An Insider’s Guide to Planning a Same Sex Wedding
August 28, 2019
Planning a wedding is stressful for any couple. With few traditions and protocols to lean on, same-sex couples have the added challenge of having to reinvent the proverbial wheel and make it up as they go along.
Sometimes even seemingly straightforward questions may trip them up: Whose name should go first on the invitation? Should they keep their spouse’s name? What should the brides or grooms wear to avoid looking like twins?
While not having set rules can be daunting, it can also be an advantage that works in your favor. It’s a bit like building a Lego set without the instructions—it can be as fun, creative and beautiful as you want it to be.
Who makes the list?
As with any event planning, everything starts with the guest list. Who and how many people to invite are questions that will impact nearly all your other decisions.
As a general rule of thumb, invite only people who are most important to you—those you really want to be there by your side when you say “I do.” You may feel the pressure to fit everyone in for fear of offending the uninvited.Don’t.
Many couples choose to have a destination wedding for the precise reason that it is a self-selecting process—only close friends and key family members are willing to take the trouble to travel. It’s a diplomatic way to leave out distant relatives and acquaintances and keep the guest list manageable.
Yet the opposite problem may arise. Some same-sex couples have to deal with the heartache that their religious or non-accepting parents (or other close family members) may be conspicuously absent from the wedding party. As disappointing as that may be, don’t let it spoil your celebration. Instead, focus on the fact that you’ll be surrounded by people who love you and wish you nothing but happiness ever after.
When my partner Jack and I planned our nuptials in Toronto early this year, we decided to keep our reception small. As we both come from big families—I have four siblings and he has two brothers and a close cousin, all of whom are married with children—our family-only guest count easily came to 35. That was the ideal size for us: large enough to fill the reception hall, but still intimate enough to allow meaningful interactions with our guests throughout the evening.
The big day
The actual ceremony follows the same rundown as a traditional straight wedding, except perhaps the processional. Most same-sex couples choose to walk down the aisle together, or enter from opposite sides of the hall and meet in the middle. Jack and I decided we would walk down the chapel separately, each led by one of Jack’s small nieces. The flower girl idea worked out beautifully—they provided the aww-factor that simultaneously entertained the guests and calmed our nerves.
The wedding reception is typically the highlight of the day and it’s tempting for any couple to obsess over every minute detail from flower arrangements to music and speeches. Gradually, they start to lose perspective and suck the fun out of the process. Before you transform into a fire-spitting “bridezilla” or “groomzilla,” take a step back and remember that it isn’t the Oscars and it shouldn’t be.
Jack and I both wanted to keep things simple. We dispensed with a wedding planner, musicians and groomsmen. We stuck to basic flower bouquets, ordered a groom-and-groom cake topper from Amazon.com, and placed it on a classic two-tier cake ordered through the hotel.
We took off our engagement rings the night before and exchanged them as wedding rings at the ceremony. And yet, we enjoyed every minute of our special day and experienced none of hair-pulling stress. The delight we took in simplicity and authenticity came through and we saw that in the smiles on our guests’ faces.
That being said, we did insist on having a good photographer. In the age of Facebook and Instagram, you will find it worth your while to hire someone you trust to capture every moment of the day, candid or otherwise. Jack and I enlisted a family friend who happened to be a professional photographer-videographer. Our investment paid off. Among other things, he produced a five-minute highlight video and posted it on YouTube. It was the perfect memento for both the newly weds and their guests.
On the subject of hiring help, you should make sure that the vendors you choose to work with—florists, cake shops, photographers, restaurants and hotels—are LBGT-friendly and they want your business. Click through their websites and check out the portfolios. The fact that they include pictures or testimonies from prior gay clients is usually a good sign that they will work well with you and understand your needs.
There are no rules
Same-sex matrimonies are unfettered by social conventions. Couples are free to throw traditions to the wind and create their own. To answer the questions we asked at the top: no, it doesn’t matter whose name goes first on the invitation and yes, same sex couples tend to keep their own names (but hyphenate the two last names for their children). As for the eternal question of what to wear, go with the same tux or dress design but in complementary colors to look coordinated and not identical
The key to a successful celebration is having the right mindful. Gay or straight, the focus should be on having a good time and nothing else. So don’t sweat the small stuff and follow the golden rule that less is more.
Throughout the planning process, Jack and I kept reminding each other how fortunate we were to live in our times. We marveled at the fact that, just half a generation ago, the idea of two men or two women standing in front of their loved ones and declaring their undying love was unthinkable.
Those thoughts kept us grounded and allowed us to stop thinking about what kind of wedding ours should be but instead what we wanted it to be.
This article was published in South China Morning Post under the title “Same-sex weddings: an insider’s guide to how to plan one.”