Hello, Bitch readers! As you may or may not know, the summer wedding season is upon us. Much like the various holiday seasons, this can be a fraught time of joy, frustration, excitement, and a deep commitment to avoidance and procrastination.
Since I’m going to be writing about this joyous-ish season over the next eight weeks, I thought I’d take the opportunity to establish the context through which I’ll be exploring the various facets of nuptial nuance. This seems especially important given the fact that weddings are an extension of relationships and relationships are deeply personal things. Not to mention that marriage in general is quite the hot-button topic.
Let’s start at the beginning. I was not one of those little girls who dreamed about her wedding day. I didn’t have a particular aversion to it; I was just too busy trying to figure out how to use a battery and some wire to open up a new dimension in space-time or drawing treasure maps for my little brother. When my friends wanted to play wedding, I always tried to re-direct because I hated wearing dresses. I avoided princess games for the same reason.
As an opinionated teen (who of COURSE knew everything), I decided that the institution of marriage was generally a sham designed to subjugate women and promote unjust and immoral economic aims and therefore I would not be participating in said institution. Then eventually I met my partner and one thing led to the inevitable next and the discussion of marriage arose.
For years I held steadfastly to my teen-conviction as he presented every possible pro-marriage argument—romantic, legal, economic, you have it—for why we should get married. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that, at the time, we were in a long-term same-sex relationship (my partner transitioned last year) and all of the news coverage of same-sex couples being treated unequally in hospitals, with regard to estate matters, etc. led me to believe that it would be a good idea to have some civil protections. I didn’t want some homophobic nurse deciding I didn’t have the right to see my person in the hospital.
There was also the not-small fact that my partner and I had spent years putting a lot of energy and work into our relationship. It’s not an easy thing, to get to the place where you can comfortably say “I can see being an old fart with you.” We wanted to celebrate that, demarcate it. Our future fartiness.
Now we’re what my partner and I call “not-married.” What is “not-married,” you ask? Well, it’s what sometimes happens when you are in a same-sex relationship that feels like it should be taken to the next level, but you live in a country that won’t let you legally do that, and so you have a big ol’ bash in the wilds of Northern California—a state that likes to give you many of the same rights as straight-folk marriage, but call it a domestic partnership. So I’ve been “not-married” to my “not-husband” now for a year and a half.
Given my general suspicion of marriage, we decided to eschew every possible aspect of tradition when planning our wedding. We wanted it to truly be a celebration of our particular relationship, we didn’t want to go into debt over one weekend, and we wanted to be able to enjoy the day and remember it.
Most importantly, I wanted to be able to wear my dress to cocktail parties.—->
Every aspect of our wedding was symbolic of some aspect of our relationship we’d spent the last seven years working hard on and were proud of, from the location, to the invitations, to our vows, rings, and participatory ceremony. We even limited our guest list only to people who were actively involved in our lives, either individually or as a couple. Thirty people were in attendance, including us.
Throwing the traditional template out the window was the best thing we could have done.
Even with my not-marriage, though, I continue to have extremely complicated feelings about the institution of marriage itself. My not-husband semi-frequently bemoans my lack of romanticism about the whole thing, but much as I love him, I just can’t shake the nasty feel of the history marriage. But I, like every human, am a complex person. I believe in ritual as a means of integrating life’s changes and as a way to formalize and bring intentionality to the organic. A wedding ceremony is nothing if not a ritual; a way to honor your past with a person while acknowledging a deepened commitment to moving forward together.
Which brings me to the point of this story. Yes! I have a point!
Pop culture loves to tell you all about weddings and marriage. The messages tend to be played out, often troubling, frequently boring, and overly invested in economics. Movies, TV, magazine articles, Facebook ads, and blogs want you to do this or not do that, tell you what you should look like, what you should buy, say, write, even how you should kiss when the “big moment” arrives.
This series will not be that.
I’d like to spend the next eight weeks with you looking at the history of weddings and marriage in Western culture, talking about how marriage is used as a tool of civil and economic inequality, and how the gender binary plays a role in how we think about weddings and helps to fuel the wasteful consumerism associated with THE SPECIAL DAY. Mainly I’d like to look at how anyone can say NO to the pitfalls of the wedding industrial complex.
That sounds kind of heavy, though, huh. DON’T WORRY, that’s just the first half of the series.
I’ve also written a lot about fashion and art and culture and aesthetics, so we’re totally going to spend the second half of the series looking at outfits and decorations and fun stuff, too. Just not in a bossy way.
So. Let’s get married!! Or not. It’s up to you.