Getting Parents Excited About Your Gay Wedding (part two)

The second part in a series on how to get your parents excited about your gay wedding.  The first part is here.

Step two:  Gradually start sharing your excitement about the wedding plans.  Say things like, “We took a look around at venues today and it was really fun.”  or “I’ve been looking through bridal magazines for dresses I might like.”  And this is the best one: “I received the sweetest engagement card in the mail today from Aunt Mary!  She sounds so excited for us!” 

Say, normal, typical wedding planning things, as if it’s any other conversation with your parents.  Don’t make a big deal out of the plans yet but start to plant the seed that this is for real and that you are taking action.  And peer pressure is great - your parents will feel guilty if you received a card from Aunt Mary but not from them.

This is what I urged Jen to do with her mom.  Slowly start releasing information about your ideas, just in the normal course of conversation.  It piques curiosity!

Photo of the Week - Jubilation

You will hear me say it again and again but gay weddings are downright jubilant.  There is a very palpable feeling of rejoicing.  This photo from a 2004 wedding says it all - the brides are in the background leading the ceremony recessional out of the building towards cocktail hour and everyone else is, well, jubilant.

Photo by Michael Manning

Just Standing Around...

I've had many weddings recently where the 50+ guests stood around for the 15-20 minute wedding ceremony.  There was select seating for elderly family and friends but generally no more than 20 or so chairs up front.  These types of weddings have a nice casual vibe to them - almost like the marriage ceremony happens very organically. 

This can work well - and it can fail.  If you are considering this, here are some tips:

  • Truly keep the ceremony no more than 15 minutes long
  • Greet your guests with a drink (could be champagne, sparkling water, lemonade) when they arrive and plan for the guests mingling for about 15 minutes before your true ceremony start time
  • Don't mingle with your guests during that time or your ceremony will definitely start late!
  • Make sure you have a coordinator designated to clear the aisle or form an aisle when it's time for the processional
  • Place the ceremony musicians where they will be easily visible by your coordinator so the coordinator can cue the processional music when the time is right (it's sometimes hard to see when most are standing!)
  • Make sure the newlyweds have an escape route and destination after the recessional if there's no receiving line - otherwise they will get mobbed by their guests and a receiving line will happen spontaneously
If you follow those rules, this can work out very well and set the tone for a casually fun and upbeat reception.  Gay couples seem to enjoy this in particular because it breaks tradition and many of them don't want the grand entrance processional.

Are you having a wedding ceremony where the majority of the guests will stand rather than sit?  Do you have any other tips to add? Or do you prefer a more formal, seated wedding ceremony?

Wedding Cake, or Not?

Warning: this post is going to make you hungry.

Recently I've had an increasing number of clients, gay and straight, opt for a wedding dessert other than wedding cake.  Now, this is not to say that wedding cakes have gone the way of the dinosaur - far from it - but about 1/3 of my clients are mixing it up a bit. 

With cupcakes (the obvious substitute)...

With pies...

Or strawberry shortcake...

Or miscellaneous cakes from their favorite bakeries:

Photos by, top to bottom, Michael Manning, unknown, Closed Circle Photo and Derek Goodwin.

The question is, of course, if you are of the mind that a cake cutting is a fun wedding tradition, do you instead cut the pie or strawberry shortcake?  If you wish, of course!

What's your favorite wedding dessert?  And are you planning a cake/pie/cupcake cutting ritual?

The Coveney-Smiths

Being married is wonderful!  We are very happy.  As some of you may have noticed, Jen hyphenated our names but I did not, though I still took her name, so that's our subtle difference.  Works for us.

We are back to work with a wedding on Friday for two lovely women from Michigan and their 20 guests and Jen is doing the flowers.  Fortunately, we very much powered down on our honeymoon in Aruba, doing almost nothing at all, really, staying at a tiny European resort, enjoying frozen drinks on the hot beach and otherwise allowing ourselves to relax (I was surprisingly good at it!)

Our wedding was just about perfect (I've promised not to obsess over the tiny things that were not) and above all, extremely fun (we are blessed with amazing friends and family who came with their dancing shoes on). Check out a few amateur photos (the professional ones are forthcoming):


More to come, but those are a teaser...

Hire Those You Trust

When I started my business in 2004, I had never planned a wedding.  I had planned many events and knew I had the skills but there was a natural learning curve with weddings.

So what did I do?  I interviewed many dozen vendors, figured out who I could trust, then I hired those people and let them do their jobs.

Fortunately, that philosophy has always worked out well for all.  There are occasionally times I have to micromanage vendors, often when I'm hired for day of coordination and haven't worked with the vendors hired by the client.  Or if I'm working in a new area of the state or region, I encounter new faces.

But the reality is that I am a professional wedding planner, not a professional caterer, baker, photographer or stationer.  And I don't pretend to be any of those things.  I know the right questions to ask and I know what to look for.  But most importantly, I know who I trust.

And that is the philosophy I'm relying on this week since my wedding is tomorrow and I'm not in charge.  We hired a day of coordinator to make sure our vision is executed, and we hired some of our favorite vendors.  I hope you check out their work and we'll post up a few photos after the big day.

These folks are the reason I'm relaxing right now, with the comfort that we're in good hands.  These are the people I thank because they make me look good...

Please support them as well!

Happy Independence Day!

-Bernadette and Jen

What's in a Name?

I was emailing with a couple last week who sent me a note on their ceremony draft.  One of the grooms wrote, "Jeff and I have been together for more than 14 years.  After a life of saying 'my partner' I'd love, at long last, to say, 'my spouse.'"

And so he did.  Language is a funny thing.  I know another unmarried gay couple together more than ten years who refer to themselves not as partners, but as lovers.  That term is not for everyone but it works for them.

This is a big decision for gay and lesbian couples.  I get asked all the time about how the officiant will declare them at the conclusion of the ceremony.  I now declare you...

  • legally married
  • lawfully married
  • partners for life
  • married partners
  • husbands/wives to one another
  • spouses for life
  • something else?
Jen and I chose "legally married" - and that felt right for me in particular because the legal bit is so important.  We live in a state where our marriage is legal and I want that word to be heard loud and clear.

And once you're actually hitched, how will you refer to your spouse?  Many couples I know initially cringed at "husband" or "wife".  Dan Savage still calls Terry his boyfriend even though they were married in Canada.  I had a hard time adjusting to fiancee and only in the past few months has that felt more natural.  Many couples still use the term partner because it's what's comfortable and what they know.

I honestly don't know what I'll call Jen.  Right now, "wife" feels cringeworthy but I suspect I'll get used to it.

And finally, what about the last name?  Many people keep their names, but I've had several clients and a friend invent entirely new names, some of which were not remotely similar to either of the old names.  That's kind of fun - as you begin a new life together, you do so with a new name.  And of course you can hyphenate.  Sometimes this works out if the names flow together but sometimes it's awkward.

So what is the gay wedding planner going to do?

I'll tell you that on Saturday, after our wedding and before our honeymoon, I'll be updating the About Us section on this very website with our new last names, which were well debated.  They are different from each other, but slightly and the only compromise we could reach.

How is your officiant pronouncing you at the conclusion of your wedding ceremony?  And will you be using the word husband or wife to refer to your new spouse?  I'd especially love to hear of any creative solutions to any of these dilemmas!  Please share!

Wedding Nightmares

I've been joking that I need to start carrying around nips of liquor in my emergency kit - my brides and grooms have been nervous lately!  It's actually very cute...

But I can relate.  Yes, I am a very calm person, but it's strange how nerves manifest themselves. 

Last night I dreamt this highly implausible dream that has little basis in reality: our ceremony and reception were across the street from one another, but that street was a very busy road, specifically Land Boulevard in Cambridge.  Guests had to walk across this trafficky road in severe heat.  The reception began with no cocktail hour, and Jen and I were seated.  The cheesy, 70s-era DJ that came with the wedding package introduced these live musicians, one of them did a Kurt Cobain tribute (in costume), and another who sang folk music.

I then left the reception because I forgot something back at the ceremony site, and by the time I returned, everyone was standing around for cocktail hour but I missed all the food.  And I forgot to mention that to enter the reception site, there was a very long, gradual stairway up, followed by a confusing trap door!

What on earth is going on?!  I suppose there are a few parallels between my dream and what Jen and I have planned, but on the whole, it's baffling.  But I can tell you that I was certainly irritable when I woke up this morning.

I should note that I'm still very calm (during awake hours, that is).

Jen has recently been experiencing anxiety on the verge of panic attacks - but her stress comes while she's awake.  Let me tell you - it's a lot of pressure planning a wedding when your career is a wedding planner.  A lot.  The expectations of guests, acquaintances, clients, vendors, colleagues and followers on Twitter are very high, and while I'm confident that we planned ourselves an amazing wedding, what if it's not?  Of course, Jen has the added stress of designing all of our wedding flowers. 

(Jen has also asked me to note that she's not at all anxious about being married, just about the wedding itself.)  Thankfully that's all...

Anyway, all this to say, that I can relate to clients and friends' stories of wedding nightmares.  One of my friends had a nightmare that her fiance left her, saying, "I just want to be friends." It's horrifying what the subconscious creates. 

I'd love to hear about any wedding dreams or nightmares you've had or are having.  It helps to share so we can have a good laugh and reality check!  What's the craziest wedding nightmare you've had?

Recent Examples of Homophobia & Heterosexism

I need to be honest and let you know that if you're engaged and planning a gay wedding, there's a good chance you're going to encounter some heterosexism and possibly homophobia, even if you're marrying here in Boston.  I want to tell you this because, even as a planner, I've seen some ugly things just in the past month, even with vendors I had pre-screened, and I am livid:

  • I was invited to do a presentation to a group of wedding professionals on how to work with gay couples, and one of the vendors in the audience blatantly told me upon my arrival that she didn't work with them, and instead referred them to a colleague.
  • I took two brides to meet with a florist on Cape Cod with whom I'd previously worked and the florist said when we walked in, "So, which one of you is the bride?"
  • I booked a trolley (a company I'd used before) for my grooms' wedding guests, and the man who helped me with my reservation asked me "Which way do they swing?" when I told him it was a same-sex wedding.
  • At another wedding, the trolley driver told me he couldn't wait to see the bride and groom.  I reminded him there were two grooms.  The driver rolled his eyes and blessed himself.
  • The limo driver who drove my grooms was looking for a restroom while he waited for the ceremony to end.  Someone suggested the basement of a nearby library.  He said, "I know what happens in that basement bathroom and I guess I should watch myself around these guys."
  • The sales manager at the hotel where my guest rooms are blocked sent me an email asking for the name of my groom, even though I had just emailed him a guest information form I completed referring to us as two brides.
I am not telling you these things to freak you out, to deter you from planning a fabulous wedding, or to scare you into hiring me.  Not at all.  But there's a misconception that because gay weddings have been happening in Massachusetts for five years now, that all vendors are on board, accepting and understanding, and it's just not the case.  I wish it were, but I'm honestly glad that my clients didn't have to experience these situations themselves.

As gay marriage continues to be legalized (you go, New Hampshire!), it's important for wedding industry vendors to take a hard look at their marketing materials, retrain their staff, and start using more inclusive language and photos.  And a tip - just because you are a paid advertiser on or doesn't mean that you're off the hook.  I can promise you that those vendors I referred to above will not get my business in the future.  It's a small community and we talk.

Our Turn!

Today I had the pleasure of visiting Cambridge City Hall twice.

The first time was at 9:30am with a lovely couple from Pennsylvania in town for the Vows package.

The second time was at 7:30pm with Jen.  We went to Cambridge because a) it was the first city in the first state in the entire United States to issue legal marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples; and b) great tip - because it's open late on Monday nights.  :-)

Jen's most powerful moment was when she wrote down what will be her new last name: Coveney-Smith.

My most powerful moment was finally standing and filling out the paperwork that I've helped dozens of couples fill out.  Confession that even though I've helped others go through this process, I still had some cross-outs on my form.

It's so exciting - we are about 32 days away, unbelievable!  The response cards are still coming in, still waiting to hear from many cousins and aunts and uncles from around the world.  I have to admit that planning my own wedding has made me more empathetic than ever towards my clients and their own emotional journey.  Marriage equality is such a beautiful thing - and so is love, of course.

We had our photo taken under a large banner inscribed with a portion of the Goodridge ruling.  It's finally our turn to be a part of history.  And yes, I do believe that gay marriages are still making history.

Last night was our date night and on the walk home, we saw a rainbow and took a photo.  Surely this must be a good sign...