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The rise of the feminist wedding

Date

Sandy Smith

Actor Jessica Biel wore a pink dress when she married Justin Timberlake ...

Actor Jessica Biel wore a pink dress when she married Justin Timberlake ... Photo: Getty

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.

... as did Anne Hathaway when she married Adam Shulman last year.

... as did Anne Hathaway when she married Adam Shulman last year. Photo: Getty

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 “Traditional weddings are so predictable, boring and outdated.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.”

203 comments

  • I thought the brides pictured in the article would be examples of non feminist weddings, a fluffy dress that is slightly pink isn't exactly revolutionary.
    12 years ago I married in a red dress, no one gave me away, and neither of us promised to obey each other. While it was an uncommon wedding to the ones I'd attended, it was not rare or shocking to anyone.

    Commenter
    Clare
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 8:02AM
    • Interesting. In 1974 we were married by a celebrant, I wore dark blue, no one gave me away, no wedding ring.....and we are still together. Many couples married in a less formal way in that era as Gough Whitlam had introduced the concept of Marriage Celebrants to end the choice of church or Registry Office only. So really, there is nothing new about this story. The 70s was the time of real change....not the present.

      Commenter
      Kerry
      Location
      Byron Bay
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 8:47AM
      • I was thinking the same thing.

        Having lived through the seventies, when I married at 37, in 1990, I wore my 'best dress' (which was a sand colour silk skirt suit), we got married in the loungroom with a celebrant and three witnesses, no one gave me away and neither of us changed our names.

        The trend seems to have been the other way since then, so anything that isn't absolutely traditional gets put forth as being a 'new trend'. Finger in the dyke, seems to me.

        Commenter
        bornagirl
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 12:23PM
      • Good for you, marriage is a religious brainwashing power push by mysoginist churches afraid of female potency, go girls

        Commenter
        Joe Cool
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 12:37PM
      • With no wedding ring i would question whether you were in fact married.

        Commenter
        Drew
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 1:03PM
      • What an extraordinary comment, Drew.
        Do you really think it's the ring that makes a woman married? What about all the married blokes out there who don' t wear a ring. The Marriage certificate I received from the then NSW government confirms that I am .......not that I need to justify it anyway.
        Marriage is just a great way to show your commitment to each other and consolidate your relationship.......if you feel the need.

        Commenter
        Kerryh
        Location
        Byron Bay
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 2:14PM
      • who cares who married you?What revolution?Celebrants were just cheaper.If you didnt want a Church or civil wedding why did you bother?,you might as well have just bought your big ticket items in joint names..I cant see any sense in just slightly changing the process and pretending its a revolution.Gay marriage, legalising the sexual acts (which is what marriage is really about, legally) is revolutionaryt, nad if you dont see why, then Im not telling you.

        Commenter
        Jane
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 2:21PM
      • Seems as though the times are simply moving to reflect current day values.

        Why then, is the article titled "The rise of the feminist wedding"?

        Commenter
        $keptic
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 4:31PM
      • It's the GenYs. They think they invented everything, like sex and that their morality is better than anyone's. So apparently, they were the ones who went against 'tradition' first ... or that oatmeal was a super food.
        Just roll your eyes and change the topic. They're completely oblivious to anyone but themselves or their smartphones.

        Commenter
        Knee Jerk
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 7:40PM
      • Drew, why would anyone care whether you'd question their marriage status? Are you the Wedding Ring Police?

        Commenter
        Cynthia P
        Date and time
        September 20, 2013, 8:03AM

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