Same-Sex Ceremonies

Same-sex weddings are not a new subject. With more states starting to recognize same-sex marriages, it is important for same-sex couples to know how to plan their ceremonies in a way that reflects their style and honors their beliefs and heritages.

Choosing Your Attendants and Officiant

When planning your same-sex wedding, there tends to be no traditional roles in regard to attendants. In general, same-sex weddings tend to have fewer attendants, but you have free reign to choose who you would like to stand beside you at the ceremony. Don't feel trapped into having all male attendants or all female attendants as it is perfectly acceptable to have both male and female attendants on both sides. If you don't want any attendants, don't have them!

Choose an officiant that is supportive and has experience performing same-sex ceremonies. Some same-sex couples choose to have a friend marry them, while others go a more formal route with a state-recognized officiant. Many religions do not allow for gay marriage, so be sure to consult your religious officiant and family on how to incorporate your religious beliefs.

Celebrants are nondenominational officiants that are trained to create a personal and meaningful ceremony. If you are concerned that a Justice of the Peace is too informal or a minister is too religious, consider a Celebrant.

Same-Sex Wedding Traditions

The first year same-sex weddings were recognized legally in the United States on a state level was in May 2004 in Massachusetts. Essentially before this date, all same-sex weddings were considered Commitment Ceremonies. Since that time, same-sex wedding traditions have rapidly changed and grown. Here are some simple and authentic gay wedding traditions that stand out:

  • Many same-sex couples choose to walk down two separate aisles or from two separate directions. Why? Since the ceremony is not focused on one person coming down the aisle, it is widely practiced that the couple walk down two separate aisles and meet in the middle (with respective attendants and families). If there is only one central aisle, you can of course choose to walk down the aisle together or in any other fashion you prefer.

  • Many same-sex ceremonies will start off with champagne or a special cocktail prior to the ceremony.

  • Many same-sex ceremonies start (after the processional) with a Validation and Affirmation, which is similar to an introductory blessing.

  • Following the Validation and Affirmation, a history of the couple generally follows with an exchange of vows and rings. Typically there is not a receiving line at a gay wedding.

  • At many same-sex wedding receptions, the couple will often toast the guests for coming.

  • Some officiants of same-sex weddings will ask the couple to sign a Foundation Covenant. This covenant is based on principles similar to those found in a Jewish Ketubah, Quaker wedding certificates, and other sacred literature and texts. While the Foundation Covenant is not required, it is a great symbol of your commitment to each other that can also be displayed in your home for years to come.

    In addition to the above traditions, there are some general trends that have been seen in many same-sex weddings across the United States. These include the lack of wedding registries, engagement parties, showers, and typically, there are no garters or bouquet tosses. Even though these are trends, it does not mean you cannot have any or all of the above. The key is to make sure your wedding reflects the two of you as a couple.

    Legality of Same-Sex Ceremonies

    Same-sex ceremonies will differ from state to state, depending on your state's law concerning the legality of gay marriage. If your state does not recognize gay marriage, your legal rights as a married couple are hindered. If you want to be legally married and your state does not recognize same-sex marriage, consider eloping to one of the states that does perform legal same sex weddings. The trend shows that some states are starting to consider the recognition of legal same-sex marriages from other states, even if they are not performing them in their own state. Progress in this regard has happened slowly, however, so you may want to be legally married in one state and follow up with a fantastic party in your state to celebrate! If you decide to elope to another state that performs same-sex ceremonies, it is wise to invest in a wedding planner who can help you navigate the ins and outs of the court system, waiting period, and local wedding vendors to help make the day go off without a hitch.

    In regard to the legality of your marriage, some states offer domestic partnership options. Be sure to check with your state government's website. In addition, the federal government currently does not recognize same-sex marriages due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This is particularly important when it comes to filing your income tax returns as a married couple. You will still have to file as individuals on your federal tax return.

    A few great resources for same-sex weddings are:

  • 14 Stories (www.14stories.com).

  • Queerly Wed (www.queerlywed.com).

  • Gay Rites (www.gayrites.net).

  • Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org).

  • So Your Engayged (www.soyoureengayged.com).

  • Legally Wed DC (www.legallyweddc.com)

  • Celebrant Foundation & Institute (www.celebrantinstitute.org).

  • The unfortunate reality is that not every vendor is gay-friendly. In order to save you some time and serious frustration, always call your potential vendors to see if they are providing services to the gay community before making appointments with them.

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