Ask Team Practical: Michelle on LGBTQ Weddings

We wanted to conclude APW Pride Week with an LGBTQ perspective Ask Team Practical. That, of course, required that we bring in the big guns, because all of the current APW staff is in mixed gender relationships. So! Today’s ATP is a collaboration between Alyssa and Michelle, two theatre loving liberal Texans, which makes y’all pretty lucky. And while the questions are specifically aimed at those of you planning gay weddings, they are so thought provoking for those of us that are not. So girls, let’s do it….

While all of our ATP questions can apply to anyone, regardless of orientation, there are just some issues that LGBTQ couples face that hetero couples will hardly, if ever, have to deal with.  (Not fair, huh?  We should probably do something about that.)  In order to answer some of those, we enlisted Michelle of Deborah and Michelle of So You’re En-GAY-ged.  She is adorable, I love her, and I want her and Deborah to adopt me and let me watch geeky TV with them forever and ever, amen.

We came up with a list of questions that LGBTQ couples face and while a straight couple reading this might go, “Hey, we have that problem,” remember that an LGBTQ couple reading this will go, “Hey.  We have nearly ALL those problems.” Here’s to the day when this list doesn’t exist. Take it away, Michelle!!


How do I find LGBTQ-friendly vendors? (And by doing so, vote with my money?)

Let’s say you are looking for a photographer:

  • Step 1: Go to a wedding directory, local bridal association, blog vendor listing, etc.
  • Step 2: Find the section you are looking for (photographers)
  • Step 3: Open as many sites as you can manage without going crazy in the tabs of your internet browser.
  • Step 4: Find that *one* photographer that has music playing on their site and turn it off.  Seriously, who thinks Taylor Swift’s “Today was a Fairytale” is appropriate for a website? If you can’t find the mute button on their site, just eliminate them from your search.  You don’t need them anyway.
  • Step 5: Do some old fashioned super-sleuthing! Key elements to look for on any website include gender neutral language and photos of other LGBTQ couples in their portfolio. Tip: Any reference to marriage between a man and woman? Be a Dalek and EXTERMINATE that site.
  • Step 6:Whittle it down to the few photographers you like and if you can’t figure out if they are LGBTQ inclusive or not, just send them an email and ask.  The worst possible scenario is an annoying email from said photographer who disagrees with you. Then you have the pleasure of just deleting their email and badmouthing them on Facebook. No, don’t do that last part– just delete the email and tell your friends not to hire them… though, if it were to be via Facebook I wouldn’t judge you.

Not the investigating type? That’s okay, not everyone can be Mulder or Scully (or Bones/Booth depending on your age and coolness level). The following websites have vendors who actively seek out LGBTQ friendly vendors:

How do I find an officiant when I don’t want a church or courthouse wedding?

While searching your local directories or listings can be helpful, most sites don’t have an officiant section.  Try mainstream wedding sites; Wedding Wire and The Kn*t both have search capabilities for officiants, (and on Wedding Wire you can actually read past reviews.)

You can also have a friend officiate the ceremony and have them ordained by Universal Life Church which will allow them to legally sign your marriage certificate! If you are having your ceremony in a lame state like mine that doesn’t recognize gay marriage, then two things: 1. GOOD FOR YOU! 2. Don’t go through the processing fees of ULC unless your soon-to-be-officiating friend really really wants to.

If you don’t have friends who are comfortable in front of crowds, you may want to try and find an official person who oversees weddings all the time. When you meet with them, make sure to ask your potential wedding master or mistress of ceremonies how many LGBTQ weddings they have done. Ask for sample scripts and read them before you send in the deposit check.

I have blogged about my search for our officiant on So You’re En-GAY-ged and used the following types of questions to see if she was right for us.

  • What is their stance on gay marriage?
  • How long have they been officiating and how many LGBTQ ceremonies have they done?
  • What are their general fees?  Do they have any extra fees? (Travel, customized readings, etc.)
  • How do they structure their ceremony?  Will you be able to pick readings?  Do they have samples that you can look at?

How do you honor your family without making your partner feel like shit when their family won’t be there?

Personal back story: When I came out to my father and step-mother, my father’s response was “Why are you crying? No, please, stop crying! Why would this ever change how much I love you?” When Deborah and I first started dating, my father immediately invited her over to our monthly family dinner and she quickly became an important part of my parent’s life. On the flip side, when Deborah came out, her family wanted to have a family dinner of another kind– one that involved discussing what went wrong in her life and how sad she must be that she has resorted to this ‘lifestyle’. Needless to say, that dinner never happened, but I understand the complications of having one family be completely supportive of your marriage and sexuality while the other is less than… um, nice. My wife’s family was a big ol’ detour sign on our road to wedded bliss, so I can answer this question from a personal standpoint.  However, every relationship is different, and I don’t know your partner as well as you do, so remember that all of these suggestions may not be applicable.

  • Be pro-active. Talk to your partner about how he/she is feeling and how you are feeling. You may think your significant other is wallowing in self-pity, but I found that Deborah had come to terms with her parents unwillingness to participate in our wedding much sooner than I had. Once we had that discussion, we were able to plan accordingly. We both knew there would be some sadness when it came to wedding milestones, like finding a dress for instance.  We made sure there were tons of loving and supportive people around when Deborah did find her dress and we ended up turning the whole day into a big celebration.
  • Word your invitations carefully.We chose “We, Michelle and Deborah, along with the loving support of (my parental’s names) are super excited to be getting married”.  You can also go with “Together with our families” which may not be entirely true, but it depends on your definition of family. If you are paying for your wedding yourself, you don’t even have to include parent’s names on the invitation. I’ve even seen an adorable invite where the couple’s pets are the ones inviting guests to the wedding. Done correctly, animals writing in first person is pretty freakin’ great.
  • Revamp traditions. Deborah’s middle brother walked her down the aisle, but my father offered to walk both of us. We also considered walking down the aisle together. Ms. Awesome Weds had a brilliant idea (which I would have stolen if our venue didn’t have a cement sidewalk of an aisle with a clear focal point) of having the aisle be the middle of a circle, so she and her wife walked down the aisle at the same time.  We also did things a little differently than the traditional, ‘Who gives the woman to be married’ thing. Deborah and her brother waited at the end of the aisle, and when my father and I walked up we did a big family hug, and then began the ceremony.
  • Forget ‘sides’. Traditionally, there is a bride’s side and groom’s side– or a bride’s side and bride’s side, or groom’s side and groom’s side.  In my opinion, sides are silly. If two families are coming together to be one, then they can all sit together. This is especially great when one family may not be all that present during the celebration.
  • Be polite.You probably don’t want to send your partner’s parents a wedding invitation. I know I didn’t. After all, what was the benefit? A depressing phone call or email? Seeing, in ink, that they won’t be attending? That isn’t exactly a picker-upper piece of mail.  However, it is good in the long run. I know that we did everything we could to make Deborah’s family feel welcome at our wedding. Now, ten years from now when we are still married and they have come to terms with the fact that they missed their daughter’s wedding, we won’t feel guilty for not extending the invitation for them to join us.

How do we handle well-meaning, but stupid questions?

Honesty is the best policy. If the questions are well-meaning but a little annoying, remember that not everyone in your life has attended a gay wedding.  This may be a first (an awesome one, btw) for a lot of your guests! Speak from your heart and tell your family the truth.

If you do get sick of answering the same question over and over again, you may want to think about putting up an LGBTQ Wedding FAQ on your wedding site. This way, when your Aunt Edna, twice removed, asks who is the bride and who is the groom, you can give a quick “We are both brides (or grooms)” and then direct her to your website for a more detailed answer.  If you do want to have a FAQ, these are the top three questions we got asked all the freakin’ time along with their answers.

  • Are you both wearing dresses? Yes, we both have always wanted to wear a dress on our wedding day. No, they will not be matching dresses because that would be weird.
  • Who is wearing a tux? Our male bridesmates will be wearing suits. We are requesting that no tuxes be worn, as it is Texas and quite warm… even in November.
  • Can y’all even get married here? No, sadly, LGBTQ couples are not granted the same rights and privileges as straight couples in our state. Even though our marriage won’t be legal, we still consider it an important milestone of our relationship and are honoring the legality of marriage through older marriage rituals like hand fasting.  Please understand that, to us, this is the exact same as a legal wedding. We will also be signing a marriage certificate and encourage guests to sign as witnesses to our marriage.

How do I change or hyphenate my name?

Are you living in a state that recognizes your marriage? Well, then I am super jealous and it should be super easy, because you can just change it.  Look at the website Ms. Now Mrs., it does all of the paperwork for you for a small fee. Snazzy, no? Even when I contacted them and they *couldn’t* help me, they were super polite and informative. [Editor’s Note: I used it and it was completely worth it. – Alyssa] If you are a Texas reader, you can see a detailed list of what is necessary for changing names over here at SYE where I did a little bloggy-blog about it.

I hate to be Debbie Downer about this, but unless you live in a state that legally recognizes your union, changing your name is going to cost you a crap ton of money. You and your partner will have to file legal paperwork if you are hyphenating and there are lots of legal fees associated with this course of action. Up Side: You don’t have to have a lawyer to change your name.  You can find the correct documents needed on LegalZoomDown Side: The LegalZoom documents cost $139… each.  Each county may have different charges for filing paperwork of any kind, and there are also state fees.

An easy and practical option is to keep your name the same, but let your friends and family know that you are planning to hyphenate/change your name when time or money allows.  All of our letters that come from our loved ones are now addressed to ‘The Campbell-Greenes’, but our bills and business stuff still have our legal non-hyphenated names.

If you do decide to change or hyphenate, it is a good idea to speak with an accountant first just to make sure it isn’t going to cause any problems when it comes to filing your taxes.

What extra steps do we need to take if we are married in a state that doesn’t recognize our marriage?

President Obama, through legislation, has made sure that LGBTQ couples can visit their significant others while in the hospital, that does not mean everything is hunky-dory in ‘Mo-Town. The most important documents you can obtain are your Power of Attorney and the Advanced Directive (also called a Living Will). This will allow you or your partner to make medical and financial decisions on the other’s behalf. Most urban cities have lawyers that specialize in LGBTQ rights, regardless of legal marriage status.  These lawyers, like most specialty lawyers, are  a wee bit expensive.  If you are doing more than POA and Advanced Directives, I would highly recommend speaking to one of these lawyers for advice.  However, these two documents can be filed on legal websites like Legal Zoom for a lower cost.  Deborah and I filed on legal zoom for less than $200. It is also a good idea to get a mini-version of these documents to carry with you in your wallet.    [Editor’s Note: GLAD and NCLR not only have amazing tip-sheets, but are great resources.  Also consider LAMBDA Legal for finding legal help and info on finding representation.  Protect yourself and your baby family.]


Ok, Team Practical. You may not have advice on planning a LGBTQ Wedding that you want to share (or maybe you do!). So feel free to share what you learned during APW Pride week, gay, straight, or in between…. And then, go spend the weekend celebrating freedom, and thinking about how much work we’ll still need to do to make sure the US really is a country of freedom for all.

Photo: Katherine O’Brien Photography in Austin, Texas

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  • Mollie

    On changing your name without a marriage certificate:

    Don’t be too discouraged right away- it is not always that hard or expensive. I live in Maryland, and for reasons irrelevant to the discussion, I legally changed all 3 of my names when I got married (if you knew the story behind it, this wasn’t nearly as weird as this sounds). Because I was changing all of my names, I had to go through the legal system rather than skipping up to the Social Security counter with my marriage certificate in hand.

    Check out the website for your local county courthouse. They do legal (non-marriage related) name changes all of the time. For adoption reasons, or religious reasons, or what have you. I was directed to “family law.”

    I did have to take out an ad in the local paper discussing my name change (in case anyone wanted to object), but this wasn’t nearly as bad as that sounded because 1) it was in that “legal” section that NO ONE ever reads, seriously, nobody called to say they saw me in the paper, and 2) it was all facilitated by the court, I didn’t have to do anything but fill out a simple form.

    All told, it was less than $250. WORTH IT to me. And no, you don’t need a lawyer for this.

    After all is said and done, you will get a “court authorized document” in the mail that you can then use to change your name with all the relevant parties. Start with Social Security– everything will fall into place after that.

    Good luck!

    • Not to pry into your reasons for changing all three of your names but I’m thinking that when I get married someday I want to, at least, officially change “Elizabeth” to “Beth” (my aunt is going to have a heart attack…but then again, she’s the ONLY one in my life that calls me Elizabeth). I’d never really thought about that being more complicated than the regular name change process but it’s so good to hear that it’s still not that hard!

      (I’m hoping my small town courthouse doesn’t get wayy confused when the time comes.)

      • Mollie

        My legal name was “Marie,” but my WHOLE LIFE (from birth) I have been called “Mollie.” So I made it official. Those that know me didn’t even blink about that, because it just makes so much sense. My dad even said that he was assuming I’d do so anyway. I also took my given last name as my middle name, and my husband’s last name as my new last name.

        The Marie vs. Mollie thing had been needlessly complicated forever, I had no connection to “Marie,” and thinking of being named “Marie HisLastName” was crazy to me because NO part of that name felt true to who I am. So I’m really happy I did it. Good luck!

    • You beat me to it. :)

      I legally changed my last name when I was 18 (and I also “fixed” my middle name – on all of my documents my middle name, Michele, had one l, but on my birth certificate it had 2 lls, so since I was already changing the last name, I figuted I might as well make it legally Michele instead of Michelle). My maternal grandfather was my father figure, and I wanted so badly to recognize him by taking his name.

      At the time, the NYS courts technically did not require an attorney but the clerk gave me a hard time and refused to supply me with the necessary paperwork. I was annoyed, I argued with the clerk, but she just looked at me like some stupid kid, and I did not have much recourse at the time. The attorney who did it for me (the boyfriend of my mother’s good friend – he did it for nearly gratis, I was lucky) knew much less about the procedure than I did, as I had carefully researched it. Now, they’ve gotten with the 21st century and have all of the documents up on the website:

      Also, NY is pretty liberal in name-changing conventions, however one thing you CAN’T do via marriage certificate is drop your middle name and make your maiden name your middle name. You can, however, have two last names without a hyphen, so a lot of people do that and socially drop their middle names, or they just socially use their maiden name as a middle name without making it “legal.” In NYS, anyone can go by any name so long as there is no intent to defraud, it is just that any legal documents must have your legal name on them.

      Anyway, if any NY-based people have name change questions, feel free to drop me a line @gmail. :) I’m happy to help!

  • Lethe

    I DO have further advice!

    1. More on legal papers: actually, in many (all?) states, you should have the option of a Health Care Proxy rather than/in addition to a living will. The HCP lets you designate an “agent” to make healthcare decisions for you, and provides space to fill in special instructions you would like your agent to follow if certain situations should occur and you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself. The nice thing about it is that it’s a standardized, simple form created by the government, so all institutions SHOULD immediately recognize what it is and honor it. There is less danger that a hospital or other institution would question whether it’s a valid legal document, which may happen sometimes with living wills. Best part: you don’t need a lawyer to fill it out at all! It’s very straightforward. Check your state Department of Health website for the form and instructions.

    2. Getting married in a state where you don’t live: yeah, lots of people do this, but LOTS lots of gay people end up doing it if you want a legal marriage but your state won’t oblige. I think it’s worth mentioning that this can have special logistical challenges. If possible, pick a place where you have a couple very trustworthy local friends, so that they can run to pay vendors for you, turn in forms, or whatever other local errands come up now and then during planning. Other people probably have more to say on this – it’s something I would have loved to hear more about during my own planning.

    3. ….And on that note, on getting a legal marriage while you live in a no-marriage state: It is awesome, powerful, and at least to me, profoundly healing to be told that you are legally and totally state-sanctioned-ly married. It is also something to consider carefully, because if you plan to go back to living in a no-marriage state afterwards, your state will probably not let you get divorced if that’s ever something you should need. That’s changing (Wyoming just divorced a lesbian couple…!), but it’s something to be realistic about. States have residency periods for divorce, so if you ever need a divorce one of you would probably have to move to establish residency in a marriage-recognizing state. Thank god, this is becoming less of an issue as more states join us in happy-gay-marriage-land.

    4. …and still on that note, is there any benefit to getting a legal marriage beyond the emotional one? Sometimes the answer is yes! If you live in a marriage state there are LOTS of benefits – including the fact that even when you travel outside your home into non-marriage states, you retain some important rights, like your partner’s rights to your property if something should happen to you. Also and importantly: marriage is a universally recognized legal status in a way that civil union or domestic partnership, at least right now, are not. Your state can refuse to *recognize* your marriage….but that does not make you any less married. Whenever you set foot in a marriage state, your marriage is recognized; if your state ever legalizes marriage, your marriage will still be recognized; etc. (Yeah, I just got married in Massachusetts a month ago, and came home to New York….only to find marriage legalized a month later!! Woohoo! :) )

    Not to mention: I was profoundly moved by the change I saw in friends and family who attended my wedding (their first gay wedding ever). It moved some of them to political awareness and action in a way they never would have engaged in before. It doesn’t take a legal marriage to do that – just an openness to sharing what makes your relationship special and unique and wonderful with the people you love. At least for me, that was so, so worth it.

    • “Not to mention: I was profoundly moved by the change I saw in friends and family who attended my wedding (their first gay wedding ever). It moved some of them to political awareness and action in a way they never would have engaged in before.”

      That’s so amazing and makes my heart dance a little. And congratulations!!

    • “And on that note, on getting a legal marriage while you live in a no-marriage state: It is awesome, powerful, and at least to me, profoundly healing to be told that you are legally and totally state-sanctioned-ly married.”

      This, exactly. We had a wedding in our home state (Illinois), which was fantastic, but I was surprised by how important and relieving and amazing it felt when our Justice of the Peace announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized our marriage two weeks later. Wow. Overwhelming and awesome.

  • YOU ALSO NEED A WILL. Seriously. If one of you dies, your property all goes to your parents or your children (depending on the state) and none of it will go to your partner. SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY. This is as important as a POA or Advance Directives, and also you need to understand how to structure bank accounts, etc. to avoid taxes on inheritance that goes to “unrelated” persons. You can go to a regular estate planner for this as well as a specialty lawyer, and it might be cheaper.

    Also, before you buy a house together, be sure to understand the differences between tenants in common and joint tenants with right of survivorship – there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but be very careful if buying as tenants in common without also writing a will.

  • I think that between this post and your wedding grad post, you’ve got all the advice I would have covered! But I would like to reiterate a couple of things you said:

    It IS a real wedding, and it’s something to be proud of. Don’t be apologetic for your marriage, even if you worry it’ll make other people uncomfortable. That is SO their problem and not yours.

    If you feel at all uncomfortable or iffy about a vendor, don’t use them. I guess that’s not gay specific, though it could and has come up due to The Gay. If they’re like, “Well, we COULD do a gay wedding,” that’s a no. If they’re like, “We’ve never done a gay wedding before, but we’d love for you to be our first! What is your idea for [the service we provide]?” then go with it! They should say yes to the The Gay but then move on to the wedding, because that’s their job.

    APW, thanks for an awesome pride week. <3

  • Amber

    You know who else needs a court date to change their name? People with hyphenated names who want to break apart their hyphenation to go down to one name that they can share with their partner. At least in our state, we were offered a 3-name combo (jones-smith-jones) instead of just jones. UGH!

    • That’s insane. Also, APW needs a post on hyphenated last names getting married. Because there are actually a lot of us.

    • Definitely depends on the state. In NY, and combination/mashup of current/former names is allowed on the marriage cert.

  • Rachel T.

    Loved every single piece of this advice!!! I’m not LGBTQ but I’m certainly an A, and I just want to say thanks to APW. So many of these sites are very one sided, and even one of the wedding sites this week took the time to post an engagement set of photos of their favorite photographer and his partner, but I was sad that they didn’t take it one step further and say something in support of them. I know not everyone wants to be “political” (see also honest, supportive, loving, etc because that word annoys me), but sometimes I wish people would take a stand with words and not just pictures. So hats off to APW, as if I thought you would do any different! This was a beautiful week full of amazing advice, stories of love and hope (and some heartache). Also, kudos for not trying to turn it into “gay weddings are just like yours”. As always, I love the honesty on this site. You are still by far my favorite wedding blog and blog in general! BRAVA!!!! And here’s to love all around, recognized in every state, as soon as possible!!

  • McPants

    ::dies laughing:: I am *so* glad we weren’t the only recipients of the “who’s wearing the dress?” question. (Well, glad we’re not alone and sad there are that many people who would ask.) Thanks for the list o’ important documents; we’ve been married for a month and a half, and still have yet to get on those. We’re fortunate enough to live in a state where our marriage is recognized, but there are still lots of protections we lack. (And everybody needs a will, anyway.)

    In light of yesterday’s discussion of gaybies, I might add in the importance of legal documents protecting the non-biological parent (for those choosing to have kids, and to not adopt those kids, obvs.) Some states will put a same-sex partner on the birth certificate, but others may need a second-parent adoption to protect their legal rights to their spawn. I’m not totally up on this as we’re just starting to plan for kids, but if any lawyer-type-folks on here want to chime in, it might be helpful to some people.

    • I had a variation on the dress question when people heard my best friend (who does drag pageants) was going to be my man of honor. “Oh, is he doing to wear a dress?”

      Those who tried to be funny with it got a loud “REALLY??” and a death glare.

      For everyone else, I tried explaining that Michael was coming to my wedding, not Sally, but that just confused matters, so I started saying “Yes.” Just to shut them up. Because they really didn’t care.

      Except for my sweet old grandfather. He got an explanation on the difference between being a drag queen and a cross-dresser or transvestite, and a small discussion on performance versus living your life in drag. He was fascinated….

      • Meredith

        I was a grooms-woman in my brothers wedding 3 weeks ago. You know…because I’m related to him and all, I wanted to stand on his side, rather than his now wife’s side. I got SO many confused looks, comments and opinions about it, including the question (asked a surprisingly large number of times), “are you going to wear a pants suit?” (not that there is anything wrong with a lovely pants suit, but the assumption that I would wear one simply because I was standing on the grooms side is….a little strange). My answer was often the death glare. Then a little explanation of why I chose to stand on his side and that since I like dresses, I’ll wear a dress, thank-you very much.

        I guess because I see/talk/ discuss mixed gender bridal parties all the time on here I assumed that this wasn’t a big thing. Wrong-o. People were sufficiently confused. And asked kind of crazy questions.

        • When FH and I got engaged, we wrote down 4-5 things that were important to us in the wedding so that we would know where the other stood and not forget what was important. The first thing I wrote down was that I wanted 100% control over who was in my bridal brigade. In my first wedding, I chose to have my best friend Jared stand up but my ex REQUIRED that he stand on the groom’s side; I, in turn, had a bridesmaid that had been one of his close friends since high school.
          So I told my FH that I wanted Jared to be with me this time. While we are still working out some details, I think we are planning on having the gentlemen on the groom’s side wear button down shirts in our chosen color with black ties. Jared will wear black pants and a black shirt with a colored tie, to have him look like he belongs with a matched party but also to signify that he is mine. :) I offered him the opportunity to wear a dress if he desired and he stated that the important thing was for him to be there for me, in a dress if that was what I wanted. That’s why I love him so much.

  • I’m not having an LGBT marriage but I identify strongly with the queer community and I wanted that reflected in our wedding. It is challenging and this week has been extremely helpful for me to be able to do that.

    I’m about 2 weeks out now and I’ve found a new confidence in bucking traditions and changing the language of our ceremony to honor my queer brothers and sisters. Thank you APW for incorporating a Pride Week and showing us beautiful weddings that exemplify true despite the odds being stacked against you.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE all of it.

  • Holly

    A big factor in choosing vendors for our wedding was sense of humour so we took to emailing prospective vendors about our ‘big gay wedding’/blessing of civil partnership (we’re in the UK).

    We are only working with vendors who respond to emails promptly, are nice on the phone and are good humoured. Some vendors are really excited to be working on a civil partnership as they are LGBT friendly and haven’t had the opportunity to show it before… It’s also possible to get discounts on eg. photos this way as it means they’ll have a gay wedding to put on their website etc.

    oooo and (to share a fab email) our baker told me “cake and love are noble pursuits and you shouldn’t have to pay over the odds for either!”- sense of humour, gay friendly, vegan AND budget conscious…

  • Dragon

    Good advice on honoring your family while supporting your partner. We dealt with a related question- How do you honor one family for being amazing when the other WILL be present, but maybe not anything more than that (and could bail at the last minute)? We honored parents with flowers and seating, but did not want to make my in-laws uncomfortable by pushing them too far. So no aisle walks, which we didn’t want anyway. No official father-daughter dances, though most folks ended up dancing at some point. For us, with in-laws that had a hard time getting used to the idea, keeping the request to being present worked pretty well. Then each extra thing that they did was a gift.

    It was also important to talk to the more supportive family, who may have thought that they would be getting a major shout out at your wedding. While we couldn’t specifically mention my parents without exposing the difference between the two families, we did speak at the beginning of the ceremony about the love and support of our families and friends making us the people that we are. We had multiple conversations with my family during the process to make sure that they understood our various decisions-around invitation wording, dances, etc. And compromised on a few unrelated things that were important to them.

  • Re: finding an officiant that isn’t church or courthouse

    I strongly, STRONGLY recommend talking to a Unitarian Universalist minister. (APW has heard this spiel before, but I’m doing it again. Ahem.)

    UU ministers are LGBT friendly, liberal with regard to religion/God/spirituality, but are also well-versed in weddings (often LGBT weddings) and giving that certain gravitas to a ceremony. Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion that allows for people of varying faith practices; you can be both UU and Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, pagan, or humanist (just as a few examples). UU ministers are very experienced in interfaith dialogue and inclusive language. If you want a wedding that isn’t too church-ey, isn’t just a Justice of the Peace, but want it to have some OOMPH, a UU minister can probably help with that. While they are technically ministers and COULD bring spirituality into the wedding if you requested, they will probably be more than happy to help you create a secular ceremony. Just ask.

    (my cred: I’m a lifelong UU, married by a UU minister, and about to enter theological school to become a UU minister)

    • Let me second this! And on that note, if you wait a year or two, Sarah formerly known as Sarah K. will do your wedding. I know because I just signed her up.

      • I’m not going to lie, it is my ultimate career goal to be the first APW sponsor as a Wedding Officiant. Come find me in three years, and I’m your gal!!

        I “officiated” (presided, sort of) at my college roommate’s wedding, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. When it came time to plan my own wedding ceremony, I took the advice of our presiding minister, but crafted the majority of the service myself, with input from my sweetheart (of course). Weddings are one part of being a minister I’m really excited for; I can’t wait to help people craft a ceremony that reflects them and their values, and be there to celebrate and honor two people together on this journey we call life. Badass.

    • Remy

      I’m not unfamiliar with the UU (I’m a member of MCC, myself — — and have performed at interfaith services and secular events at our local UU), but I hadn’t thought about having a UU wedding because we have an awesome officiant who is an old family friend/honorary uncle to me. However, earlier this week while browsing APW archives I ran across this link to a UU Wedding Ceremony Booklet, and I can tell it will be a huge and helpful influence in writing our own ceremony for our (simple) wedding (with very complicated background) next fall.

      I liked it so much that I wrote a gushing thank-you email to the Ottawa congregation, and I now highly recommend it (again) to APW readers!

    • Yes! I work at a UU Fellowship in NY and my supervisor suggested I think of ways to promote that we are happy to preform all and every type of wedding. I wondered out loud if it was necessary since I’d like to think most people know how inclusive UUs are. Long Island APWers- the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington would love to marry you!

  • A note from a straight officiant who performs beaucoup LBGTQ weddings:

    How do I find an officiate when I don’t want a church or courthouse wedding?

    An “officiant” “officiates” a ceremony. So the word in the question above should be “officiant” (noun) not “officiate” (which is actually a verb). It’s a common error but since APW is so well-read, I figured, “Hey–what better place to set the record straight?”

    With grammar class now over, let me applaud this post (minor incorrect word usage aside). Another tip for finding the perfect LBGTQ friendly celebrant (see how I dodge the word altogether?)–when you visit their website, not only is their language gender-neutral, but do they treat LBGTQ weddings in the same manner as hetero ones? If the website (or any marketing material) goes out of its way to have a special section on LBGTQ weddings, then buyer beware. Their values may not be a good fit for yours.

    If a wedding professional gives off the vibe that LBGTQ weddings are somehow “different” than a “regular” wedding, then run like a chicken! A quality vendor will not differentiate between gay love and straight love–at least in terms of the service they provide.

    • Thanks for the correction and the advice!
      It’s been corrected, but if you notice anything else, please feel free to use the Edtiz button at the bottom of the post to share any other mistakes with us.

    • Josephine

      I can understand your point but I think having a specific LGBTQ section allows a vendor to explicitly state that they are happy with such weddings when otherwise that information might get lost. Having an extra section doesn’t necessarily mean that they will treat you differently. Unless of course it is a section dedicated to saying the they hate LGBTQ people!

  • amy

    Pro tip on the Universal Life Church!

    Earlier this year, I officiated a wedding in Wisconsin, which requires a letter of good standing from the church for all officiants. After a run-around, I learned that this is the only ULC ordination site that is legally recognized by most states:

    (They also have a helpful FAQ of officiant laws by state!

    There should not be any processing fees and no one should try to sell you certificates, letters of recommendation, etc. And everyone at HQ in Modesto is helpful and can put you in touch with people in your state who can help you get your credentials.

    This series has been amazing. Hats off!

  • As a (former) wedding invitation designer I feel terrible that I never explicitly stated that I am more than happy to work with LGBTQ couples. It’s just such a non-issue to me, personally, that pointing it out would be the equivalent of saying “I am happy to work with interracial couples!” I hate that there are vendors out there that don’t feel the same or would refuse to service a wedding and refuse to support the beginning of a marriage based on sexual preference.

    I’m really loving this series this week. It’s disheartening that equality isn’t a priority for everyone but it’s blogs and posts like these will only help to keep us moving forward until we get there.

    • This is an interesting point, about not stating it because it’s so obvious. I think there are subtle ways to state it, and that often subtle ways are the best ways. I looked at one photographer’s website that had three sections: Weddings/Engagments, Families, and LGBT. What I took from this was NOT “Oh, yay, they love LGBT!” though I’m sure that was their intention. Instead, I saw “LGBT does not fit with Weddings or Families… LGBT is ‘other’.”

      I think that having a same-sex couple featured along with all the others, whether it’s in photos or just clearly same-sex names on an invitation (e.g. NOT Pat and Chris, but Sarah and Elizabeth or Michael and Robert), makes a huge difference. I definitely look for those little things, and if I don’t see them, I assume that even if they’re *okay* working with a same-sex couple, they’re obviously not invested in it. And I’m sure there’s someone else who IS invested, I just have to find them.

      • i think a lot of this depends on your location, too. in my southern small city, we didn’t run into *any* weirdness/negativity for being gay…but not a soul actively mentioned anything supportive in their materials.

        without any advance tips on the subject, i think we used this two-prong approach:
        super-traditional, around here, probably means they’re not going to be comfortable with us. but, then again, super-traditional wouldn’t be a good fit for us were we straight. so that was round one.

        after that, we usually just asked. it felt abrupt and silly, but it freaking worked. i put in an email to a photographer “p.s. this is a gay wedding, if that’s weird, nevermind all this,” and didn’t get a response, which is just as well. on the other hand, the b&b owner for our honeymoon laughed at us, which was entirely reassuring.

    • Celeste

      Well, it could be as simple as using explicitly female-female or male-male invitation wording in your sample invites on your website, like “Sarah and Jane are getting married!” If you have a FAQ, you could include a question about whether you do LGBT weddings.
      I’m a woman marrying a man, but it was important to me that vendors used gender-neutral language, didn’t assume that the bride would be planning everything, and supported LGBT weddings, so even straight brides and grooms care and would like to see it. Luckily, in San Francisco, it’s harder to find a vendor that doesn’t support gay weddings.

      • To Bird, Celeste & Lady Brett – I do custom invitations and only feature real wedding invitations. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a LGBT couple BUT I do hope that my invites are off-beat enough that a LGBT couple (that likes my non-traditional design aesthetic and approach) wouldn’t be intimidated approaching me.

        I’m not designing wedding invitations anymore but this post definitely opened my eyes. If I decide to design invites in the future I am definitely going to keep this conversation in consideration and make sure I do what I can to make any potential clients, LGBT or just advocates feel comfortable working with me.

  • Sara C.

    Just wanted to point to some additional legal resources out there: Nolo Press (slogan: law for all) has great books and articles specifically targeted for same sex couples – I highly recommend both “Making it Legal” and “Living Together,” but they also have great (and free) articles here:

    Good luck!

  • occhiblu

    A note on finding vendors: Wedding Wire ( uses profiles where vendors can list what types of weddings they do, and “GLBT” is one of the options they can list. So that’s a way to screen vendors, too.

    I’m straight, but I actually used that method to find our wedding coordinator, because I wanted to make sure we didn’t end up with a homophobe directing the wedding, and I wanted to support GLBTQ-friendly vendors. This series on APW prompted me to send that coordinator an email letting her know that her marriage-equality stance is the reason I contacted her in the first place, because I think it’s important for straight people to let vendors know that supporting marriage equality not only helps them attract gay clients but also straight ones.

  • Laura

    Finding a secular officiant in New York State:

    – Universal Life Church ordinations are only recognized in New York City. The state courts have annulled marriages performed by ULC-ordained people.
    – In addition to Unitarians and various “non-denominational” officiants, the Humanist Society is able to perform marriages, though technically under the religious licensing.
    – There are no justices of the peace.
    – All current and former state and federal judges who have served in the state can perform marriages anywhere in the state, and not just in a courthouse but sitting judges can only be paid $100, so generally you have to have a personal connection – we got a friend’s father who’s a judge to do ours.
    – Mayors and other local officials can perform marriages, but Mike Bloomberg probably already has a full plate.

    • Speaking as someone who ALSO had a friend’s father perform our wedding (yay – that was kind of fun), this is just speaking for him, but he’s made no secret of the fact that performing weddings is his favorite part of his job as a judge, and I cannot imagine he’s the only one who feels that way. They can perform the marriage anywhere in the State (or NYC), like you said. It can’t hurt to contact a few in the town you plan to marry in to see if they’ll perform your wedding.

      Having said that, most Unitarian ministers wouldn’t perform weddings in NYS up until recently out of protest of there being no legal gay marriage. Obviously, that’s changed, so that may be a good way to go.

      Oh, on a final note, a wiccan priestess performed my friend’s wedding – that’s an option, too.

  • a few notes:

    Lambda Legal has a particularly useful legal-family-stuff toolkit (which i need to get on with using!). i found it to be more specific – and so more helpful to my dumb self – than most of the other info i’ve seen:

    one other thing about families – if your family is awesome, trust them to be awesome. i think we were sometimes a bit over-prepared for people not thinking it was a “real wedding” and mis-read the cues sometimes. only internally, so there was no weird huge miscommunication or anything…but we could have just sat back and enjoyed ourselves a little more, because *of course* our families are awesome.

    on the subject of well meaning but stupid questions…

    “where are you going?”
    um, downtown. follow-up – we are getting married in our home, with our family and friends around, not somewhere we have never been only come home just as not married, legally speaking, as we were when we left. to be fair, i get where this question is coming from (and it’s probably just my weirdo stance on legal marriage that makes me dislike it)…i just got tired of it being the *first* thing said by *everyone* (couldn’t you squee first, at least?)

    “are you wearing a dress?”
    i get this one, too…for a lot of folks. but, um, people asked my genderqueer girlfriend that all the time. i’ve never seen her in a dress, or, oh, even women’s clothing – why would a wedding change that? (well, there was that one time she put on my skirt to make me laugh when i was crying my eyes out =)
    people also asked me that all the time. less offensive, but just as confusing. i wear skirts about 6 days a week, i can’t imagine what would possibly make you think i would wear pants to my wedding (not even my gay wedding).
    p.s. “what are you wearing?” is an awesome question! i highly recommend that wording – interested and un-assumptive.

  • Stephanie

    I am not gay but I just found the above post super helpful!!! Thanks for always sharing great advice!!!

  • Marina

    Regarding advance directives, I would actually strongly recommend NOT involving a lawyer. I work for an organization called Compassion & Choices and most of what we do is help people make sure their ADs are enforceable, and what we’ve found over and over is that when ADs are put together by lawyers, they are unreadable and ER staff put them aside until they have the time to sort through them. Which is NOT what you want in an AD–you want something that is clear to EVERYONE who will ever read it. Instead of a lawyer, get someone familiar with common medical issues to help you draft it (or get a free state specific draft from my organization at ) and if you’re worried about it looking official, get it notarized when you’re done.

    • Marina

      Now I want to write a post on how advance directives will help your marriage. Would anyone be interested in that?

    • Fiorentina

      And as a follow-up to this, we have been advised that you *should* have lawyer to draft a will, and for durable power of attorney (but that AD, etc., was fine sans lawyer since there are so many good resources like C&C). This was just the advice of one guy in our financial planning seminar, but since I have zero experience with any of this yet, it was news to me and I’m passing it on in case anyone else is equally uninformed as I was.

  • Hey New York area Brides/Grooms looking for a secular-awesome officiant– I would love to marry you! I am trying to transition into being an officiant as, like, my job job and I would love to be there for your special day! I can work with you on a ceremony and your vows, and am a total cheerleader for love. I am also really excited to be practicing in New York State right now!

  • Okay, superficial side note but…”I’ve even seen an adorable invite where the couple’s pets are the ones inviting guests to the wedding. Done correctly, animals writing in first person is pretty freakin’ great.”

    I know I love my dogs too much because I immediately thought, “we should have done that!”

    • I read this line out loud to my FH since we are actually planning on this. A cute little postcard with our birds (parrots) talking about how awesome the wedding is going to be, with a picture of our gecko on the back. With plans for a quiet, picnic wedding, and considering who we are and all of our awesome pets, this just seemed appropriate.

  • This post is so wonderful! I especially appreciated the section about honoring your family when your partner’s family sucks (my language). I struggle with this all the time, and I think (like you) I’m more stressed about it than my lady is. I think I’m just waiting for the ball to drop, expecting that at some point–maybe the day of wedding–she’ll be devestated. I’ve convinced myself that if I’m careful I’ll be able to prevent this, but I’m sure that’s not true. And, more importantly, that’s not helpful. It’s okay to be emotional about such a disappointing rejection. I just need to figure out how to let it go and support her through whatever she feels.

    Regarding LGBTQ-friendly vendors, I would also suggest contacting local (at least in-state) LGBTQ advocacy groups, community centers and publications. They may be aware of affirming vendors–or even (BONUS, for us tight-budgeted-folk) local gays who are trying to start their own businesses.

  • liz

    THE PICTURRRE. adorable.

    and i think every. single. one. of these questions has come up eleventy billion times in the APW comments. awesome to have each answered so thoroughly!

    (and, um, am i the only under-a-rock-dweller that never heard “bridesmates” before? love that.)

  • R.

    I’m in a heterosexual couple, planning a wedding for next spring. We’re kicking around the idea of having our wedding *without* getting legally married. Partly in solidarity with the people in our state (CA) who are not allowed to get married; partly for the practical reason that couples where both partners work pay a significant penalty when they file taxes as a married couple.

    for those of you who have gone the whole power of attorney / will / advanced directive route, do you think it is possible to obtain substantially the same legal rights through those instruments? Or would we be missing important things?

    • i have not – but really, really need to – gone through all the legal work-arounds,but my understanding is that it will be a *lot* more expensive than a marriage license (or possibly only a little more money and a whole lot more time and effort if you know what you’re doing). i have also heard mixed reviews as to how solid all of that is – that is, even with legal documents, sometimes your wishes will not be respected if they clash with legally-recognized and/or traditional definitions of family. i doubt this would be as much of an issue for hetero couples, who less often get questioned about their relationships – so this might be a functional, if complex, alternative.

      of course, by virtue of being different sexes, you may be subject to common-law marriage against your will – but that varies greatly state-to-state.

      lastly, you can always file your taxes (at least federally) as “married filing separately” which works just like single in my understanding.

      • Sarabeth

        Not quite true on the taxes. Especially in a community property state like CA, married filing separately actually gets you a very different result than filing singly. In the vast majority of situations, you’d be paying more tax. Sadly, I know this because my husband has unusual tax considerations that forced us to file this way in CA last year, and it definitely cost us money.

    • Amy March

      You’ll be missing important things. There are so many legal benefits of marriage that it is not possible to list them all- one example being the privilege of refusing to testify against each other in court, for example. Powers of attorney and advance directives are good tools for sure, but they can’t come close to being . legally married. You’ll have an entirely different legal relationship to each other’s finances post-wedding if you aren’t actually married. You often won’t be entitled to be included on the other’s health insurance as a dependent if you need to be. You won’t receive widow’s benefits through Social Security.

      This is one circumstance where I really would recommend talking to a lawyer- choosing not to get legally married as a gesture of solidarity is a powerful statement precisely because of what you are giving up, and it’s important to understand that choice before you make it.

      • R.

        Thank you, these comments are very helpful – food for thought, at any rate. It’s helpful to be reminded of all the reasons, practical as well as symbolic, that everyone should have the right to join their lives together with the person they love.

    • Fiorentina

      Also, IME, the tax benefits/penalties to filing jointly or singly depend more on the difference in each partner’s income than anything else. Basically, if one partner makes a heckuvalot more than the other (or one is unemployed) filing jointly allows the high-earning partner to step down a few tax brackets and pay less (usually without having any effect on the low-earning partner). If you each make the same amount, I don’t know what the effect is, because I haven’t run into this yet. But you only have the option to file jointly if you are *legally* married (or civil unioned I believe in states that are making that distinction – someone please correct me if I’m wrong on this).

      Also, what other commenters have said – it will be much more expensive to achieve the same rights sans a legal marriage. Booooo :(

  • Love Love LOVE this week’s posts. I’m drumming up all the LGBT things I’m going to do for my wedding, and how I can support my friends!

  • Ariel

    I had a super busy week, so I’m just getting to all of last weeks posts now. I just want to say that I LOVE APW pride week. What a great idea!

    First, I just want to say that as a bi womyn who is marrying a bi man, I really appreciate all of the posts this week. There is a whole lot that needs to be done before the way that our culture as a whole relates to marriage doesn’t suck so much. This is something that my partner and I have both been struggling with since deciding to get married, in terms of our feelings about marriage equality and our personal orientation, values, and political leanings. Thank you so much for providing a forum for discussion here on APW.

    Second, I absolutely love the idea of having your pets announce your wedding on your invitations. I’m going to try to talk my partner into rewording our invites :)

  • Vincent Banks

    This post has been great, and I laughed a lot at the “how to handle stupid questions” section – “Are you both wearing dresses? Yes, we both have always wanted to wear a dress on our wedding day. No, they will not be matching dresses because that would be weird.” Maybe off topic alittle, but does anyone know any other good resources I could check out if I wanted to plan my own wedding? I’ve been teaching myself from wedding forums and wedding planning educational videos online (Event Leadership Institute to be specific), and they have taught me a lot about general aspects of wedding planning. I’m looking for more information on LGBTQ weddings, specifically, though.

    • You best bet is to start with the links in the post, they’re all a great resource and Michelle recommended! :-)

  • Eleanor

    this post is amazing. my dad came out 10 years ago and is newly engaged to an awesome man. He asked me to help with his wedding planning and to be his best man (woman) at his wedding. I am so excited for him and this post has really helped me a LOT!

    Even though the post is slightly geared towards women since that is the audience here usually, I am definitely going to be forwarding him this website!

  • Jarah

    What a thorough and great post. Thank you APW!

    If at any point you want to include information about lgbtq-friendly officiants, you can add my name to yours list for Jewish couples in NJ and surrounding areas. :)

    Your devoted fan,

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  • If you are planning on getting married in the US, Mexico or Canada – you don’t have to ask any of these questions or bother with any of that if you use our directory http:.// we are the lead online directory for the LGBT community and we actually speak to our wedding vendors before we list them on our website. We turn a lot of wedding vendors down so that YOU don’t have to.

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