This article was originally published on my medium page, https://medium.com/@CindyaNguyen. Thank you to all for the support and encouragement to keep writing and sharing my stories.
After both my (male) partner and I (female) proposed to each other and announced our engagement to our closest friends, I was bombarded with the following questions:
- How did he propose?
- Let’s see the rock!
- When is the date? What type of dress will you wear? What are your wedding colors? Who is in your wedding party? (And other wedding day details)
I knew that weddings and marriage were ridden with patriarchy, heteronormativity, and religious constructs of virginity, purity, and gendered roles. Yet, I was not initially prepared for the constant bombardment with gendered constructs of bride-to-be’s from the ratchet bachelorette party, unapologetic bride-zillas, to pinterest perfect brides whose every minute needed to be consumed by wedding planning.
Early on in the wedding planning, I questioned if a feminist, socially and culturally conscious wedding was an oxymoron and inherently impossible. After many late night existential conversations with my close friends, allies, and partner, I was reminded that at the core of feminism was this precise process of questioning, reflection, and conscious decision making. My partner and I thus dedicated ourselves to approaching the wedding process with a deep level of intentionality and individuality, rather than subscribing to socially constructed gender norms and religious expectations.
Thus my partner and I committed ourselves to having a socially and gender conscious wedding that involved both of us equally as well as shared with our community our spiritual, cultural, and personal history.
After about two years of discussion and planning our June wedding, my partner and I have emerged stronger and more confident about our relationship and community.
As a female person of color academic, I initially wanted to keep my personal life and details separate from my professional identity. However, the internet is painfully gendered to perpetuate impossible and unequal expectations for both women and men. The capitalistic wedding industrial complex emphasizes that the wedding day is the most important day, especially in a young woman’s life; but underneath that veneer of instagram filters are blood diamonds paid for by masculine labor, unhealthy diets to fit into the perfect dress, and the gendered wedding planning roles of masculine apathy and feminine zealousness.
Thus, I wanted to share and contribute an alternative perspective to weddings and planning. Ours is just one experience. We hope that some of these ideas might inspire others to reflect on what is important to you and your partner as well as your community.
- My partner (henceforth referred to as E) and I proposed to each other.
- Like most 21st century engagements, E and I have discussed for many years what the meaning of relationships, weddings, and marriage meant to both of us and our families. We spent many years learning about compromise, communication, and honesty from others and a couples’ counselor.
- I refused to have a mainstream ‘rock’ that marked the female as ‘off the market.’
- Both of us agreed that our engagement present to one another should be meaningful and had a price point cap (~$200) rather than the unrealistic 3 months of the groom’s salary. Thus, we both made something meaningful for each other, and planned a small dinner with our closest friends to celebrate.
- We only used text messaging, email, and phone calls to notify our closest friends about our engagement and upcoming wedding. (Essentially, we personally abstained from posting on Facebook and Instagram during the wedding planning.)
- Both E and I are very active on social media for our work. However, we wanted our wedding to be a personal celebration of our life’s journeys. Thus during the planning process, we only shared news about the engagement and wedding details with our closest friends and family, rather than a social media ordeal and inherent competition for ‘likes.’
- We researched the history and meaning behind all wedding rituals.
- Both of us were raised Catholic. Catholic spirituality and tradition has been an important part of our immigrant/refugee communities and upbringing. Over the years and during the wedding planning, we were able to further reflect upon how to be progressive, compassionate Catholics, as well as challenge certain religious gender norms that we did not agree with. There were many rituals that we decided to leave out of our wedding, and others that we redefined with new meaning that was personal to us.
- We shared in the labor and decision making.
- I am a full time graduate student and instructor and E also had his hands full with work and life. Both of us agreed that the wedding is a reflection of both of our love, friendships, family, and journey together. Thus, we took on equal roles and shared the responsibilities of wedding planning. This was particularly difficult when dealing with our wedding vendors who constantly defaulted decision making and communication to me. However, sharing in all the labor and decision making of the wedding made the planning a journey of active communication, partnership, and adventure.
- We constantly reminded ourselves that the wedding was just one day, and always kept financial costs of the wedding realistic and transparent to our family, friends, and guests. Rather than have the financial burden fall upon the bride or groom side solely, we both contributed equally to the wedding, and also only asked for monetary donations from our guests. Furthermore, many of our wedding things like flowers, favors, invitations, were made on a budget by family, friends, or ourselves.
- We purchased the groom and bride outfits together and kept them within a strict, realistic budget.
- Our outfits were purchased either secondhand, on sale, or were things that we could continue to use beyond the wedding day. We also decided against certain clothing ‘rules’ that we did not like, such as the wedding veil.
- We had a gender inclusive wedding party and celebrations.
- The wedding party was more like a super entourage posse that celebrated me and my partner as individuals. I chose friends and family (female and male) who have helped me become who I am today and included them in the planning process. E did the same. We had gender inclusive parties for our wedding party and also helped plan each others’ celebratory bashes.
The Wedding Day
- We wanted to be active actors in our wedding rather than passively following the motions of tradition and expectations.
- During many wedding ceremonies and receptions, we hardly get to hear the voice of the wedding couple. Thus, during the Catholic mass, we read the readings, and later during the reception, we made a thank you speech and individual speeches when we greeted tables. Furthermore, E took photos during the wedding day, and we made sure to have quiet time with just us.
- We combined both Korean and Vietnamese customs and recognized both of our family’s cultural heritage.
- During the wedding ceremony, many family members wore the traditional Korean hanbok and Vietnamese áo dài. After the ceremony, we immediately had our wedding reception. During the cocktail hour, we celebrated the Korean paebaek ceremony and Vietnamese lễ tổ tiên in front of all of our wedding guests. Both E and I changed into traditional outfits and showed gratitude to our family and friends. We spent a lot of time writing a wedding booklet that explained in Korean, Vietnamese, and English all of the cultural ceremonies and why we chose to share those traditions with everyone.
- We walked down the aisle together hand in hand, rather than have the father of the bride give away his daughter.
- During both the wedding ceremony and reception, we did not always have the groom side presented first.
- Apparently, the groom ‘traditionally’ walks up first, speaks first during vows, and his family is introduced first. We randomized the order and instead just did what was convenient.
- We introduced ourselves as individuals, Cindy & E, rather than Mr & Mrs. E’s last name.
- I was adamant on this point for two reasons: Traditionally Vietnamese women do not change their last name, and both of us believed that we should still remain unique individuals throughout the rest of our married lives.
- We had a family dance, rather than father-daughter, mother-son dance.
- Our music selection included empowering and personally meaningful songs.
- This included Beyonce’s “Formation,” Ingrid Michaelson’s “You and I,”Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and Amos Lee’s “Sweet Pea.”
- We did not have a garter toss or bouquet toss.
- All of our decorations were personal and meaningful to us, rather than standard ‘pinterest/instagram’ inspired.
- We had a travel themed wedding to celebrate all of our adventures together and friendships around the world. We worked on this theme together, and designed all of the cards, invitations, and decorations together. During the wedding, we shared photos and special mementos of our travels together. We also had postcards for our wedding guests to write notes of advice and support.
- For our Catholic mass, we chose readings, prayers, and vows that emphasized compassion, love, and acceptance of people of all orientations and faiths.
- First reading (Genesis 1:26-28, 31a)
A reading from the Book of Genesis
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all he wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it
- Responsorial (Psalm 145:8-9, 10 and 15, 17-18)
Response: “The Lord is compassionate toward all his
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you
and you give them their food in due season.
The Lord is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
- Gospel reading (John 15:12-16)
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the father in my name he may
- We wrote our own prayers of the faithful.
- For the leaders of the Church, state, and institutions, that
they may guide us in the search for God and the good life.
May they be examples of peace and love in this world.
- For the new couple, C and E, that they may rejoice in the simple moments
as well as welcome new challenges and adventures. Bless
them with the compassion and confidence to do meaningful
work in order to empower the community.
- Lord, we thank you for the gifts of friendship and family.
We pray for the parents, families, and friends of Cindy and
Eric for all their support and guidance. May the Lord bless
them with everlasting strength, joy, and love.
- For the leaders of the Church, state, and institutions, that
- First reading (Genesis 1:26-28, 31a)
During our planning process, we actively asked our friends and searched online far and wide for ideas on how to have a culturally and gender conscious wedding. We worked hard to redefine gendered social expectations and respect certain cultural traditions from our communities. We did not want to reject the entire institution of marriage, but wanted to make it our own. At the end of the day, we just did what felt right in our hearts and grew closer and stronger in the process.