Taboos About Marriage That It's Time to Put an End To

March 13th 2016

Laura Donovan

There's no shortage of opinions on how to approach marriage, many of which stem from outdated notions about relationships.

The union itself is shifting with the times and more people are deciding to eschew marriage and wedding traditions altogether. Here are some taboos surrounding marriage and weddings that we need to end.

1. The taboo around men wearing engagement rings

Earlier this year, actor Skylar Astin got engaged to his "Pitch Perfect" co-star Anna Camp and made headlines for debuting his own engagement ring on Instagram:


A photo posted by @skylarastin on

"It always felt odd to me that men didn't get engagement rings," he wrote. "Thankfully my fiancé thought so too."

While many found Astin's decision to wear a "mangagement ring" cute, some commenters mocked this move, as it's not typical for men to wear rings prior to getting married:


Because engagement rings were historically an indication that a woman was a man's property, some hold the view that "mangagement rings" are an emasculating symbol of property as well. They're also uncommon: only five percent of engaged men wear them, according to a 2014 survey from XO Group Inc., the parent company of wedding site The Knot.

"Mangagement ring" ad campaigns were unsuccessful in the mid-1920s, which was roughly ten years before De Beers hired ad company N.W. Ayer to aggressively market female engagement rings all over the country.

2. Women proposing to men

Woman proposing to man

Vicki Howard, author of "Brides, Inc: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition," told The Atlantic in 2014 that part of the reason men don't typically wear engagement rings is the fact that many assume men are the only ones proposing to women in heterosexual relationships.

“The groom’s band symbolizes you’re married, is a marker of your status and you both wear one,” Howard said. “But the engagement ring is attached to the act of proposing, and men are still seen as the main people who are supposed to propose. Women are the ones who ‘get engaged,’ and that will continue to hinder the acceptance of a new ritual good.”

Some women, however, don't want to wait around for a proposal and take the initiative to propose to their boyfriends. Two years ago, writer Katy Miller detailed her experience of proposing to her boyfriend in The Huffington Post.

"Part of me just wanted to make a grand gesture to someone I loved, and why should men have all the fun at that? I know there are other ways to make grand gestures, but this one just felt right," Miller wrote. "Of course, several concerned family members were decidedly worried that I was going to emasculate [my boyfriend] with my boldness. As if emasculation weren't a ridiculous concept in the first place since people aren't worried about 'e-feminating' a woman."

3. Taking the woman's last name, or the woman keeping her own last name

A 2015 analysis on by The New York Times’ Upshot blog found that 20 percent of women keep their last name and 10 percent hyphenate their name or keep using their birth name professionally. The rise in women keeping their last name goes hand in hand with the rise of working women, as many women build strong careers prior to getting married and don't want to change the name they've worked so hard to establish.

While the onus has typically been on women to change their name in some way, it isn't unheard of for men to take their wife's last name anymore. In the 1990s, Blake Lively's father Ernie Brown took his spouse Elaine Lively's last name, a move that is more common now than it was at the time.

In 2015, actress Zoe Saldana celebrated the act of a man taking his wife's last name, when she talked about her husband Marco taking on her name.

Zoe Saldana

“Men, you will not cease to exist by taking your partner's surname," she said, according to the New York Daily News. "On the contrary — you'll be remembered as a man who stood by change. I know our sons will respect and admire their father more because their father lead by example.”

4. Wearing white at one's wedding


White wedding dresses became a symbol of purity in the mid-1800s after Queen Victoria donned this color to marry Prince Albert. Though it was a common historical practice for women to wait until marriage to have sex, many women today engage in premarital sex, rendering the white dress tradition/taboo irrelevant for those who don't want to wear them.

The taboo surrounding pre-marital sex appears to be dissipating (in some respects and some cultures). The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing reproductive health and rights, published a report in 2007 that found almost all Americans have premarital sex. This is also evident in the rise in couples cohabitating prior to marriage.

Several famous people have celebrated the trend of wearing non-white wedding dresses. Actresses Amber Tamblyn, Reese Witherspoon, and Kaley Cuoco ignored this tradition at their own nuptials:

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