Your Same-Sex Wedding Etiquette Questions—Answered
We offer expert advice for navigating modern nuptial rules.
With every union being unique, it's up to each couple to interpret the traditions of marriage to suit their celebration. But if you're running into conundrums as you plan your big day, these answers to common questions we've received regarding will be sure to help.
Since there aren't traditional bride-groom roles in a same-sex wedding, how do we decide whose parents pay for what?
This is a question all couples face, not just gay ones. That's because the age-old custom of divvying up the costs between the bride's family (who traditionally pay for everything reception-related) and the groom's (who historically cover the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon) is just that: ages old.
Today, many couples of all stripes are footing the bill themselves. In fact, a survey by the Gay Wedding Institute found that 84 percent of gay men finance the day and 73 percent of lesbians do. Still, bankrolling the wedding often comes down to who can afford it, and it's lovely when parents want to pitch in. As for who covers what, you can split the costs three ways (your parents, his or her folks, the two of you), or ask each side what they're most excited about, whether it's the food, the music, or the décor, and have them invest their money there.
We want to avoid working with people who will make us feel uncomfortable. What's a good way to make sure vendors are okay doing a gay wedding?
Start by browsing the vendor listings on dedicated same-sex wedding directories (engaygedweddings.com and gayweddings.com are two to try), which break down gay-friendly services by state. Not all of the vendors will use LGBTQ-inclusive language, but all have agreed to advertise on these same-sex wedding sites, so you can be sure they're on board.
If you're still having trouble finding a caterer, photographer, florist, or other vendor that reflects your vision, you can go the mainstream route. Once you see someone's work that speaks to your sensibilities, simply let them know yours is a gay wedding and ask them directly if they're cool with that.
I have extended family who have made it clear they won't attend our wedding, but my mom insists all family must be invited regardless. Do I have to invite unsupportive family just because my parents say so?
As the saying goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time. If you yield to your mother's wishes, you're compromising your own; stay true to yourself, and Mom and Dad will be the miffed ones. Neither is an enviable situation, but to be the most diplomatic about it, follow the who's-paying-for-what rule. If your parents are footing the majority of the wedding bills, you can keep the peace and invite Uncle Mike, even if he's made his anti-gay-marriage views known in the past. (On the plus side, someone that unsupportive probably won't show up anyway!)
If you and your partner are paying for the day, you can stick to your guns, explaining to your folks that, in your heart of hearts, you simply aren't comfortable asking unsupportive people to bear witness to your special day. As your parents, they ultimately just want you to be happy, but if they do still put up a fuss about it, you can always ask them to cover, at the very least, your stationery expenses so you're not shelling out for the extra invites.
That being said, in the end, it comes down to you and what you stand for. Don't let anyone ruin your big day.
We're having a same-sex ceremony and are having trouble deciding on the processional order since there's no bride. Thoughts?
Couples of every orientation are bending the rules to customize their ceremonies, so feel free to take a route less traveled to the altar. You can ask a person of mutual importance to escort the two of you on each arm. Or walk one behind the other with your respective parents, though you'll still have to figure out who goes first (rock-paper-scissors?). If neither one of you is being "given away," proceed hand-in-hand. Or consider an alternate floor plan—dual aisles. Dividing the seating into three sections, separated by two aisles, allows you each a path to the altar. Just keep in mind: Separate, simultaneous routes require a second photographer.
For a wedding with two brides, what do we call the men standing up for us?
Give your wedding party any label you like; it's your day, after all, and you can be as traditional or nontraditional as you want. They could be your "bridesmen" or "men-of-honor." Likewise, grooms may appoint "groomswomen," "groomsmaids," or "best women." Or, choose a completely genderless term, such as “attendants” or "party people."
We're planning a small civil ceremony in another state. How can we make our wedding feel like the "real" thing for both us and our guests, even if we're already married?
A ceremony and reception don't necessarily have to occur back-to-back in order for your day to feel like the "big" one. Plan your party as you would if it immediately followed the civil ceremony but with additional sentimental touches.
For example, outfit the venue with images from your nuptials to let guests share in your first memories as a married pair. You can create a photo wall of framed shots, display pictures on your guest book station, or arrange a few images among the centerpieces at each table. You could even roll a brief slideshow during cocktail hour complete with pictures, video clips (filmed by a friend or professional), and audio from either the ceremony itself or you and your partner's reactions after exchanging "I do"s.
If that's too much technical trouble, ask select guests who attended your civil ceremony to stand during toasts and share a few words on what made the event special. Attendees who delivered readings could also stand to share them with your extended guest list during dinner.
If your reception will take place months after you become official, consider printing an image from the civil ceremony on the save-the-date or enclosing one in the mailed envelope. You can also pen a few lines on what the day meant to the both of you to display in an additional enclosure or on your website.
Most important, remember that loved ones are grateful for any amount of time they can spend with you to celebrate your happy occasion and are not keeping tabs on what events went missing.
How do you decide who takes whose last name?
There's no right or wrong answer to this question; it's up to you and your partner to decide. You may want to go by two last names, two middle names, or a blend of surnames. However, keep in mind that each state has its own laws on what's legit when altering your name. And decide early; your marriage license may determine your future name choices in some states.
Is there a way to incorporate religion into the ceremony, even if some rituals (and faiths) require traditional gender roles?
While same-sex religious ceremonies may be hard to secure in certain places of worship and in certain states, if religion is important to you, there are ways to incorporate it. First and foremost, do your research. While some religions are more LGBTQ-friendly than others, even the most traditional of faiths may have certain locations or officiants that have a more modern take on marriage.
And if you can't secure a religious venue, don't be afraid to put your own spin on religious gestures or texts. Words of faith can be modified and re-applied to suit situations that extend far beyond their original context, so consider writing your own vows and including whatever religious sentiments are important to you. Or seek out a non-denominational officiant (like an ordained minister), and ask if he or she can customize your ceremony to include faith-driven aspects without going full-out religious.
When it comes to rituals, dare to break the rules. Muslims having a same-sex wedding can choose to wear Mehndi henna (traditionally drawn on the bride) regardless of their sex, and two glasses can be broken at Jewish weddings with more than one groom or two brides.
Bride, groom, husband, wife—marriage terms are all pretty gendered. What can we do if we align somewhere off of the gender binary?
It's your wedding and your identity—so call yourselves whatever you want! Some couples opt to refer to each other as their "spouse" or "partners" instead of husband or wife, and gendered terms like "bride" and "groom" can be worked out of the ceremony (i.e. "You may now kiss your partner" or simply "You may now kiss"; "I now pronounce you equally wed"). You can also create your own combination of the terms, like "gride," and, on stationery like invitations and thank-you notes, use the gender-neutral Mx. instead of Mr. or Mrs.
If you're wary of verbal slip-ups on your big day, give guests a heads-up in person or on your invites. You can ask attendees to refer to you and your S.O. by name rather than label ("Amy and Amanda" instead of "the bride and bride"), or make it clear who prefers to be called what, no matter how nontraditional (ask guests to join "brides Amy and Amanda," "partners Amy and Amanda," "bride and groom Amy and Amanda" or even "grooms Amy and Amanda").
What should my partner and I wear?
Fashion is all about personal style, so wear what you want and what you're each comfortable in, be it a classic suit-and-gown combo, double tuxes, or double gowns. And if none of those options fit your tastes, find what makes you happy and label the ceremony dress code accordingly.
If you both opt for the same look—be it menswear, womenswear, or something ungendered—you have two options. Either go with your individual guts and choose whatever gives each of you satisfaction, or factor in what matches (and clashes) and coordinate your looks with each other and/or your wedding theme.
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