Taking your first steps as a child are a big deal, so are the ones you and your spouse take together as newlyweds. Who wouldn’t want to step off on the right foot into a lifetime of marital bliss? It’s not the actual steps one takes at the reception that matters (though knowing how to walk in high heels under layers of tulle is a feat unto itself); it’s how the Master of Ceremonies introduces the couple that makes a big difference.
While this tradition takes a fraction of a second and can seem inconsequential to some, it is traditionally very patriarchal. The classical approach goes something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please give a big, standing applause as we welcome, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Smith.” Or something like, “…Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith.” (To understand why women practice patronymics, i.e. taking the man’s name, click here.)
First of all, the purpose of the tradition is to celebrate the couple’s new life together. The traditional structure, as explained above, celebrates the couple, but in the context of the man as the primary figurehead of the relationship. Not to get all Zen on you, but how can one tree grow equally in the shadow of the other? Why not modernize the tradition so each person is represented equally?
Secondly, modern women are independently minded; marriage should not mean that their identity gets sucked into a black hole never to be seen or heard of ever again. And it certainly doesn’t mean the only identity a woman gets with marriage is…his. A truly egalitarian relationship, one of mutual love and respect, will give both partners’ names equal billing. Modernizing the announcement tradition will encourage more equality to the larger name change tradition.
At my own reception, it was imperative that the Master of Ceremonies didn’t accidentally revert to the gender-skewed announcement tradition. It was also really important that my guests understood we were keeping our original surnames. (I can’t tell you how many people naturally assume the woman just adopts the man’s.) If you’re a modern couple, make sure to give specific directions to the MC on what to say and how to say it, even feel free to explain why modernizing this short speech is imperative. Who knows maybe the MC will eventually use the modern option exclusively simply because it’s PC and therefore, safer.
The Feminist Bride’s goal is to create more parity in wedding traditions; luckily the modern solution is simple, easy and just as awesomely declarative. Here are a few different ways in which the couple can be announced with equal respect:
What is said before the names is completely flexible; the part of the tradition that needs modernization is the name announcement. The wedding tradition of patronymics is one of the most inequitable, gendered customs. Overcoming this inequitable practice starts with modernizing the smaller ones that continue to support it – like the reception and even ceremony announcement. By modernizing such small moments, the wedding becomes less and less patriarchal and more about the couple, as true equals. Now, doesn’t the latter sound like the better foot to kick off a successful marriage?