I am lucky enough to know some incredibly brilliant folks and Lauren is one of them! We met in high school almost twenty years ago and she has continued to be one of the people who inspires me to grow, reevaluate and push boundaries. Lauren Burrows (she/her) has a MA in Social Justice and Community Engagement. She is also a community organizer and activist on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples. And now, Lauren is going to share just a sliver of her knowledge with you! Today, she is going to shed some light on planning an inclusive wedding.
Marriage is a reflection of our social, cultural, and political identities, and can be a manifestation of positive values including love, commitment and family. However, a wedding can leave us engaging in acts that don’t align with our value systems such as reinforcing strict gender roles or enacting environmental harm. We need to think critically about weddings and the impact they have on our relationships and environments.
For many of us, this means to ensure our wedding is…
Inclusive: Everyone feels welcome and safe.
Accessible: Everyone is able to participate fully.
Environmentally Sustainable: Resources used, and waste produced, is kept to a minimum.
If this resonates with you here are some things to consider:
Happily choosing to get married is a privilege. It is a social/political right that many individuals can not exercise or exercise under distress because of their race, sexuality, class, religion etc. If you are happily consenting to marriage, pay attention to these inequities. One way to do this is by intentionally thanking the individuals and communities that have sacrificed for you to celebrate in this capacity.
For some, this means thanking the activists that fought for the rights of women, racialized and LGBTQ+ folks to love and marry freely. For those who live in North America, it means to recognize the traditional territories of the Indigenous communities on which you are hosting your ceremony.
Language is incredibly powerful and in the case of weddings, a lot of the language is gendered, monogamous, and heteronormative. This means it mostly applies to folks who identify within the gender binary (male/female), have only one partner, are straight, and are getting married for the first time. Could you change the language you use to recognize and validate other identities and experiences?
You can use gender-neutral and non-heteronormative words such as partners, person/attendant of honour, chosen family, and wedding party. Or perhaps you can use language that recognizes your capacity to have multiple partners at the same time. Or language that validates that this may not be your first union but is still a very special experience.
There can be no love without justice– Bell Hooks
Your wedding can be an opportunity to engage your loved ones around an injustice that creates a barrier to love in this world. These barriers include things such as sexism, homophobia or racism. This doesn’t mean you have to centralize a difficult issue on your wedding day. However, you could encourage your guests to donate either their time or money towards equity-related activism in an effort to make a positive impact in your honour.
Environmental degradation directly impacts human and animal wellbeing, and the use of unethically sourced items can contribute to issues such as environmental racism, and species extinction. Therefore, it is important to minimize your consumption of resources, energy, labour, and packaging.
Ways to minimize your footprint can include:
This seems unromantic but marriage is more than romance. Ideas about romance often fail us as they can support unrealistic expectations of our partners, and create inequities in the relationship. Speak directly to the ways your relationship validates your identity and empowers you to be a more compassionate, accountable, and intentional person.
Here are just a few things to think about to ensure your event is accessible.
Venue: Is the venue/isles/seating/washrooms physically accessible? Are there gender-neutral washrooms? Are there are a variety of transportation options to the venues?
Food Sharing: Do you have options that support different dietary needs? Is there access to water at all times? Do you have options for sober folks?
Information Sharing: Have you accounted for language barriers, visual or hearing impairments so a guest doesn’t spend the event in isolation?
Finances: Does your wedding require large financial contributions or monetary gifts? If so, have you disclosed this or provided other options like doing a task for you instead of purchasing a gift?
Traditions: Do certain traditional practices make sense for you? For example, it is often customary for there to be a series of first dances; are these arranged in a way that honour your family make up/family status?
Planning a wedding can be a stressful experience so choose practical and impactful forms of self-care and community care.
Set boundaries. Discuss your priorities including how much time, energy, and finances will go into this process for you, your partner(s), your family, and your wedding party. Stick to these boundaries and ask consent to make any changes. Remember that the wedding industry provides many options, so pick the ones that feel right for you and respect the capacity of those around you.
Express your needs. Proactively set up a support network and troubleshoot potential issues that may come up for you around your physical, mental, emotional or financial health. For example, if you know you have issues handling details hire a wedding planner who can provide you with options and negotiate around your needs.
Remember that being accountable to others, and intentional in your actions, makes for a more intimate and loving space on your wedding day.
Lo, Equity Educator and Dearest Friend of Confetti and Co.
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Wedding planner. Business owner. Lover of french fries.