I never imagined myself having a big wedding. The closest thing I ever had to that fantasy as a little girl was when Ellen DeGeneres came out and I asked my mom what being “gay” meant. She explained it simply to my six-year-old brain: being gay was when a “boy married a boy or a girl married a girl.” I immediately felt relieved. “So you can marry your best friend?!” I exclaimed, and then thought for a little bit longer. “Mom…” I asked sheepishly, “But can you both wear dresses?” (I just couldn’t imagine myself in a tux.)
Finally Planning My Queer Wedding
My dad passed away when I was 21, and then my mom when I was 28. The already faint idea of a wedding dissolved completely in those seven years. As I learned to grapple with my grief and simultaneously grow into myself as an out, Queer woman, the idea of marriage and weddings became something I never thought I would want or need for myself. After all, I’d always celebrated that Queer relationships defy the conventional norms of hetero relationships, so having a wedding seemed wholly unnecessary. Plus, weddings are so centered around parental support that I imagined being crushed beneath the weight of the grief I carry from losing not just one, but both parents, at such a young age.
And then I met her. Someone who came in and shook up my world and challenged me and loved as hard as I did. Someone that I knew I wanted to keep in my life forever.
I could say, “I met her and then everything changed.” But my feelings about weddings and marriage didn’t change. They expanded. They grew. They loosened.
Before my partner, R, and I even got engaged, we talked about getting married and what that meant to both of us. R, loving tradition and ceremony and ritual, told me that having a wedding was extremely important to her and was something that she had wanted her whole life. Me, parentless and maybe a little more jaded, said that eloping at City Hall, or not having one at all, would be perfect. After we got engaged, we settled on a compromise somewhere in the middle: deciding to have a non-traditional, Queer AF wedding celebration with our closest friends and family and only if (by my addendum), “we didn’t have to do all that traditional wedding stuff.”
Now hear me out—I don’t hate weddings. In fact, I surround myself with them. For someone who grew up never thinking about weddings, I’m actually living and breathing and thinking about weddings most of the year. As an LGBTQ wedding photographer, I attend and photograph anywhere between 20 and 30 weddings a year. My partner and I even met at a wedding that I was photographing. Weddings are a huge part of my life, but being on the other side of the lens (so to speak) has opened my eyes to a whole new part of it that I haven’t seen or experienced before.
Surprisingly Un-Fun Parts Of Wedding Planning
One of the most surprising parts of wedding planning is the amount of pressure to know just about everything about your wedding right off the bat. The first question that most people ask once you’ve gotten engaged and made it social media–official is “So did you set a date yet?” Holy hell, I literally just got used to the feeling of a ring on my left finger, how am I supposed to set a date for something we haven’t even really thought about yet? We were still just reveling in the excitement and giddiness of the proposal.
The pressure immediately sinks in, as people remind you that wedding venues book up to a year or more in advance, as do wedding photographers, and suddenly my partner and I were looking at my calendar and trying to squeeze in our wedding amongst the other 20+ weddings I was already scheduled to photograph this year. We found two dates towards the end of my season that worked, we contacted a venue and a photographer (both people near and dear to our hearts), and were able to magically find a date that we all could do. In my head, I immediately thought, “Great, we’re done, we can think about all the rest later.” Except that’s not how weddings work, is it?
Crying It Out
I’m gonna be honest here. The first few times R and I talked about the wedding, one or both of us would end up in tears. We both had different ideas of what our wedding would look like, and we both had different ideas of what things cost/should cost, and we both had strong opinions and sensitive hearts about it all. (We’re a queer partnership where both of us are Cancers, so there are a lot of feelings). Wedding planning even became a conversation that we had to table for a while, because the pressure—from ourselves, others, the industry, society—became so overwhelming and stressful that it wasn’t fun anymore.
The best pieces of advice I can give to people who are wedding planning, but especially Queer wedding planning, are: 1) go to therapy, and 2) do it your own way.
Going to therapy as an individual is helping me work through my grief that surrounds planning a wedding without my parents, my scarcity issues around money, and my management of the anxiety and pressure around physical appearance and weddings. The wedding industry is incredibly fatphobic, and as a plus-sized babe, I immediately got targeted ads for wedding weight loss programs and was reminded by many wedding dress companies that my body was not the right size for their wedding dresses. I know that therapy isn’t going to fix everything—it’s certainly not going to bring my parents back or make it any less painful to have a wedding without them; it doesn’t mean I won’t still question R about whether or not we can afford just about everything; and it sure as hell isn’t going to fix the problematic wedding industry and need for better plus-sized clothing options. But it is helping me at least navigate some of these things with a little more grace and patience, mostly with myself.
The most liberating part of planning a wedding (and paying for it ourselves) is that we get to call the shots and say screw it to all the rules. We want our wedding to feel like us and not a reflection of the wedding industry that (for the most part) wants to put us in a hetero, cookie-cutter box. So we are keeping the traditions that mean something to us (like having a Chuppah and a ceremony and a first dance) and nixing pretty much everything else. Can you say no to wedding parties? We absolutely did. Can you ask your friends and family to bring a potluck of desserts? Yup! Are we going to skip the whole “You can’t see each other” thing on the morning of your wedding and just get ready together? Sure are. Being able to make this wedding feel like a safe and comfortable place for both of us has been crucial to finding our sanity about wedding planning again.
And now, when I go to weddings and I see Queer folks getting up there and professing their love to each other, surrounded by the people that love them the most in the world, and doing this wedding thing in the only way that Queers really can, I get excited. I remind myself that having a wedding has nothing to do with the flowers or napkins or the pressure to have “the best day of your life,” and it has everything to do with community and resilience and celebrating Queer love out loud—which feels like a beautiful miracle all in itself. And when I start to think and daydream about my own wedding and what that day in October will feel like, I’m realizing that even though I never imagined myself having a wedding, I actually do get to live out the only wedding fantasy I ever had as a little girl: to marry *my* best friend. And yes, we’ll both be wearing dresses.