Planning a Feminist Wedding

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Lindsay Marie MacAllister. Lindsay Marie works for an anti-poverty non-profit agency as the Program Coordinator. She attended the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counselor and Advocate program at George Brown College as well as school for Psychology at Queen’s University. Lindsay currently lives in a small town in Northern Ontario in Canada with her two dogs and partner. You can follow her on Twitter @LindzMcAllister.

Since I am getting married in two weeks, and at this point, can barely go a few minutes without thinking of something I still need to do, it would be the most appropriate topic for me to write on. When my partner and I decided to get engaged, I knew I would need to incorporate my feminist beliefs into the ceremony and planning process. As I mentioned we decided to get married together, there was no pressure for a huge proposal on my male partner or expectation that I wait quietly and patiently for him to propose when I was not willing to do so. We knew we wanted to spend forever together and that was all that mattered to us. We both got each other an engagement ring, only fair really, and went about sharing the news with our friends and family, together.

Planning a wedding involves a lot of compromise between the bride and groom; it is a big day for both people, not just the Bride. In our case, my partner cared about one thing beyond the two of us spending the rest of our lives together, that his parents and siblings be there at the ceremony. Through discussion we decided that if I gave up my dream wedding in Jamaica on the beach and had it locally, the rest of the details could be my choice. We chose to go with a toned down Scottish themed wedding, a rustic outdoors affair, with brown as the main color, a favorite for both of us.

Watching an obsessive amount of bridal television shows, such as “Rich Bride Poor Bride” and “Say Yes To The Dress,” helped me to pin-down some of the ideas that seemed to fit well with our dream day. Those combined with some good old fashioned research into the traditions surrounding weddings also helped me figure out what I really didn’t want. The first thing my partner and I both agreed on was that since we were paying for the wedding ourselves, we would not be controlled by the wishes of family; all decisions were to be ours and ours alone. Parents were only allowed to invite friends when we determined how much room was still available after our guest lists were complete. It is after all, our day, and we only want people who truly love and support us in every way to share with us in this celebration.

The second thing I knew I didn’t want was to be given away by anyone. Many brides love this tradition but I cannot ignore that the historical significance of this directly points to the fact that women used to literally be owned. Owned like a piece of property or livestock was. The father was required to give his permission for the young woman to be married and at this time, ownership was transferred from the father to the now husband. As a result, my choice is to walk up the aisle alone and independent. Finally, the veil, which is based on the tradition of arranged marriage and the bride and groom literally not seeing each other until they are married or the wedding. So needless to say, I won’t be wearing a veil.

One thing we still plan on doing is making a donation to an organization that supports the effort to allow true freedom of choice when it comes to marriage, which to me means allowing same-sex marriage. We have not yet selected our charity of choice so if you have a suggestion and some information on the non-profit agency, please post the information in the comments section. My final thoughts; when planning a feminist wedding remember your strength as an individual, your love as a couple and never forget your priorities; this is after all, your life and your choice.


  1. Weddings are a funny thing, loaded with tons of patriarchal tropes and expectations that can suffocate the bride. When my husband and I got married, we pretty much planned the entire wedding together and chose not to participate in many of the classic wedding activities like tossing the bouquet and retrieving the garter (which I think is soooo distasteful to watch let alone let my husband bury his head up my skirt at our wedding with people to witness and take pictures!) and all the spot light dances, etc. I learned that the tradition of tossing the bouquet comes from older English traditions where it was thought good luck to acquire something of the bride’s, so often at weddings the bride’s dress would get torn and her accessories stolen–so to avoid being accosted at her own wedding the tradition of throwing the bouquet was established, to keep the animals at bay(!)

    • Wow, Kim! Thanks for giving us the scoop on the wedding bouquet toss.

      My partner and I had a similar process for planning our commitment ceremony. We went through a Pagan handfasting book and picked out the parts that we liked the best, we wrote our own vows, and the ceremony itself lasted all of 10 minutes. No one gave anyone away. We had 4 friends witness the event and participate in the ceremony. And then we grilled hot dogs on the beach with a few more friends after the vows were exchanged.

      I think weddings should be whatever the partners getting hitched want the ceremony/reception to be like. Ultimately, it’s about the couple – so it should be entirely their preference about what is said and done.

  2. Great article, Lindsay. Some organizations to consider making that donation to: Courage Campaign, Marriage Equality USA, Canvass For a Cause, and/or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

    The Courage Campaign is near and dear to my heart though…. so that would ultimately be my vote.

  3. Good luck! I, too, learned a LOT about compromise and communication and negotiation during the wedding planning phase. I never expected to get married, let alone to a man more traditional than me (although when we talked about it, it made sense–for good and ill, women have so many more things to rebel against!); so it was quite a learning experience to put my feminist impulses to the test. The giving away I’ve LOATHED to the point that my father and I had a deal in place since I was about twelve: if I was dating a man foolish enough to ask for my hand in marriage my dad could either say (if we loved him) “Hello! Do you have any idea who you’re dating?” or (if we didn’t) “I’m sorry, my daughter is not a cow!” Luckily my husband wasn’t a hand-asker!

    I was also thankful the Jewish tradition had the built-in both parents walk both kids down the aisle. Could I have lived without the walking altogether? Absolutely but as I’m sure everyone in a relationship has learned, I had to pick my battles and that wasn’t one I cared too much about.

    The other thing I’ve found is that the issues that were the toughest for us to handle at the time ended up being great practice for married life. My husband seemed to have a meltdown when I said I didn’t want to be announced as “Mrs” anyone, since I wasn’t changing my name, and, if we were going to be all formal about it, I was actually a “Dr” (yeah, he loved that!) But after we talked it through I realized that he just gets emotional about some things and needs time to see beyond his own point of view. For him, the wedding was totally different than “real life.” Who knows what he’d been imagining in his mind? We came up with a compromise announcement and lived to dance another day. Now he thinks it’s funny that neither of his parents seem to be able to get my name right. I’m just glad our written correspondence is limited to birthday cards!

    Best of luck and enjoy enjoy enjoy!!!!!

  4. Wedding/engagement rings are a symbol of ownership, which is why I refuse to wear one. If this couple really wants equality, they must get rid of their rings. They may as well brand themselves with the other’s name.

  5. I would have do disagree with Eric on this. Wedding rings don’t state that you belong to someone but rather that you have made a promise to be with someone for the rest of your life and stay faithful to that someone. They are not about ownership of one partner over the other. I found it very powerful that Lindsay choice to walk down the aisle alone in order to avoid that image of a father “giving” his daughter away to the groom. Way to go, I have never seen this before.

  6. So, eithout a ring, a person cant fulfill their promise? Will they otherwise forget?

    He knows about the marriage. She knows, your friends and families also know. Who do the rings inform? The only people that don’t know are strangers. Why does a person need a symbol to state to strangers something they both already know. This is most similar to the branding of cows, a visible symbol of ownership, so nobody runs off with the person’s property. Such symbols are wholly anti-feminist.

    The woman walking down without the men suggests that they are not equal, that she is somehow superior and therefore deserves more attention.

    We walked down together, which is the whole idea of marriage.

    • Eric, I have to say your views on rings seem pretty extremist to me. The symbolism of a ring is going to mean different things to different people. I fully support your decision not to wear rings because it has negative connotations to you, but to other people it can and does symbolize many other things (like love, trust, etc). Wearing something that’s symbolic of another person does not necessarily mean that you are being branded by them. I wear a piece of jewelry I received from my grandpa who passed away because it symbolizes my love for him. This doesn’t mean I’m branded by him, or that I will ever forget him if I’m not wearing it, it just means that I wanted the symbolism of being “connected” to him at every moment. If I choose to have a ring involved in my marriage then it will have similar meaning, not the meaning that you derive from it. You have no right to define who I am or what something means to me or my partner, or anyone else at all for that matter.

  7. Just landed here while randomly googling and wanted to share that I got a little shiver reading about walking up the aisle alone. It just sounds like a dramatically beautiful gesture, something that fits perfectly with what a wedding can be be in my mind.

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