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Gay Wedding Etiquette

Marta Block


Gay marriage is becoming legal in more and more states. Even in those states that do not legally recognize gay marriages many couples are choosing to do away with the "commitment ceremony" language of the past and call their ceremony and celebration what it is, a wedding. Weddings are steeped in etiquette and tradition so many people planning and attending weddings with a same sex couple frequently have questions about how having two celebrants of the same gender affects things. We're here to help.

No two brides are alike and that's true if the bride is marrying a groom or another bride, or if there is no bride! The ideas here are just some general rules that should keep you out of hot water, but we're not attempting to speak for every gay couple anymore than we would attempt to speak for every straight couple.

For the Couple:

A wedding ceremony is one of the most gendered customs our society has. Take heart though, even straight couples are doing away with many of these conventions. A creative wedding planner should be able to help you see past traditions to create something of your own.

In many straight weddings the groom waits for the bride at the altar. It would look fairly odd to do this when both parties are the same gender. Some gay couples choose to walk down the aisle together, some choose to come down with their parents or other family members. Some couples worry that having one person come down the aisle before the other identifies that person as "the groom." That's sort of silly, but if it is a big concern, choose a venue where the aisle can be wide enough to accompany four across.

In terms of seating, many couples straight and gay are doing away with the "bride's side" and "groom's side" and just asking people to sit where they like. Weddings are about joining families together after all.

For the Guest:

If you have a friend planning a wedding to a person of the same gender, the same rules apply as they would for any other friend:

Don't Invite Yourself

Oftentimes straight people trying to show how supportive they are of gay marriage may say something like, "I can't wait to dance at your wedding." As the person getting married feel free to respond with something like, "Well, we haven't figured out if we're inviting friends or not, it may be fairly small."

Don't Ask Personal Questions:

It is none of your business who is paying for what or how the couple is going to organize things.You don't need to know what the bride or groom is wearing ahead of time. If you're invited, you'll find out soon enough.

Don't Assume

Not all gay couples are "fabulous" or planning a "fabulous" wedding. Repeating even positive stereotypes about groups of people is offensive.

A Note on Language

Ironically, I've committed a faux pas in the title of this piece! There's not need to specify that a wedding is a "gay wedding" people don't get "gay married" any more than they get "gay tired." But, for the purposes of helping you find the article online, I had to say something. If you're getting married in a state that doesn't legally recognize gay weddings you can feel free to refer to your ceremony as whatever you like. Also, just FYI, if a wedding takes place in a state that doesn't recognize gay marriage, it isn't "illegal" it just isn't legally recognized, that's a big difference.

Do you have a question about weddings? Check out our Ask the Expert section!