We were honored to be featured in New York Magazine's wedding issue once again, this time sharing some gay wedding etiquette and data from the Gay Wedding Institute. A few of our couples were also interviewed! Check out the story below!
I was sitting with clients last week and we were talking about the flow of their gay wedding in Boston. 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?
Me: Are you having anything tossed? Garter and bouquet are the typical things.
Me: Are you dancing with your parents at all in any formal, announced way?
Me: Are you cutting anything on the dessert display (this wedding has no wedding cake)?
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
- 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?
The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage.
Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage... Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals…They seek the mutual obligation and honor that attend marriage… seek recognition from the state that their union is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.’”
Of course lots of couples are still using the Goodridge ruling as well. Are you planning to have any political elements in your marriage ceremony?
Most people who find this website are engaged and planning a gay wedding in New York, Boston or somewhere else – and most people really don’t know how to begin! Here’s the cheat sheet for you, a quick list of what to do, and in what order.Create guest list policies. Figure out if you are having attendants.
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. Last year she officiated our son’s non-religious baby blessing. We absolutely adore Cindy and she feels like one of our family.
I’m honored to have been asked to give the keynote speech on April 28 at the Celebrant Institute’s Collective Wisdom Conference. This conference is part of the graduation of the current class of Celebrants and I’m excited to share with them my perspective on the power of same-sex weddings.
If you are looking for a Celebrant, you can find one in your area by visiting www.CelebrantInstitute.org
I'm normally one to say something like "screw the rules and reinvent the wedding" and we do - every day with the gay weddings we produce. But anyone who knows me knows my obsession with wedding ceremonies and the wedding flow, so I really do believe a great wedding should follow some simple rules because, no matter how beautiful your 20 foot bar is, it makes no difference to your guests if they are waiting in line 20 minutes for a cocktail.
My rules for planning a fabulous gay wedding:
1. Care about the ceremony and put some thought into it. After all, if you really think about it, gay weddings change the world and it all starts with the celebration of marriage.
2. Think about the guests' experience. How do they know where to go, where to park, where to walk? What is the first thing they see, hear, touch, taste, smell and experience when they enter the space? How do they feel welcome and accommodated?
3. Hire enough bartenders and order enough food. Cocktail hour is the busiest time of a wedding. If you don't have enough bartenders, your guests will get annoyed. If you are afraid that there will be a huge line at the bar, then have servers passing some drinks to guests. Order enough food so that the guests aren't waiting for food to come out of the kitchen and the hors d'oeuvres don't run out before cocktail hour is over. Don't skimp!
4. Make your wedding interactive and provide conversation starters, particularly if you pass on wedding traditions. Don't just have dinner and dancing but add enough elements so your guests aren't bored.
5. Be Yourselves. These rules can be interpreted and personalized any way you want - it's your wedding and your expression of your relationship and now, marriage. It's not your mom's or sister's gay wedding. Follow your heart and your instinct and put your own stamp on the experience.
Do you think these rules are too strict? What rules are you following for your own wedding day?
(one of the happy couples that followed my rules - photo by Closed Circle Photography)
Most of us have been to a bunch of straight weddings and now that you're planning your own gay wedding, it seems obvious to look to those straight weddings for inspiration. After all, it's what we grew up knowing. I've been talking to a bunch of couples lately who are struggling with what traditions to keep and what to ditch when planning their own wedding. I'm personally in favor of reinvention...this blog is called, after all, "Weddings Redefined"!
Let's start by examining some of the traditions we've seen over the years:
...couple doesn't see each other before the ceremony, an often religious ceremony, photos during cocktail hour, a long break between the ceremony and reception, the wedding party introduction, the first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, dinner, toasts, dancing, line dances, garter toss, bouquet toss, cake cutting, yadda yadda yadda...maybe a Horah for good measure...
I've planned hundreds of gay weddings and I can tell you that we skip a bunch of these things!! SOMETIMES my couples will do a first dance and cake cutting, but that's about it! If parent dances happen, they typically happen spontaneously, rather than to a specific song. Formal photos typically happen before the ceremony.
As far as I'm concerned (and most of my clients agree), when it comes to these elements, turn them on their head! Why introduce the wedding party? It's your day and you may not even have a wedding party. Why do photos during cocktail hour when you can enjoy a cocktail with your closest friends and family?
And if you really want to be traditional, consider some Gay Wedding Traditions - yes, there are some!
What traditions are you keeping and what are you ditching?
(photo by Kat Hempel)
So, you're getting married. But maybe you've already been together for 20 years and have a kitchen full of Crate and Barrel stuff. Or maybe you think asking for wedding gifts is gauche. Or maybe you don't want to fill out (yet, another) form that says "Bride" and "Groom". I heard from a groom recently who complained that when they registered for gifts at a major retailer, one of them had to be the "bride" on the form, and he's since been bombarded with promotions for brides-only!
Here are the 14 Stories picks for best places to register for your wedding, if you want to do the non-traditional route:
1. Newlywish. Ok, so you want gifts. But you prefer more unique items and prefer to support local businesses - or at least don't want to worry about a form that says Bride and Groom. Check out Newlywish, where you can register across many awesome retailers, and where your guests can have an easy, seamless shopping experience for you. You can even register for experiences like museum memberships and sporting events. You can't buy that at Macy's.
2. Honeyfund. You have the kitchen-full of copper cookware already but know your guests will insist on buying you something. How about contributing towards your honeymoon? Our clients set up honeymoon registries all the time and Honeyfund is my favorite site for it. They don't make you book your honeymoon travel plans through the site but your guests contribute towards experiences you expect you'll have on your honeymoon - like a romantic dinner for two or a couples massage. Customize your Honeyfund page any way you wish. Your guests buy you honeymoon experiences and you get a check from Honeyfund. Can't beat that.
3. HRC. Whether it's the HRC or Freedom to Marry or MENY or another charity, many couples choose to set up a charitable wedding registry instead of a gift registry. HRC and MENY make it easy with their own registry page that your guests can visit to see your profile and make a donation. Help other same-sex couples get equal marriage rights by supporting the work of these fabulous nonprofits!
Did you choose to register for gifts? If so, where?
Here are the top five most commonly read readings at gay weddings in Boston, New York and throughout New England, based on my experience witnessing hundreds of gay wedding ceremonies:
5. Corinthians, from the Bible. This may surprise many of you but it's an oldie but goodie...
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
4. From Touched by an Angel, by Maya Angelou:
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
3. Excerpt from Song of the Open Road, by Walt Whitman, our celebrated gay writer:
I do not offer the old smooth prizes,
But offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve.
However sweet the laid-up stores,
However convenient the dwellings,
You shall not remain there.
However sheltered the port,
And however calm the waters,
You shall not anchor there.
However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you
You are permitted to receive it but a little while
Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before you,
The long brown path before you,
leading wherever you choose.
Say only to one another:
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law:
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
2. The Art of Marriage, author unknown
A good marriage must be created.
In the art of marriage the little things are the big things –-
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say ‘I love you’ at least once each day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying the right partner –-
It is being the right partner.
1. Excerpt from the Goodridge v The Massachusetts Department of Public Health ruling (written by Judge Margaret Marshall) that first legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts:
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations....Without question, civil marriage enhances the "welfare of the community." It is a "social institution of the highest importance." ...
Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.... Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition.
What readings are you having at your gay wedding ceremony?
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in New York, I'm sure that many of you have started your planning! Here are some tips for planning an incredible wedding in New York!
1. "I now pronounce you LEGALLY married!" That's a very powerful statement and it'll be made in one more state. Your guests will be in tears of joy for you as you are legally married. Consider hiring a Celebrant to write a personal and meaningful wedding ceremony for you.
2. Gay wedding traditions are alive and well. Think about incorporating one or more into your wedding, such as offering champagne to the guests before the wedding ceremony starts.
3. New York is so much more than New York City. You can also have a barn wedding in the Hudson Valley, a vineyard wedding on Long Island, or even a wedding in Niagra Falls. The choices are endless!
4. New York City weddings cost more than most places in the country. If you are planning a wedding in New York City and are budget-conscious, keep an eye on that guest list as an area for savings.
5. Remember that your wedding is your own. It's not your mom's, or your sister's, or your Aunt Suzie's. You can have any kind of wedding you want. Ignore any pressure you may get to follow tradition and feel free to have fun with the plans and make them extra reflective of who you are as a couple
And of course, we can help!
Are you planning a same-sex wedding in New York?
(photo by Kat Hempel)
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