Digging Into the Problematic History of Wedding Traditions

Appleford Estate, wedding

[CW: Mentions of slavery; capitalism]

Let’s start by talking about wedding parties. I intentionally avoid using the words “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen” because I don’t like tying gendered words to people or assuming how they’d like to be labeled. Digging into the history of wedding-related “traditions” can be a wild ride.

In their IGTV unpacking the wedding industrial complex@eliana.chinea explains the many ways weddings are problematic. This includes the origin of the tradition of bridesmaids and groomsmen, who were once servants or enslaved people meant to tend to the couple.

The word “maid” has since remained in the label and the concept has remained somewhat oppressive. The wedding party can be expected to pay for travel, attire, beauty, parties, gifts, and vacation time. It can be a lot. This coming from someone who printed a wedding weekend itinerary the size of The Fountainhead for the folks in my wedding party from my first marriage. I’m not immune to these pressures and don’t share this to judge or shame.

Instead of having a large wedding party and potentially adding more stress, consider involving your close friends in the process in other ways.

Don’t want to have a “first look?” That is a-okay. I got ready with my partner at home and he saw me in my dress before our wedding day. These so-called “rules” the industry puts on us are meant to be broken. Do what feels right for you and whoever you’re marrying. If that looks like having an elaborate wedding party, that’s valid, too.

In her video, Constanza Eliana talks about how the “tradition” of an engagement ring was invented by an ad campaign by De Beers (along with the “three month’s salary” concept) to sell expensive diamonds. It’s not only patriarchal and historically contractual, it’s often unethical in terms of how the diamonds are sourced.

Give yourself permission to re-examine these so-called norms that uphold certain traditions, whether they’re patriarchal, heteronormative, classist, capitalist, unsustainable, sexist, or racist (ie: plantation weddings).

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