“Today, I think most marriages aim for equality. Let’s move away from making it her special day and start making it their special day.”
Marriage equality has been in the news lately, mostly related to North Carolina’s decision to enshrine other-sex only marriage in the state constitution. Although I’m in favor of allowing same sex couples to be legally married and letting religious institutions make their own decisions, I’m tired of talking about who has the legal right to get married and who doesn’t. I want to talk about some ways we can make wedding ceremonies more about them and less about her.
If we really think that married couples should be equals, then the ceremony we attend should treat them that way. I don’t just mean the vows they take, I mean the whole thing. I think it’s time to take a deeper look at how we think about weddings and what they symbolize, not just about who can get married. If a couple’s marriage is based on equality, it should start that way.
In a day and age where both members of the couple will likely hold full time jobs in order to make ends meet and have a chance of moving up the ladder, why send the message that paying for the wedding is the responsibility of her parents? We don’t live in a culture where there’s a dowry or bride-price from the groom to her parents, and our culture doesn’t treat women as chattel to be married off, so why are her parents still the one’s expected to pay for the wedding? Shouldn’t his folks be kicking in some money?
More importantly, where are the bride and groom in this? If we assume that they both (will) contribute to paying the other bills, shouldn’t they both be paying for the wedding? I understand the couple may not be in a position to contribute much money to this event, but they should be paying for some of it. It is their wedding, after all. And if they can’t afford very much, then perhaps this is their first “hard” lesson about not spending what you don’t have.
Of course, if he or his parents are helping pay for the wedding, then he’ll also need to be a real part of planning the wedding. No dumping it all off on her, guys. Marriage is about making a life together, and planning a wedding is a big, complex task that takes months if not years.
Planning a wedding together gives the couple a chance to develop some skills negotiating disagreements about things that are important to one or both of them; there’s real potential for conflict. That’s a skill that many couples don’t really get to develop while they’re dating.
Of course, if we really want guys to participate in their wedding planning, then we’ll need to encourage them to start thinking about their wedding at a younger age. We start telling girls to think about and fantasize about their weddings from an early age, but not boys. Maybe we should though; something like 90% of them will get married at some point in their life. Given that very few guys ever become the general manager of an athletic team, they’re much more likely to have a real wedding and a fantasy team than the other way around.
Over the last two decades or so, bachelorette parties have become common and are often described as matching the stereotypical debauchery of bachelor parties. (If you ask guys, they’ll tell you that most bachelor parties don’t look anything like the stereotype.) Yet bridal showers still seem to be almost exclusively for women. Why not call them “couple’s showers” to highlight the fact that the event is to help the couple get started. Shouldn’t they both be there for this event that’s going to help provide a bunch of stuff for their home? Even if the gifts are often related to setting up the house and doing things that qualify as chores, most couples share many of those tasks in modern America. If we really believe a married couple should share the household chores, then all those cleaning and kitchen and house gifts should go to them, not just her.
Then there’s the ceremony itself. In the typical American wedding, the groom does not walk down the aisle; he somehow magically appears at the front, typically entering from a side room. If the space doesn’t provide that, he may walk around the assembled audience instead of walking down the aisle. It’s as if we somehow don’t think he’s worthy of everyone’s undivided attention. Or we’re just not that into him, or maybe we’re ashamed of him, or embarrassed, or something.
To promote equality, we should have him walk down the aisle. We should know who he is and see his face. Does he look nervous? Happy? Is he crying? Sound crazy? It’s typical in most Jewish weddings. They don’t have separated sides of the audience for bride and groom either. After all, the ceremony they’re attending will create one family, not two teams that will compete against each other.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong about all this. Some people are telling women they need to lower their standards when choosing a guy. If that’s what you believe, then maybe the wedding really is about celebrating her rise to superwoman and (perhaps supermom) status and he really is mostly irrelevant.
Today, I think most marriages aim for equality. Let’s move away from making it her special day and start making it their special day.
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