Wedding Planning in 15 Steps

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. 

If you really want to keep things easy, download our free app,Gay Wedding Confidential or buy our book of the same name! Both have all these tools in more detail.

1. Make your guest list and stick to it. Create guest list policies. Figure out if you are having attendants. 

2. Figure out how much you can afford to spend and where the money is coming from. Then revisit the guest list and trim if necessary. 

3. Have a conversation with your partner about the non-negotiables that each of you may have about your overall wedding vision. For someone it may be a beach ceremony. For the other it may be getting married by a rabbi like my brides in the photo above, who wanted both. And so forth. Know each of your non-negotiables. (this very important step comes from Kathryn Hamm at GayWeddings.com)

4. Hire a gay wedding planner to take care of the rest of these steps for you! Of course…and this is why

5. Find a gay-friendly wedding venue that meets your criteria for non-negotiables, guest count and budget. 

6. Shop for your wedding outfits and for your wedding party, also, if applicable. 

7. Block hotel rooms near your wedding for out of town guests. 

8. Make a wedding website and send out save the date cards. 

9. Hire all the gay-friendly wedding professionals who only do one wedding per day (photographer, officiant, band, DJ, etc) 

10. Spend time thinking about colors, themes, design, layout, flow, personal details like favors, etc.

11. Hire the gay-friendly wedding professionals who do more than one wedding per day (florist, cake maker, caterer etc) 

12. Send out invitations, collect responses and figure out where everyone is seated. 

13. Create a very detailed wedding day schedule and send it to everyone you’ve hired to be involved with your wedding. 

14. Have a rehearsal! 

15. Get married!

Did you just get engaged over the holidays?

(photo by Kat Hempel)

Why I Love Weddings Officiated by Celebrants

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

The Top Five Rules for an Amazing Wedding


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)

Top Three Places to Register for Same-Sex Wedding Gifts

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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?


Five Tips for a Great New York Gay Wedding


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)

Gay Wedding Inspiration from the Royal Wedding

Did you watch the Royal Wedding today?  I thought it was lovely and, despite the traditional "fairytale" event, I found some great inspirations for your gay wedding.  

I know that most people are talking about Kate and her beautiful dress but I want to talk about her hot sister, Pippa!

My lesbian brides who choose to wear a dress frequently do not wear a traditional wedding gown, but often something simpler, even from bridesmaids' collections.  Pippa, Kate's sister and Maid of Honor, wore a stunning modern, understated (white!) McQueen dress that I believe will find its way into lesbian weddings.  This dress epitomizes the essence of many gay weddings that are fantastic blends of the traditional and the very unexpected.  

For the grooms, I think it would be stunning but I don't expect to see any of my men walking down the aisle in military uniforms anytime soon!  I've had grooms in morning suits only once before, though and they looked so handsome - I'd love to see that again!  For grooms who want a very classic wedding experience, a wedding a grand old estate or mansion, this is a fantastic look.  And, wow, James Middleton is a great looking guy.

As I've mentioned before, my favorite part of any wedding is the ceremony, whether it's a 5 minute ceremony or a 45 minute ceremony.  That's truly what everyone is gathered for.  And just because it's "only a ceremony" doesn't mean it can't look stunning.  

I loved how the florist, Shane Connolly, at the request of the bride and the groom, really brought the outside in for the ceremony.  The trees were not only dramatic but also reflective of the couple's personal values.    It's a beautiful aesthetic that's more than just a trend.  It has a modern, yet classic look and of course the color pop in Westminster Abbey finishes it off stunningly.  We will be using loads of greens at a very modern wedding later this year.


Did you find any design inspiration from the Royal Wedding?

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties for Gay Weddings

Of course bachelor and bachelorette parties are heterosexual traditions but they’re also a really good time—and another excuse for a party.

Here again, couples who are more settled tend not to have these parties, while couples that are starting out and of more typical marrying age often do.

Being a same-sex couple can mean that you have a joint party or two separate parties. If you have separate groups of friends, separate parties are generally the way to go. But if your friends are merged, then I like a big party.

Jen and I chose to party together over an informal dinner, followed by a trip to a strip club (the most tasteful one in the city, if you can believe it). We were both on our best behavior (look, don’t touch) and a great time was had by all.

A good compromise is what one of my clients is doing:  partying independently and meeting up at a club at the end of the night. 

Some couples who party separately have a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” (a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” kind of thing). If you plan on misbehaving that’s not a bad plan—just don’t drunk-dial or drunk-text at the end of the night. No unnecessary drama, right!

Are you planning to have a bachelor or bachelorette party?

You Must Always Have a Rain Plan

I can't tell you how many times I've heard the past few days, "I feel bad for anyone getting married this weekend."

Yup, we got soaked here in New England.  Not much snow but a heck of a lot of rain.  But hey, we have gay marriage in almost every state in New England, so I'll take the good with the bad.

We don’t have sunshine every day like they do in Los Angeles, so we always always always have to have a rain plan for our gay weddings. We have our beautiful coastline and many people love beachy weddings, but there has to be a rain plan, and unfortunately sometimes that rain plan doesn’t have the same appeal.  Here are some questions to consider when planning an outdoor gay wedding:

  • Is a tent required or is there enough room inside if the weather is poor?
  • How cold does the area get in the evening?  Will heaters be required inside the tent?
  • How warm does the area get in the evening?  Will air conditioners or fans be required inside the tent?
  • Do the grounds get buggy during certain seasons?
  • Are there any drainage issues which could make for excess mud?
  • How far do the guests have to the restrooms?
  • Is there plenty of space inside for a ceremony if the weather is poor, and can it then be turned over for a reception while the guests go somewhere else during cocktail hour?
  • Is there adequate lighting on the property in the evening? 
  • Are there any eyesores which may need to be covered up or screened off?
  • Is there any foot traffic that may pass through the area or is there security to ensure that your space is completely private?
Finally, if you find yourself in a situation where your perfectly planned outdoor wedding gets rained out and you’re forced inside, think about asking your photographer to do another shoot of you two (kind of like an engagement shoot) in your wedding wardrobe on another day when it’s beautiful outside.

The Gay Wedding Party

On Tuesday, I talked about the traditional wedding party roles and responsibilities.  Let's discuss how all that changes for gay weddings.

Keep in mind the following as you are discussing  your own wedding party:
  • It’s OK if someone declines your request to be in your wedding party.  They are not obligated to accept – it could be a financial, work issue or something else.  Don’t guilt anyone out.
  • Choose the people with whom you are closest to be your attendant.
  • You don’t have to ask people to be your attendant just because you were in his or her wedding.  Stand firm if you don’t want them as your attendant.  It can be an emotional land mine – but it’s your wedding.
  • You don’t have to have the same number of attendants on either side.  It doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy.   You don’t have to go out and make new best friends or invite people you’d rather not for the sake of symmetry.  No symmetry required.
  • Some people are not comfortable with gender roles associated with wedding tasks
  • Many gay couples do not have children at their wedding
  • In many gay weddings, people other than the Best Man offer toasts
  • Many gay weddings don’t have bachelor parties or bridal showers
  • Many gay couples don’t ask their attendants to dance with one another.
  • Many gay couples don’t expect their female attendants to all wear the exact same dress, if they are even asked to wear a dress at all.  For dresses, I’m a fan of designers like J Crew and Aria where you can match the fabric in a variety of dresses that flatter every figure.
  • There are often no formal introductions at a gay wedding, or if there are, it’s typically just the newlyweds.  
Jen and I each had two girls on our sides, so four in total.  All but one were actually straight.  The girls were in charge of invitations and activities at the bridal shower.  They also threw us a bachelorette party but otherwise didn’t have a ton of responsibility.  They were all asked to wear navy but had complete freedom in their outfit selection.  They were not asked to give toasts.  They were not asked to dance with one another. 

In short, if you’re planning a gay wedding, there’s a good chance you might be asking a lot less of your attendant than your heterosexual counterpart.  

Are you planning to have a wedding party? What are you asking of them?

Photo of the Week - the Receiving Line

I should tell you that gay weddings almost never have receiving lines.  In fact, I urge my clients to disappear somewhere secret for a few minutes after the recessional to avoid an accidental receiving line.

These 2004 brides wanted to greet their guests so immediately after the recessional, they headed into the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (following the ceremony in the courtyard) and waited on the steps for guests to slowly follow.  There was no bottleneck, no prolonged greetings - and it was quick and painless - just the brides welcoming guests to their party. 

Inside awaited cocktails, tea, wedding cake, mini sandwiches and live jazz.  That was just the beginning.  90 minutes later trolleys swooped all their guests up and off to the real reception at the Harvard Fogg Museum.



Photo by Zoom Photography