Your Guide to LGBTQ Friendly Wedding Planning
Confession: the landscape has changed dramatically since I started writing this piece. When I began earlier this week, same-sex marriage was definitely a hot topic, but not a realistic possibility for countless couples in states that had not passed their own marriage equality laws. Yesterday, in a landmark and greatly anticipated decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage at the federal level. Now we’re here:
While there is still a long way to go in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, this decision is deeply significant and has a huge impact on event planning–especially wedding planning–which is what we’re here to talk about after all. With marriage equality now the law of the land, the guide below is all the more relevant and necessary.
How do we talk about gender and weddings?
“Everyone knows the wedding is all about the bride!” Raise your hand if you’ve heard that one before. Okay, okay, everyone put your hands back down. The thinking goes that women plan, decorate, and organize every detail; men show up and go along with what the bride has picked out. The bride gets what she wants and the groom gives it to her, because…
Beyond the outdated gender norms (hey there, 50’s), what do you do when there’s no bride? Or how about two brides? As legal same-sex marriage and civil unions spread across the country (and the wider world), we–wedding professionals and attendees–need to brush up our etiquette and vocabularies. Whether you’re a seasoned wedding professional, new to the industry, or a best friend frantically googling how to throw a bachelor(ette) party, read on for tips and tricks on how to navigate same-sex wedding planning with ease and comfort for all.
What do we need to know about same-sex weddings?
1) It’s still a wedding. 90% of the time, questions that arise will be exactly the same as those posed by straight couples. How early should we book our venue? Will it still be warm enough for an outdoor ceremony? How can we create DIY versions of those vintage, hammered steel centerpieces we just have to have??
2) There won’t be a bachelor and a bachelorette party. Maybe each partner wants their own celebration, in which case you’re looking at two bachelor parties or two bachelorette nights. Maybe they’ve decided to have a joint shindig: a couple’s party. Maybe they’re forgoing this tradition all together. The important thing–whether you’re a professional planner or throwing a rockin’ bash for your best friend–is to ask the couple what their plan is, rather than assuming. “Are you planning to have any parties before the wedding?” gets right to the point, without presuming anything about the gender breakdown of said parties.
Also remember that bachelor parties may not be exclusively for men friends and bachelorette parties might not be just ladies. This goes for straight couples too. It’s better to ask the couple what type of party they’re having and who’s invited, rather than immediately taking a “boys to the left, girls to the right” approach.
3) Bridesmen, groomswomen, best ladies, men of honor, best babes…these are all terms I’ve heard used to describe attendants in the wedding party. Of course there are still tons of bridesmaids and groomsmen, but some couples–gay and straight–are choosing to shake things up a bit. Especially in a same-sex wedding, close male friends won’t automatically stand beside the groom while all the women line up by the bride. Mixed gender wedding parties abound and that’s a beautiful thing. (Just check out these totally stylin’ squads!) Not sure how to broach this conversation with your soon-to-be-wed couple? Start by asking about “attendants” and then take your cue from them!
4) “Help! Someone just called me to inquire about [insert wedding service here] and I don’t even know if it’s gonna be a gay wedding!” Okay, take a deep breath. First of all, ask yourself if this is information you really need. If someone is asking about a card box, the gender of their beloved is completely irrelevant. But if you do need to know and you want to avoid foot-in-mouth syndrome, repeat after me: “What is your fiancée’s name?” “Who’s the lucky person?” Luckily, fiancé and fiancée sound the same, so you can ask freely without peril. When it comes to written communication–especially questionnaires and contracts–“Partner 1 and Partner 2” or “Spouse 1, Spouse 2” both avoid the potential ickiness of a couple having to cross out “Bride” or “Groom” and write in how they actually identify. If you want to get even more neutral, “Party A, Party B” and “Client A, Client B” always get the job done.
5) Family. Family can be a tricky topic for anyone: Whom to invite? Do we seat them all together at family tables or intersperse them throughout other guests? How do we stop Grandpa from telling that embarrassing story from when I was three? Do I really have to wear Aunt Gloria’s vintage broach that I can’t bear to tell her is totally not my style?
For same-sex couples, however, there can be an added layer of complexity. Some family members may not support the union. Now, this is unfortunately an issue that some couples face for reasons completely separate from sexual orientation, but legalizing gay marriage sadly doesn’t mean it’s stopped being a controversial issue. Best case scenario: the couple’s family members and friends are overjoyed about the engagement and can’t wait to help in any way they can. But as someone helping with the wedding–as a planner, vendor, or super supportive friend–tread carefully and be sensitive to the fact that having a father-daughter/mother-son dance is not a given. As always, ask the couple who they’re planning to invite and what roles those closest friends and relatives will take on. Your job is to be there for the couple and make their wedding day exactly what they’ve dreamed of. So leave any pre-conceived notions at the door and start from square one. When in doubt, just ask.
There’s much more we could delve into about the world of same-sex marriage, but hopefully these suggestions have given you a foundation. Now that you’ve got the basics down and are prepared with some quick dos and don’ts, go start planning. Remember, the process should always be merry and gay!