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 ones — with just a few important differences. Read on:
- Finding the right terminology
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 straight couples 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 is the “bride and bride.” Some couples may prefer “bride and bridegroom,” “woman and woman,” “partners” or maybe something entirely different. 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.
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. It shouldn’t take too much detective work to figure it out.
- Finding a card
We’ve come a long way in the last few decades. 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. 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.
- Gift giving
When it comes to wedding gifts, some couples are registered at a local retail store where going off-registry is simply not allowed. Sometimes, however, it’s a good idea to break the rules. While it’s important to respect the wishes of the couple and give them what they’ve asked for, there might be a perfect gift out there that they didn’t even know they wanted. Giving a surprise present can be a meaningful way to show the couple how much you care about them, how well you know them, how much thought you’ve given to their gift, and how much you support their union. The key to giving wedding gifts off the registry is making sure they’re AWESOME.
- Expect to see different traditions
Like straight weddings, gay and lesbian weddings can run the gamut from uber traditional to extremely non-conventional. 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 gay wedding, you might have two grooms 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. 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. Keep in mind that each decision that a couple makes about their wedding is made because it has special meaning to them.
- Starting a family
This well-meaning question can be uncomfortable for straight couples, 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 seem that you are prying into their personal business.
For gay couples that do hope to have children, 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.
- Show your support
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 isn’t done yet and many gay couples will face negative comments and attacks from unexpected places, including co-workers, wedding vendors, and their own family members. All of this can take an emotional toll.
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 will mean a lot to them.
- If you can’t be nice, shut up
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. So be hapy the couple has chosen to invite you, 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.
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.
- Have Fun
With all this talk of gay or lesbian weddings, it should still go without saying that, at its 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.
Photo Credit: washingtonpost.com