9 Questions LGBTQ+ Couples Might Have When Planning a Wedding, Answered

Discover our modern advice for couples struggling to navigate old-fashioned traditions, courtesy of two LGQTB+ vendors in the industry.

Same-sex couple with wedding bands

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Every wedding is unique—just like every couple—and reinterpreting tradition to create a day that feels like yours is the best part of planning a wedding. For LGBTQ+ couples, including those who don't identify as "bride" and "groom," navigating dated, gendered etiquette rules around fashion, invitations, budgets, wedding parties, and other wedding-day details can add unnecessary stress to the planning process.

To help, we turned to two LGTBQ+ wedding experts for their best advice. "As William Shakespeare said, 'To thine own self be true,'" says wedding and event planner Jove Meyer. "Do not assume you have to do a wedding a certain way because it is common or familiar—do it your way and you will never regret it!"

Wedding planner Chanda Daniels agrees: "Your wedding can be whatever connects to you and your partner," she says. "This is the magic of telling your individual love story. Be confident in what brings you and your partner joy, and bring guests along on that experience."

How do we decide whose parents pay for what?

The age-old custom of divvying up the costs between the bride's family (who traditionally paid for everything reception-related) and the groom's (who historically covered the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon) is just that: ages old. "This is not only a dated way to think about it, but it is not inclusive at all," says Meyer. "Gone are the days of assuming financial responsibility based on gender. Weddings are changing, and so is the way people pay for them."

Still, bankrolling the wedding often comes down to who can afford it, and it's appreciated when parents want to pitch in. As for who covers what, you can split the costs three ways (your parents, your partner's folks, and 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. "When it comes to who pays for a wedding, I think it is a conversation for both families and the couple," says Meyer. "Talk about expectations, hopes, dreams, the realities of resources, and who can contribute what, and then go from there."

How can we make sure our vendors are inclusive?

First, raise your bar. "We are not looking for people who are 'okay' with doing [LGBTQ+] weddings," says Meyer. "We want to work with people who celebrate our love and are excited to work with us."

Browsing the vendor listings on dedicated same-gender (commonly referred to as same-sex) wedding directories (engaygedweddings.com is one to try) can help you find vendors by state; when screening vendors found through friends, Instagram, or a local search, look for words of support and inclusive representation on their website, images, and social media posts.

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 tell them a bit about yourself and your spouse-to-be. "At no point in time should you feel awkward or uncomfortable, and if on a call or in a meeting you feel that way, trust your gut and ask the right questions," says Meyer. "Do not assume anyone is or is not an ally—always ask. If you do not feel celebrated, find someone else to work with."

Do we have to invite unsupportive family?

Short answer: Absolutely not. You don't need to invite anyone who has expressed negative feelings about your relationship. "Weddings are a celebration of love," says Meyer. "No one should be invited to your wedding if they will show up with anything other than love and support for you and your fiance. There is no room for hate or judgement in life, but for sure not at a wedding. Do not reward hate with an invitation."

How should we navigate the ceremony processional order?

Wedding ceremonies offer nearly endless options for personalization, from the vows you exchange (traditional or custom?) to who carries the rings (adorable nephew or adorable pup?). The route you take to the altar—and the order in which you get there—is another opportunity to create a moment that's unique to you as a couple. "We have had couples walk from opposite sides of the room at the same time, walk down together, and walk one right after the other. We have also had couples waiting at the altar—and the guests walk down the aisle," says Meyer. "No two couples are the same, so no two ceremonies should be the same."

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.) "Even if it does not look like what you're familiar with, that doesn't make it wrong—it makes it authentically you!" says Meyer.

two brides with wedding bands

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What should we call our wedding party if we don't want to use gendered language?

Give your wedding party any label you want—it's your day, after all, and you can be as traditional or nontraditional as you feel. 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." "You can call the people that stand up there with you whatever you like: your friends of honor, person of honor, bestie of honor, your best pals, your wedding crew, your VIP team," says Meyer. "Honestly, anything really works—the title doesn't matter as much as the friendship they have with you!"

How do we choose a last name that works for us both?

There's no right or wrong answer to this question; it's up to you and your partner to decide. "This should totally be a decision made together," says Daniels. "We have experienced couples who change last names and a lot who do not change their last names."

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 about 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) purport traditional gender roles?

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.

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 resonate. Or seek out a non-denominational officiant (like an ordained minister), and ask if they can customize your ceremony to include faith-driven aspects.

When it comes to rituals, break the rules. Muslims having a same-gender wedding can choose to wear Mehndi henna (traditionally drawn on the bride) regardless of their gender, and two glasses can be broken at Jewish weddings with more than one groom or two brides. "Go with something that connects to you and your partner," says Daniels. "Work with your officiant and share what you want to do. Then work together to incorporate it into your day."

Bride, groom, husband, wife—marriage terms are so gendered. What terms can nonbinary people/marriage partners use?

It’s your wedding—you get to pick how you're referred to during the ceremony and after! 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," "You may now kiss," or "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; some also use M., another gender inclusive prefix. Other options include betrothed, bridegroom, and groombride.

"You define how you want to be referred to," says Daniels. "Communicate that to your wedding planner, and they will let all your creative partners know during the planning process—and then remind them on your wedding day."

If you're wary of verbal slip-ups during your ceremony or reception, 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. "Work with your officiant to create terms that make everyone happy!" says Daniels.

What should my partner and I wear?

Fashion is all about personal style, so wear what you love 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. "You and your partner should wear what makes you smile and feel amazing," says Daniels. "The only thing I would suggest is to keep in mind the venue, location and the elements of that location; you want to be comfortable. "

If you both opt for the same look—be it masculine or feminine attire 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. "If you don't find anything off the rack that you connect with, hire a designer," says Daniels. "With the cost of off-the-rack with alterations, you can get your attire custom-made!"

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