Our Feminist Catholic Wedding – We are doing it our way. – Save the Date Blog

Today (12th September 2019) is a year until, we take our wedding vows, and also a year since we made rings and officially became engaged. Today we have chosen to send out our “save the dates” that included a link to this blog.

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Planning our wedding so far has been more challenging than we expected and if we are honest we worry about others expectations and visions for our day, one thing we have in common is worrying about letting people down, and what others think, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel left out, or unwelcome.

From our own experiences and from our research planning a wedding can be a stressful time, it’s easy to get caught up and believe you need all the extras, that the wedding fair’s push on you, but that’s not what makes a wedding for us. In the early planning stages the advice we got was – ‘it’s your wedding do it your way,’ and that’s what we intend to do, it might not be the most traditional, but it will certainly represent who we are as individuals and a couple.

Rachel is an intersectional feminist and Anthony a practising Catholic, so our day aims to combine these both.

How do you have a Catholic feminist wedding you might ask?  Well, this blog aims to answer that question, and in turn hopefully help you understand some of our thinking and decision making.

As a feminist, it was important to understand where traditions of marriage come from, and to ensure we did not carry out a tradition that upholds the idea of oppression or ownership, but also ensuring we respect the Catholic faith.

For those unfamiliar with the Catholic faith marriage is thought of as an equal partnership,  the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and nurturing of offspring; the second purpose is the mutual help of spouses, and the third is the remedy for concupiscence.

The Venue Choice

We have chosen to marry in Anthonys family’s parish Church in Blackhill, something very important to him, as many generations of his family have married there, followed by a celebration in Middlesbrough later that day.

The Marriage Course

To marry in a catholic church, you are required to complete a marriage course, although we joked about it in the lead up, we both found the day enjoyable and informative, it mainly focused on communication.  Marriage for both of us is a life time commitment. We know at times it’s not going to be easy,  however this course gave us some advice and techniques we plan to use throughout our life together.

The Hen and Stag Parties

In researching its history , we found that the stag party can be traced back to as early as the 5th century BC.  It is believed that the ancient Spartans would hold a dinner in the groom’s honour and make toasts on his behalf to celebrate his last night as a single man.

In Ancient Greece the Hen Party can be traced to a party referred to as the Proaulia, held during the last days before the wedding. The bride and her family would make an offering to the gods and later celebrate with a feast.

The modern pre wedding party has developed in to a whole celebration often taking up a weekend,  we are encouraged to dress up and make fools of ourselves often with reference made to what some might consider lewd behaviour,  that in turn might be seen as objectification.

At first, we talked about having a joint weekend away, but the more we have talked and planned this idea has lost momentum.

Rachel is planning on a weekend away with friends. I’m not into big nights out, and the thought of dressing up, and watching a stripper fills me with dread. I would much prefer, a nice cottage or hotel with spa, a comedy show, visiting historic sites or an art gallery to see Grayson Perry’s latest exhibition.

Anthony is planing a weekend away that will involve a group activity followed by a night out.

The Rings

Getting married was a decision we made together and to celebrate this we booked a ring making workshop and made each other silver engagement rings.  It was important that we both wore engagement rings as modern symbol of love and our plans to marry, as the history of the engagement ring is surrounded in ownership of woman.

The first ring was made from grass twisted into a circle, however due to the temporary nature over time what was used evolved from other plants to rope, leather and finally metal.

In the 2nd century BC the ancient Romans gave betrothal rings instead of high-priced gifts and dowries. This was a physical representation that a woman was taken and was meant to show ownership.

We also looked in to wedding rings having a religious meaning, and found that although the exchange of rings for marriage is not mentioned within the bible, other Bible passages show jewellery being used to symbolise a special bond between people.

We plan to embrace the symbolism of a bond between us rather than a symbol of ownership and plan to attended a further workshop to make our wedding rings together.

The outfits

The white wedding dress, is a common tradition in the western world, it originated with Anne of Brittany on her marriage to Louis XII of France in 1499, But it wasn’t until 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, that the white dress was made popular.

Up until the nineteen-hundreds, brides hardly ever bought a special wedding dress, opting for their best outfit instead, of any colour, both Rachels Mother and Grandmother did not wear white for their weddings.

We are at the stage of looking for wedding outfits, this is something we are going to do together, for me the colour of dress is not important, it’s more about what flatters my shape, so watch this space.

Shoes are also a concern for Rachel her disability means she has always had an issue finding shoes that support her.  Growing up wearing callipers, splints, and now specially made orthopaedic boots I have never and could never were a shoe with a heel.

I’m hoping that at the time of our wedding current treatment will have reduced the swelling in my right foot so I can wear a pair of Dr Martins the boots I lived in as a teenager,  although I want everyone to feel comfortable in what they are wearing if you own a pair of Dr Martins or have a comfortable pair of shoes we would love you to wear then in solidarity with Rachel.

The Bouquets

Interestingly this tradition of the bride carrying a bouquet was first introduced to mask the bride’s odour, Rumour has it, the scents of fragrant flowers were used to ward off evil spirits.  Traditionally, the bride also throws her bouquet. Rachel is opting for a non-flower-based bouquet, and she’s not going to throw it.  We have commissioned a bouquet made of paper and feathers, something we can keep and treasure.  Rachel promises to shower, and use deodorant and perfume on the day so hopefully won’t smell that bad.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

Meant to bring a bride good luck, this poem originated from England during the Victorian Era. This wedding tradition, is full of well-wishes and embraces the past, present and future success of the newly married couple.

The old signifies the bride’s past, her heritage and how she got to this point. The New is an optimistic look at the couple’s future ahead. The borrowed symbolises the ongoing support from family and friends. It is a blessing for marital bliss and a pledge that you will have support when needed. The blue has been around since ancient Roman times, blue was worn to symbolise loyalty, fidelity, purity and love.

The more we have learnt, about this tradition the more we like it, but we have agreed that it’s not just the bride, and plan to uphold this tradition between us.

Not seeing each other before the wedding.

This tradition dates back to the days of arranged marriages, when marriage was more of a business arrangement than something done for love.  This is not a tradition we want to honour. We are planning a relaxing spa day the day before our wedding at will be stay in a hotel together in Durham the night before.

The Bridal Party

In the book of genesis (29:24, 46:18) Jacob, and his two wives Leah and Rachel, literally came with their own maids, a possible origin of bridesmaids. These women were handmaidens (servants or slaves) instead of social peers.

Some sources state that, in ancient times, originally the bride and all the bridesmaids wore exactly the same dress and veiled their faces heavily, for the purpose of confusing jealous suitors and evil spirits.

The tradition of the “best man” is thought to have originated with the Germanic Goths of the 16th century. He was the “best man” for, specifically, the job of stealing the bride from her family, and he was probably the best swordsman. 

Given some of this history which again is drowning in women not being seen as an equal to men.

Anthony has chosen to have his sister Hailey as his best person, although we are unsure of her swordsman skills.

Rachel has chosen not to have bridesmaids, we would however like to invite our friends children to get involved and if any would like to be flower people / aisle escorts they are more than welcome, to walk down the aisle, wearing anything they feel comfortable in. 

We also plan to have somethings to entertain children at the back of the church so please feel free to use this during the service, children should be children and noise is fine with us.

Being given away

While it is considered normal for the bride to be given away by the father, Catholics believe that the bride and groom give themselves to each other as equal partners. This means that the bride and groom should walk in together or be escorted by both their parents. While you hardly ever see this, it is what is recommended according to the Sacrament of Marriage teachings.

The tradition which dates back to the days when marriage was more of a business arrangement. Brides would quite literally be handed over to “a new owner, usually in exchange for money or dowry.

Rachel does not want to follow this tradition  it’s so important (just as her Mum did) that she walks down the aisle as the independent woman she is, and that no mention of being given away is referred to.  Anthony wants to wait at the foot of the alter to meet her as he wants the surprise of seeing her coming down the aisle. Be prepared for waterworks from either of us (especially Anthony). 

The Ceremony and Vows 

For us the most important part of the day, the part where we make a commitment to each other, in front of God our friends and family, and ask you to help and support us in our married life.

Perhaps a common misconception, the word obey does not appear in Catholic wedding vows. The word was introduced by the Church of England in 1549 when it released its first Book of Common Prayer.

We are still planning the hymns and readings, but there will be connections to our family’s history here, any suggestions would be warmly welcomed 

Confetti and being environmentally aware 

Where possible we are trying to be environmentally friendly, we would encourage people to share lifts or use the bus service we will be providing.  We ask that you do please consider the environment, and the church we are marrying in does not aloud confetti, due to the remembrance garden being located at the door of the church. Traditionally, rice was thrown at the newly married couple to encourage fertility, but it was the Victorians who first used shredded paper. Although we happy for people to bring and thrown confetti, when we arrived at the reception,  you might want to explore ideas on creating environmentally friendly versions,  like making biodegradable confetti with a hole punch and leaves. 

The Theme

We have had lots of ideas of themes, from Ghostbusters to the 1920s but the more we plan the more we go off the idea of having a single theme, but there will be elements of these themes plus others and things that represent us.

The Occupational Therapist in Rachel wants to have activities for you to engage in during the day, there will be things to entertain you on your tables and we ask that you share any photos of the day or things you are doing in the lead up to the day using our hashtag. #BoothGardinerWedding

The Cake

Most wedding rituals are to encourage fertility, and so it is with the wedding cake. The tradition began in the Roman Empire with the Romans breaking small cakes of wheat and barley over the bride’s head, the tradition was a symbol of his dominance in the marriage and over her.  

During the reign of Charles II, the three-tier cake with white icing we use today was introduced. The cake takes its shape from the spire of Saint Bride’s Church in London. The couple cuts the first piece together as a gesture of their shared future, whatever it might bring.

We have commissioned song bird bakery in Middlesbrough to make our three teared cake that Anthony has designed. 

The Party

Often the mostly costly part, we have made some compromises here, as there are some many people, we want to share the day with, we have chosen a venue for it size, convenience to places to stay and reasonable priced food.

The party will be held in Teesside Uni’s student Union, this is the University Rachel went too and holds many memories for her. (Transport will be provided for those that need it, please let us know your requirements on our wedding website which will be on your official invitation)

We are planning a Hog Roast Buffet meal with half being a traditional Hog roast & half being Parmo, to bring a bit of Middlesbrough to the event.

The Parmo is a traditional Middlesbrough dish, it consists of chicken or pork topped with a white béchamel sauce and cheese topping.

(If you are not a meat eater you will be catered for again please let us know your requirements on the wedding website.) 

The speeches’

Always Rachel’s favourite part of the wedding, tradition states that the groom, father of the bride and best man give a speech.  We will both certainly be giving speeches, but as we are not having a traditional bridal party, It’s important to us that you feel part of our day, so if you would like to say something at this point just get in touch and we will fit you in.

The Name Change

Rachel could write forever on this subject but we feel this blog is already to long,  however this article https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/12/im-getting-married-should-i-change-my-surname perfectly explains her thinking when it comes to changing her surname.

The choice to take your husband’s name or keep your maiden should be a choice made without judgement.

As explained in this article the history of changing surnames for women is again surrounded in the ideas of ownership, and by the end of the article the writer states ‘To abandon my surname and take that of my partner would mean abandoning me, along with all her luggage — the errors, achievements and resonances created over the years. I would become, first and foremost, my husband’s wife. And that’s not the whole of me. So when it comes to my own wedding day I will be “ambitious,” “pert” and “forward”. I will keep the name, and its luggage. And as I sign my unchanged name, I’ll think of all the women who made it possible for me to do so.’

Although I love her words in my own research of those within the suffragette movement, I found that many like Middlesbroughs first female Labour councillor Alice Schofield Coates and her sister in law Marion Coates Hansen, chose to double barrel their names upon marriage.

The idea of keeping Rachel Booth with all her errors, achievements and resonances created over 37 years is a must, but to also to acknowledge that we are making a life choice to tie ourselves together until death us do part, doing as those pioneering women did by double barrel feels right.

We have discussed this a lot, and feel we want to have the same surname so once we are married will both become Booth-Gardiner’s.   Ms and Mr Booth-Gardiner in-fact (keeping the Ms which I switch to using a few years ago)

We hope this has helped explain our thinking and we would love you to get involved, join in the spirit of the event and share any ideas this blog might have sparked. Most of all we just want everyone to feel comfortable and have fun.

Love Rachel and Anthony.

Published by otrach

Clinical Lead OT, working within acute and rehab mental health, 1/7th of the Otalk team. Lived experience of disability. All views expressed here are my own.

3 thoughts on “Our Feminist Catholic Wedding – We are doing it our way. – Save the Date Blog

  1. My Dad forwarded this for me to read. Really enjoyed it and applaud you both for doing things your way! Sure you’ll have a wonderful day xx

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