Last week we travelled down to Melbourne for a family wedding, and we were excited!
For me, weddings are an opportunity for a fabulous community celebration of love and connection in our lives. But it’s not always been like this for me.
I was raised in a feminist family and for many years was anti-marriage. As a social institution, marriage, particularly for women, has a very chequered history. The historic notion of women being property, firstly of the father and then ‘given away’ into the custodianship of the husband, has always grated. Particularly when i consider that in my culture, my female ancestors had little or no access to education or means to make an independent income.
Image from http://www.jennifertellsastory.wordpress.com
Women were unable to own or inherit property and were legally subject to the whims and mercy of their husband. There was no rape in marriage laws and ‘rule of thumb’ law meant men could beat their wives with a rod whose diameter was no larger than their thumb. This is just the start of my reservations about marriage as I believe these traditional notions of marriage were oppressive for men as well.
Our reservations about marriage were also about the injustice of gay and lesbian people not having the same legal marriage rights as heterosexual couples.
Marriage has a long, diverse and complex history. Truth is, I’ve always struggled with gendered concepts around role, work, social status and expectations. It amazes me how ingrained and limiting these patriarchal beliefs can be. Feminism for me, represents freedom, not just for women, but for all people to be free of gender stereotypes and expectations, to create themselves according to their own truth, purpose and values.
Image from http://www.nytimes.com
To strive for freedom and liberation, one first needs a conscious awareness of their own chains and limitations. But this isn’t a post about feminism, it’s about marriage, for me they are connected.
I got married just over two years ago. Why? So what changed? Well in a nutshell, me.
Our decision to get married started as pragmatic. We were approaching the 10th anniversary of our relationship and we wanted to throw a big party to celebrate. Most of our family live interstate and overseas and we realised that they were unlikely to travel for a party, but the big ‘M’ might motivate them! :o)
Truth is, we’d been cogitating on marriage for a few years. We had attended some lovely weddings in the preceding years and were warming to the idea. We decided to unpack the concept and redefine marriage on our own terms. In fact, we could just as easily not have married, but we embraced the concepts of joyous celebration.
At its very basic core, a marriage is an economic arrangement where two people agree to take financial responsibility for each other. Pre-liberation, when women were economically dependent, this usually meant men taking responsibility for women. When someone makes this kind of economic commitment to another person, it is a beautiful gift and in my mind should not be limited to opposite genders and some other constraints. Sadly, Australian laws limit marriage to heterosexual couples only.
Image from http://www.speculatingcanada.wordpress.com
Religion, culture, and social norms have layered meaning and expectations onto this social institution, particularly around gender roles, work, sexuality and the procreation of children. Couples now, have greater opportunity to redefine their relationships on their own terms (within existing cultural constraints). However, change is needed to the laws on same sex marriage, heterosexuals don’t own marriage.
Our marriage is an ongoing creation, but let’s look at our wedding itself. When it came to the wedding, we started with a blank slate. We threw out all the expectations, all the assumptions about what we should or should not do and created the event ourselves.
We came to understand the wedding as a public statement and celebration of what already was – our existing love and commitment to each other. We went further and saw it as a deeper spiritual ritual. We set the intention that the event was a gift to our community of family and friends. Our theme was “a celebration of love in our lives in all of its forms.”
Our beautiful friend Narelle was the celebrant. She is very open and supportive of us. Many of our family and friends helped to organise the event. We are so grateful for their love and generosity! The ceremony took place on our land among the trees, birds and nature spirits. We created a magical ritual and cast a circle, we honoured the Aboriginal traditional owners and custodians of the land, and invited in the divine, our ancestors, elemental spirits and beings of light. The process honoured self love first, love and gratitude for our parents, love for our community, and romantic love for each other. We did a hand binding and exchanged rings and our own vows. We created and activated blessings for ourselves, each person present and their family, friends and community, and finally blessings for the earth and all beings.
Now I understand the spiritual concept of the glowing bride. On the day, I became an open channel as an extraordinarily beautiful and joyful loving energy poured through. Throughout the whole ceremony and party afterwards this energy kept flowing. I set the intention for it to continually flow to all the people in attendance (and those who could not) and sent it out to the planet and all beings. We created an energetic mirror around us so that all the love, good thoughts and intentions that were sent our way were gratefully received and magnified 10 fold back into the lives of the sender. This was the spiritual gift to our community.
The focus for us was on celebration. We had a wonderful fun party afterwards at our family home. My parents were so generous in supporting us and hosting the event. We kept dancing and laughing til 5am, when we collapsed in a heap and watched the sunrise over the front deck. I can’t tell you how blessed and grateful we feel for such generosity from our community and our blessed memories.
So i’m a convert to the joy and blessing of weddings, or parties, or whatever you choose to celebrate love and commitment. After you have organised and run your own wedding, there is a totally new appreciation for the gift of an invitation and just how special weddings can be. We’re loved the celebration of the family wedding, the fun and joy and the gift that we could give, without all the hard work!
The most important thing about a wedding is that it is a true and authentic expression of the couple. It can cost nothing or be massively expensive, most critical is the intention and meaning for the couple and their community.
A friend of mine, who is a wedding photographer, said to me recently, “it doesn’t matter how much a couple spends, one of the best wedding i’ve been to cost $100, what matters is the love in the room!”
I wish you celebration of love in your life in all its forms.
Know that we are blessed, truly!