Tales from a feminist officiant: why I refuse to ask who’s giving you away

Guest post by The Reverend D

The Reverend D will do a whole lot of things for a wedding, but as a feminist who won't back down when it comes to equality, there are some things she just can't bring herself to do. Let's hear what she really won't do at a ceremony.

The Reverend D WON'T ask who's giving you away: tales from a feminist officiant
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I am often asked about what I won't do for a wedding. My response is usually that I have no pride and no shame, so it isn't an issue, but once or twice I had to think it over. The first time, I was asked to wear nude lipstick. It doesn't sound too horrifying until you read about it here. (The funniest part is that, to this very day, the bride apologizes about asking me to do it. Ha!)

The second, I was asked to do a wedding barefoot. It wasn't a demand or a deal-breaker or anything, it just kind of went with their theme. Again, doesn't sound so bad until I mention the fact that NO ONE sees my feet. Ever. I've had friends for 20+ years who aren't even sure I have feet. As far as they know, my legs end in two stumps that I stuff into my combat boots. And that was before my work-issued boots fucked up my toes, and before the surgery that was supposed to correct the problem left them mangled and hideous. (Thanks, FDNY!)

At any rate, both times I managed to man up and just get ‘er done. (Ironically, people have asked me to dress as a zombie and a pirate and Catwoman and Elvira and The Fourth Doctor or whatever and I never hesitated. But nude lipstick… ?)

The Reverend D WON'T ask who's giving you away: tales from a feminist officiant
The Reverend D with Aubrey and Mitch

So again, this begs the question: what won't I do?

Well, right off the bat, most of the weddings I would turn down outright are not those of people who would want to hire me in the first place. For example, I am quite confident that the local White Power chapter would rather shoot me in the face than ask me to perform one of their weddings, and I am beyond fine with that. (Although I prefer to not get shot in the face, generally speaking.)

Ditto with very, very traditional couples. They get to my website, hear Nine Inch Nails playing and click off immediately. And probably any religious zealot does the same. Similarly fine with that. So I am pretty sure that the question of “would I?” in those instances will never come up.

However, there are a few things that can happen during weddings — even offbeat ones — that I steadfastly refuse to do, even if asked.

For one, I will never, ever utter the words, “Who gives this woman away?” Is someone exchanging a goat and a flock of geese for the hand of a couple's nine-year-old daughter? Women, you are not property, and you are no one's to give away. You want your dad or mom or brother to walk you down the aisle? Totally cool. But you don't belong to them, and you never did. Period. I was asked to do this only once, and I reworded it as, “Who gives their blessing for this couple today?” and everything was groovy. (Turns out that most people hate that stupid, outdated expression anyway, but are somehow under the impression that it's supposed to be said. Nope!)

And for another, I will never, EVER introduce a couple as Mr. & Mrs. [Dude's Name], even if you ask me to. If it has been your lifelong dream to get married, and now that you've found your Prince Charming you want to change your name, that's fine. Take his last name, by all means. BUT YOU DON'T LOSE YOUR IDENTITY JUST BECAUSE YOU GOT MARRIED. You're not “Mr. & Mrs. John Smith.” You are “Mr. & Mrs. John and Jane Smith.” Because YOU MATTER. I will NEVER leave your name out of the equation. You can do whatever you want when you sign those thank you cards after the wedding; just know that it is NOT happening in any service that I perform. Sorry. Other than that, I think I'm good.

Huh. So I guess I do have some pride. But cut me some slack; it's not just for me. It's for all of womankind.

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Comments on Tales from a feminist officiant: why I refuse to ask who’s giving you away

  1. Holy hell ive just been on your site and you sound amazing! Too bad you dont live in the UK (and that my fiances set on having his uncle marry us) or id hire you in a heartbeat.
    I definitely think its good to have your own rules though vis a vis what you will or wont do, even if your rules are youll do everything apart from feet and nude lipstick 😉 I also think these days weddings are becoming a lot more alternative and a lot more inclusive, if somebody gets unhappy that you wont not say the brides name and address her like property (and i mean lets face it, it wouldnt be the bride or groom getting mad here anyway so whatstheirfaves opinion doesnt mean a thing) then not only would i tell them to shove off id almost worry about how centuries ago their mindset is. Even if you had rules for officiating that seemed strange to people if they really wont let you do what keeps you comfortable then they can get someone else!

  2. Great article but I am really struggling to understand why a bride would tell you to wear a different shade of lipstick :/ Having someone else dictate what make up you wear makes me just as uncomfortable as the thought of someone being given away or losing their identity after marriage. I totally get the costume requests, but being effectively told to tone down your make up is just rude in my opinion.

    • That’s probably the reason it baffles me as my bridesmaids chose their own dresses. Nevertheless I think there’s a difference- your bridal party generally accept they may have to wear something they’re uncomfortable with and they’ll do it because they’re your friend and it’s an honour to be part of your wedding. Expecting the same of your registrar seems a bit much in comparison. I guess I just don’t get why you’re hire a goth registrar and then expect her to wear conservative makeup.

    • To be fair, it was really no different than a costume, and (in the bride’s defense) I *do* say on my website that I will honor any wardrobe request within reason. I just never anticipated *that* kind of request. Now, however, I am ready for it. Suck it, Megan Fox! ;P

  3. We’re getting around the ‘who gives this woman away’ with my fathers response:
    Celebrant: Who gives this woman away?
    Dad: She gives herself with the blessing of her family.
    I found it labelled as the ‘feminist’ version and loved how it took the old very patriarchal tradition and made it into what I wanted. A short sweet acknowledgement of all the wonderful things my family have done for me.

    • That’s a nice way of turning it on it’s head and still including your Dad 🙂

    • “She gives herself with the blessing of her family.”

      That’s awesome!!!

      • Woah Ariel likes my choices *happy dances*

        @ Clare: It’s really important to me that my more traditional father feels involved in the wedding without stepping on my offbeat principles. We (my mother and I) knew the whole ‘walk daughter down and give her away’ was important to him. Not, because he sees me as property but because he wants to show me off a bit 🙂

  4. When we were planning our ceremony, the minister/officiant mentioned that she never uses the “obey” part of the traditional vows, because she almost walked out of her own wedding when her dad/minister/officiant said it in her ceremony.

  5. This is so amazing! I hope I can find an officiant like you!

    Re: the nude lipstick debacle. recently, I somehow got sucked into a YouTube hole watching videos about people bitching about M.A.C. store employees. Sadly, your story is not unique. It’s really quite astonishing how awful M.A.C. employee are.

    • I would have found his snarky queen-ness almost delightful…had I not been so desperate to find that stupid lipstick shade. *sigh* He did know his shit, though. (Not a defense, just an observation.)

  6. THIS!!! SO MUCH!!! When we met our officiant, one of the first things I brought up was the “giving away” thing. I liked the idea of somehow including my parents in the ceremony, since we are very close, but felt rage at the whole “being given away”. She had a wonderful statement along the lines you have above, made it more about the support of the family rather than an outdated sexist tradition. I also absolutely HATE the Mr. and Mrs. husbands name, nearly didn’t change my name, and little things like that are the reasons I nearly didn’t. At the time of my wedding, I made a point to let everyone know that I hated Mr. and Mrs. Husbands name, but still whenever my SIL needs to mail us something, there it is. I AM MORE THAN JUST A MRS!

  7. So I have to chime in because this is complete evidence of how AWESOME an officiant the Rev D is: We didn’t ask you to be barefoot; you asked about footwear and I said “we’re going to be barefoot so you can wear whatever you want.” You decided you being barefoot matched best with who we are and the ceremony we wanted, even though I told you it wasn’t necessary 😉

    People, Rev D is the kind of person and the kind of officiant who will go WELL above and beyond to make the ceremony of your dreams.

    Side note: your feet are actually lovely! I really wonder how gorgeous they looked before if this is your mangled state.

  8. Here, here to the Mrs. and Mrs. His Name deal! I have always totally hated that! On our wedding day I was fully planning to take to my husband’s name but later changed my mind. However, I made sure that our DJ new to announce us as Mr. and Mrs. His Name and My Name HistLast. Even though I thought I’d change my last name I was never changing my first name to “Mrs.”!

  9. I’m not sure I agree with ‘Mr and Mrs SharedLast’ being anti feminist (if this is what you’re saying – on rereading it might not be). When I got married, it was important to me that the new family unit we were making shared the same family name, particularly given that we planned to bring children into it. For reasons of logistical ease, him caring more about his original name than I did, and his name being less common/more cool than mine, I changed my last name to his. I’m not saying this is right for everyone, but it was right for me/us.

    As far as I’m concerned, Mrs. SharedLast is the name I have chosen to go by, and it’s no less mine than his. I want us to be the SharedLast family, and I wouldn’t take too kindly to being told that this is inappropriate (especially on our wedding day, the day we state that we are a united front!).

    Edit to add after rereading: I do find the whole ‘Mr and Mrs HisName SharedLast’ a bit odd (though our grandparents do address cards to us like that and I don’t mind due to their age). But I also think people should have the right to decide how they want to be referred to.

    • It’s not the shared last name that I take issue with at all, it’s how often the woman’s first name tends to get lost in that particular shuffle. As I said, you don’t lose your identity just because you got married; you matter, you have a name, and I fully intend to say it during your wedding. If “Mrs. John Smith” is how you want to be referred to for the rest of your life, then by all means, go for it and do whatever makes you happy from that day forward. But if you want me to leave your name out of the ceremony and partnership that you are fully one very important half of, then I am probably not the right officiant for you, because it just ain’t gonna happen. (I’m seriously not trying to be a dick about it, but as a lifelong feminist, I am honestly not entirely sure that my mouth would be able to form the words, so I am giving couples a warning right up front.) Hope that clarifies my stance…?

      • Makes sense – as you say, you won’t be right for everyone, and as long as people know what they’re getting into you probably won’t be marrying anyone who feels strongly about being announced as “Mr. and Mrs. HisName SharedLast”, so, no harm, no foul!

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