When I married my partner at the end of last year, no aspect of the ritual was automatically included. As perpetual adventurers in consciousness, we felt into every decision about the day before making it and that called me to question my role as the bride. Despite every choice I made feeling deeply, intuitively good, some of them challenged me.
I don't feel touched by patriarchy often. Mostly, I feel blessed, happy and empowered but taking part in this ritual added a new dimension to my experience. I felt the misogyny that's baked into the traditional British wedding. It led me to discover a few wider truths about myself and about how we, as creators, can shake things up in so many beautiful ways. When I sat down to consider my vows a few days before the ceremony, I found myself writing the following words instead.
When I get married this Saturday, no part of the day will use tradition by default. We're not trying to prove any points; if something traditional feels good, we've included it. For example, my dad will make a speech because he's happy to do it and we both want to hear his voice at our wedding. Something he won't be doing however, is walking me down the aisle.
Nothing about the idea of being 'given away' feels good, or remotely relevant, to me. Nobody owns me, nor will they ever. I'm a grown up, not a child bride being handed to a new guardian. Yet even now there is a dull, background voice inside me asking 'Is Dad going to feel as though he's missed out on something? Is the simple act of walking down the aisle hand in hand with my partner too much of a statement?' Rationally, I reflect that the act of being handed from one man to another like property is much more of a statement, even if it is hidden in plain sight by being an accepted part of the process.
Still, as uncomfortable as this is to admit, I have a nagging feeling that by going against tradition I am stepping out of line. Of course, that's because I am. There is a line. That's the problem.
We're also planning to make a joint speech. This feels like a natural thing to do. People will be there as our guests. Why would I sit mute and allow someone to speak on my behalf? I've never done it before and have no desire to set that precedent. When grooms stand up at the wedding breakfast and begin their speech with 'On behalf of my wife and I...' and everyone claps, I don't. There may be times in life when I need my partner to advocate for me, like in the case of absence or illness, and I'm blessed to have someone I trust implicitly to do this but my wedding day is not one of them.
Mention of a joint speech has provoked more implied (and actual) eye rolls and comments along the lines of 'wow, really?' or 'I'd expect nothing less of you' than any other aspect of the day. Every one of these responses has registered for me with a kind of low level discomfort. Almost every reaction, even from the most supportive of people, has made me question whether it is the right thing to do. I am not criticising anyone for their response. I mention this only because it highlights a vulnerability within myself that I didn't previously realise was there. My decision to stand up next to Dave isn't meant as a reclamation or a feminist protest. I simply want to offer my love and gratitude to family and friends. I don't want that to be remarkable in any way but that's not something I get to decide.
I can't get away from the feeling that maybe I'm taking up too much space at my own wedding. Am I going to be like the child in the nativity play who tries to turn Baby Jesus into a speaking part? It's a feeling all too familiar to me, that I'm just 'a bit too much'.
I've become increasingly aware with age that living my own inherent truth makes me conspicuous. I'm uncompromising when it comes to following my intuition. I have always been relatively incapable of doing something just because it's what people do, or it's expected of me. I need a reason that resonates deeply with me before I take action, otherwise I feel as though I'm swimming upstream. It's not my choice to shake anything up or blaze a trail but if either of those things become byproducts of me simply doing what comes naturally, whether that be in the planning of my wedding or anything else, then so be it.
I used to be incredibly uncomfortable about being noticed for the myriad little things that set me apart. Now, while I still feel some discomfort, it's a low level hum that's present below the bellowing satisfaction of being at peace with my decisions. I credit my mindfulness practice with redressing that balance. A commitment to practice has taught me to 'hear' my feelings over and above the noise of the outside world. Since finding myself as the bride, it is through practice that I have discovered, from the inside out, what the role feels like to me. I've applied my own edits so that, instead of stepping into a predetermined character, I have a role that's written for me.
We are all creators, so the way we treat people matters. Whether with strangers on the street, characters we write into our latest work of fiction or the person we see looking back at us from the mirror, our interactions with people create something new or affirm something that already exists. Every time we choose to express authenticity over expectation, we make it just that little bit easier for others to do the same. That's worth practising whenever we can. Not for the sake of others but just because we can, because it feels good from the inside out. That's the kind of action that ripples out into the world and when ripples travel far enough they make waves.