Just because you want to wear a white dress — or pantsuit — and walk down the aisle in front of your loved ones doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist. The same can be said of doing the household chores or merging finances with your spouse. In honor of prime engagement season kicking off with the holidays, we’re trumpeting A Practical Wedding. This website is helping women take back feminism — one pair of bridal pants at a time.
The website focuses on planning a wedding, but, more important, it centers around navigating modern marriage. It recently relaunched after a massive redesign to make it easier to browse its more than 2,000 posts. Maddie Eisenhart is now the managing editor of APW, but she started out as a bride who stumbled upon the website years ago, when she was coping with anxieties many an affianced feminist can relate to.
“There’s a fear — that certainly I had when I found the site — that you are going to lose yourself in marriage or that you are going to be somehow consumed by it or that you are going to have to compromise the core of who you are.”
She explains that not only does APW talk about the struggles of wedding planning in an honest way, but it also has a section dedicated to redefining what it means to be a wife while erasing the stigmas associated with doing things that may seem counterintuitive to feminism. The section, previously titled “Reclaiming Wife,” is now called ”Marriage and More.” The most talked-about issues here are merging finances, sharing household chores and married sex. Eisenhart says it’s focused on “how to maintain sense of self while also being part of a relationship that inherently requires a lot of compromise, all without losing your mind.”
They seem to have touched a nerve: More than half of their readers are married.
The site was created in 2008 by Meg Keene, who started it after experiencing the challenges of wedding planning first-hand, where conversations about affordable receptions spiral into so much more. The website has a section with practical planning tips, but also addresses the topics that often remain hush-hush in traditional wedding magazines and sites. They include essays on dealing with alcoholic parents, planning a wedding as a child of divorce and even why calling off your wedding could be the best choice for you.
The question of changing one’s last name continues to spark debate and catalyze hundreds of differing opinions on the site. Keene, who is also the site’s editor in chief, has a particularly strong view. ”I want all women to keep their last names,” she writes in a recent letter from the editor. ”I don’t want women to use the language, ’I kept my name,’ but instead to use the language, ’Neither of us changed our names.’ I want women to pass on their last names to their children.…” She stresses that she respects people who disagree with her argument and welcomes the conversation.
“We are trying to navigate the idea that you can be a feminist, get married, be married, and that not every choice you are going to make is going to be a feminist choice,” Eisenhart says. “That’s a lifelong commitment to nothing but feminism.” She explains APW is trying to take the shame away from being the one who cleans the bathroom while also eliminating the tint of rebellion associated with a woman keeping her last name.
“How do you have an egalitarian marriage when it’s inherently set to be unequal? How do you balance responsibilities over a course of however many years?,” says Eisenhart. “We take things that you might be scared about and give you enough info to make decisions that are right for you.”
Another meaningful part of the site is its focus on LGBT weddings. Once a year, APW dedicates a week to solely LGBT-related stories.* The editorial team feels it is important to champion equal rights by running straight weddings alongside queer weddings for the entire year, but also prefers to have time where LGBT voices are the central focus of the site.
In addition to thought-provoking community discussions about feminist ideals in marriage, APW has its own slant on fashion. The ”Brides in Pants” section illustrates the idea that you are no less a bride if you get married in a pantsuit rather than a cupcake dress. Both are viable options. This has branched out to include bridesmaids in pants and tomboy flower girls — the latest of which went viral a few weeks ago.
So whether you’re someone who gets frustrated with never recognizing your gal pals’ last names on Facebook or or you’re donning a pink apron and feeling slightly guilty about baking cupcakes for your husband of five years — A Practical Wedding could be a website for you. Sans judgment.
*This sentence was changed to reflect the correct frequency of LGBTQ week.
Why you should care
The wedding industry often treats your “Big Day” as the climax of life when, really, it is the start of a marriage — a marriage that can align with feminism, even if you wash a dish or two.