Anyone who has taken a Gender Studies class knows all the standard stuff about marriage being an exchange of chattel, property, protecting the paternity of babies, etc. We can see how these historical dynamics still affect us.
While it still impacts us, I think most Western women don't generally *feel* like this applies to us. We marry for love, we marry who we want and ultimately have agency and power in our choices. We're told the wedding is All About Us.
But there is still this tug-of-war that so many of us deal with — all the heavy Baggage of Marriage. The tension of needs and demands — ours, our partner's, our family's, our culture, our finances, our religion, etc — and we're stuck right in the middle of it. The process is fraught with a million potential mis-steps and there often doesn't seem to be the Magical Path by which all parties are satisfied. Many traditionalists would say that we (brides) need to suck it up and make everyone happy. When we assert our needs/wants we get labeled Bridezillas. But I thought this day was supposed to be all about us? Or was that just a marketing slogan?
We are expected to be the mediator of all these different parties. Will I look beautiful? Will fiance be as jazzed I am? Will my mom/dad/Aunt Sally pull some serious drama? How are we paying for this? Will the women in my life control/demean/insult me when I'm trying on dresses like they always seem to do on Say Yes to the Dress? Will my future mother in law be ok if we don't have a Wedding Industrial Complex-style huge reception, etc? Will I take his name? What does that say about me if I do/don't?
It's enough to drive even well-adjusted, unique, creative and loving women a little batshit.
My first wedding I just acquiesced to the pressure (shotgun — yay?) that my ex-husband placed on me. I let my family deal with all the chores of marriage and basically showed up and did the deed. For such a feminist (went to Mills College, openly queer to my family in HS, punk-goth kid), I was the ultimate Passive Girl when it came to this. So unlike me — I still marvel at the zombie possession (aka pregnancy, wanting the baby, willing to make others happy to have him).
This time around, I am driving this train. I am the one who wants to get married, and very intently. I have been looking at this wedding as an act of freedom, and act of self-determination. I have been with my fiance for five years. I know his bad side, I know his good side. I'm 36, I am divorced, I am a mother of two. I am under no illusions that marriage is a big basket of puppy-cuddles, but I still want to spend the rest of my life with my best friend, with the man who always has my back, loves my children intently and will do his absolute best for his family.
But even now, as an All Growed Up Woman, I feel those pressures weighing down on me. I can only imagine how paralyzing it could be for younger women. It paralyzed me into passivity. I honor all the women here for consciously choosing their own vision, of making their wedding, their marriage as an act of freedom, not conformity.
I feel like since I've already gotten through the roughest part of child-rearing and have managed to parent two loving, awesome, talented sons I am simply not willing to take shit about something as trivial my centerpieces. I have put myself through nursing school and earned a Masters in the process, so anyone who wants to complain about my registry can kiss my ass. I watched as my ex-husband spent five years refusing help with his drug abuse and mental illness before finally divorcing him, so anyone who wants to talk shit about my big white dress at my big second wedding in a church can seriously go fuck themselves.
Thank you all for being a beacon, for being a reminder that while all that crap is there (and won't totally disappear) that there is something more to weddings and marriage than either an exchange of chattel or of insurmountable pressures — that it's an act where WE get to CHOOSE to be with the person WE want. We have the honor and opportunity to undertake serious (and sacred, in my opinion) commitments (and yes, obligations) with the person that WE choose.
Yes, this is joining of two people, two families and some compromises and concessions will be made. That's a good thing. Losing ourselves, our vision and and our sanity in the process? Not so much.