Now that same-sex marriage is legal in this country, many will ask how this will affect rituals of marriage going forward. Our traditions have been long-based on the premise that the celebrated were in fact husband and wife. So this begs an obvious question… In a gay wedding, is one member supposed to enact the part of the bride, or a lesbian play the part of “husband” for the sake of preserving tradition? The answer is not as simple as it may seem. Some same sex-couples may opt to adhere to a set of rituals associated with a more “traditional marriage,” while other couples want to redefine what a marriage ceremony (or reception) looks like altogether. I've collected several questions that I have been asked and offer the following answers and bits of advice for those same-sex couples who are looking at how to construct their wedding ceremonies. Let me know what you think by adding your comments below.
1. There can't be a wedding without a procession, right? So who walks down the aisle? If I'm walking down the aisle, which side do I stand on, left or right?
One of the most observed traditional wedding customs involves the walk to the altar (groom first, then the bride). How you want to address this when there are two brides or two grooms depends on personal taste. Some options:
- One person waits by the altar for the other partner to walk down the aisle.
- You accompany each other, arm in arm, down the aisle.
- Create a seating arrangement with two aisles that meet at the altar: You and your partner — alone or arm in arm with another loved one — walk in unison down separate aisles.
On that last bullet point, just keep in mind that this may be a bit confusing for your guests if you two walk down separate aisles in unison. After all, which one of you should they look at as you two are gliding down your respective aisles?
2. What does the officiant say when they announce the declaration of marriage (“I now pronounce you ….)?
I now pronounce you… husband and husband? The wording can get a little tricky when it's time for your officiant to make the actual pronouncement. Take a cue from commitment ceremony scripts and have your officiant pronounce you “partners for life” (which happens to rhyme with “husband and wife”).
3. Who changes their last name?
This one is a bit of a touchy question for several reasons. But here are a few options
- Pick one of your last names for both of you to take.
- Hyphenate your last names and both take the new name.
- Come up with a totally different last name and both take it.
- Keep your own names.
From experience, the second option has been the most popular.
4. What side of the aisle does my family sit?
I've always hated “bride's side” and “groom's side”-style weddings. This should be an occasion for bringing families together, not keeping them apart. Also, with gay weddings, there is sometimes a (foolish) family that doesn't support the union and won't show up. Nothing looks worse than one bride with lots of support and one with none. Let everyone sit where they want. Just don't sit anyone near your eccentric Uncle Amos. That's just mean.
5. How do we handle the Bouquet Toss?
This can be a pretty fun (and funny) experience at a gay wedding. You know Carol from the softball league would get all competitive and jump up and snag it like it's a fly ball about to go over the fence. Or there would be a gaggle of florist gays shouting, “Don't muss the flowers!” However you choose to do this rite of passage, have fun with it. I just officiated a wedding this weekend where our two grooms tossed bouquet and jock strap in lieu of the garter belt. The guests loved it! Of course I would recommend doing this later in the evening after grandma and grandpa have left.
6. What about the Father / Daughter or the Mother / Son Dance?
The ritual importance of dancing with family members is quite clear because it symbolizes the melding of families, but be respectful and be creative. If you and your father take up arms, why not have your spouse do the same with his mother? Then, if everyone is comfortable, Dad picks it up with your husband and you go to your mother. Or you both dance with your mothers and then switch.
On a sidenote: check out this video. It has a twist at the end that I think you'll like :-).
7. What about the Cake Cutting Ceremony?
Most photographers will coach the bride to place her hand on top to capture that “ring shot”. For two grooms, or two brides, simply have the photographer take a shot with each hand on top. Alternatively, both grooms or brides can hold the cake knife with their thumbs facing up, side-by-side. This would alleviate the issue of one of you having the “upper hand”…. Sorry, couldn't resist ;-P.
8. Who pays for the wedding?
It's supposed to be the bride's family right? Well, what if there's no bride? And having family involved in a gay ceremony can be very dicey proposition anyway. The best idea is to have the wedding financed by the brides and grooms themselves. Unless one of them has rich parents, that is. Then it's time for a destination wedding in Greece on daddy's dime.
9. How do we arrange the bachelor party?
Just because you and your betrothed want to see the same gender strippers doesn't mean you should be having your hen night celebrations together. Each bride or groom should have his/her own night out with his/her own friends and have that last night to behave scandalously. How can you get just a little too frisky during a lap dance with your boyfriend or girlfriend looking on?