When my friends Liz and Kris got engaged this spring, I was quickly sent back to my own memories of engagement, wedding planning, and such. Liz and I are not ideological twins or anything, but a lot of the assumptions about women and weddings that irked me so much during my engagement were beginning to irk her after only a few weeks, a fact which I found both unfortunate (for her) and reassuring (for me). This led me to do some Amazon-based research on books approaching weddings from a feminist perspective, or at least an anti-wedding-industry perspective, of which I found a few and bought one (for now).
Earlier this summer I really enjoyed reading the book I chose, I Do, But I Don’t: Walking Down the Aisle Without Losing Your Mind, which mixed memoir with cultural critique. The author, Kamy Wicoff (pronounced like “Amy” with a K), was funny, easy to relate to, and as passionate a feminist as I am. I particularly appreciated the fact that she questioned nearly everything about weddings… and yet, she wussed out of actually going against the grain all the time when it came to hers. Even though there were points where I thought she didn’t go far enough to live our her beliefs, I related to the tension she felt and was comforted that I was not alone in “compromising” in certain ways. I think many readers who identify less strongly as feminists would appreciate that Wicoff didn’t simply discard all traditions and that she can relate to herself and others as women walking a confusing path—not as simply being sell-outs.
I wanted to take some time to note a few things she brought up in the book, as well as to describe my own experience as Jeremiah’s feminist fiancée, in the blog series, which will be forthcoming. I’ve been interested in blogging about this for a while, but I think the distance of a year and a half from our own wedding, plus reading Wicoff’s book, has finally motivated me to organize my thoughts for the blogosphere. As a preview, though, let me say this:
Once someone asked me, “Don’t you just love being engaged?” I tried to stay calm, but part of me wanted to scream. NO! I hated being engaged. On so many levels. I am not a very patient person, so I hated waiting to be married, generally. I hated the fact that I felt so married and yet wouldn’t be so recognized by others until I had a ceremony—which has its value, but is not as important as our relationship itself, for goodness sakes, so why did people see me as 86% not-married until that day, rather than the 93% married I felt? But most of all, I really hated all the assumptions about gender roles in the wedding planning process, everyone’s supposing my glee about being a bride, and the pressure to have a certain sort of wedding.
Jeremiah always thought it was easy enough to do things our own way and move on, but for me, it always felt there was this monstrous sociological force pressuring me to be a certain kind of woman and looking at me with bewildered pity every time I deviated from the norm. Obviously I, like Wicoff, have some insecurities in this realm, but I don’t think those should discount our experiences. It was disconcerting to see myself becoming more concerned about how others saw me and “fitting in” than I’d been since middle school, but I guess that’s what happens when you feel like some sort of alien of a woman. Getting married pushed me to confront our culture’s expectations about gender in a way I had never anticipated, and while it’s made me a more aware feminist, I still look on it as a rather stressful—and in many ways, lonely—experience.
Some of the topics I plan to cover over the next few days/weeks (not sure yet!) include getting engaged, rings, the dress, the planning process, bachelor- and bachlorette-type things, and details of the ceremony and celebration. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your own experiences or reflections relating to gender and weddings!
This series is continued in Pt. 2a.