I was quite surprised that nobody asked me how writing about wedding planning fit into the broader mission of this blog. Why write about wedding planning on a blog called “Sex Ed Transforms,” created to promote transformative sexuality education for adolescents and young adults? The more I think about this question and reflect on the process, the more reasons there are. I’ll explain three of those reasons here.
1. For the teenagers.
Marriage is one of the organizing principles of sex education in our public schools. Abstinence Only until Marriage programs teach that sex and sexuality are only legitimate in the context of marriage. On its own, this concept means that sex is framed in the context of these traditional gender roles and capitalist pressures that accompany weddings and marriages. Even teenagers lucky enough to receive comprehensive sexuality education that focuses on how to form healthy relationships at any age are still exposed to the media. In magazines, TV shows, and movies, marriage is the ultimate point of reference for romance. And weddings are the climax of romance, the height of the love and drama. Not only does this perpetuate the idealization of weddings as perfect and beautiful, but it also fails to teach anything about healthy and happy marriages. If weddings are the height of romance, then what comes next? Rather than learning the skills they need to have healthy, pleasurable, and fulfilling relationships at any age and with any shape or size of religious, legal, or private commitment, teenagers are instead learning that they must get married and enter into this specific kind of relationship or else they will never have legitimate sex and they will never get to live out their dreams of true love. Which everyone should want. And if they don’t, they’re missing out on something that they should want even if they don’t want it.
2. For us, the young adults in our 20s and 30s.
Young adulthood, in our society, is stereotypically framed by the achievement of certain milestones that mark the transition from being a kid to having kids, including launching a career, getting married, and, well, having kids. In reality, however, so many young adults enjoy such varied paths, which can result in much success and happiness. It’s said that today’s young adults are more likely to explore multiple careers in their lifetime, to live with a partner without plans of marriage, and perhaps to choose not to have children. Unusual paths are becoming more, well, usual. Why, then, is marriage still this ultimate point of reference? Even for young adults who don’t get married, the weddings of their friends and siblings mark the calendar year with showers, bachelor/ette parties, and the big days themselves. The culture of weddings thus becomes an intricate part of the culture of young adulthood. The involvement of friends and family in the wedding process is also seeped in both patriarchy and materialism, perpetuating unhealthy gender roles for men and women. Although I didn’t write a lot about these particular influences on friends and family, I just need to say that it’s not only about the bride, it’s about how weddings are embedded in the broader culture and thus create problematic and, at times, quite detrimental gendered and classed power dynamics.
3. For the children. Do it for the children.
I’ll keep this simple. My thought is just that if wedding and marriage are drowning in patriarchy and capitalism, and people who marry later go on to have children, the messages sent to the couple about what marriage should be like and what they should care about are going to trickle into the foundation of their relationship. That, in turn, will affect the environment in which the children are raised and the implicit and explicit messages the children receive, thus perpetuating the patriarchy and burying us deeper and deeper in sexism.
All I’m saying is, all of this wedding stuff I wrote about does not just affect me as a bride. It affects our whole society and everybody in it. Another thing to consider is that most young brides are doing it for their first time. And after they do it once, they often don’t get a second chance any time soon, so the industry gets to remain very stagnant, constantly getting new clients without having to woo old clients back again. And that’s part of the reason I decided to speak up and say something. I don’t plan on having another wedding, but I do plan on sticking around and engaging in this society for a while more, and I think all of this stuff is still going to matter even now that my wedding is over. So, nobody asked, but these are my reasons. Now I’m asking you, what should we do about it?