With the historic Supreme Court ruling over the summer that declared gay marriage to be a Constitutionally-protected right, same-sex couples across the nation are rushing to be wed. For many of us, invitations to gay weddings have begun to pop up in our mailboxes. Yet, along with the excitement of the occasion, there can also be some anxiety for people who have never attended a gay wedding before.
When a friend, family member or loved one gets married, it’s natural to want their big day to be as perfect as possible. The same is true when you’re attending a gay or lesbian wedding, but if you’ve never been to one before you might be a little unsure of the etiquette or traditions. The good news is that gay and lesbian weddings are a lot like straight weddings -- with just a few important differences. If you want to make sure you’re ready for your loved ones’ big day, check out these 7 tips:
If this is your first time attending a gay wedding, be careful not to assume that you know which terms a couple prefers to use to refer to themselves and their union. While their straight counterparts are increasingly turning toward less traditional labeling in their marriages, gay and lesbian couples are even more likely to adopt non-traditional terminology.
For instance, if you’re at a lesbian wedding, don’t assume that the couple are the “bride and bride.” Some couples may prefer “bride and bridegroom,” “woman and woman,” “partners” or maybe something else entirely. However the couple has decided to define their union, it’s important to show your support and respect for them by using their chosen terminology.
If you’re uncertain of what terminology to use at a gay wedding, your best bet is to follow the couple’s lead. Pay attention to how they refer to each other, the words they’ve chosen to print on their invitations and programs, and the titles that they include in their ceremony. If the couple has a way that they prefer their union to be addressed, it shouldn’t take too much detective work to figure it out.
We’ve come a long way in the last few decades. While in the past the best card you could hope to find for a gay wedding was a gender-neutral one, there are now countless options to choose from. It’s never been easier to congratulate a “Mr. & Mr.” or “Mrs. & Mrs.” on their special day, so don’t settle for a generic card.
Also remember that while it’s often easier to talk about gay marriage in terms of gay weddings and lesbian weddings, there are countless gender queer couples out there whose non-binary gender identities don’t necessarily fit traditional labels. Finding the perfect card to reflect the couple getting married is a great way to add a personal touch to your present and show your support for their partnership.
Check out websites like Cafe Press and Etsy to find a card that’s the perfect fit. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for you can even have a card commissioned for about the same price that you would pay for a good quality card you would buy in a store. Just remember that these specialty cards sometimes take a few extra days for production and delivery, so don’t wait until the last minute to order.
Like straight weddings, gay and lesbian weddings can run the gamut from uber traditional to extremely non-conventional. Same-sex couples, however, have plenty of reasons and opportunities to embrace new traditions over old ones, so it is likely that you will see some things during a gay marriage that you haven’t seen before -- that’s half the fun!
For example, at a lesbian wedding, you might have two brides that each walk down a separate aisle at the same time, or the couple might choose to enter the ceremony together. Also, without a clear-cut “boys side” and “girls side”, the wedding party at a gay wedding will often be arranged by relationship and not just by gender. There might be a “Man of Honor” or “Best Woman” and the pairings going down the aisle probably won’t be limited to “boy-girl”.
Just like old traditions, these new traditions give same-sex couples the opportunity to express their love for each other and show their gratitude to the people closest to them. Keep in mind that each decision that a couple makes about their wedding is made because it has special meaning to them. By creating a wedding ceremony that is unique to them, a couple can make their special day one that they will remember for the rest of their lives. So keep an open mind and enjoy the occasion. If you’d like to get a better idea of the different things you might see, check out wedding blogs like Offbeat Bride that feature nontraditional weddings of all kinds.
This well-meaning question can be uncomfortable for straight couples as well, but at a gay wedding this topic should be especially off-limits. The decision to start a family is a deeply personal one. Some gay couples may choose not to have children, and for them questions about their plans may feel prying or presumptuous.
On the other hand, for gay couples that do hope to have children (as with any couple pursuing a nontraditional route to parenthood) this can be a touchy subject. They will have lots of important decisions to make about adoption, in vitro fertilization or surrogacy -- all of which are, frankly, none of your business.
For the time being, simply congratulate the happy couple on their nuptials and enjoy this special moment with them. When and if they decide to expand their family, they’ll be sure to share the news with you. Until then just be content to celebrate their love and keep your nose out of it.
The LGBT community has come a long way this year with the historic Supreme Court ruling declaring gay marriage to be legal across the country. However, the work in ensuring marriage equality for all couples isn’t done yet and many gay couples will face negative comments and attacks from everyone from co-workers to wedding vendors to their own family members. All of this can take an emotional toll.
You don’t need to get into a lengthy discussion of politics -- it’s a celebration, after all -- but taking a moment to let the couple know that you are celebrating not just their union, but their right to make that commitment to one another can mean a lot to them. Whether it’s in person or jotted in your card, showing your support for the couple’s right to marry will remind them that they are loved and supported by so many people, even if there are people who might not agree.
This should be a no-brainer, but using a couple’s big day to express your negative views on gay marriage is completely inappropriate. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with the idea of attending a gay wedding, there are a few things you should consider:
Keep in mind that if you are close enough to the couple to be invited to their wedding, chances are that they already know your stance on gay marriage. In reaching out to invite you to their wedding, the couple has chosen to extend the olive branch despite your difference of opinion.
If you choose to attend the wedding, make sure that you are doing so from a place of love and that you are ready to be supportive of the couple on their big day. It would be extremely hurtful for you to use this as an opportunity to express your disagreement with their union when they were trying to make peace and include you in what is one of the most important days of their lives.
If you decide it would be best for you not to attend, simply reply with your regrets. It’s not necessary to provide your reason for not attending and doing so would only be hurtful to the couple. The couple has shown their love and respect for you by inviting you to their wedding. Show them the same love and respect by not casting a shadow on their special day.
With all this talk of gay weddings and lesbian weddings, it should still go without saying that, at it’s core, a “gay marriage” is simply a marriage. Whatever differences there may be, you are there to celebrate two people who have pledged their love and lives to one another -- so enjoy every moment.
Laugh, drink champagne, take lots of pictures and maybe even find someone special on the dance floor to share your free sample of Astroglide with when the party's over. The happy couple wants nothing more than to see their guests enjoying their wedding every bit as much as they are. So have a ball.
Do you have any other great tips for people attending their first gay wedding? Have you seen any cool gay marriage traditions that you’d love to share? Let us know by tweeting us @Astroglide with your pictures!
Images are for illustrative purposes only.