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chris and clemmie 2

I went to Chris and Clemmie’s wedding last week, a fantastic celebration of two people committing themselves to each other surrounded by family and friends, the kind of wedding where everything within you sings a joyful hallelujah as you watch it unfold. I loved how they had subverted elements of the traditional service to create a ceremony that celebrated their unique relationship and what they each brought to it.

Not all weddings find that response in me. Traditional weddings are not kind to women. They render us silent and submissive. They pass us from one man to another. They expect us to be beautiful but nothing more. I remember a wedding many years ago where I drank too much wine, and found myself more and more enraged at the gendered stereotypes being enacted in front of me. That wedding – and a few similar ones since – inspired this rant.

Don’t invite me to weddings any more

Don’t invite me to weddings
where every second of the experience
has been creatively curated,
but no one has deconstructed the story
that tradition tells about women and men.

Don’t invite me to weddings where Patriarchy is the unacknowledged guest of honour
and has vetted the entire proceedings to ensure he will not be embarrassed,
where he settles into his chair on the front row
legs spread wide,
hands folded over his fat belly,
smug smile upon his face,
waiting to see his disciples perpetuate his will.

Don’t invite me to weddings
where only men speak from the front
and have no awareness of their power and privilege,
where the wisdom of the women in the room,
and their lifetimes’ experience of emotional labour,
is left untapped and disregarded.

Don’t invite me to weddings
where we hear over and over again
how beautiful is the bride,
and the bridesmaids,
and the bride’s mother,
but we hear nothing about what they do,
or what they think,
or what they have achieved.

Don’t invite me to weddings
where teenage girls watch expectantly,
imagining what might be in their future,
but all that is being enacted for them
is a tired, toxic stereotype
that restricts and limits and offers them a box,
when the world should be theirs
and everything that’s in it.

Don’t invite me to weddings
where the women are passive and silent,
apart from a few moments
of thanking the woman who made the dress,
and the woman who made the cake,
and the women who served the coffee,
and the women who looked after the children.
Especially when these passive, silent women
are feisty, intelligent, loud and passionate
in every other part of their life.

Don’t let me drink wine at these weddings
because that only makes things worse.

Don’t invite me to weddings
where to express an opinion
about what is being performed in front of you
is deemed dangerous and deviant.

Don’t invite me to these weddings,
because I will be the badly-behaved crone in the corner,
who refuses to be bewitched by pulled pork and prosecco,
who sits muttering about equality and agency,
who heckles in the speeches,
who leaves the room when the best man speaks for the bridesmaids
because I think my head will explode.

Instead, invite me to weddings
where the bride looks amazing (and so does the groom)
but no one thinks to mention it
because we are so busy talking about her passion, her wisdom, her dreams and her deeds,
and what she looks like is the least interesting thing about her.

Invite me to weddings where the matriarchs,
the grandmothers and mothers, sisters and aunts, cousins and friends,
line up to contribute their wisdom,
speaking out memories of the past and proclaiming blessings for the future,
as they tuck this new couple into the herstory of the families.

Invite me to weddings where the woman and man have designed their day,
not from hours spent on Pinterest,
but from deep conversations about how they will share life together –
the chores and the achievements,
the routine and the remarkable,
the sacrifice and the celebration –
starting with this rich, subversive ceremony
where they each have space to be their own true selves.

Invite me to these weddings
and I will probably still drink too much wine,
but I will be the crone in the corner
singing quiet hallelujahs,
raising a glass to the two made one,
hopeful for what they will become.

 

 

 

Photo: Jonny Baker

 

8 thoughts on “Don’t invite me to weddings any more

    • I love this Victoria! It’s not that difficult to redeem oppressive traditions, and it surprises me that more people don’t do it. Sounds like your day was really true to who you both are. (By the way, I was really sorry to hear about your dad)

  1. Jenny, very well said. Thank you.
    I too remember being enraged towards the end of a friend’s wedding where she had been effectively sidelined all day and all evening. The wedding – the most lavish I have ever seen – was at Blenheim Palace; the band of the Grenadier Guards bearskins n all marched and played outside for us; nobs and potentates attended – yet dear Sue was a mere decoration. It felt like a business presentation. A bad one.
    Here’s to a changing of the guard.
    Well done you.
    Adrian
    x

  2. This!! A thousand times this!!
    I’m a wedding celebrant and my mission is to rid the world of these toxic ceremonies and replace them with joyful, thoughtful ones instead.
    Thank you for this amazing post.

  3. oh dear, you do take life seriously. My experience suggests the bride is usually the one most keen for aTraditional wedding if she has one. as for nobody carin g what the bride looks like – in what universe?

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