Once the vows are said and sealed with a kiss, it’s party time. But, before popping the champagne cork, some same-sex couples may need to revise reception standards to ensure their own wedding wishes aren’t being trumped by tradition.
Many larger-scale wedding receptions span four to five hours — ample time for many activities beyond the “Chicken Dance” and “Y.M.C.A.” But, like with many other aspects of a wedding, the standards many guests have come to expect from a wedding reception are largely sex-segregated, and structured around an opposite-sex couple. Some same-sex couples may want to blow the lid off tradition, while others may feel a somewhat sentimental connection to the reception elements they’ve enjoyed (or feigned enjoying) at others’ weddings. Regardless of your taste, being a same-sex couple shouldn’t limit, but instead should liberate — as you can fuse old and new traditions to create a reception uniquely your own.
The grand entrances
Many wedding receptions kick off with the parents of the bride and groom separately entering the venue. But, family dynamics may not be very cookie-cutter for all same-sex couples: One set of parents may be supportive and another not, or one of the newlyweds may be estranged from his or her parents; all weddings seemingly have their fair share of messy family matters, but same-sex couples may get an extra dose of the drama because of the inherent complication of family acceptance, or lack thereof, involved in their relationships.
Having the parents announced at the start of the reception is meant to pay tribute to those who have played a pivotal role in the couple’s lives — but that doesn’t mean you have to box yourself in to the mom-dad entrance model, if that doesn’t suit your individual life. If a family member or close friend has long been supportive of your relationship, you can request him or her to open up the festivities. You can have parents and other close family members walk in together, if that’s more comfortable for everyone. Or, you can nix the salute all together. Embrace the freedom that a same-sex wedding affords you.
The same goes for the wedding party. Most receptions feature one guy, one gal processing in together. But same-sex weddings may not feature an equal number of male- and female-identified attendants, so switch it up and have two ladies or two guys, or even trios, enter together. And, when it comes time for you to make your entrance, all tradition should go out the window: Whether you’re announced as the new Mr. and Mr., Mrs. and Mrs., the happily wedded couple or whatever other terms you like best, that’s your moment to own.
While a couple’s first dance at their wedding may elicit a few tears and a lot of flashbulbs, that may not be the only dance of the night in a spotlight.
Same-sex couples have to consider how to handle the traditional parent dances, where the bride typically sashays with a father figure and the groom with a mother figure. Like with many aspects of the planning process, there are a number of ways to put a personal spin on this tradition: For instance, both grooms can dance with a mother or mother figure, or both brides can take a turn with a father or father figure. Or, the couple can forget gender expectations, and each can dance with the person or persons he or she is closest with: parent, sibling, friend or other loved one. There is nothing set in stone that a “parent dance” has to be with a person of the opposite sex, or even a parent at all; this can instead be an opportunity to share a special moment with a loved one of your choice.
Speaking of the dance floor, the guest list of a same-sex wedding may likely be populated by many same-sex couples, some of whom may have experienced their own traditions of awkwardness when hoping to hit the dance floor with their partners at previous weddings. The hosting couple should, then, take the opportunity to take the lead on the floor and encourage all guests, LGBT or otherwise, to join them, upending the traditional picture of slow-dancing opposite-sex couples.
From the cake-cutting to the speeches, the dancing and dining is sure to be interspersed with a few activities — one of which involves most of the guests, yet is highly sex-segregated, thus challenging for same-sex couples.
The bouquet and garter tradition is very skewed toward opposite-sex couples; the man retrieves the woman’s garter and tosses it to his single male guests, while the woman throws her bouquet to the single ladies. Same-sex couples have to decide if they want to keep any vestiges of this longstanding tradition, or try something new.
Some alternatives for same-sex couples (or others not into the oft-awkward escapade of the garter being placed on the unfortunate single gal who caught the flowers) include two brides both tossing bouquets (or another object if one or both aren’t carrying flowers) to a crowd of singles, both guys and gals; two grooms sending a bowtie or cummerbund flying into the crowd; or totally eschewing the tradition in favor of a new one. For instance, an activity like an anniversary dance — in which married couples are invited to the floor to dance and asked to be seated according to the length of their marriage, until the longest-married couple is standing — pays tribute to the older guests while exempting the single folk from that awkward volleying for (or away from) the bouquet and garter.
As many traditions as there are that abound at wedding receptions, there are just as many, and more, ways to make them your own. Embracing the spirit behind the traditions you like, and kicking to the curb the ones that you don’t, can make your reception a meaningful blend of old, new and you.
Jen Colletta joined the PGN staff in 2007 as a staff writer and became editor in 2012. Throughout her tenure, Jen has written about everything from crime to community events, and has won more three-dozen local, state and national writing awards. Jen is a native of Philadelphia and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from La Salle University.
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