A Monumental Moment in Provincetown

I was thrilled to see the new issue of Bliss Celebrations Magazine featuring our clients' Anthony and Chad's beautiful wedding at the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown. That was an incredible day and we had a fantastic team. You can see the feature on the wedding in the images below or read more closely at the Bliss link. The magazine is annual so Anthony and Chad's beautiful faces will be inspiring readers for the coming year! We love our clients.

3 Days of Parties

Three days of parties.  That's my term for what most people call "the wedding weekend."  You know, where you have a bunch of out of town guests and plan something like a rehearsal dinner on Friday night, the wedding on Saturday and brunch on Sunday.

I think we can do better than that...that's very typical.  Let's have three days of parties.  Our clients do it all the time.

Think about it.  Your wedding is probably the only time in your life all of your loved ones are in one place - and they are there to celebrate YOU.  Might as well enjoy it all.  Here's what three days of parties looks like for many of our clients:

Day 1 - Guest arrival

  • Receive fun, whimsical and creative welcome basket upon hotel check in
  • If you're in a city, evening cocktail party with heavy passed hors d'oeuvres and a very fun, casual vibe.  We've done rooftops, boat charters, restaurant buyouts and more
  • If you're somewhere more remote, a casual cookout style event with a bonfire on the beach, s'mores, etc

Day 2 - Tourist stuff and wedding

  • If you're in a big city, arrange tickets to a game, tickets to a museum, tickets on some fun and cheesy tour with lunch.  We've even had Segway tours.
  • If you're somewhere more remote, coordinated group activities (kayaking, games, hikes)
  • If you're somewhere like Provincetown, group shopping and dining excursion, possibly a whale watch or Dune Tour
  • Everyone freshens up and the couple gets ready for the wedding
  • The wedding!
  • After party!

Day 3 - Brunch and departures

  • Most of your guests will head out on Sunday but send them off with a really sweet brunch with bloody marys and mimosas to aid in recovery - and be sure to be present at the brunch yourself to say goodbye to your guests!  Oh, and don't forget to bring leftover wedding cake to brunch!

How are you planning to show your guests a good time?

(Photo by Jag Studios, of a bonfire and s'mores at a private vacation rental on Cape Cod)

Weather Plans

(sometimes you need more than just umbrellas)

I'm writing this on a snowy day with 4-8" expected.  I've already had a flight grounded this winter and it seems like the weather has become less and less predictable.  I mean, I had to move a venue a couple of years ago because of Hurricane Sandy!

So, let's talk about what you should do in bad weather situations, starting with things you can do to plan ahead:

1.  Always have a rain plan.  Always.  We have offices in Boston and New York where the weather is unpredictable, unlike say, California.  We are used to renting tents, dance floors, cook tents, generators and so forth.  Make sure your rain plan includes a location for the ceremony and cocktail hour, not just the reception and make sure your tent has sides! 

2.  Buy wedding insurance.  I like Wedsafe.  For a few hundred bucks, it's great for peace of mind.  Basically, in the event of an "act of God" such as a hurricane, you'll get the money you've paid for the wedding back.  If you live in an area where natural disasters or major storms are an annual (or semi-annual) occurrence, it's a good investment.  And hopefully, of course, you'll never have to submit a claim.

3.  If possible, avoid choosing a wedding date during obviously risky weather seasons, especially if you have many guests traveling to attend.  This is exactly why we have so few winter weddings (November-March) in New York and New England...our snowstorms are unpredictable.  Now, hurricane season is so long and hurricanes so seldom make their way this far north, so planning a wedding this time of year is completely reasonable.

4.  Review the "Force Majeure" clauses contained in most vendor contracts.  This clause protects everyone in the event of a natural disasters and explains the policy for rescheduling.

5.  Hire a wedding planner so you don't have to deal with any of this stuff yourself!

Have you ever had to cancel or reschedule a major event like a wedding, because of a storm or other weather issue?

Celebrants are Wonderful Officiants

As my regular readers know, my favorite part of a wedding is the ceremony because of its power and potential to change the world.

Whenever possible, I encourage LGBT couples to use a Celebrant to officiate their gay wedding ceremony.   Not everyone who is a non-denominational minister is a Celebrant.  Those who are officially Celebrants have taken intensive coursework on world cultures and traditions and been taught how to use stories to create custom ceremonies.  The curriculum is rigorous! 

Celebrants are ideal for couples who may be interfaith or non-religious but whom want a meaningful and powerful wedding ceremony that is more in-depth than what a judge or Justice of the Peace may provide. 

Our own wedding (July 3, 2009) was officiated by Celebrant Cindy Matchett of Meaningful Weddings.  Our wedding guests LOVED our ceremony which told the story of our relationship, shared some of our favorite things about each other and incorporated our cultures.  Later she officiated our son’s non-religious baby blessing.  We absolutely adore Cindy and she feels like one of our family.

If you are looking for a Celebrant, you can find one in your area by visiting www.CelebrantInstitute.org.  Celebrant Deb Goldman officiated Amy and Leigh's wedding in the photo above.

Using Your Home for the Wedding

In theory, there are some nice advantages to planning a wedding at your home or another private residence. The home could have a special meaning to you. You could save on a venue rental fee. You are not limited by an eight hour rental period and can set up and break down at your leisure. The party could go all night if you want.

But don’t be blinded by the advantages and think through these potential obstacles before making your final decision:
  • How is your septic system? Can it handle 50 or more guests? Do you have 2 or more restrooms that guests can use? Will you have to rent portapotties or a luxury potatpotty trailer? 
  • How is your parking situation? Is there enough parking for all of the vendors in the driveway. What about the guests? Will you have to hire a valet or rent a lot and provide shuttle service? 
  • Is the home big enough for everyone to be inside for dinner and dancing? Or will you require a tent? Are you prepared to deal with the damage that tents (and the tent delivery truck) cause to the lawn? 
  • Is there a good spot on the property for a wedding ceremony? What if it rains? 
  • Are there any noise ordinances in the city or town where the wedding would be held? Are there nosey neighbors or neighbors who would call the cops to complain about noise? 
  • Is there a large kitchen onsite? The caterer will have a lot of food to warm up or prepare and will need plenty of counter space and ovens. If you can’t offer that, the caterer may have to set up a catering tent and/or rent convection ovens. 
  • How many amps of electricity does the home have? Are there some circuits with available power? If you are bringing in a tent, the lighting and heating of the tent requires significant power. If you are bringing in a DJ or band, they require significant power. So does a nice portapotty. Find out if you have enough power to provide or whether you will need to rent a generator. 
  • Is the home in an area known to have poor drainage in the event or rain? Is it especially buggy in the summer and if so, can the property be sprayed? 
In general, unless it’s a very well equipped property or a wedding smaller than 50 guests, I advise against holding a wedding in someone’s home or on their property. The logistics can get very complicated and I would definitely suggest that you hire a wedding planner to make sure that all of these details are covered.

Please use a caterer for your wedding in a private residence. Don’t rely on your friends, family or let alone, yourself to prepare food. If you need to, you can prepare the food in advance and rent wait staff and bartenders to serve it – but please outsource at least some of this for your own sanity!

Are you planning to get married in a private home?

Building Your Wedding Team

Planning a wedding is an extraordinary team effort.  In fact, the average wedding has 43 different vendors.  That's a pretty big team. How can you tell if a vendor is the right fit for you?  In addition to the obvious (LGBT-friendliness), pay attention to the following things when you're meeting with them:

  • Does the vendor listen more than talk?
  • Does he or she seem flexible or rigid?
  • Does he or she support your ideas or shoot down your ideas?  
  • Your gut instinct.  Do you just click?
Many of my clients' weddings require vendors to think outside the box and be creative.  Some vendors are always used to doing things the same way every time.  I like to push the envelope as you can see from the work above.  One of our favorite "team" members is Ladyfingers Letterpress who designed the beautiful invitations you see.

What do you look for when hiring a wedding vendor?

Imaginative Wedding Entertainment

I was sitting with clients recently and we were talking about the flow of their gay wedding in New York.  I have this four page questionnaire I go through a few months before the wedding with our big wedding clients.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Are you having a first dance?
Them:  Nope
Me:  Are you having anything tossed?  Garter and bouquet are the typical things.
Them:  No
Me:  Are you dancing with your parents at all in any formal, announced way?
Them:  No
Me:  Are you cutting anything on the dessert display (this wedding has no wedding cake)?
Them:  No

All of these are fairly common answers when we're planning a gay wedding, though.  After all, those are traditional elements and many of our clients love the opportunity to be non-traditional and reinvent what weddings should look like!  And you completely have permission to do so!

The problem with those answers is that when we take out so many things, there is a lot of dead space and time.  The guests get bored and heaven forbid, the wedding ends early.  I believe it's very important to add things back in that are conversation starts and memory makers...

Here are some examples that we've experienced, have recommended or are recommending:

  • photobooth (the obvious example)
  • drag kings/queens 
  • some dance performance (fire dancer, salsa dancers, tango dancers, burlesque etc) 
  • caricature artist 
  • casino  
  • psychic (see above photo by Kelly Guenther Studio) 
  • cigar bar (if the venue allows it) 
  • aerial artist

The experience doesn't have to detract from the wedding or all the time spent dancing.  If it's a performance, keep it short, 1-2 songs MAX and keep it upbeat and appropriate.  

What are you doing to add some conversation starters and entertainment to your wedding?

A Cocktail-Reception Style Wedding

Cocktail party style weddings are very trendy right now, particularly with couples who want to do something nontraditional. While sit down dinners are great, they are not for everyone. This style of wedding can work extremely well - or it can be a disaster. Keep these tips on mind to avoid the pitfalls of such a wedding.

1. Feed your guests - a lot. Just because it's a cocktail party style event doesn't mean you can skimp on food. Whether you have passed hors d'oeuvres all night or some good stations mixed in, keep the food flowing. Your food budget will probably not be less than a typical sit down dinner, so get that idea out of your head!  Your guests may be drinking more of the hard stuff since there's no tableside wine service with dinner so you have to keep them well fed. The last thing you want is guests bad-mouthing you because they had to go out for pizza on the way home from the wedding.

2. Provide enough seating. I suggest seats for at least 50% of your guests. These seats can be lounge seats, small cocktail tables, bar seating, picnic benches or whatever floats your boat - but at some point each guest will want to sit so don't leave them hunting for a chair.  If you have many guests over the age of 60, then provide even more seating.

3. Provide adequate flow. Just because it's a cocktail party doesn't mean there shouldn't be a first dance, toasts, a cake cutting or other forms of entertainment. You may have some wallflowers in your group who need conversation starters and those elements do just that. Don't let anyone get bored or the party will end early. I promise.

4. Be aware of time. Most wedding venues rent for a 5 hour reception.  Your guests will start to lose steam at the 3-4 hour mark unless there is dancing - but many cocktail party style weddings don't have dancing.  Don't tell the guests this, but plan for a 4 hour reception and make a game day decision to keep the party going if guests are still having a blast. Tell your vendors that this could be a last minute decision and assign your wedding planner or friend to make the call so you don't have to worry about a thing.

5. Communicate with your guests. Let them know it's a cocktail party rather than a sit down dinner by using the term 'cocktail reception' on your wedding invitation. This sends a signal that they may get less food and that they may want to wear more sensible shoes because of all the standing around. Help everybody by managing their expectations.

Are you planning to host a cocktail reception instead a formal dinner?

(photo by Kate McElwee)

Tips for a Great Gay Wedding

Wedding planning can be an overwhelming process!  Here are ten tips to get you started and help you have the most fun ever when planning your wedding.

1. Put some love into the ceremony

Think about it – everyone is here for you, to celebrate your marriage and your commitment.  The party will be great but I can promise that if you have a thoughtful, meaningful ceremony, the party will be even greater.  Consider hiring a Celebrant to create a personalized ceremony for you.

2. Go gay-friendly

The wedding industry is STILL so bride-centric!  In NYC you may not encounter discrimination but you may encounter some accidental slip ups and references to the bride and groom.  To minimize this, check out your local Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for amazingly talented gay-owned wedding resources including wedding planners, photography and flowers.

3. Gay weddings should never be boring

Many gay weddings skip the typical traditions such as dancing with parents, cake cuttings, garter and bouquet tosses and more.  But your guests actually look forward to those things and it helps make the evening flow.  If you take a pass on some traditions, add in a substitute.  Consider drag kings, cabaret, dancers, photo booth or other forms of entertainment that reflect your own interests and personality and present conversation starters for your guests.

4. Personalize

Hire a graphic designer to create your own custom wedding logo which then carries throughout your wedding materials.  That logo can be on your invitations, ceremony program, seating cards, menu and much more to “brand” your wedding in style.  This makes for instant, cohesive, thematic décor!

5. Flow

Even though you’re the guests of honor, you are also the host of this party.  No matter how good the food or the entertainment is, if your guests are waiting too long for a cocktail or you run out of hors d’oeuvres, that’s what they’ll remember.  Pay attention to the details around flow – make sure you have adequate greeters and signage so your guests know where to go.  Ensure plenty of bartenders so your guests never have to wait.  Anticipate heavy traffic areas and plan accordingly.

6. Be yourself

This is your wedding, not your sister’s, your mom’s or anyone else’s!  Express yourself, be non-traditional if you want to be, and don’t let anyone tell you what to do!

7. Relax

If wedding planning is stressing you out or you’re just too overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to call in the help of a wedding planner.  Services can vary and many planners can accommodate any budget or type of wedding.

8. Have two aisles

Why limit yourself to one aisle when there are two brides or two grooms? If you only have one, you have to decide who is the last one down the aisle, thereby playing more of a traditional “bridal” role.  Have two and walk simultaneously if the layout works well in your venue.

9. Only invite those who are happy for you

If you have any friends, family members or co-workers who aren’t excited for your wedding or don’t believe in same-sex marriage, screw ‘em!  Don’t invite them!  The last thing you need on your wedding day is to be self-conscious and worry about what someone else is thinking or saying.  Invite only those who are thrilled to support you.

10. Don’t forget to protect your family

Not to be a downer, but your marriage won’t be recognized by many states.  Hire an attorney and a financial adviser who understands LGBT family law to draw up the documents to help protect your new family so you can have peace of mind when you travel the world together as newlyweds!

Bernadette in Curve Magazine

I never thought this day would come, after just about 10 years in business, we finally made the pages of Curve magazine....a lesbian dream come true...check us out below or in the new issue!