Weddings are the great equalizer in America. Regardless of the style or budget, for many families, weddings are an expected rite of passage. The fairytale. The mother's dream. The father's pride.
Bit by bit, same-sex couples are being invited to participate in this rite of passage. And as crazy as it sounds, I believe gay weddings change the world. Gay weddings show young LGBT kids that it really does get better. They create a ripple effect which can lead to profound social change.
Think about it ... you may know a great unmarried gay couple who have been together for years. But do you know or celebrate their anniversary? I've seen it firsthand many times: no matter how accepted and loved that couple may be by their straight friends and family, the experience of a legal wedding finally makes them equal. Those anniversaries finally count.
In many states, the right of who may marry falls in the hands of the voters. And for same-sex couples, that's a very dangerous proposition. Just ask all the LGBT people of California, where there were 18,000 legal same-sex weddings for six months in 2008 before the voters decided otherwise by passing Proposition 8. How would you like your right of whom to marry to be decided by voters? No fun.
And since the voters and the politicians have so much power over the civil rights of the minority, I believe it's my responsibility as a gay wedding planner to make every wedding count and every guest cry. Many of my clients have felt an obligation to invite guests who weren't totally on board with the gay wedding thing -- guests who showed up anyway but were clearly less than thrilled to be there. I want those guests to cry! I want to see tears of equality. Tears of "Finally they are equal!" Or perhaps tears of "Wow, that couple is just like me."
Those tears of equality become stories told to friends, neighbors, co-workers and hopefully elected officials. Those stories create a ripple effect and, as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. once said, "Those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Those stories matter at the ballot box where those wedding guests and their friends, neighbors and co-workers take marriage equality into account when they decide how to vote. The stories from the weddings hopefully prevent additional "Prop 8s."
If I'm not creating a wedding so poignant that the guests are deeply moved, then I'm missing an opportunity to change the world. It all starts with the marriage ceremony. And sure I'm a gay wedding planner who is paid to plan pretty parties, but I feel a much greater (perhaps idealistic) calling to impact society through weddings.
Did you ever think changing the world could start with a wedding?
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Follow Bernadette Coveney Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gaywedding