Weddings are usually steeped in tradition: From the white dress to the cake to the bouquet and garter tosses, with the complexities that a wedding, especially one on a larger scale, presents, it makes sense, for convenience’s sake if nothing else, to follow a model. But, same-sex couples often fall outside that model and may struggle to fit their event into wedding traditions. However, while same-sex weddings can present their own challenges in the planning process, the upside is that there are fewer expectations for conformity — meaning couples get to buck tradition and put their own unique spin on their wedding.
One of the first wedding-planning aspects my fiancée and I turned our attention to was identifying the members of the bridal party. While we’ve all seen the sex-segregated wedding parties, same-sex couples obviously have the option to do things a bit differently. For us, we decided to pick our parties based solely according to our closest family and friends, with sex not a determining factor. We each ended up with five females and two males; my sister is going to serve as my maid of honor, and her brother as her best man (and we’re terming our other fellas the “bridesmen”).
Depending on how “traditional” you go, the lead-up to your wedding may include an engagement party, wedding shower and/or bachelor or bachelorette party. Gift registry is an expectation that accompanies the first two events. We registered at two separate stores, one of which forced my partner and I into the bride/groom categories and the other of which used the gender-neutral “partner” option. While the first was not the ideal situation, it did allow for some education on the part of the store employees — and some humorously awkward moments as well.
Showers are another antiquatedly sex-segregated aspect of a wedding, but same-sex couples have the freedom to do things differently. While a wedding shower is typically a “surprise,” it ultimately should come down to what the couple wants in terms of format and invitees. Couples can tell their friends and family that they’d appreciate a joint shower to cut down on planning and costs or two separate events — with the option of inviting both males and females. Or, particularly if a couple has been together for some time, they may opt for no shower or a scaled-down alternative, like a brunch or dinner with the wedding party and loved ones.
And same-sex couples have the same freedom when it comes to bachelor and bachelorette parties. Again, this tradition may seem a bit superfluous for long-term couples but for those who want the “last fling before the ring” outing, same-sex couples may, moreso than heterosexual couples, opt for joint, mixed-gender parties. Or, those sticking to the standard model can stage separate events, again which might tend to be less sex-segregated than traditional bachelor or bachelorette parties. In our case, I’m celebrating with my bridal party only at a mountain getaway, while my fiancée is planning a night out on the town with our full wedding party and other friends.
Traditions are most apparent when it comes to the actual wedding day itself.
One of the most challenging tradition-changing aspects we’ve encountered is determining the ceremony entrance. In researching what other same-sex couples have done (YouTube is surprisingly your friend), we’ve found that some same-sex couples may walk down the aisle together, others may seemingly flip a coin to determine who walks first (especially if it’s important for a bride or groom to be escorted down the aisle by a loved one) or may fuse the options and meet halfway. Or different still, some opt out of the processional all together and dive right into the ceremony. That’s on our ever-growing list of to-be-figured-out things!
As different faith communities evolve on the issue of same-sex marriage, many couples may opt for a ceremony outside of traditional religious-based models. We selected a nondenominational officiant who is working with us to craft a unique ceremony that fits our relationship, rather than one that fits a model. We’re incorporating personal touches like a wine-box ceremony — where we store a bottle of wine and notes to one another — in a locked box to be opened on an anniversary. There are a slew of other personalized ceremony ideas on wedding-focused websites, many of which aren’t relegated to the bride/groom model.
The ceremony may also call into question what you and your partner prefer to call each other once you’ve tied the knot. Officiants should let the couple select the wording for what will follow the “I now pronounce you” proclamation, so this may open up an interesting discussion regarding labeling — with options ranging from “married” to “husband and husband” and “wife and wife” (or some other creative alternative).
When the ceremony transitions to the party, another boatload of questions will arise (which we’ll explore in a later column!).