Seven tips for planning a gay wedding

Categories: LGBTQ, Parties
Thumbnail image for PrideCover2013_hed.jpg
Photo and illustration by Emily Utne
Starting August 1, same-sex couples across Minnesota will be able to legally tie the knot (now with federal benefits). But while many partners have spent countless painful hours thinking about how, for instance, to best file their taxes, they may have spent less time thinking about the happier side of that coin: how to celebrate their commitment to each other.

"It just hasn't been part of our culture," explains Denise Moreland, who is now planning her nuptials, in our most recent cover story. "We've always watched weddings from a distance, because we just assumed we took a different path."

Here are seven things for gay couples, and those who love them, to consider when gearing up to plan a wedding.

See Also:
- How same-sex couples will celebrate their commitments: GLBT couples around Minnesota race to plan August weddings
- Supreme Court rules DOMA unconstitutional in 5-4 decision
- First same-sex couples pick up their marriage licenses

7. Is everyone working the wedding gay-friendly? Many same-sex couples carefully vet vendors before they book them for a big day. But as wedding planner Julie Lyford cautions in our cover story, the person the couple talks to -- say, the owner of a business -- might not always be the person working their wedding. Couples in conversation with owners of catering companies should ask whether they have talked to their staff, and make sure that the company will schedule only waiters with Pride for the shift at their party.

A note for those vendors: When two women come in to, say, your floral shop, don't assume that the relationship there is bride-to-be and sister. Instead of defaulting to, "So, how did you meet the groom?" it's about time to start asking, "How did you meet the person you fell in love with?"

6. What role will family have in the planning? Many same-sex couples have already been together for years, or even decades, and might have a carefully honed idea of what they're looking for from a wedding. One possible result: They take the wedding planning upon themselves entirely. As Karen Scher, who handles party planning at the Guthrie Theater, explains in our cover story, straight couples tend to come look at the space with a parent or sibling, "and same-sex couples usually come alone." But weddings can be as important for the family, and the families that are joining, as they are for the newlyweds. Which means the occasion is a good time for couples -- even long-time couples, or couples who might have complicated relationships with their families -- to pause and think about letting Mom come to a tuxedo fitting.

5. Church? Planning a ceremony that traditionally takes place in a church or temple can be a sharp reminder to same-sex couples that not all religions accept them. But couples of faith who are interested in a religious ceremony shouldn't think that it's not an option for them. Many congregations are increasingly open, including those of the priest, minister, and rabbi who made this video last summer:



When Moreland and her partner, Deb Pearson, first married in 1991, they held their ceremony at the inclusive south Minneapolis church God's Children MCC. For their second wedding this August, they called a Lutheran pastor who told them that she had never done a lesbian wedding before, but would be honored to start with theirs.

4. Everybody dance now? It's a party. It's a party that the couple and their loved ones have waited a long time to have. People are going to want to dance. But while Uncle Lars from greater Minnesota might be overjoyed for his niece and his niece's bride, all of said niece's same-sex friends hitting the dance floor could be too unfamiliar for him to handle. One answer is to split the reception into two parts: After dinner, have an hour of live music or general entertainment. And let it be known that at 10 p.m. sharp, the no-holds-barred dancing will start. The distinction might even help make Lars comfortable enough to stay for the fun.

3. One aisle, two aisles, no aisle? Traditional weddings tend to feature the "here comes the bride" scenario: a father or father-figure walking down the aisle, handing off his daughter to the awaiting groom. But same-sex couples are more likely to want to buck those standard gender roles. If there are two brides, maybe they each want to walk down a separate aisle. Or the couple might decide to dispense with the aisle and its church-y connotations altogether, and instead, simply meet at the altar.

2. Are the kids all right? Many weddings have only a handful of children in attendance, like the one cute nephew or the token flower girl asleep under a table. But at same-sex weddings, where the couple is more likely to be older or already have kids of their own, there tend to be more of the under-10 crowd. If the newlyweds don't want a herd of bored kids running around, booking some kid entertainment can mean more time at the bar for the grown ups.

1. Nerves? Longtime partners might feel strange about having wedding-day jitters. Several couples City Pages spoke with for this week's story described concerns about not knowing what to expect of marriage, or about being overwhelmed by emotion at the altar. Rabbi Michael Latz, of the Shir Tikvah synagogue, is working with three same-sex couples on upcoming ceremonies, and is moved by how excited the couples are "to call me and plan meetings and get on the calendar," he says. "It's celebratory; it's tender; it's a really sweet nervousness from people who have not had to be nervous in a long time."

So, couples: The most important wedding planning tip is to embrace your butterflies. You've waited long enough for them.

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