Friends, Romans, country(wo)men, lend me your ears.
Recently, Jack graced us with his thoughts on our spending philosophy. It’s a great read, so check it out here if you haven’t already. This week, I’m tasked with examining something very important to me: how we think about the roles of women and men when it comes to getting married.
Here’s the rub. Weddings aren’t really my jam. I mean, yeah I’m on Pinterest. And sure, I’ve spent more than one night binging Say Yes To The Dress. And of course the PB+J Wedding episode of The Office still makes me cry. I’m not a monster. But I can count the number of weddings I’ve been to on one hand. I can count the number of weddings I’ve been in on one finger. (I was maybe 6, a flower girl, and my mom tells me I was a mess that day. Sorry, Aunt Teresa.)
Honestly, the whole process of courtship, loveship, and marriage has always made me a little uncomfortable. I think there are too many unspoken expectations on what men and women should or shouldn’t do when it comes to falling in love. The check dance. The jewelry hints. The backroom deals. The mustache twirling. I mean, wouldn’t it be easier if we all just spoke our minds?
When I got married a year ago, Jack and I were resolved to do it our way. We took those traditions and customs, examined them, and turned them on their heads so that they felt true to us. We think that if more people asked these questions, they would be able to move through love and marriage with a greater sense of freedom. They could stop conforming to weird precedents based on simple anatomy. They could, dare we even say, break cycles of oppression. Maybe we’re dreaming big, but I hope not.
So with that, here are some traditions we decided to change in an attempt to reduce our patriarchal footprint:
1. Jack didn’t ask my dad’s permission.
I know this tradition can be well-meaning. It’s about honoring families, showing respect. But as a woman, it makes me feel left out. Like I can’t be part of the conversation, and neither can my mom. My mom--who birthed me, who raised me, who knows me just as well as my dad--doesn’t get a chance to give me her blessing. It just doesn’t make sense.
Instead of the traditional ask, Jack and I sat down with both my parents and asked them what they thought about us potentially getting married. Then we sat down with both Jack’s parents and asked them the same. They gave us valuable input to think about before we made a decision. Everyone felt honored, everyone was included, and we are going to hold those memories dear for the rest of our lives.
2. We proposed to each other.
There’s no denying that the traditional down-on-one-knee proposal is romantic. But to Jack and me this just didn’t fit with who we are. We talk about everything and plan everything together, so having to wait around for Jack to surprise me with a ring felt really inauthentic. We also didn’t like the idea of Jack being the only one to “pop the question.” We both wanted the opportunity to ask, and we both wanted the opportunity to say yes.
So, after we decided to marry each other, we picked a date on the calendar to make it official and started counting down. The anticipation and the planning helped make it one of the best days of our lives. You can also read the full story of our proposal on an earlier blog post here.
3. We’re rocking equitable bling.
An engagement ring can symbolize a lot of things. It’s the ultimate romantic gesture. It’s a way to prove your financial stability; your responsibility. It also sends a message to the world: this person is spoken for. But to me, it feels one-sided. Jack gets to show me his love in this amazing and generous way, and I do nothing in return?
Instead, while Jack bought me my beautiful vintage Victorian ring, I bought him his fancy wristwatch. Seeing his face light up when I gave it to him was so worth it. Now, in the months leading up to our wedding, we both have something shiny to tell the world we’re off the market.
4. We didn’t have bridesmaids and groomsmen. We had friends.
This is a sexy way of saying we had a mixed-gender wedding entourage. Having a wedding party to celebrate with is so much fun. They’re the fabulous people who we wanted standing next to us on the most important day of our lives. So why would we limit ourselves to only one gender each?
Jack and I just picked our closest friends regardless of gender. Our wedding pictures may have ended up a bit asymmetrical, unbalanced, or just plain strange-looking, but we’re fine with that. We wouldn’t want to share our day with anybody else.
5. My dad wasn't the only one walking me down the aisle.
Again, I think this tradition is about honor--a symbolic way of transitioning from one family to another. Perhaps it’s also meant to be chivalric (#canteven). Whatever it is though, it leaves me feeling a bit like a piece of property passed from man to man.
Instead, both my dad and mom escorted me on the short walk down to Jack. It keeps all the meaning, but does away with the patriarchy. Jack also had his mom and dad walk him down the aisle, which in his own way added to the lovely symbolism.
6. We did away with the garter/bouquet toss.
Nothing makes your single friends feel great about themselves like having to fight for a bunch of flowers or an undergarment. And all for some custom meant to determine the next person to get married. Marriage is not for everyone. We're not about alienating people.
Jack and I did toss a few things into crowds of every and no gender at our reception, but they weren't fragrant or frilly, and they weren't used to predict the future. In fact, they were used to help our guests become better people! If you watch our wedding video, you'll see that we both threw out books at our reception instead. I threw out Gender Trouble by Judith Butler and Jack threw out Good to Great by Jim Collins (not before he pulled the book from under my dress as a huge gag!). It was a fun alternative to the dated custom and we could not be more proud of it.
7. We never say “man and wife” at our ceremony.
At modern weddings, there’s still quite a bit of language that feels steeped in sexism. Being the lover of words that I am, we changed the wedding vernacular quite a bit for our celebration.
Here’s the simple breakdown:
8. Speaking of new last names...
I’m happy to live in a world where it’s no longer a given that a woman will take her husband’s last name. It makes a lot of sense why married people want to have the same last name--it helps you build a cohesive legacy and it’s just convenient. Jack and I liked the idea of having one last name, but didn’t think I should relinquish “Josey” just because I am female.
Instead, we decided to start a new legacy together. After we got married, we both took a new last name: Vitalsey. This new surname is a mashup of our old last names: Vitaliz and Josey. It was so much fun to come up with this together and it really solidified our union as partners in life.
So there you have it. The moral of the story: everyone likes different stuff. Don’t let the size of your Adam’s apple determine how you express your love. That’s why honesty, communication, and critical thinking are important, not just in getting married, but in any relationship ever. Traditions can be meaningful, and there are many that we kept during our wedding. We made vows. I wore a pretty dress. We had a lot of dancing. But we didn't do anything out of obligation or because we were born with a certain set of body parts. Instead, we made choices on what made us both feel happy, and romantic, and empowered. That’s the philosophy we’re taking into the rest of our lives together, and we couldn’t be happier.
*Want more? Sign up for our newsletter for new content, fun giveaways, and ways to connect with followers of The Millennial Marriage Movement. Scroll to the bottom of the page to join!*
Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.