Hey, guys! Liz here. During Pride Week at APW, we really like to make sure that LGBTQ voices take the floor, and a piece of that means involving LGBTQ writers wherever possible. For Ask Team Practical this week, I’m handing the reigns over to the super talented and very capable Meigh. You might remember Meigh from the beautiful two-part wedding graduate post (the first part by her wife, Christina, the second from Meigh’s perspective), but Meigh also is a wedding and special event planner, making her doubly qualified to tell us today about handling some of the detail aspects of planning an LGBTQ wedding. When we first started discussing this post, Meg pointed out what Matthew said earlier this week: there are just no resources for LGBTQ wedding planning. Meigh (awesomely) outright addresses his question, but takes it a step further and tackles a few other minor details that can cause major headaches.
The Original (Sadly Unanswered) Question From Matthew:
I met you in Denver. I am Sara’s gay friend Matthew! I am reading your book right now and planning the best gay wedding ever. Something has been consuming me though, and I was wondering if you had any ideas since this is what you do. What do two gay men play instead of “Here Comes the Bride”? I have googled it, but was directed to sites that were not exactly what I hoped for. Mostly sites about anal sex and dildos. I wish I was kidding… Any ideas?
Your number one gay fan,
Meigh here. Meg told me I should (belatedly) answer this question, since, well, I’m gay and a wedding planner. It’s true, there aren’t a ton of resources for same-sex weddings, although it’s getting much better than it used to be. (Equally Wed, Gayweddings.com, and the old posts on So You’re EnGAYged can be helpful.) It seems like the question here
is: “What makes a same-sex wedding different from a straight wedding?” My knee-jerk answer was, “Not much, because we’re all the same, EQUALITY, JERKS,” but I think the real answer is, “As much or as little as you want it to be.” In my experience, same-sex weddings tend toward the traditional—most likely because we’re navigating the murky waters of unclear legal status and social recognition. If we choose to marry (which not everybody in the LGBTQ community thinks is necessary) we often want to make sure our weddings are recognizable to the community so we get the same social benefits (if not all the legal ones) available to our heterosexual peers. However, a giant bash full of glitter and drag queens is an equally valid way to celebrate your commitment. (And OMG, somebody please hire me to plan that wedding!)
What tends to trip people up when planning a same-sex wedding is the multitude of gendered traditions that live in the cultural wedding script. When we’re faced with a deviation from the norm, we’re often not sure where to go. Weddings have all these sneaky rules, right? Like, a woman is escorted down the aisle to her waiting groom, or there’s a bouquet toss for the bride and a garter toss for the groom, or the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner. Whatever issue it is, it’s easy to get hung up on that stuff.
Luckily, as LGBTQ folks, deviation from the norm is our specialty. The really great thing about a same-sex wedding is you’re not bound up in all that gendered baggage. You’re free! Yes, you don’t have that heteronormative script to fall back on, but that means you get to really think about this whole wedding thing and what is going to work for you specifically. With that in mind, here are some concrete ideas for navigating past the gender roles in your Big Gay Wedding:
Here comes the Bride, er, Grooms?
Like with the above question, sometimes you get stuck on one little part of the wedding because you’re so used to only one way of doing things. Luckily, addressing this one is easy, because people of all orientations have been coming up with really cool ideas for processional and recessional music lately. APW has recently done playlists of first dance songs and classical music that contain lots of stuff that would be great for this. You can each have your own song for a moment in the spotlight, or you can choose one that has special meaning for you as a couple to play as you both walk. Also, you can just choose something that makes you feel happy.
Speaking of processionals, how the hell do we get to the altar/chuppah/birdcage installation/etc.?
This one can be kind of awkward. If you think of a wedding from a movie or TV, you’ll pretty much always see a ceremony in which only the bride processes down the aisle, typically escorted by her father. (Although in Jewish ceremonies it is traditional for both parties to process with both parents. Go equality!) So, if you’re taking turns in the processional, who goes first? One neat solution I’ve seen to this is to have your guests seated in a circle or semi circle, and process toward each other simultaneously from opposite sides. (Please note however, this arrangement is tough on your photographer, so a second shooter might be a good choice in this instance.) If your venue or personal taste don’t allow for this setup, rock-paper-scissors it and one of you can just precede the other. I promise it’ll look good either way.
The Great Last Name Debate ™
I know APW has had approximately a zillionty posts and comments on this topic, but I think it’s worthwhile to spend a sec talking about the specific considerations for LGBTQ folks. In our current political and social climate, there are some good reasons for an LGBTQ couple to share a last name. It can help smooth the way in a lot of situations in which your marital status would not otherwise be obvious, such as medical forms and access, money matters, and if you plan to have some, dealing with matters related to your children. Now, I’m not saying you can’t do this with two different names. You completely can. I’m not even saying it will help you with anything legal or official. What I’ve found that it does do is simplify a lot of tedious, awkward conversations, and get the ball rolling faster than if you have to spend forever clarifying your relationship status with whoever is between you and whatever it is you need. It’s sort of cultural shorthand that says, “We are family.” You could choose one of your names, hyphenate, or go with my fave, the portmanteau (you know, like Kimye but less annoying), but sharing a name can be helpful for a same-sex couple.
How do we handle stupid questions?
Y’all, sometimes even well meaning people can ask a lot of dumb shit when they’re confronted with the unfamiliar. When I got married, I cannot tell you how many people asked which of us would be wearing pants. (Pants at a wedding are awesome and foxy, just not the choice we made, but that pesky gender assumption about our clothes got really old after a while.) I had to have a conversation with an old boss MORE THAN ONCE that no, neither of us should be referred to as husband, we could just be wife and wife and that was fine.
Assuming this is a genuine question, the best thing you can do in this situation is graciously correct their misunderstanding, and then take some friends and laugh your asses off about it at a bar later. It’s a lot easier to roll with it than get frustrated; you’ve got a seating chart to worry about, so don’t let a little ignorance get you down.
The important part of all this hoopla is to trust yourself and trust your partner. You’re a smart lady, gentleman, or other human who has come pretty far in life, and now you’ve met someone you want to share that life with. Hooray! That’s a big deal! You know what you like, you know what your audience (well, guests) likes, and chances are you can make something that feels amazing and authentic without even trying all that hard.
Now go out there and rock yourselves a wedding. Or, buy a bunch of dildos and elope. Either way, do it feeling proud of yourselves and your decisions.
Photo by APW Sponsor Moodeous Photography.
Meigh McNamee-Mahaffey is the lady behind Lula Mae Special Events, a D.C.-area company specializing in creating authentic, joyous, and sane weddings. When she’s not making weddings happen, you’ll find her sewing, knitting, gluing stuff to other stuff, and generally making new things appear.