Hello, my name is Sarah. I am a 29-year-old feminist and I’m getting married. Welcome to my new column, “The Feminist Wedding Diaries,” where I navigate the minefield of tying the proverbial knot while attempting to stay true to my feminist identity.
It’s 2015, and the bridezilla stereotype is regrettably alive and well. It exists as a gendered slur to denigrate women planning weddings. If you don’t believe me, see the aptly named TV series Bridezillas, a long-running show about brides who are likened to monsters for caring about their weddings, and whose grooms apparently lack the basic life skills required to make seating charts. This spectacle ultimately produced ten whole seasons, wherein it followed women planning their weddings and made fun of them for…well, wanting their weddings to be nice.
Here’s the thing – the conception our society has of the heterosexual wedding is that it’s meant to be the bride’s “special day.” What that actually means for heteronormative constructions of wedding planning is that the girl is expected to do all the logistical heavy lifting when she’s marrying a boy. Why? Because apparently having boobs makes you better at choosing tasteful centerpieces.
Over the past year, many of my feminist friends have decided to take the matrimonial leap. They are, however, all resisting the notion that planning a wedding is women’s work. In fact, my YA writing partner Shalta just got engaged this past spring. Despite having been betrothed for six months, she and her fiancé have yet to set a date. Both busy professionals with thriving careers, they’re putting off committing to a plan until both parties have time to put in equal amounts of work. Brandishing the exquisite diamond infinity band he gave her, Shalta says she told her fiancé, “I already have the ring. If you want to have a big party with all your friends, I’m in, and I will plan that shit with you 50 per cent!”
Over vegan pizzas at Rawlicious in Yorkville, Shalta explained her distaste for straight guys who act like the “Anna Wintour” of their weddings: “I feel like in so many hetero couples, the woman does all the research, then presents her fiancé with proposals for a wedding menu or flowers. She does the work, but he gets veto power, like he’s editing the September issue of Vogue!”
Indeed, the retrograde notion of the happy housewife as her husband’s social secretary is not dead. It lives on in the expectation that brides will plan the perfect wedding their fiancé, friends and family will never forget! Of course, women planning hetero weddings morph into so-called bridezillas who scream a lot when they’re under that kind of pressure! Let me tell you, the task of finding an affordable photographer alone has been more challenging than writing my master’s thesis!
Cristen Conger, host of feminist podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You, is another feminist fiancé resisting expectations that she should micro-manage her big day. Conger says, “It’s amazing how I get 90% of all wedding-related questions from people, as if they assume my fiancé could care less about his wedding, when in fact he has more of a vision for it than I do.” Conger also points to the “pressure” brides feel to put on a “pitch-perfect event.” Indeed, women’s wedding planning has become something of a high-stakes professional sport. If only women’s basketball received as much attention, the WMBA would be in much better shape!
Since I cannot lie to you, Dear Wedding Diary, I have to admit, when I first got engaged, I reflexively began doing all the planning myself. As I Googled local florists and thought about favours, it honestly did not occur to me to ask for my fiance’s help. At the same time, like the girls on Bridezillas, I became overwhelmed by the idea of the whole event resting on my narrow shoulders. So committed was I to this solitary model of wedding planning, I was attempting tasks it made absolutely no sense for me to do.
Because my partner is Jewish and I was raised Anglican, we are having an inter-faith ceremony. I want my partner to feel our wedding reflects his heritage, just as I want it to reflect mine. Therefore, we have always envisioned having both a minister and a rabbi present on the day to officiate. That is a non-negotiable.
I personally grew up knowing many ministers who do inter-faith weddings, so choosing one was no challenge. Not being Jewish, however, I know approximately zero rabbis. But did I do the logical thing and ask for my fiancé’s assistance when it came to finding one? Nope! I was so convinced that everything wedding-related was my domain that I started frantically Googling “feminist-friendly Reform rabbis in GTA who do inter-faith weddings for affordable price.” I looked for rabbis like it was my job, but after weeks of searching, I was still plagued by insecurity. What if I accidentally picked a dud my in-laws hated? Having been to temple only once in my life (for a friend’s Bat Mitvah when I was 13), I didn’t really feel like an expert on identifying rabbinical talent.
After hitting this rabbinical wall, I eventually noticed a copy of Gender Trouble on the bookshelf and remembered that I’m a feminist. Jolted back to reality, I decided I didn’t have to perform my femininity by pretending it’s reasonable to do all the work for my nuptials. Finally, I was entertaining the idea of asking my fiancé for help!
If I’m being honest, however, when I first asked my life partner to be an equal partner in planning our wedding, part of me was still uncomfortable with the idea. A part of me (I guess the part of me that somehow slept through our entire Gender Studies major in undergrad?) felt inadequate for seeking wedding-related assistance from the groom. My inner sexist judged me for not intuitively knowing how to plan an inter-faith wedding party for 125 of our closest friends and relatives.
Ultimately, it was my fiancé’s reaction that convinced me I’d made the right choice by reaching out. When asked if he could source a suitable rabbi, he happily obliged. It turned out, committed feminist that he is, my partner never expected me to plan the wedding alone. I was the one who had internalized the sexist notion that, as a chick, I was somehow born with superior party planning skills.
Of course, my partner is a wonderful person. As a wedding co-planner, he is proving diligent, thoughtful, and creative. At the same time, I have resolved not to feel grateful for his help. Why is that? Well, ultimately, we are responsible for being equal partners to each other, and that means wedding planning parity! I do my share and he does his, because that’s how a feminist relationship works.
My failed attempt at micro-managing my wedding may have been foolish, but it did give me the following feminist epiphany: If you can’t get the person you’re marrying to help plan your wedding, how the hell do you expect to have an equal marriage? Sure, we all know the old adage, “Marriage is work,” but that should never mean one person is doing all the work.