Choose a coloured dress, keep your maiden name and refuse to be given away. Weddings are being reinvented as more brides shun tradition in favour of a more feminist celebration.
Wedding industry members both here and overseas report recognising the trend, with high-profile celebrity weddings helping popularise the growing drift away from a traditional big day.
Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel and Anne Hathaway all opted for pink dresses for their big day and designers Oscar De La Renta and Vera Wang have both launched daring collections of non-white wedding dresses.
Stacey Copas confronted wedding tradition head on when she got married to her fiance last year. Not only did the 34-year-old wear a green wedding dress she bought online for $40, she kept her maiden name, had non-traditional vows and didn't go away on honeymoon. “It was anything but traditional,” says the inspirational speaker from Adelaide. “Traditional weddings are so predictable, boring and outdated. I have never had the desire to be a 'princess for a day'. I definitely didn't want that whole centre of attention thing.”
Copas explains why it was important for her to change some elements of the wedding ceremony. “As far as the vows went I was definitely not going to be obey. We are very much equal so I definitely didn't want to have any of that. I guess it almost comes across as being quite submissive so that was something I definitely didn't want. Keeping my name was very important to me as well because I guess that's my identity so I was very keen to hang on to that.”
Copas is not the only one. British newspaper the Daily Mail recently reported that a survey of 200 brides-to-be, conducted by online wedding directory Wedding Days.co.uk, found that “doing away with the engagement ring, choosing not to be 'given away like property' and wearing a colour other than white are key themes gaining traction in the feminist wedding trend”.
The survey also found that almost a quarter of women planned to keep their maiden name after marriage, while one in 10 were planning to wear a colour other than white on their wedding day.
Dr Zora Simic, lecturer in women's and gender studies at the University of New South Wales, says a general trend towards non-traditional marriage under the influence of feminism has been evident since the 1970s. “Obvious signs of course include the bride keeping her surname, not being 'given' away and not wearing white. If these practices seem normal now it is a good indication that feminism has had a positive influence on the institution of marriage.”
Simic insists however that it is possible to have a feminist wedding and marriage. “It would be silly to consign the whole institution beyond feminist thought, especially given the multiple ways to be a feminist” she adds.
But, she cautions, “it is worth remembering that evidence suggests that marriage continues to be more beneficial for men than for women; that divorce is a big factor in the femininisation of poverty. That said, I think the marriages that start off with a feminist wedding and according to feminist principles are probably more likely to benefit both partners, whether they be opposite or same sex.”
For her wedding, Kelly Holcroft from Balmain, Sydney, wore a chocolate brown wedding dress and had a vintage tea party “with a short ceremony thrown in on the side. To me big fluffy weddings seem like a waste of money. Being a princess for a day didn't interest me at all and having huge expensive ring again was too opulent.
“I also like the thought of being my own person," she adds. “I didn't want anyone to give me away or to say a speech on my behalf (we didn't have our parents say anything). This was our opportunity to thank all of our family and friends for being so great.”
Australian online wedding blogger, the Polka Dot Bride, says she too has detected an increase in non-traditional weddings. She views this “as a movement as a whole, not purely because of feminism but rather as couples themselves throw out traditions that don't mean anything to them and instead personalise their wedding day to be more about them, their style and who they are as a couple”.
“Whether that is wearing a shorter dress, choosing an art gallery as a venue or seeing each other before the ceremony — with more weddings showcasing the differences, couples are able to see that it's perfectly fine to do whatever you want. I think that comes from a confidence with couples getting married now too. They have generally been living together for a while, they generally have a good sense of who they are and what they want out of life and they generally have investment, monetary wise in the wedding themselves.”