How to Have a Feminist Wedding

Photo by Annie Lovett

I have conflicting feelings about weddings. On one hand, weddings are joyful celebrations of love and I’m smitten by them. On the other hand, they’re an expensive societal expectation and full of bridal traditions that reinforce the patriarchy and prescribed gender roles.

I once doubted I’d find someone to marry who would understand how important feminism is to me — fortunately, I was wrong. Enter Michael, the now-husband who became a love interest after his agreeable response to one of the first questions I asked him: “Are you a feminist?”

This year, I know I wasn’t the only feminist bride to take a hard look at tradition and reinvent the rules — the world watched Meghan Markle do it at her Royal Wedding to Prince Harry. My own British-American wedding was a month later. Michael and I were also very intentional in ensuring our wedding reflected the foundation of our marriage: Equality. Gender equality is an issue important to both of us outside our marriage, too (ahem, She’s the First).

We believe equality is the most important element to marriage, whether you’re a man and a woman or a same-sex couple. If your partner does not see you and treat you as an equal in your relationship, get out now! There is no future in that.

When equality is the foundation for your love and life together, how you choose to symbolize your commitment is up to you. It’s not one-size-fits-all, nor black and white; there are more shades of grey than you can imagine. I am a feminist and yet I choose to cave into societal expectations to wear high heels and makeup (but also, I enjoy being tall and playing with eyeshadow). I chose not to have an engagement ring, a veil, or bouquet toss, but I know feminists who did. You decide.

The questions we keep asking of brides, however — “How did he propose?” “Who will walk you down the aisle?” “Did you find the dress?” — indicate to me that non-traditional examples aren’t mainstream enough.

So I thought I’d take a moment to share some conscious feminist choices we made when getting hitched. I’m speaking to the experience I know as a straight woman; same sex couples are reinventing wedding traditions even more wonderfully by default. Bottom line: You have more options than romantic comedies and magazines would have you think!

  1. THE ENGAGEMENT

I always knew that I didn’t want to be proposed to. If anything, I wanted to do the proposing! Michael thought that an engagement should be a mutually decided upon moment. So we picked a day, 1,000 days after our first date, to get engaged. I didn’t see the point in spending a lot of money on an engagement ring when all I really wanted was a wedding ring. And I never understood why engaged women got accessorized but not engaged men. So Michael and I decided to exchange jewelry for our wrists. I got a MantraBand and he refurbished an old watch with a new strap and plans to get the back of it engraved with our date. We spent the day doing our favorite things.

2. CREATE YOUR CEREMONY

We ended up getting married legally at City Hall three months before our wedding, so that we could get started on Michael’s spousal visa paperwork. This gave us total freedom to customize our wedding ceremony in June. We found a celebrant in Scotland who worked with us to craft a ceremony that messaged our values and incorporated readings we loved. We wrote and exchanged our own vows. This eliminated such common lines as, “You may kiss the bride.” We are both fully capable of initiating our own PDA! If you are having a religious ceremony, I would imagine that you could find a progressive religious leader who is extra conscious of reinforcing your equality message. Just as we did to find our perfect celebrant, do some interviewing and be very clear about what matters to you and what’s off limits.

3. YOUR GRAND ENTRANCE

I loved how Meghan Markle walked down most of the aisle herself. Her presence was strong, confident and powerful. Michael and I decided to make a grand entrance down the aisle together, following a processional of our siblings, best friends, and parents. We kept our outfits a secret to each other and had a “first look” before the ceremony. Normally, like Katherine Heigel’s character in 27 Dresses, I am totally that person who looks at the groom’s face when the bride walks down the aisle. And yet, that’s not the experience we wanted for ourselves. For us, there was nothing more exhilarating than walking into the room together, seeing the faces of 50 family and friends from all walks of life, while holding hands with our best friend — each other.

4. DRESS SHOPPING IS OVERRATED

Ugh. I was not a bride who enjoyed this experience. While I had saved up and was ready to spend money on a wedding, dumping hundreds of dollars on a dress — and let’s face it, the average dress is well over a grand — was ludicrous to me. Investing in my wedding ring made sense. It’s part of my body for the rest of my life. The dress you only wear one day! When I told bridal shops I wanted to spend less than $300 on a dress, they practically laughed me out of the store. Every bridal magazine and Instagram post suggested I should be loving this splurge. In the end, I found a dress for less than $200 at David’s Bridal. It was beautiful and folded without wrinkling in my suitcase. So, if you also don’t want to spend an unspeakable amount on a dress you wear for less than a day, stick to your guns. Do not let bridal shops instill the fear in you that you will not find anything. (Sidenote: If anyone who is my size would like my dress, I’d be delighted to share it with you.) Also, while I will admit the first time I put on a bridal gown made me giddy with excitement, it quickly became more frustrating than fairy tale. It’s okay to feel that way. You may have other things you want to be doing!

This dress was not only a bargain — it was perfect for jumping.

5. THE WONDERS OF PORTMANTEAU

This fancy term means the blending of two or more words into one, and I absolutely love it. First introduced to me by celebrity tabloids (Brangelina, Bennifer, etc.), I began to see the value of these fusions when wedding hashtags became a thing. Michael and I decided neither would legally change our name when married, so we loved the idea of having a nickname, to avoid anyone calling us “Mr. & Mrs.” or “The Walters.” #Walbetts was born. In his speech, even my dad said he loved this name, as he didn’t have to pick “Tammy & Michael” or “Michael & Tammy.” “The Walbetts” represents us both as we want to be — a united front!

6. HOLD YOUR OWN PURSESTRINGS

Harkening back to my dress example, spend money on what matters to YOU, and not to anyone else. We also chose to not do paper invites, because I am a Canva.com whiz and why spend so much money on something that people will eventually throw away? One of the benefits of getting married in your 30s or later is that you can pay for your wedding yourself and therefore, all the decisions are solely yours.

7. A TOAST

Meghan Markle reportedly gave a toast at her wedding reception, which made headlines for breaking royal protocol. At our reception, I didn’t feel strongly about speaking because I do so publicly for work all the time and I said what mattered most during our vows. It was important to Michael, however, to pass the mic to me, and it was just another way to show that while we are as unified as our nickname, we do have separate and individual voices. Even if you hate public speaking, consider each adding your own words in making a toast to your guests.

How do you plan to make your wedding feminist? Please share any other ideas you have, as you may inspire other brides and grooms!