Since getting engaged, I’ve encountered traditional and quite sexist notions regarding the wedding. Even in a modern era and a progressive nation, it’s automatically expected that my father pay for my wedding. Additionally, my fiance has made comments about how he’d love for me to plan the whole wedding, and he’ll just show up on the day; he said that he never considered his role in the planning. I’ve also heard comments about wearing heels and makeup on the big day — both things I never wear in my daily life or for special occasions. I’ve even seen a few eyebrows shoot up when I quickly squash the idea of me wearing a floor-length dress.
It’s not just the people in my life who hold these archaic notions. When I went to make a wedding website, the site directed the female to enter her name, assuming that the female was in charge of the site’s creation and most of the wedding details.
I decided to do some research to discover the root of these ideals. Here’s what I found: In ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, marriage was seen first and foremost as an economic union. What did the groom have to offer his bride in terms of financial security? What could the bride’s parents present the groom with to entice him to take on the burden of a wife? The woman’s father was the one who arranged the marriage. He needed to get rid of his financial burden and pass it on to someone else. Offering the biggest dowry possible was the for-sale sign for his daughter. If you’re gagging right now, please, take a moment to vomit; I’ll wait.
…welcome back. Where were we? Ah yes, dowries.
To settle your stomach, dowries were also meant to provide financial security for the woman. In the event of divorce or death, the woman was typically allowed to keep her dowry so she could set up a new life or find another husband. In Egypt, if the woman died, she could pass on her dowry to her children. The woman had the power to write a will, and her dowry could be passed down to sons, daughters or split equally among them. But that’s about as good as it gets.
In Greece and Rome, women couldn’t own land. If the dowry included land, the woman’s legal guardian (she needs one?!), son or nearest male relative would be put in charge of the land.
I could keep bombarding you with history, but I’ll stop here and make a point now.
Do I need to bribe my groom or his family in order to wed him? Supposedly, I don’t, but how am I supposed to feel when the assumption is that my father will pay for the wedding? Am I not worth more than that? Sure, I could call myself a financial burden. Right before I get married, I’ll be graduating school with student loans. Currently, I work part time as a waitress while my fiance works a full-time, professional job as a financial analyst. My post-grad job is bound to be less lucrative than his based on my major, my entry-level status and, yes, probably also my gender. But one day, I’ll be there. One day, I won’t be a burden. One day, maybe I’ll be the breadwinner.
So marry me for my brain; marry me for my confidence; marry for my spunk; marry for my sensitive heart; marry for my drive to achieve. These characteristics comprise my dowry. These characteristics are what I have to offer. I don’t plan on walking down the aisle in heels, a long dress or with tons of makeup on my face, but I do plan on exhibiting all the love in my heart toward my fiance — that’s the incentive. And remember, he had to ask, and I had to say “yes.”