Millions of young women grow up with a specific image in their heads of a perfect wedding. Bring on the gorgeous white dress, an over-the-top wedding venue, and an adorable three-year-old flower girl that has no idea what’s going on. It’s the typical white wedding that you see in those tear-jerking rom-coms. But believe it or not, white weddings are not the only way to celebrate a new marriage.
Princess Philippa of Great Britain was the first bride in recorded history to wear a white wedding dress in 1406. From that point onwards, the idea of a white wedding was born and it warped our understanding of weddings for generations to come. A white wedding entails groomsmen, bridesmaids, father-daughter dances, and everything in between.
But as a career-driven, Zambian-South African woman, I plan on doing things a little differently if I do happen to get married one day. I want my wedding to align with my identity and there’s no way I’m letting outdated wedding practices hold me back.
I have a vivid childhood memory of my two over-enthusiastic aunties telling me that one day I’ll have an official white wedding and a kitchen party, the traditional Zambian pre-wedding or bridal shower. The name kitchen party originates from the guests bringing gifts and money for the bride-to-be’s new kitchen. However, it refers to a more general celebration of the wedding these days.
Nine-year-old me was baffled by the thought of getting married and a pre-wedding sounded exhausting, even at that age.
At the time, I had no idea what my aunties were talking about when they mentioned a kitchen party. But as I grew older, it made a lot more sense. I realized that white weddings have unfortunately become the blueprint for women across the world, regardless of their cultural background. We often have to find ways of merging our cultural identity with the ways of the Western world.
However, my white wedding can be just as traditional as my Zambian kitchen party. I’ll have the kitchen party because I want to respect my elders and I’m proud of my Zambian roots. However, I honestly don’t feel the need to distinguish between the two. I’ve seen plenty of weddings that followed typical western traditions while celebrating the cultural heritage of each partner. That’s what I hope to achieve.
I’m also sold on the idea of having a bridal party made up of people I love, regardless of their gender. It simply doesn’t make sense for me to exclude some of my dearest friends based on their gender. Let’s normalize bridesmaids who are men and groomsmen who are women. And while we’re at it, let’s abolish the terms bridesmaids and groomsmen altogether. The terms are exclusionary and they don’t align with the vision for my potential wedding anyway.
Personally, I’ve decided to call my entire wedding party “my entourage”. It sounds cooler and it’ll be far more exciting to choose wedding outfits for a non-binary group of people.
The formalities of a white wedding aren’t that appealing to me either. Zambian kitchen parties are colorful, high-energy events and I would love for my wedding ceremony to have the same energy. Why should guests wait until the reception to start having fun? The wedding ceremony can be short and sweet so we can get to the main event, the reception.
Most importantly, I want to make it clear that I’m open to a fruitful life that doesn’t involve a wedding or marriage. My main goal is to open up a conversation around weddings and how you can do whatever you want. Weddings are a celebration of love, and they don’t have to be white-washed, exclusionary or outdated.
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