Unique wedding venues in South Gippsland

One of the best things about these unique wedding venues may be their price, but that doesn’t make them cheap wedding venues!

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To fiancée or not to fiancée?

There’s a bit of confusion about around the words fiancé and fiancée, and with good reason.

Now the simple way to clear things up would be simply to say that fiancé is masculine, and fiancée is feminine. Simples. Case closed. Class dismissed. If you have genitals that go into your body instead of poking out of it, compensate by making the word longer, right? Well, no. Language is social, and as society has changed, these words have fallen into the no-man’s-land that borders misogynistic gendering! Cue the Jaws theme.

The situation is made ever more complex by the fact that although the two words have exactly the same pronunciation, each language they’re used in pronounces them differently! In French, the last syllable takes the emphasis; in English, the penultimate syllable usually gets it.

To understand what the big deal is, we have to look at what that extra e means. In case the little accent above the first e doesn’t make it obvious, fiancé and fiancée are French words. And, contrary to popular belief; in French, these two words don’t principally distinguish between masculine and feminine. They distinguish between the agent and the object (or the doer and the done-to). The masculine and feminine alignment has more to do with the traditional roles of the two parties, and as we will see, it may hold true: but it doesn’t sit comfortably with twenty-first century values.

Both French and English use the suffix -ee on nouns to mark the object of the sentence (the person or thing that something is done to). If you have addressed an envelope, the person you’ve addressed it to is the addressee: the addressee doesn’t have to do anything, the envelope just comes to them. If my car breaks down and you tow me, I don’t exert effort because I am the towee. And we all know, if your partner dumps you, you are the dumpee; there may be some crying involved, but you are the object, and not the agent. So, if your partner proposes marriage and you accept, you are the fiancée, regardless of your gender.

Both fiancé and fiancée are derived from the Latin root fidare: a promise or trust. The fiancé is the truster, and the fiancée the trustee. When applied to a betrothal, the fiancée is engaged to the fiancé, not the other way around. There’s no question of who is active in such a relationship, and in the twenty-first century, that starts to feel anachronistic.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, when these words entered the English language, this was de rigueur. A woman might be engaged to a man, but this was not generally of her doing: it was done to her, or for her, or possibly with some consultation about her preferences; but she did not do it herself. That might have been fine even as little as 50 years ago, but I think we’ve moved on a bit.

It’s confusing enough for gay couples, but for lesbian couples it makes even less sense to use the conventionally-feminine word: if you do, both fiancées are passive participants! The word fiancée in this scenario is semantically incorrect. At least one must be a fiancé, but I would argue that in most engaged Australian couples in this century, regardless of their genders, both are, in semantic fact, fiancés.

Actually, for an authorised celebrant, who has a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure both parties to every marriage are giving their consent to the marriage, the idea of marrying a fiancé to a fiancée sits rather uncomfortably (at least for those of us with a background in linguistics and a penchant for being a bit particular about English and French). If one is the ‘betrother’ and the other is the ‘betrothee’, we are making significant assumptions about the consent of the ‘betrothee’.

I want to suggest we drop this fiancée word altogether.

There is simply no need for a linguistic distinction between a male and a female person who is engaged to be married, and since the conventionally-feminine version carries the stigma of misogyny, I think it can simply be dispensed with to put us all on an equal footing.

Playlists to inspire

Looking for the right track for signing the register?

Need a track that will put all eyes on you as you walk down the aisle?

Want to surprise your guests with the most tear-jerking song for your recessional?

If my Spotify suggestions aren’t cutting it for you, HerCanberra has the list of lists!


 image: Juja Han


A few things running parallel in my life harmoniously synchronised in October this year to mean that I became a marriage celebrant and became engaged in the same fortnight.

When I first asked my man out, I was not looking for a husband and neither was he. A boyfriend, yes: maybe even a permanent one, but a husband wasn’t really in my sights. Quite apart from the fact that the Australian government was—like Richard III—not in the giving vein and wouldn’t allow us to get married anyway, I was happy enough with the status quo and didn’t feel any need to tether myself to anyone more strongly than I was tethered to my children.

Before long, however, I’d happily put my plans to leave Canberra on hold for my boyfriend, and I was becoming a master of deflecting his decreasingly-veiled allusions to marriage. My deflections were principally built on the sandy banks of John Howard’s amendment of the Marriage Act to exclude same sex couples from the privilege of matrimony.

Meanwhile, the Australian government increasingly looked to Richard III for inspiration. Courageous and thick-skinned members of the rainbow community were gathering us together behind a fight for legal equality, and their inspirational words made me think that, although marriage was not a personal aspiration for me, I would love to be able to help other members of the community celebrate their commitments to each other.

As I looked into what it would take to become a celebrant, my boyfriend dropped hints that he expected a proposal, which gradually turned into directions about the nature of the proposal expected.

On the celebrancy front, I thought I had time, but queer leaders were more astute at gauging the temper of the times, and with Richard on the throne Turbull in power, they effectively backed the government into a corner, then pedalled like mad as the government turned the full fury of Australia’s homophobes upon us.

This state-sanctioned, state-funded abuse was eventually drowned out by Australia’s voters. The week after the result of the government’s wasteful and abusive plebisurvey was announced, I finally booked my place in a celebrancy course.

In the meantime, voters’ support for our relationship had eroded the sandy bank on which I’d built my objections to tying the knot, and I gradually relented, entertaining the thought of married life again. My boyfriend—rather more Henry V than Richard III—decided the game was afoot, and began planning a proposal of his own.

By the time I had my proposal planned and had sought the blessings of my children, he not only had a plan but also a pair of engagement rings. Before the ring I ordered arrived, it became apparent that we were each—independently—planning special proposals for the same weekend, the fourth anniversary of our first date. We decided to proceed with both plans regardless, and it happened that less than two weeks after the Attorney-General’s Department officially made me an officiant, my boyfriend made me a fiancé, and I returned the favour the following day.

Photo of Adam and Trevar
Adam proposed to me at the National Arboretum on 27 October 2018

As with many wedding customs, our pursuit of equality has led to uncertainty. Even opposite sex couples don’t need to assume that it will be him who proposes to her anymore. We’re not sure what to do about the surname thing, or the giving away, or children… but if we’re celebrating love, it really doesn’t matter. As long as we’re telling our odd three-ring engagement story to people in fifty years, that’s what matters.

Marriage Trees

I’ve been on holiday for about a week when an email pops up on my phone. I’m ignoring emails; I am on holiday, after all, but the subject gets my attention. “Marriage Celebrant Registration”, it says. So, reluctantly, and worried that I might need to do something, I open it.

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