“She has a dual degree in English and German. She was top of her class, she’s a woman who lives and breathes literature and words, but she just sat there,” says Helen, 31, who was not impressed by her friend’s wedding. “At her own wedding. Just listening to all of these men talk around her. She didn’t say a word.” Her friend's wedding featured four speakers: the groom, the best man, the father of the bride, and the father of the groom. Four speeches—and yet not a single woman spoke.
The story is far too familiar. Although many are taking a more modern approach and including speeches from the maid of honor or the bride herself, too many weddings follow the traditional trajectory of having only men speak. And it’s hard to ignore the implications—when a woman doesn’t speak, there’s a sense that the bride is there to beautiful, to be desired and admired. But it also says that she is supposed to be, in a throwback to days of yore, silent. For a lot of us, it’s hard to imagine it. It’s the 21st century, right? Surely we’re over this by now? But, even now, some people still express surprise when women are passed the microphone at a wedding. And that’s exactly why it’s so crucial that you do it.
Because We Need to Recognize Women as Half of the Partnership
First and foremost, a modern wedding is a partnership, a meeting of two halves—two equal halves. A woman should be represented at the wedding on the same equal playing field as the man. If the groom speaks, the bride should too. If the best man speaks, then the maid of honor should as well. No, not just the bride’s father. The parallel is important, because it demonstrates the equality of the relationship.
Sure, the father of the bride speaking is lovely. But he can’t be the only representative of her side. If it’s just him, there’s a feeling of ownership, of passing the woman along from the father to the husband. Having a bridesmaid speak—or the bride herself—means she is represented as her own person. And any woman has just as many embarrassing anecdotes and cute stories as a man—aren’t those meant to be heard too?
Because It’s Based on Sexist Traditions
The other problem with the father of the bride being the only voice on her side is that it’s rooted in some really sexist traditions. When a bridal Web site suggests that only men speak—and some really still do—they probably think that they're just following tradition. And to some people, tradition means a lot. But not every tradition is worth remembering—and not all of them are harmless. Even if you’re someone who feels strongly about tradition, think about what it means. Having only men speak at weddings is mimicking a time when women were basically property, a time when weddings were just exchanges of property between men. Is that really something we want to re-create and perpetuate? Sure, some traditions are beautiful. But this is one we should breaking away from as fast as we can, rather than keeping it alive.
Because the Stigma Still Exists
The truth is, women speaking at weddings is bigger than just the weddings themselves. Do you really want your wedding to reflect the idea that women should not be represented? Or, even worse, that women just aren’t cut out for public speaking? Because that stigma still exists. "We just don't trust women to speak in public. It's not their job," was a complaint that one Web site had only just a few years ago. "We don't expect them to be funny…That's why it's the job of the bride and bridesmaids to sit there and look pretty, and the job of the groom, best man and father of the bride to stand up and thank them repeatedly for looking so pretty." Women should have a voice at weddings because they should have a voice everywhere.