Weddings and sexism

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Left Turn Left Turn's picture
Weddings and sexism


Left Turn Left Turn's picture

I'm posting this having just attended the wedding of a dear friend, who is one of the most progressive people I know. His wedding was very non-traditional, and very progressive, except in one regard. That while the groom was present to greet all the guests as they entered, the bride was kept hidden until she walked down the aisle.

I belive that any wedding where the bride is kept hidden before the ceremony while the groom gets to greet the guests, is sexist.

I have one possible theory why the tradition of keeping the bride hidden before the wedding does not give way as easily as other wedding traditions. Namely, the superstition that if the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day before the wedding, that the marriage will have bad luck. I don't for one moment believe this superstition. However, even if the bride and groom don't believe this superstition and wish to be both present to greet guests before the wedding, they have to contend with other family members who may try to keep the bride hidden until the wedding. And if family members can prevent the bride from getting to the wedding in advance, they can keep the bride hidden, against the wishes of a couple who may desire otherwise.

There may be other reasons why the tradition of keeping the bride hidden before the wedding does not give way as easily as other wedding traditions. I'm interested what people have to say, and any other comments that people might have about wedddings and sexism.

[ 09 December 2007: Message edited by: Left Turn ]


I don't know. It really doesn't matter much to me. At my wedding, the groom and I had a traditional wedding in a church. He didn't really "greet" the guests - he came out at the time it was going to start, and waited at the front, as far as I know - everyone else was taking their seats. Then I came in and walked down the aisle.

I didn't consider it sexist because we didn't attach any sexist reasons to doing it that way. The main reason that it's done that way, I think, is so that the bride can be the centre of attention as she's walking down the aisle.

Of course, I wore a veil, too, which I'm sure was very sexist. I just wanted it because I liked how it looked. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] I wasn't going to have one because I was worried about it being pretty sexist, but then I thought, what the hell, it's not like I'M traditional. It just goes nicely with my dress.

Besides, I think a small part of me wanted to see whether he'd handle the lifting of the veil smoothly, or whether he'd flub it up when it was time to kiss me. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Anyhow, I figure if you're traditional enough to get married and that doesn't conflict with your feminist views, then who cares whether you walk down the aisle, or who gets there first?

remind remind's picture

Though I am a huge non-believer in weddings, keeping the bride secluded is more of a situation of the bride having a [b]ta da[/b] moment and being the centre of attention as Michelle said. And considering the fact in most marriages that is the only centre of attention moment the woman will have, I say she should have it! [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

Indiana Jones

I think the reason that the bride is kept "hidden" prior to the ceremony is that seeing her walk down the aisle represents the "highlight" of the wedding for most. Having her in her gown at the entrance greeting people would be sort of like announcing the Best Picture OSCAR as the first award during the broadcast Everything else would be anticlimactic.

I'm curious where the tradition comes from though, whether it is religious or cultural in origin. I know that in Jewish weddings, for example, the bride and groom aren't allowed to see each other for a week before the wedding and then, immediately following the ceremony, are taken to a room where they can be alone together for the first time.


My understanding is that the tradition used to be for the bride and groom to meet the priest at the church door and proceed up the aisle together. I'm not sure when this changed.


Oh, the tradition no doubt started because of some sexist notion of a woman being "prepared" for her husband, and for her husband to not be allowed to see her until they're at the altar.

But I think most of us are pretty far removed from those sorts of ideas now. That said, I have no problem with updating the ceremony and being non-traditional. If I were ever to do it again (god forbid), I think it might be kind of nice to walk up the aisle with the groom. [Edited to add - ha, I totally posted this BEFORE seeing Caissa's post!]

That is, walk up the aisle of the hallway to the JP's office. To elope. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 10 December 2007: Message edited by: Michelle ]

Polly B Polly B's picture

Husband and I got up that morning, washed the car, got dressed, visited with the relatives, had our pictures taken, had a few drinks then went together to the church and walked up the aisle at the same time.

I did wear a veil though, and he poked me in the eye when he tried to lift it up.


Or there is the part about being “given away” from one man to another. But besides that little tradition, I think that weddings are mostly a lot of pomp and circumstance and not an attempt at sexism, though I think overall weddings turn out a lot nicer in the end when the bride and groom stray from tradition a little and put their own spin on things.

Alexandra Kitty

Count me in as someone who doesn't see it as sexist at all. It's just a little drama -- or revealing the "star" of the show, so to speak.

You know, when Fonzi would saunter in on Happy Days and the audience would be cued to go wild...


Yeah, I admit, the father giving away can't really be spun as anything but somewhat sexist. We know what the tradition behind it is, and we still call it "giving the bride away" so you can't get around it.

And yet, I did it, because I just liked the idea of walking down the aisle with my father, and well, I don't know. I probably wouldn't do it that way again now.

I know one woman who had both her parents walk her down the aisle. I thought that was nice.


I walked my sister down the aisle for her wedding, but then when she asked me to 'give her away' I eagerly asked "When? now?"

[img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]


Well this is TOTOlly sexist. So here goes. One crazy Canuck and two Americanos [url=]walk into a bar(YouTube)...[/url] WHAT! is love?

Pride for Red D...

the tradition that really bothers me is the fathera "giving away" the bride. this probably has to do with giving away her virginity- but now adays women in canada are no one's possesion. It's like using the word "obey" in your wedding vows- I'll obey myself.

[ 11 December 2007: Message edited by: Pride for Red Dolores ]

remind remind's picture


Originally posted by Pride for Red Dolores:[b]the tradition that really bothers me is the fathera "giving away" the bride. this probably has to do with giving away her virginity[/b]

Spot on, I think, and nowadays with the [i]advent[/i] of "purity balls" with the father and daughter getting all dressed up and going to a ball together, can one say creepy often enough? And this is where the girl signs a contract to remain pure until marriage and gives her father a [b][i]key[/i][/b] that he will give to her husband at the time of her marriage, to me this only is a symbol that represents the "chastity belts" of old.

No fuckin difference in their belief in the objectification/ownership of woman than any other religion IMV.


Ahh, you beat me to it, remind.

But you're right, there has been a lot of press about "charity" balls lately.

Feministing posted about them earlier this week after the [url=,0,3915... Tribune posted this:[/url]


"It's like I'm devoting my virginity to my dad, saying that I will stay pure because it is the Christian thing to do," said Lindsay Anne Schell, 18, a freshman at Bradley University in Peoria. "The rose shows the world that you are devoting your purity to God and to your father."

In an age of "sex buddies," "friends with benefits" and "sexual friendships," father-daughter purity balls have become an increasingly popular trend among conservative Christians in the campaign for abstinence instead of condoms. Since the first event was held in Colorado Springs in 1998, the concept -- that holding on to one's virginity until marriage is ordered by God -- has spread to 48 states.


Pride for Red D...

why not dedicate your purity to your mother ?

remind remind's picture


Originally posted by Pride for Red Dolores:[b]why not dedicate your purity to your mother ?[/b]

Well, first off I say, why dedicate it to anyone else other than yourself, if that is what you are into? Nobody else has to live with any consequences, that may come from having sex, other than oneself in any end result.

Secondly, it is about ownership of women pure and simple. They can brainwash their daughters and wives all they want that it is following [i][b] God's[/b][/i]dictates, but that does not mean it is not: a lie, and is not outright making their daughters and wives in [b]objects [/b] that are owned by the male.


I'm sorry, but devoting your "virginity" to your Dad is just plain creepy and gross. Can you say "emotional incest"?

My father's rather traditional, but I think if I'd ever told him I was devoting my virgin vagina to him, he'd probably get dry heaves. My dad isn't really all that interested in my genitals. Nor is he interested in poking his nose into my feelings (or lack thereof) of sexual desire.


P.S. I made sure "obey" wasn't in my wedding vows. I think it was "love, honour and respect" for both of us. But I don't remember for sure. Hard to believe it was a whole decade ago!

Pride for Red D...

I forgot about the fact that women's main resource has to be controlled by men to assure heredity- that likely why one doesn't dedicate one's purity to one's mother- all purity is controlled by men. After all, we're such a lustful, bunch how could anyone but a man control us ? The whole idea that women aren't sexual comes from the absolute paranoia that we are, and the loss of the above control and breaking out of our gender role.

remind remind's picture


Originally posted by Pride for Red Dolores:[b]I forgot about the fact that women's main resource has to be controlled by men to assure heredity- [/b]

Biological lineage is more of a instinct driven mechanism, and has little to do with the state of marriage. Sowing ones seeds everywhere fulfills that instinctual urge.

Having said that, I do believe controlling a woman's progenity is about controlling a resource, or rather was in the first place about that. And perhaps in some ways still is.


[b]that likely why one doesn't dedicate one's purity to one's mother- all purity is controlled by men. After all, we're such a lustful, bunch how could anyone but a man control us ? The whole idea that women aren't sexual comes from the absolute paranoia that we are, and the loss of the above control and breaking out of our gender role.[/b]

I do not believe that men fear women being sexual at all, I think they fear the loss of power, as having it and it brings has become an addiction. An addiction made even more terrible, than others, because of the significant benefits it brings to men, and men alone. The harm can be over looked they think, as it seems to be very small to them.

Pride for Red D...

I don't agree with biological arguments- they preclude the possibility of social change. Also,the ideas related to marriage in the context we are discussing make it a tool of control- like a symptom of the system. Men can sow as many seeds as many places as they like with little consequence within or outside of marriage, but a woman gets called a slut either way. Women should be able to do what they like with their bodies- I was using the word "resource" in a sarcastic manner, because it relates the objectification and oppression I'm talking about. This power isn't an addiction- it's an intrinsic part of our society- a changing one thankfully (if slowly).

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Life, death and the meaning of a wedding dress

One year ago, I married a super cool and fun dude. Skipping the boring details, I will just say that after many other options were exhausted, we realized that a city hall marriage was necessary, now. We nailed down two witnesses, called our parents and grandparents ("Can we come?" "Naah don't bother"), and I bought an inexpensive navy sundress I knew I would wear all summer.

I won't pretend I didn't practice my full wedding-day look in the mirror a handful of times, but all things considered, the preparation was insanely low-key. The day itself (coinciding with New York State's ratification of marriage equality! Woohoo!) was equally no-fuss and, suddenly, we were married. We promised our families that we would follow it up with a ‘real' wedding at home this coming summer, and we now find ourselves preparing for this bizarre, emotionally-charged second event.

I need to back up a little and confess something. Although I no longer recognize that person, I grew up as obsessed with wedding weddings as any child that ever existed. I had a 'wedding ideas' scrapbook (aka lo-fi Pinterest board) filled with pictures of dresses, cakes, invitations, shoes, and decorating schemes from Martha Stewart Weddings and InStyle Weddings (barf). From the time I was six or seven, I kept a binder of make-believe wedding plans for people I had invented, complete with seating plans, vendor information, menus, and sketches of gowns. I admit to this only to convince you that my wholesale abandonment of and scorn for the wedding industry has been arrived at honestly. I have lived the other side of that breathless what-gown-will-I-wear-omg-it-has-to-be-the-best-one-so-I-look-beautiful-in-all-the-pictures experience, and it is all a load of bullshit.

Though I do feel strongly that women are misled and cheated into wasting enormous sums of money by the bridal industry, I do not wish to focus on this for fear of offending anyone who has chosen to buy into the whole charade. That is your choice, though I wish you'd make another one, because I love you. Instead, this is meant to be a reflection on the process of creating a dress that can provide me the same satisfaction and comfort that those white satin whatzits seem to provide ladies on TV.

Dressing for any party is usually a process of trying to feel as good as you can under certain constraints including time, what's clean that day, and how much you actually care. None of these constraints really apply on one's wedding day, but the desire to feel as good as possible about one's clothes is the same, only heightened. I don't care much about how I'll look in photographs (it's never good, so why try), but I get the sense that with more people than average paying attention to me on that day, I don't want to be distracted by feelings of discomfort, either physical or the mental kind that comes from wearing something not quite right. To me, the solution is obvious. I will of course wear red, because red is the best color in the world.

We are reassured throughout our lives that our elders are responsible for the physical way we appear in the world, but in truth we inherit so much more: traditions, clothing, our models for relationships, happiness, and graceful passing when the time comes, among so many other things.

When we do not have these people present to assure us as we pass from one phase of life to another, it is no mystery why the garments they leave behind find such pride of place within our rites and rituals.

Weddings force a lot of people to make promises they cannot and will not keep. At the very least, incorporating the material of our past allows us to keep our promise to remember.


This is an interesting thread to look back upon, now that I remarried a year ago!

At this wedding, we had a secular humanist marriage commissioner, not a single word about God or anything religious, the vows were completely non-standard (we said these ones, but skipped the introductory part about north, east, south and west, and didn't do the handfasting - we just liked the vows themselves), I wore a red dress that cost less than the groom's suit (and even my son's suit), and we walked into the restaurant we had it at together.  There was no "giving away" of the bride, and the only people in the wedding party were a best man and a best woman.  And another friend and the best woman were also what we jokingly called "Ushettes", welcoming guests to the restaurant before we arrived for the ceremony.

What I really liked about those vows is that they were quite free of the standard possessive stuff in most wedding vows, and they were a lot more in tune with how things really are, not some idealized fairy tale of what marriage should be.  There was no "til death do we part", nothing possessive.  We choose to be monogamous and hope to stay together for the rest of our lives, but these are choices we make every day, not because we swore to it on our wedding day.  And if things change, we can make different choices if we want to, without "breaking our vows".