Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A patriarchy-free, non-traditional wedding

A lot of people have found this blog by Googling ‘feminist wedding’. Now the wedding is done and dusted, sigh, maybe this post will be more conclusive…


When we began planning our wedding, there were several things we took into consideration:

1 – The word ‘tradition’ had nothing to do with our wedding.
2 – We wanted to support independent businesses whenever possible.
3 – We wanted food and drinks to be locally sourced.
4 – We didn’t want our guests to feel under pressure to cough up.
5 – We had a maximum budget of £2,000 for EVERYTHING. (The average wedding in the UK currently costs £21,000.)

Initially, I was caught up in the wave of materialism and bought a fat wedding magazine at the extortionate price of £5. It was filled with shiny adverts, and pictures of conventionally pretty, slim, Caucasian models in enormous and expensive white dresses. As well as ideas for favours that were a “snip” at £25. Each. I even saw a cake for £900.

This was not our kind of wedding. And that quickly became a much-repeated phrase when planning our wedding.


Another factor was that I wanted our wedding to be proof that it was possible to have a feminist wedding. As the months went by, I had to lessen that expectation. Weddings are inherently caught up in the patriarchy – the very concept involves a woman being passed from one man to another (assuming it’s a heterosexual wedding). BUT it is possible to lessen the patriarchal impact and that’s what we tried to do.

From the outset, I made it clear my father would not be giving me away. As a 33-year-old, I haven’t lived in his house for 15 years, so – by the logic that I am going from one man’s house to another – it would have made more sense for my landlord to give me away. Instead, my fiancé and I walked in to the ceremony together, starting married life as we meant to go on.

The ceremony was in the smallest room possible at the council registry office, and I requested a female registrar. We had 20 guests, meaning it was very intimate. There was no mention of obeying or ownership, and when the registrar handed me the marriage certificate afterwards she did so without (thankfully) making reference to the fact that the certificate is always given to the woman because she is seen as the one wearing the trousers.

For my thoughts on the surname issue, please click here. In short: yes, I changed my name.


 Not being particularly ‘girly’, I get my hair cut by whichever salon is doing a Groupon voucher at the right time. So that was my wedding hair sorted – £40 for wash, cut and style. Perfect! My hairdresser, Sarah, created an unfussy, uncomplicated style that was different enough from how I normally wear my hair, but not so ridiculous that I didn’t look like me.

For cakes, we wanted fresh cupcakes, and conveniently one of my two bridesmaids has a pastry chef cousin, who lives locally and runs a cake-making business from her kitchen. I booked her without even tasting her cakes. We made the cupcake at the top look more impressive with a £1.99 ice fountain from Sainsbury’s. Big thanks to Ruth at House of Cupcakes.

Wedding photographers have a reputation for being invasive, expensive and charging you to print your own pictures. We also didn’t want a stranger intruding on our day. But then I thought of my friend Liz… who is one of the directors of the BBC’s Frozen Planet and a mind-blowingly brilliant photographer. And Liz has done us proud – I can’t recommend or thank her enough. (She took all the pictures on this post, by the way.)

My dress and shoes came from a high street shop. My jewellery was from an online retailer and aided by a discount code, and I also borrowed my maternal grandmother’s wedding ring. One of my bridesmaids kindly did my make-up, after we went for a lengthy (and free) consultation at Benefit.

Invitations were designed and handmade by my wonderful mum, who also took charge of the flowers and my posy. 

 Our reception was at Goldbrick House on Park Street, where we hired the Library and Study at the very top of the building. It’s a wonderfully decorated venue, and has the feel of an old-fashioned members’ club. It’s thankfully not in a chain, and all food and drink is locally sourced wherever possible. Katherine and her team went to great lengths to decorate the rooms how we wanted, and to accommodate my every whim.

My chief bridesmaid, who’s a graphic designer, created some stunning posters that we decorated the reception with. Bunting, decorated paper birds and fairy lights were sourced cheap online, but the piece de resistance at the reception was an old shop window display of paper birds on metal poles that the lovely staff at Oasis in Cribbs Causeway kindly donated to me when they changed their window display. This tied perfectly with our birds and books theme.

We were lucky that our hotel, registry office and reception venue were all within walking distance of each other. It was lovely to walk through our city in our wedding clothes – without coughing up for an unnecessary car (and its fumes).

And THAT is a whistle-stop tour of how we managed to achieve our wedding for just under £2,000, yet still have the day we wanted. And hopefully we managed to do this without conforming to the traditional and patriarchal expectations of the institution of marriage. Phew!

Please feel free to share your suggestions for a patriarchy-free, low-cost wedding in the comments section below.

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