Sexism in the Traditional Marriage Ceremony

Almost every little girl dreams of her perfect wedding day. She imagines the dress, the vows, and even the guests. Weddings in movies are generally exceptional events. Plenty of flowers, bridesmaids and gorgeous (or purposefully hideous) bridesmaid dresses. Immediately after the wedding there is a wonderful reception with lots and lots of dancing and then the bride and groom are whisked away in a super-stretch limo to some enchanted getaway for the perfect honeymoon. The bride is beautiful, the groom in handsome. This is the perfect wedding that every little girl dreams of.

Unfortunately, the wedding ceremony isn’t quite as perfect as little girls dream. Much of the wedding is filled with antiquated sexist rituals that really, have no place in modern day society. In fact, many modern brides and grooms have begun to revise the ceremony to fit their beliefs and create new traditions. Here’s a look at some of the sexist elements in the traditional wedding ceremony.

Love, honor, and obey.
Only the woman says the “obey” part in the traditional ceremony. The thinking is that the man is the head of the household. With conservative Christians he is in a way, an extension of God and therefore the woman must obey him. The obvious assumption that the woman is inferior to the man is beginning to upset modern brides and many grooms. Many couples are dropping the obey part from their vows or even writing their own.

Who gives this woman?
At the beginning of the traditional wedding ceremony the priest, minister, or preacher asks “And who gives this woman to this man?” Where upon the father of the bride says “I do.” This tradition makes it seem as if the woman is property to be transferred from one superior man to another superior man. Many people are changing the phrase to “Her mother and I,” or even dropping it completely. After all, in modern day society it is the woman who chooses to get married. Her father does not choose her husband for her anymore.

Mr. and Mrs. Tom Jones.
Traditionally the woman takes the man’s last name. When they are introduced for their first dance they are introduced with the man’s name. It’s as if the woman is completely giving up her identity. Many women now choose to keep their last name, hyphenate their new a

nd old names, or even more radically… the man takes the woman’s name. Of course, this is much more complicated legally than simply signing a marriage certificate.

A dowry?
It used to be that a dowry was given by the woman’s family to the man’s family. In many third-world and very traditional countries this still takes place. There is still a remnant of this in Western society weddings as well. The bride’s family traditionally pays for the wedding. It’s as if the bride’s family is paying to get rid of her. Of course, with modern finances being what they are, who pays for what is becoming much more complicated these days.

Other sexisms…
There are many other sexisms in the traditional wedding such as the white dress signifying virginity (rarely true these days), the woman walking towards the man (doing all the work, he just waits for her), the man standing on the right (signifying the right hand of God), “you many now kiss the bride”, and many other small details. While the traditional wedding is full of sexisms, your wedding doesn’t have to be. You can make it what you want it to be. Have your best friend walk you down the aisle, write your own vows, be married by a justice of the peace… whatever.

What the traditional wedding doesn’t recognize is that moden women are strong and independent, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and financially. So, when planning your wedding, be sure that it represents you and not a woman of the 1950’s.

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Author: balanc3d

graphic & web designer/front-end developer

10 thoughts on “Sexism in the Traditional Marriage Ceremony”

  1. One correction. Although the white dress has probably come to symbolize virginity and purity, its original purpose in the Victorian era was to indicate the bride’s family’s wealth, that she could wear something that could only be worn once. Otherwise, you’re quite right about the sexism in traditional marriage.

  2. As a pastor I have tried very hard to omit these sexisms when I perform weddings. Yet, you would be amazed at how many people insist that they not be removed from their weddings and have even rejected my officiating their wedding if I did include them.

    1. I like the way things are changing now if only i could get a gf would be the first step haha.
      But it is still good to see a preacher come out and agree that there is this sexism in marriage and its gotta change. but it aint just in marrage its mentioned throughout the book aswell.
      In Ephesians 5:22-24 we find this: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
      Also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. Chapter 2 timothy i think it was. But everytime you try to have a conversation with a Christian me being a former Christian b4 i started to state to myself most of this is not right. It seem to me like god was very sexist and had not had empathy for women and equally are not found in religion also the bible refers to lower ppl as if they were nothing and condoned murder in my opinion no religion should condone.

  3. Also the veil symbolizes the woman being COVERED by a male authority. Somewhere in the Bible it is said that a woman should cover her head to show her submission first to her father, and then to her husband. This is why Amish and Mennonite women cover their heads, and why some ultra-conservative churches request that women cover their heads upon entrance.

  4. I perform an official boycott of weddings if there is going to be a bachelor party, you know, a male supremacy ritual. You know, the kind where the bride-to-be acts like a smiling face Fembot while her husband-to-be is at some raunchy lesbian sex show. Talk about the wedding industry being a big raunchy scam.

  5. Postfeminism (the stage after Feminism, which is very much old-hat now) accepts that sometimes sexisms can be desirable and sometimes they may not be. As such, if people want to retain ‘sexist’ versions of the vows, that’s up to them. If they want to invert the ‘sexisms’ that’s up to them to. Though I genuinely wish more women did *all the work* in courting! I always thought the tradition was a flick of the hair, the flash of that particular knowing look in her eyes and the salivating man comes running. But perhaps that’s a tradition from a bygone era… Maybe women really do make all the running to snag their man…

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