I was always firmly against marriage. Don't get me wrong, I adore weddings; the speeches, the dancing, the random chats you have with the brides' weird uncle. But from an early age, marriage was not for me. Marriage, traditionally, was a contract between two men; a father sold his daughter to another man, and when I found this out it cut through to the very core of what I despised about our patriarchal world. We are a commodity, an object, owned by men. My teenage self was outraged.
Fast-forward 20 years and I am in a serious relationship with a man I love and we have two young kids. Marriage suddenly begins to feel right. For starters I do not know how to refer to the father of my children. My partner, my live in lover, my male companion, my other-half, my boyfriend? Plus, why not make it official, maybe it would be romantic, not to mention a lot easier when it comes to the law if something was to happen to one of us.
The traditions, symbols and rituals surrounding marriage don't need to be blindly followed these days. You can pick and choose what works for you. We have no interest in religion so we did it at the local, very lovely, registry office. I didn't walk down the aisle with my dad and be 'given away'. We didn't have music or personalised vows. It was quick and simple with zero frills. We signed what needed to be signed and got ourselves down the pub so the party could start.
I didn't change my surname (feminist reasons aside, why would anyone put themselves through all that paperwork?!) plus the kids have my surname. One of the issues I do still take with marriage is that both groom and bride are asked to give their fathers details, his name and occupation, mum is not important enough to even be mentioned in the 'contract' or give a speech at the party. She is ignored from start to finish. Except, from being told she must buy an expensive 'mother of the bride' outfit of course. This needs to change.
Being a fashion stylist, the biggest pre-wedding problem came when I was deciding what to wear. I knew I didn't want to wear virginal white, mostly because it's not a colour which is particularly 'me' and I wanted to feel comfortable and myself. I thought I could get any old dress from the high street then realised if a guest wore the same thing I'd feel irrationally horrendous and I might punch them. I also didn't want to just look like one of the guests. Despite myself, I did want to feel special. If I wore a long dress in any other colour, I'd be in bridesmaid territory. I tried on countless vintage dresses but I felt like I was wearing a costume. I mentioned wearing a bright, floral printed dress to my mother and that did not go down well. It begun to feel much more complicated than I'd anticipated and I considered wearing white just to make my life easier. The pressure was on as a stylist yes, but I realised the pressure I was putting on myself was weighing the heaviest. How I looked meant so much more to me than pure vanity. It was tied up in my beliefs surrounding marriage. The unreal, princess white wedding dream we are sold as young girls, that prince charming bullshit, the frothy nonsense of 'happily ever after' the audacious price a wedding can cost. It all rubbed me up the wrong way. There was several days though when I actually thought I didn't want to get married at all before I realised I'd been temporarily sucked into a 'bridezilla' fug. I took a deep breath I tried to forget everyone else and thought about what this day would mean to us; me, him and the kids.
Surprisingly, there were a few traditional things we wanted to do. We exchanged rings (which we had made together, for each other) and I threw a bouquet (there was just as many men trying to catch it as women). My husband didn't want to see my wedding outfit before the day. Speeches were optional and only one was given by my best friend, a female. It was refreshing and took the pressure off my husband and dad both of which hate being in the limelight. Oh yes, I also did a very slurry, very sweary speech at 1am thanking people who had helped, most of which had already gone home to bed.
So what did I choose to wear in the end? With just eight days to go I found a silver, low-backed, wide leg jumpsuit. Instead of a veil I wore a champagne-gold satin turban. It felt majestic not virginal. It made a statement. And it was damn fun to dance in. But most importantly, it felt like me. Marriage won't change me or what I believe in. It won't suddenly make me do more housework or feel more secure. What it did do was make me realise how truly wonderful my friends, family and husband are and that is a magical feeling which I plan on happily wallowing in for decades to come.
Bertie Bowen https://mothershoppers.com