A Gay Eye for the Straight Wedding

Today’s guest blogger is Jason Mitchell, event planning extraordinaire and author of Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms.

Jason Mitchell

Winter is a very popular time to propose. As a wedding planner whose niche has become same-sex weddings, I hear all the exciting ways new traditions are being born. Some go traditional by one surprising the other with the famous question asked on one knee. Others go to pick out rings together, while some forgo bands all together and opt for watches, artwork or tattoos. I recently planned a wedding for a couple who had been together thirty years. In honor of that anniversary, they chose to come to New York, get legally married, and have the wedding of their dreams. There was no proposal necessary.

2013 was an incredible year for marriage equality… Prop 8 got struck down, DOMA repealed, and the number of states that allow same-sex couples to wed jumped from nine to sixteen. 2014 seems to be keeping up the momentum. We are fighting in this country to convince those who oppose to be on the right side of history. And optimists like me believe it won’t be long until it’s an option for all. Naturally the number of gay weddings taking place will only continue to grow rapidly.

But putting politics aside for the moment, gay weddings are causing a stir with more than just the opposing forces. The most recent wedding I planned left some of the heterosexual guests with comments such as: “It wasn’t fair to be on the dance floor with all of those professionals!” A “Great Gatsby” themed wedding I did brought a jaw-dropping fashion parade of furs and diamonds, especially since it was at noon on an August Sunday in New York. When I told one of the guests how impressed I was, she responded: “For these boys we didn’t have a choice!” Whenever my husband and I see certain relatives, they still mention how our wedding was the best one they’ve ever been to. And now I’m encountering some brides who claim they want to have a gay wedding simply because they’re more fabulous and fun. I’m not entirely sure they’re joking.

So what are the biggest differences between same-sex and opposite sex-weddings? For one, most often straight weddings all center around the bride. With either two or no brides, the balance is completely shifted and focuses more evenly on the couple. Since gay weddings are a relatively new notion, there aren’t thousands of years of traditions to honor. It prevents the “cookie-cutter wedding” and encourages gay couples to create a detailed, custom event where they only honor what wedding traditions, if any, they feel connected to. Gay weddings also force couples to be creative and sensitive with the wording on invitations, family involvement, how the couple dresses, and the order of a ceremony processional. New traditions are being born, and age-old wedding etiquette decisions are being re-evaluated.

But you don’t have to be gay to plan a wedding with a fresh set of eyes. I did a wedding last year for a bride who wore burgundy, had no flowers, and her husband surprised her with a tap dance. The truth is, the majority of tasks that go into wedding planning are gender and sexually neutral. Finding the perfect venue, organizing a budget, hiring vendors and selecting a menu must be done by all couples planning a wedding. Those are big picture items, and as I work with couples on the finer details, I encourage both gay and straight couples to ask themselves the same questions and make thoughtful, conscious decisions to create their dream event.

Weddings are about telling the story of the couple. All opportunities to communicate more to the guests should be seized. All special moments from the first dance to cake-cutting should be highlighted with a specific song choice that is significant to the couple. Naming tables rather than numbering them also goes a long way. Most couples are introduced as they enter their reception. “Now ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together and please welcome to the dance floor Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Those common words don’t work for gay couples, but they can also be ill-fitting for straight couples. I know plenty of women who don’t take their married name and might find that kind of announcement a bit archaic. So what exactly is it you want to hear in that special moment? Those are the little details that make any wedding as personal and special as can be.

The truth of the matter is gay couples are striving for the option of legal marriage everywhere in this country. But with organization, a clear vision and attention to detail, ALL couples have the option to have their perfect wedding.


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