

    Kaytlin I have nothing great to say. But I just about shrieked when I saw you on APW, since you were in my grad program. And we never really knew each other, but this post makes me wish we did. And your wedding looks like it was bombsauce. That is all.

  • Shout out to Southern Illinois! Many happy returns. And great idea to discuss wedding traditions and why or why not you do them. For those of you who have not Googled the origins of engagement rings or the garter toss, it’s worth a look :)

  • CarbonGirl

    Can I just gush about how beautiful you are? That is all.

  • Bravo, for another Midwestern bride!

  • Kate

    Beautiful! Would you be willing to share some details on how you did your program on wedding traditions? A picture would be wonderful!

  • Ambi

    This post is EXACTLY what I have been thinking about this weekend! My guy and I are getting much closer to being formally engaged, and we discussed how we will announce the news. We’ve decided to tell family and close friends, then post something like this on Facebook:

    “WE’RE ENGAGED! While we are so excited to be getting married, we are saddened that our gay and lesbian friends are not guaranteed the same right. In honor of our engagement, we’ve made a donation to Lambda Legal and would be thrilled if our news prompted others to do the same.”

  • Love this: “The greatest compliment we received was that the wedding was “so Ben and Kaytlin.” And that, to me, is a feminist wedding.”


  • so beautiful ! love the bride bouquet!

  • Sandra

    So the groom sounds like a nice fellow but i didn’t realise that anyone would be pro-sexual assault. Is it really necessary to point out that he is against it??

    • He actively works against sexual assault through educating other men and, in undergrad, he was the president of an organization called Men Against Sexual Violence. I think there is a different between not raping someone and working to eliminate sexual violence.