50,000 New York Couples

I feel terrible for the 50,000 same-sex couples in New York who will not be able to legally marry because the NY Senate defeated the gay marriage bill yesterday by a vote of 38-24.

The silver lining is that about a year and a half ago, Governor Paterson ordered NY to recognize the marriages of gay couples that were performed in states where gay marriage is legal.  Since then, I've helped a bunch of couples in Massachusetts and I know many more have gone right over the border to Connecticut.

For now, New York, this is not a bad situation to settle for, given that most other states won't recognize a gay marriage at all.  At least there's New England...

If you are from New York, has yesterday's defeat changed your wedding plans?  Did you expect the bill to pass?

Episcopal Weddings

Good news for gay couples in Eastern Massachusetts.  If you are so inclined, you may now have your marriage ceremony officiated by an Episcopal Priest.

Previously, Episcopal Priests could bless the ceremony but not actually sign the marriage license.  I saw this firsthand this year when a client had their wedding blessed by the Episcopal Priest but the pronouncement of marriage made by a Justice of the Peace.  The JP also signed the license.

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw III is the local Episcopal Bishop who made this decision, but it only affects churches within his jurisdiction, which is only Eastern Massachusetts.

Are you considering having an Episcopal Priest officiate at your wedding ceremony?

Name Changes for Gay Couples

One of the questions I get commonly from my out of state clients is how they change their name after marriage.  Here in Massachusetts, you write your new last name on your marriage application and the certified copy you can order will have the new name.  That certified copy will be accepted by the Social Security administration and the RMV.  This works in Massachusetts - but what happens when you return home to wherever you are from?

Thoughts on Maine and Other States

I've been thinking a lot about the great state of Maine.

The news early yesterday that voters decided not to allow gay marriage was hard to swallow. After all, it's been a great year for gay marriage with it coming to Iowa (through a court case) and Vermont and New Hampshire (through legislation). It almost felt like it was a given.

The thousands of volunteers who went door to door and called strangers throughout the state to ask for their support of gay marriage, should be applauded. It's hard work, getting out the vote, trying to be persuasive in 15 seconds before they hang up the phone or slam the door. I didn't go up there and I didn't volunteer. I feel absolutely horribly guilty about this.

Maine is a wonderful place and someday will be an excellent destination for gay weddings. It's coastline and mountains provide unparalleled scenery. Its people are kind in the New England way of being kind. And 47% of those people said YES to gay marriage, more than ever before. That's progress.

Most people I've spoken to have had a strange week. Maybe it was the full moon on Monday but things have been slightly off. I do think, though, that we have reason to be optimistic. Washington State voters approved a comprehensive domestic partners act. And although New Jersey voters voted out Gov. Corzine, he has indicated that he'd sign a gay marriage bill before he leaves office and his anti-gay marriage successor takes over. That means that, fingers crossed, New Jersey could be next.

In the big picture, this defeat in Maine is just a small setback. In fact, a Washington Post/ABC poll from earlier this year, indicated that more people supported gay marriage than opposed it. I know it seems surprising given the will of the voters in California a year ago and Maine this year, but we must keep the good fight.

I will keep planning legal gay weddings in the places I can plan them, and those guests whose hearts and minds were changed will tell their neighbors how beautiful it was. Those neighbors will tell their friends and someone else's gay son will get married and it'll be another beautiful day and more walls of resistance will crumble. That's the way it works and that's why I do what I do.


Why I Do What I Do

One of the coolest things about my job is meeting amazing couples, many of whom come here from other states to legally marry.  It's one of the many things that makes my career as a wedding planner so fulfilling.  I love producing weddings and being the architect of it all - but more importantly to me, I know I am helping LGBT couples get their equal rights.

I had such an opportunity back in August when Frank and Matt from Arkansas hired me for a Vows plus package, which involved the license in one day, cake, flowers, a ceremony location (they chose a church in Brewster), photographer and dinner reservations for their ten guests.

Most of my planning with these couples is done by phone and email so meeting in person is always a treat.  One of the things that Frank and Matt shared with me is that they are one of the plaintiffs in a case brought by the ACLU against the State of Arkansas, seeking to end the ban on adoption by unmarried couples, which was a law passed last November by a voter referendum and was designed to discriminate against the LGBT community.

This week I was walking around my neighborhood and stopped by someone from the ACLU looking for my support and that young person mentioned this case.  I feel such a personal connection to this case because I adore these great guys.

These are the kinds of guys, who have returned home to Arkansas, legally married with a relationship legitimized by a government, who are changing hearts and minds about the issue of gay marriage - just by knowing them, hearing their story and seeing how in love they are.  Their decision to be part of that ACLU case is just a bonus.

Here they are on their wedding day - and by the way, you should consider supporting the ACLU:

Photo by Zoom-Photography.

Attention: Newlywed Gay Males

A dear friend of ours (actually one half of our best gay boyfriends) is a PhD student writing his dissertation on how a relationship enhancement program can benefit newlywed gay males.  Such programs exist for heterosexual couples but Brian is developing one for gay couples. 

If you are a newlywed gay male, local to Massachusetts and would be interested in participating in this study, please see this letter and contact Brian directly.

Thank you!

YouTube Series

I'll be uploading videos to YouTube every week, starting with this one where I'm talking about how my company was founded 5 years ago in response to the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

The Post-Elopement Party

I work with many couples who live in other states.  Some come here to Massachusetts or New England for a basic elopement which just includes getting their marriage license in one day and having the wedding ceremony performed for them.  Some want to add on cake, professional photography and accommodations.  And some will bring 50 of their nearest and dearest for a big wedding celebration (for which the Massachusetts economy thanks you). 

I've done it all, and it's always a great time.  For those couples who come here for a basic elopement, I usually hear that they are throwing a big party for their friends and family once they return home to wherever they came from.  It's a nice compromise since it is hard to get all of your loved ones up here to Massachusetts.

I was with two gentlemen this morning from the DC metro area who legally married today but are throwing a big party in their second home in rural Virginia (the Shenandoah Valley) next May and asked me to plan it.  I'm looking forward to working in a new area of the country, meeting new vendors and transforming this gorgeous home with views of the mountains into a stunning wedding space.  It's exciting for me to finish the circle of bringing their dream to reality - they have the legal paperwork here but now they get to have the rest, in the comfort of their own community, with the guidance of a gay wedding planner who will make sure they are safe.

Good times for all.  I have the coolest job!

If you are coming to marry in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut or Iowa, are you planning to have a party for your friends and family once you return home?  Tell me about it in the comments!

The Green Mountain State Goes Gay

Congratulations to all the engaged same-sex couples in Vermont who can now get married.  It's September 1 and it's now legal for you.  Here's a Boston Globe article on the subject.

Vermont was the first state in the United States to have civil unions, and this was back in 2000.  That "separate but unequal" invention was good for awhile but there's nothing like a real marriage to validate a relationship. 

Vermont is a gorgeous place and my favorite venue is the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  The scenery is spectacular and the chef is top-notch.  I highly recommend it.

Just a few FAQ about getting married in Vermont:

  • Do you have to be a resident of Vermont to get married in Vermont?  No.
  • Is there a waiting period to obtain a marriage license?  No.
  • Is there a blood test required to obtain a marriage license?  No.
  • What is the fee to apply for a marriage license?  $45
  • Where should I apply for a marriage license?  If you are a Vermont resident, apply in the town in which you live.  If you are not, you should apply at a town clerk's office in the county in which you will marry.
  • What if I have a civil union in Vermont?  Will it transfer over? It will not.  The civil union stands unless it is legally dissolved, however after today no more civil unions will be issued.
  • What paperwork do I need to apply for a license?  You should bring any divorce decrees, a birth certificate and be prepared to answer questions about place of birth, mother's maiden name and previous marriages.
  • Will you plan my Vermont gay wedding?  Of course.

Also, check out what Ben and Jerry's ice cream is doing in honor of gay marriage coming to their home state.

Gotta love the support!

#1 Tip for Vendors

I get asked this question all the time by wedding industry vendors: how do I market to gay and lesbian couples?

It's the #1 question I'm asked.

My answer is: start by including photos of gay and lesbian couples on your website and in your other marketing materials. 

Instead this photo to the left is what we normally get. (Photo by Teesside, UK)

Lots and lots of photos like that - a very attractive couple and they look lovely and happy and they should.

And I'm not saying that you shouldn't include such photos - but it would help your business to show greater diversity in your online portfolio and in your printed materials.

I try not to be a shameless self-promoter but I do think this is important.  I offer a class for those in the wedding industry looking to reach the LGBT marketplace.  And I'm speaking at this event in October for wedding professionals.

Engaged couples, what do you see when you are looking through the websites of wedding vendors that is an immediate turn-off?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments, thanks!