Why and How Gay Wedding Ceremonies are Different

Lesbians in Gay Wedding Ceremony

Why Gay Wedding Ceremonies are Different

Religious Prohibitions

Be who you are and be that well to honor the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are.

— St. Francis de Sales

One of the biggest differences between gay wedding ceremonies and straight wedding ceremonies is the absence of religion in some gay ceremonies. Many gay and lesbian couples can’t have a traditional religious marriage ceremony because the religion they belong to is opposed to same-sex marriage. These religions forbid members of the clergy from marrying gay and lesbian couples. According to the Pew Research Center, religions that prohibit same-sex marriages include most of the largest U.S. religious institutions: the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish Movement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), the United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God.

Gender-Neutral Wedding Ceremonies

Some gay and lesbian couples want a gender-neutral wedding ceremony that isn’t based on traditional, gender-specific wedding traditions. If this is your goal, get out a blank piece of paper and start creating your own custom ceremony that represents your expressions of love and commitment in a gender-neutral way. You don’t have any rules, restrictions or guidelines, except those required by the state in which you marry.

Creating Gay Wedding Traditions

Since marriage has only included opposite-sex couples until recently, many wedding ceremony traditions are very gender-specific. There’s one option for the bride and anther option for the groom. If gay couples want to incorporate these traditions, they must adapt them for two grooms or two brides instead of a bride and a groom.

If you’d like to have a more traditional gay wedding ceremony, here are some time-honored wedding traditions with suggestions for how to adapt them for a gay wedding.

How Gay Wedding Ceremonies are Different

Who’s Going to Marry You?

The Gay Wedding Ceremony Officiant

The person who marries you, called the marriage or wedding officiant, is responsible for signing your wedding license and returning it to the appropriate clerk in the state or county in which you get married (you might also need one or two witnesses to sign the license). Each state has its own laws about who can be an officiant, so you need to review the laws for the state where your wedding ceremony will take place.

Most states allow members of the clergy from any state to marry you, although you might have to apply for a permit for an out-of-state officiant. Some states also include judges, justices of the peace or other designated professions, and others let you choose any person at all as long as you get a permit. Make sure you apply for permits a few months in advance of your ceremony.

How to Choose Anyone to Marry You

If you want a specific person to marry you and your state doesn’t provide for random wedding officiants, anyone who is 18 years of age or older can become an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church Ministries at no charge. The individual simply provides full legal name, city and state, and is instantly ordained and eligible to perform marriages in almost every state. The church sells wedding kits for about $40 that include the papers you might need to file in a state and instructional materials for how to marry people.

If your religion doesn’t allow same-sex marriages and you either want to get married in a church or want a clergy member to marry you, seek out a member of the clergy from a religion that supports same-sex marriage. You will probably have to meet with the clergy member and you might have to enroll in pre-marriage counseling, depending on the church. Religions that have sanctioned same-sex marriages include the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches, Society of Friends (Quakers) as well as the Conservative Jewish Movement and the Reform Jewish Movement .

What do Brides and Grooms Wear?

Gay Wedding Attire

Lesbian Bride Pant Suit

The answer to this question is anything you want. If you’re having a traditional-style wedding and it’s in your budget for both brides to wear a white wedding dress, go for it! If one of the brides wants to wear a white pants suit and the other a wedding dress, that’s awesome!

Some gay grooms wear matching outfits but vary their accessories such as ties, pocket squares and vests. Other grooms each choose their own colored suits or tuxedos. There is no right or wrong answer.

If your wedding has a beach theme and you want to dress in shorts and flip flops, that’s allowed too. However, if you’re dressing in a non-traditional way, make sure to tell your guests how they should dress for the wedding ceremony.

Can You Have a Best Woman or Man of Honor?

Gay Wedding Parties

While you can certainly have all-male or all-female wedding parties, it’s very common to have mixed-gender wedding parties, even in progressive straight weddings. You can have one mixed-gender wedding party for both brides or grooms, or each can have a separate wedding party. You can have separate outfits for the wedding parties according to the brides or grooms, or you can share a common look between parties. Do whatever makes everyone most comfortable. There is usually only one set of children with rings or flowers for both brides or grooms.

It’s pretty easy to gender-bend wedding party titles. Instead of a best man, you can have a best woman. Groomsmen can be groomswomen or groomsmaids. Bridesmaids can be bridesmen or men-of-honor. Or, choose a gender-neutral name such as”attendants” or “best friends.”

Are Both Brides Given Away?

Gay Wedding Procession and Aisle

There are no rules that dictate how brides or grooms come to the altar. If a bride wants someone to escort her down the aisle and give her away, then do it. If both brides want to follow this tradition, do it twice! If you’d rather not do it at all, then don’t do it!

No matter what you decide, brides and grooms need to decide how they are going to walk down the aisle. Some couples proceed one after the other, often with one or more parents or special friends on one or more arms (you will have to decide who goes first). Other couples proceed down the aisle together, often on the arms of a special shared friend who escorts them both.

If you want to get really fancy, you can split the seating into three sections. This creates two aisles that you can both walk down at the same time and meet together at the altar. This not only requires more planning and coordination, it also requires a second photographer!

Do You Have to Invite Homophobic Relatives?

Gay Wedding Guest List

It’s not uncommon for the brides’ or grooms’ parents to ask that certain close relatives be invited to the wedding, even though they might be vocally opposed to gay marriage or known for unabashedly making homophobic comments. There are two ways you can handle this.

The more difficult way is to explain to your parents that this is your special day, and that you don’t want to include people who have insulted you to your face and have said that gay marriage is the work of the devil. You might be successful convincing your parents that you want to keep a happy, positive and fun mood to the day, and even inviting these relatives might spoil it for you. This is your day, not theirs.

While some of you might disagree, we think the easier and better way is to invite them. If they come, you have an opportunity to use your wedding celebration and change their minds about love and gay marriage. Few people can sit through a beautiful wedding ceremony and not be moved at least a little. Perhaps they will pay attention to the messages from the ceremony, see how in love you are, and recognize that love is love. If they don’t come, well you really didn’t want them to come anyway, so it all worked out in the end and you’ve avoided an argument with your supportive parents.

Can You Have Open Seating?

Gay Wedding Guest Seating

The straight tradition is that the bride’s family sits on the left and the groom’s family sits on the right. One option you have is to simply label the left and the right with a bride’s or groom’s name. However, many gay and lesbian couples share friends, especially if they have already been together for a while, and an open seating arrangement might be more convenient. A common sign or notice might say something like, “Today we’re becoming one so please, pick a seat, not a side.” Don’t forget to reserve the first few isles for your closest friends and family members!

Do You Have One or Two Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties?

Gay Wedding Bachelor Parties

As with almost every other wedding tradition, you should do whatever makes sense and is most comfortable for you, your friends and your budget. If both brides or grooms have only a few friends in common, it might be fun for each bride or groom to have their own final bash. However, if the couple shares many friends, a combined party for both might make more sense.

Or, you don’t even have to have a party at all. Perhaps the brides or grooms would like a day at the spa instead of a party. You can do whatever you like, but please be sensitive to your friends’ budgets as well if they have to pay their own way and are paying for part of yours.

How Do You Write Gay Wedding Vows?

Gay Wedding Vows

It’s not surprising that most gay and lesbian couples write their own wedding vows, since the majority of traditional vows specifically mention husband and wife or man and woman.

If you’re writing vows from scratch, talk about the unique traits that attracted you to your partner and highlight how they made you happy. Talk about what you do together as a couple that gives you a strong relationship. Profess your desire to become a better person because that’s what your partner has inspired you to do and because the relationship means so much to you. Talk about the future you have together as one.

There are a number of examples of gay wedding vows you can search and review on the Internet and then customize to your own personality. Many popular vows come from poems, songs, movies or television shows. Choose something that fits you and your relationship and try to keep a dry eye when you recite your gay wedding vows!

Make sure you coordinate with the officiant to ensure that your vows are incorporated into the ceremony.

Who Pays for the Wedding?

The Gay Wedding Bill

The tradition in straight weddings has often been that the bride’s parents pay for the wedding and the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner. Even though that doesn’t always happen in the real world, it’s a hard thing to do when there are two brides or two grooms.

According to the Equality Institute, almost three-quarters of gay and lesbian couples pay for their own weddings. However, if your families want to contribute to the celebration, you can either split the bill among everyone who wants to chip in, or you can ask family members to choose a part of the ceremony or reception they would like sponsor and have them pay that specific expense. If they are paying for a particular part of the wedding, however, be prepared to allow them to provide input on how that part of the wedding will function.

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