The Feminist Bride’s Cheat Sheet to Getting Married
One of the most fundamental conflicts every woman faces today is how to negotiate their feminist beliefs with the sexist, patriarchal society they live in. It’s a whole spectrum of wavering from denial, to resistance, to rage, to exhaustion. And the indifference that most of us find ourselves on while growing up and figuring our lives as women. We’re all too familiar with the fights, issues, reactions, and yet when it comes to marriage, it’s often the odd curveball for many of us. The very nature of marriage since antiquity has been extremely misogynistic. If you are a woke, feminist bride, understanding the journey ahead as you take this next step of your life can be very overwhelming.
Which is why we must talk about a few key challenges you will face as a feminist bride
#1. The Rituals
This part is not really talked about as much as it should. The decadence of a lot of wedding rituals that have not evolved with the changing times. Hence, it remains rooted in deeply problematic beliefs. The parents of the bride touching the groom’s feet, the whole meaning and implication of Kanyadaan, or the giving away ceremony, the importance given to married women, and women with male children, and by extension the exclusion of widowed women, unmarried or childless women from various rituals, the meaning of the pheras and the vows taken in a Hindu wedding, there are so many examples of rituals that make no sense in this day and age. They go on simply because they are not questioned enough, challenged, and put in perspective. As a feminist bride, you can clearly see these pointers.
Your wedding is the most important day of your life, and anything that does not sit well with you does not have to be a part of your big day. More and more brides today choose not to be given away as a ‘daan’. We now also have female priests, and priests who are willing to listen to you and modify the rituals that you are not comfortable with. We strongly suggest you educate yourself about wedding rituals, talk openly about the rituals to be performed during your wedding and if there is anything that does not sound right to you, ask if it can be avoided, modified, or done away with. Trust us, you taking the first step will pave the way for many brides after you.
#2. The Expenses
In our society, it is assumed that the bride’s family will bear most of the wedding expenses. For no good reason, except that they are the bride’s family. And if this was not enough, there are also a thousand different places where only the bride’s family is expected to spend. Be it gifts for the entire groom’s side, or the ‘welcome money’ given to the guests from the groom’s side, and in some communities, even bearing the expenses of every festival celebrated for a year after the wedding. Sometimes there is also monetary participation expected from the bride’s parents at the birth of their grandchildren.
You can have a clear discussion with your parents, and your partner regarding this, and talk about finances, and who will pay for what right at the onset so that there is no confusion regarding this at a later stage. Anything that you feel is unfair, or you find uncomfortable, should be taken up in these conversations. Sometimes, your parents may also be the ones who may have internalized these problematic ideas. As a feminist bride, point these out to them to make them see these systems for what they are. Don’t shy away from doing this. Believe us, you will be doing them a big service.
#3. Relationships and Expectations
One of the most difficult things that every woman goes through during the process of getting married and after marriage is to deal with the stupid social expectation. The expectation that she will overnight change her entire being into someone else to fit into the mold created by society for the ‘good married woman’. The good married woman always has a smile on her face, never gets tired, never questions anything, never speaks of her own family, never talks of her friends, never needs her own space, and so on and so forth. Remember, this woman does not exist. And the earlier you fight this stereotype, the easier it will make your transition into your marital life and relationships.
Getting married does mean expanding the definition of family. Agreeing to take up additional responsibilities towards your partner’s family. But it should not have to be at the cost of your life, your relationships, and your friendships. Make sure you choose to balance your relationships from the very beginning. Don’t give in to unrealistic expectations regarding this. Make space for new people without compromising on the old ones. Take your time to observe and understand the way things are done in your partner’s family. Make informed choices about the parts that you are okay with and would like to adapt to, and parts that you are not comfortable with. And remember to take it easy with expectations from your end too.
#4. The Partnership
This should be the easiest part to get used to in theory. But sometimes this can turn out to be a difficult path to navigate. Especially in arranged marriages where the couple has not had enough time to get to really know each other and take time to think deeply about the good, the bad, and the ugly in the other person. Even when you know and love your partner, there are external factors. For example, others may constantly differentiate between how they treat you and your partner based on your respective genders. It may take a toll on your relationship with your partner.
Your partner being given preferential treatment in the families, both yours and his, assumptions being made on your financial situation, the ‘boys’ club’ jokes among friends that never seem to end, you being expected to manage and be responsible for him, and your home, in a way he is never expected to, his career being prioritized over yours, there may be a lot of such issues, sometimes subtle and sometimes out there, that you will face. They will end up affecting you and your relationship with your partner. You are a feminist bride, pick your battles wisely, choose your non-negotiables and talk to your partner about them. You’re going to build a life together. The stronger the base of that life, the stronger the building will be.
Remember, your marriage has to be defined by what you choose to define it as. No one else has a say in the most important relationship of your life except you and your partner. That’s the ultimate mantra for a happy feminist bride!