Coordinating same sex weddings has taught me some awesome lessons about the industry and planning that I felt like I could pass on to other planners (or couples who ARE the planners) when pulling together details.
Here are some things I have learned:
- Forget Emily Post. This “etiquette appropriate” trend for everything from addressing invitations to who should speak first at the reception is thankfully fading (though there are some exceptions which I discuss in this article.) When planning a same sex wedding, begin with a blank slate rather than trying to modify or alter tradition. Want to walk down the aisle together? Sure! Want to meet in the middle? No problem! Want one person to wait at the front while the other person does somersaults down the aisle into his/her arms? (Please let this be real.) The point is, there’s no need to reference a rule book when at its core any wedding should be about what makes the couple comfortable and happy.
- Make sure your forms are gender neutral or same-sex friendly. This was unfortunately an early mistake I made, which the brides politely brought to my attention (and rightly so). Try to ensure that all of your materials refer to the “couple” or “fiancé” and “bridal party” as opposed to “bride” and “groom”. If you need to get specific, create specific forms for LGBT couples. With same sex couples still highly aware of (and often frustrated by) the gender norms that are associated with weddings, it’s the least we can do as a wedding industry to change our perceptions (and paperwork) that states a wedding always has to be between a bride and a groom.
- Keep in mind that this can be a tough time. Anyone who’s planned a wedding or even HAD a wedding knows that family tension and drama always runs high, but unfortunately, for many gay couples this can be an especially bittersweet event in their lives. With this in mind, never assume that both sides of the family will be present, emotionally or physically. If the couple thinks that there might some members of the family that could potentially cause a problem, try to identify and discuss how to handle it beforehand so you can be prepared to kick any drama to the curb.
- Make sure your vendors aren’t jerks. One of my couples, before I met them, had reached out to a photographer who flatly told them he would not shoot their wedding because of his religious beliefs. Obviously, the couple was tremendously hurt and offended, and became nervous about researching and reaching out to other vendors who might act the same. Often if I meet a vendor I like and want to refer them, I will first ask if they are open to–or have done–same sex weddings. More often than not, the answer is “Of course!” but I would always want to make sure before I put my couple through that.
- A same sex wedding is no different than any other wedding. Here’s a few things that I’ve witnessed at same sex weddings: the bride got nervous before she walked down the aisle, the couple wasn’t sure what order the toasts were supposed to be in, a family member was late to the ceremony, some bridesmaids did an awesome dance to Beyonce in front of the whole party. Now that I think of it, both weddings had a major Beyonce moment. Very normal wedding stuff. None of the things I’ve learned about same sex weddings are because the wedding itself is any different, but more because we–as a culture, and specifically the wedding industry–are not acknowledging just how normal it is.