Re-evaluating Proposal & Wedding Traditions

Because, Honestly, Some Of Them Are Kinda Weird

By Bailey Edwards ·

It’s 2018 and a lot is changing. The women's rights movement is evolving rapidly, elevating female voices and the fight for equality across the country, while traditions are being re-examined and redefined on our terms.

With the launch of Helzberg’s “Will You” ring, even companies dedicated to time-honored customs are responding to a need to lead through these times, reinventing traditions that were once exclusively male-centric.

In conjunction with the launch of the “Will You” ring, UrbanDaddy is re-evaluating a few other marriage-related traditions that could use a modern makeover. Let me start by saying that the very point of feminism is to make space for women to make their own decisions. No choice is wrong as long as women have one.

So whether your decision is to embrace older traditions, or remodel them to fit your personal needs, the point is to have a voice in the matter, as opposed to things being dictated solely by a man in a relationship. That’s what we’re all working toward today. 

And with that, let’s break down the way things have usually been and the way they could be going forward.

Asking Dad for Permission: This one dates back to when women were essentially property, with their fathers acquiring money or assets in exchange for gifting his daughter to another man. Nowadays, at least in the U.S., it’s more of a gesture of respect than a request for permission. 

But it’s definitely still odd in 2018. Modern families aren’t necessarily ruled by the father. Frankly, my mom runs the show, without question. If anyone needs to approve my future husband, it’s going to be Mama. That being said, by the point two consenting adults are entering into a marriage, the parents probably know the would-be husband, making it a rather bizarre tradition to ask a guy you’ve probably had beers with if you can have his “daughter’s hand.” 

Today, this seems like something a couple should do together. Meeting with each set of parents to let them know that, after careful consideration, they're choosing to spend their lives together once the proposal was confirmed between you, two grown-ups. 

That way, you both can share in their emotions of joy/concerned objections. Either way, the choice to spend the rest of her life with another person should be that woman’s choice, not the result of a hush-hush meeting between her father and boyfriend.

Dads Walking Their Daughters Down the Aisle: This tradition has been transformed into an adorable moment in modern-day weddings as a father tearfully delivers his daughter to her soon-to-be husband. But this tradition was born from an actual transaction between a father and the groom in which the bride was the commodity, and unfortunately, thus denotes ownership. Women did not have agency over their choices and this trade-off was usually done without their consent. 

Thankfully (again, in the U.S.), this is rarely the case. But it’s still rooted in that past patriarchal meaning. A modern upgrade to this tradition, if you still want the classic aisle presentation (and to be transparent, I do), is to have your mother and father both walk you down the aisle. It then becomes less about the exchange of a woman as a commodity and more of a family affair, one that acknowledges both parents' contributions in your life. 

After all, moms should, and would no doubt love, to be more involved in the wedding procession itself. It’s always so sad watching moms sit and wait in the first row. This upgrade is positive for all the women involved in your wedding.

Waiting for Marriage to Have Sex: Religious beliefs aside (really, you do you), this one is a head-scratcher. By the time you’re ready to marry someone, you’ve shared nearly every aspect of your life. Friends, family, grief, success, happiness, anguish, hard-times and even physical spaces, if you're cohabitating. To abstain from sex and not share your body and pleasure with your partner before making a life commitment almost seems like a bad idea, actually. 

Traditionally, the point of abstaining had more to do with a lack of birth control. Women were told they could only reproduce with the man they'd been chosen by, to maintain perceptions of exclusivity in a world where women were shamed into chastity, followed by a lifetime of monogamy. 

As we've learned over the eons, women like sex. It’s no secret. It's fun and beautiful and arguably the most intimate way to establish a deeper connection with your partner. In an era where women have ever greater agency over our bodies and choices, saving ourselves should be a decision we make alone, not as a result of peer pressure by society or powerful institutions.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: the choice is yours. Matrimonial traditions remain intact in our culture after generations for numerous reasons, particularly because we value and enjoy them. So if these traditions mean something to you, by all means, keep them strong.

But for me, and for many women, abandoning and/or updating some outdated marital customs can make the whole experience far more accessible, delightful and exciting.

Bailey Edwards

Bailey (@bedwerds) is a comedian and writer in NYC. She smells of autumn.

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