14 Stories
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Weddings Redefined

Building Your Wedding Team
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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?

Bernadette Smith
Imaginative Wedding Entertainment
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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?

Bernadette Smith
A Cocktail-Reception Style Wedding
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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)

Bernadette Smith
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 Smith
Gay Wedding Tradition: Two Aisles

Many gay and lesbian couples choose to process to the front of their sacred ceremony space down not one, but two aisles.  Jen and I did this; each of our attendants alternated going down the respective aisle, then Jen and I walked parallel to each other simultaneously.  

It's fairly common for a number of reasons, the main one being that in a gay or lesbian wedding, there is not necessarily a "bride" who is expected to be the center of attention.  Many gay and lesbian couples who are marrying have been together already for years and want to walk separately and meet in the middle.  


Regardless of whether the two aisles are parallel or coming in from opposite sides of the room, this two aisle processional is a nightmare for a photographer without an assistant!  I've had a few photographers attempt to talk me out of this processional and even one trying to change it at the last minute.  While there is something to be said about getting amazing wedding photographs and you'll never hear me argue otherwise, I do feel that it's important to honor this emerging gay and lesbian wedding tradition.  

If you are considering having two aisles instead of one central aisle, I highly recommend that you invest in a photographer's assistant if you are concerned about capturing both of your moments in the spotlight!

Bernadette Smith