Domestic Violence

Jehovah’s Witness Women Are Not Allowed to Plan Their Own Wedding Receptions. No, Really.

One of the last Watchtower articles I remember reading when I was active in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was in the October 15, 2006, edition, which said regarding planning weddings:

In their Christian life together, the husband will be the Scriptural head. So the groom is primarily responsible for the wedding reception. Of course, he will lovingly consult with his wife-to-be on such matters as whom they want to or are able to invite to the wedding feast.

The more I thought about this information, the more things I found wrong about it, not the least of which is that I can’t think of one man in the world qualified to plan a wedding reception. Sorry for the stereotyping, but the last thing I would want at a formal event is a six-foot long meatball sub to eat and no chairs to sit on.

Of course, the worst part of this direction is that a woman is relegated to the position of a consultant. Not the bride, not a planner, not a partner in the arrangements, but a consultant. At her own wedding reception. A consultant.

No, really.

Consultant Versus Co-Planner

Let me first say, in all fairness, that I despise the modern-day “bridezilla,” you know, the woman who insists that a wedding is “her” day and that she’s going to have the big fairy tale princess wedding of her dreams and goddamn it people had better just get out of her way and make it happen or else. For all details of a wedding, the groom should have his say, and no one should be forced to pay for some lavish affair they can’t really afford just to make Polly Princess happy.

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How is treating your bride like a child so much different than actually marrying a child?

However, this article didn’t say a couple should make decisions about a wedding together, and that they needed to be realistic and modest when it comes to their planning. No, that wasn’t their point. The article stated outright that the groom is responsible for the reception, and that he would “consult” with his fiancee (their word, not mine). The word “consult” does mean that you would “have regard for” someone else when making plans, but there is a very important point about this word to consider. When you “consult” with someone, you regard their opinions, but you don’t actually make plans together. After consulting with them, you make the plans, and you decide how much of their input you will, or will not, consider.

This is vitally important, as the Watchtower doesn’t say that brides and grooms plan their wedding reception together. It doesn’t say to divide up the work according to their individual strengths, for instance, suggesting that the groom may be more assertive and therefore more capable of negotiating pricing with service providers, whereas the bride may be more detail-oriented and might be the one best able to create the plan for the entire reception overall. It doesn’t suggest how the two might work together to note what details may need to be omitted to stick within their budget, with each compromising on their own preferences. No, it doesn’t say that, because then the bride would be an equal partner to the groom, with each one equally in charge of the affair. The woman would then have an equal share in the responsibility and ultimate decision making, and that’s not allowed in a marriage of two Jehovah’s Witnesses.

No Equal Rights Either

Some might still argue that “consulting” with the bride makes her an equal partner, but consider if this word were used in any other setting. If a business owner asks a question of a consultant, is that consultant considered an equal partner in the business? Of course not; he or she would offer an opinion, but the owner is the person with the final say and who has the only responsibility or authority for final plans for the business.

The owner is above the consultant when it comes to the rights in making the final decision; the consultant actually has no rights whatsoever. That’s why you would use the word “consultant” versus “business partner,” and why the Watchtower used that word versus “partner.” The groom may “lovingly” ask her opinion, but the bride can only have that; her opinion. She has no rights when it comes to the final say about those plans or her opinions. She cannot insist that anything be done her way, as the groom is her “head.” He has the right to decide things; she has the right to an opinion, that is, if he “lovingly” consults her for it.

Note too how this inequality is emphasized later in the article:

For some decades now, Jehovah’s Witnesses have appreciated the wisdom of including an aspect mentioned in connection with the gathering Jesus attended in Cana. There was a “director of the feast,” certainly a responsible fellow believer. (John 2:9, 10) Similarly, a wise groom will choose a spiritually mature Christian brother for this key role. Having ascertained the groom’s wishes and tastes, the director of the feast can follow through on details both before and during the gathering.

So note the point here; the groom chooses this person who will be the “director of the feast,” and this director will ascertain the groom’s wishes (their words, not mine). It doesn’t say that this person will ascertain the wishes of the couple or the bride and groom, but the groom. Period. His wishes, his tastes. The bride doesn’t give this director any instruction; note that this director doesn’t even “consult” with her at this point. She is nonexistent, as far as his job is concerned. In all seriousness, I would wonder who would win out if the bride and this “director of the feast” were to have a disagreement about something at the reception.

How Nice That She’s Invited

If you think about this entire set of instructions, you can see that the bride is virtually an invited guest to her own wedding reception. She may express her opinion to her groom the same way that the in-laws may express their opinion when a wedding is being planned, but those in-laws have no rights to the decision making and are, in truth, only invited guests. By degrading the bride to the level of consultant, and by overlooking her completely when this “director of the feast” is chosen and getting his instruction, she too is nothing more than a guest. At her own wedding reception.

As I’ve brought out in other posts on this site, in a marriage between two Jehovah’s Witnesses, the woman is typically relegated to the position of a child, being raised by her husband. He has the authority to “correct” her as he sees fit, whereas she has no authority over him. (See this post.) Elders are instructed to keep the secrets of unfaithful men as “confidential,” but a husband sits in as an audience when an unfaithful or accused wife meets with elders (this post). The woman even takes counsel from a child herself when a husband has been unfaithful (this post), and unfaithful men first confess to elders as if they were the ones cheated on.

You see how this unequal, misogynistic, “reduce the woman to a position well below the man” thinking and behavior starts even before a couple is married. Never believe Jehovah’s Witnesses if they tell you that women and men are considered as equal in their religion; not even in her own wedding is the woman equal to the man. She’s simply an invited guest to the reception, a child in the marriage, and an outsider in her own bedroom.

No, really.

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