I HATE WEDDINGS! // Jean-Arellia Tolentino

I hate weddings. I really do.  I loathe the contrived and patriarchal traditions. In a nutshell, my sentiments on weddings were beautifully articulately in Frida:

"I don't believe in marriage. No, I really don't. Let me be clear about that. I think at worst it's a hostile political act, a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it's a happy delusion - these two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they're about to make each other. But, but, when two people know that, and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway, then I don't think it's conservative or delusional. I think it's radical and courageous and very romantic. To Diego and Frida."

I just got fiancée’d last May.  I do want a wedding.  I don’t believe in being “given away”, or “taking the man’s last name”.  As a Filipina-American who comes from a big Catholic Filipino family, I developed wedding fantasies and values at an early age. I even imagined myself in the white wedding dress with the bridesmaids and the over-the-top decorative elements. I was raised under the expectation that I would be married in the Catholic church, with a white dress, the bridal entourage, and of course to a man under the witness of God.  My parents had enough foresight/expectations that I would have a priest, so they baptized me with a priest who was also doubled as my Godfather. This came into light when the suggestion that my wedding might be officiated by him.

In my (30+ years of) life, I’ve participated not only as a guest, but also as a flower girl, bridesmaid, and even an engagement-wedding photographer. I am by no means an “expert” on weddings. I started to take notice and wonder why weddings were greeted with tears of joy/excitement and love when we find out friends are engaged, yet the same levels of elation are not given to a friend who passes their bar exams or licensure, gets accepted into a graduate/doctoral program, or completes their dissertation. One may be a commitment to another person, and the others are a commitment to one’s career or heart’s work; yet all are moments that take a deep commitment of time, energy, and even financial investment in order to achieve. 

Not mincing words, the traditional wedding is psychologically oppressing women.  Anything outside of the heteronormative and western framework (e.g., queer, non-secular, non-Pinterest, non-white, non-United States) are considered “non-traditional/modern/unique/off-beat” weddings. Let’s not forget that until this year, same-sex marriage was not legalized in California.  From the wedding rings to the last name, the “traditional western wedding” is seeped with patriarchal and capitalistic values. 

Weddings are practices to keep women oppressed financially, emotionally, and psychologically.  While pre-wedding activities are focused on a “last hurrah”, there is a differentiation of purpose.  The man’s “bachelor party” is defined by his “sacrifice” of no longer sleeping with other people, whereas the woman’s sacrifice literally involves the loss of identity, and those bachelorette activities seem to focus on the like via conformity (…and to worship the penis).  Other components of the wedding are seemingly bride-centered: bridal magazines and television shows focus on bridal attire and wedding fantasies; brides are more likely to diet and exercise in preparation for their wedding dresses; brides (or bridesmaids/maids-of-honor) usually take lead to create wedding festivities/events; there is the quintessential “bridezilla”; wedding showers are for the brides; and the cliché that “the weddings are all about the brides”.  Yet, the bride is traditionally obligated to relinquish her last name for her husband’s.  Women are continuously choosing to engage in, and ostracize others who do not conform to these gendered norms.  Statements like: “Why aren’t you taking his name/changing your last name?”, “Don’t you want to stand out and wear a white dress?”, “We should get into shape for that wedding dress!”, or “Oh, you’re such a “modern” bride!”  All of which reinforce the obligation to conform to strict gender roles and values. 

CNN released an article that highlighted the financial cost for women just to participate in weddings.  Bridesmaids are now calculated to have an average cost of $2,000 JUST to be a bridesmaid. Why do we consciously put our closest friends and family (mainly women) into positions as bridesmaids/maids of honor and impose monetary responsibilities, obligations, and even debt?  Or, as close friends and family of the bride, why do we willingly accept and/or desire to be in that (bridal party) position?  Yes, one may have the choice to opt out, and can decide to keep costs inexpensive.  Yet, I encourage us to honestly understand why we have bridesmaids, and willingly choose to navigate the politics of negotiating friendships/relationships, having to decide/distress over which relationships and the potential fallout resulting from decisions, and be ok with the financial weight our closest family/friends will have to hold.

If you do pick a bridal party, perhaps there should be a contract for signing up that reads:
“If you are in my bridal party, you are expected to pay an average of $2,000 (give or take) for someone else’s wedding.  The expenses may include, but are not limited to: an engagement party, a gym membership, time away from family/friends, bachelorette/bachelor party weekends out of town, round-trip plane tickets to said weekends events, matching bachelorette party attire and/or gifts, round-trip plane tickets for the wedding, bridal party attire, hair and makeup (because, coming as you are is unacceptable), bridal shower, wedding rehearsal dinner, additional transportation, accommodations … and anything else the capitalistic billion-dollar wedding industry makes us think is important…”
It is wonderful that the bride has many friends who would love to support the wedding, and gift the couple with festivities or gifts. Yes, we may be #blessed and honored that our friends want to spend money on us.  This begs the question:  why is there a correlation between the more money we spend and the emotional value of connectedness/intimacy/care/love we feel?

Knowing all of this, and understanding that I am now fiancée’d, how do we address this? At the core, I LOVE ROMANCE. I love “love”. I truly believe in the healing power, and transformative nature of “love”.  Above all wedding-ness practices, I believe in everlasting marriages. Changing traditional weddings are beyond rebellion, for rebellion-sake.  It is an opportunity to evolve practices of “partnership”, redefine identity in relationship in an equitable manner and within a context of others, and encouraging financial costs in a socially responsible manner. 

Given the complexities of the wedding world, cultural values, and in re-imagining a wedding closer to practicing “partnership” between the couple, I pose these questions to you:
-          Could we, as wedding hosts (potential brides and grooms) still love and enjoy weddings without the glitz and glam, the $20-30k wedding budget, or the bridal shower & wedding gifts? 
-          How can we support ourselves in the wedding process, and not have a bridal party?
-          Do we really need to have over 150 people at our wedding?
-          Would we (self-identified women) still feel fulfilled if we kept our last names, changed the partner’s last name, and/or changed both (bride & groom) last names?
-          Would we be content with having a wedding without the rings? 
-          Why do we raise questions/ridicule/“find it odd” when grooms want to plan the wedding, wanting engagement rings (yes, my partner has his own engagement ring), or other traditions (e.g., something other than strippers at the bachelor party, standing on the right-side…opposed to left-side of the aisle during ceremony, or take on the bride’s/or combination of both last names)?
Are there feelings of control and release of control that are required in encouraging co-creation of the wedding?  Absolutely!  There is also ways in which the co-creation of weddings is uncomfortable because it requires both individuals to have a voice and, be empowered to be present during the planning process. 

I have found it useful to consult resources such as friends and family who understand the social justice values of gender equality in marriages, websites like theFeministBride.com, or Catalyst wedding magazine.  I do believe it IS a special day. One of which that can be done, and intentionally expressive of the couple’s love with being socially responsible, financially equitable, and honor the identity of both individuals. Ultimately, weddings can be a beautiful transition honoring the beginning the two individuals into a partnership and a loving marriage.  In evolving components of the wedding, we have the opportunity cultivate gender equality by means of equitable practices. 

For other wedding reads that were funny/interesting/poignant, check these out:

Wedding History:
-          Funny & honest YouTube video on the “wedding ring” scam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5kWu1ifBGU 

Hilarious Jim Gaffigan comedy on weddings: (link at: 1:35) http://www.cc.com/video-clips/l1inw6/stand-up-jim-gaffigan--weddings-are-incredibly-weird)

Ways women are psychological conditioned to love weddings in an unstable and unhealthy way:

Wedding industry profits: 
-          Ultimately, Who profits:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/wedding-industry_n_3002354.html
-          It’s an industry, don’t give into it (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/learnvest/wedding-cost_b_1698059.html)
-          Wedding debt (http://www.oprah.com/money/Our-Wedding-Put-Us-in-Debt)

Bridesmaid Debt & Politics:
-          Off-Beat Bride: http://offbeatbride.com/2015/06/do-i-need-bridesmaids
-          The Politics of Choosing a Bridesmaid:  http://www.thefrisky.com/2008-05-08/the_politics_of_choosing_a_bridesmaid/
-          “Bridesmaid Protest” http://www.elle.com/culture/news/a15338/bridesmaid-protest/

What’s in a name? When Feminists marry:

propaganda of the “me, me, me” culture in weddings: http://www.newsweek.com/2013/06/19/bridezillas-and-rise-me-me-me-weddings-237570.html

Written by Jean-Arellia Tolentino


  1. Firstly, thank you for your clearly well-researched and well-formulated ideas in this post. As an SPW campus rep who will be posting to the blog in November, I have already started formulating my ideas for my post which I hope may enrich this discussion as the topic is also wedding/marriage related. Also as a woman in my late 20s who has attended and/or participated in 10+ weddings over the past several years, I have many opinions on the matter but wanted to highlight my disdain for bridal showers. I took an adamant stance with my mother to NOT plan an event in my honor in which I sit at the front of a room while women of several generations "ooh" and "aah" at 'gifts' which are intended for women to take their 'rightful' place in the kitchen and the bedroom after they get married (e.g., new tupperware, baking pans, lingerie). I have been pushing for a registry which includes a new laptop and statistical software licenses.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to reading your piece, and continuing the conversation. Bridal Showers are definitely a particular wedding event that is ripe with questionable intentions. I look forward to hearing more about the ways in which this commonplace ritual has influenced you. all the best..

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  4. Your comments about weddings are very refreshing and all the arguments you put to oppose the formality of getting married strike a chord with me. I think that getting married can be an oppressive state of affairs. Like you, I adore love and romance. However, I won't agree to get married to my partner. Good luck with your decision.

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