Planning a destination wedding is almost the same regardless of whether it's a straight or same-sex wedding. The elements are the same, the logistics are the same, and the client services are the same. It's the way the wedding weekends for gay grooms or lesbian brides actually turn out that make them so very obviously different when we see the actual groups in action. Gay and lesbian weddings are more dissimilar than straight and same-gender weddings, interestingly enough.
Every wedding is a learning experience - and every couple is unique. The decisions about name-changing, who will be toasting and whether there will be a bouquet toss are up to the brides and the grooms - and yes, we've had a gay groom toss his bridesmaid's bouquet before too! But there are some things that were learning experiences for me as I planned and executed a lot of same-sex wedding in the last 24 months and I'm sharing them with all of you:
1. Gay weddings tend to have larger budgets. I'm sorry, but it's true. The double-income, no-kids thing combined with the higher wages earned by men serves to give them a wedding planning budget advantage that a lot of my lesbian couples don't have. Lesbians want the same things, but they cannot afford them. So what happens is that they give up a lot of the over-the-top fun stuff they would have liked to have at their wedding while the gay couples are able to afford it. One of the bigger gay weddings I planned included more than 1,500 red roses, just in the centerpieces!!! That said, the glass ceiling is on its way out and we're seeing lesbian wedding budgets increase. Shelly and Anna recently threw a posh four days of events for their guests that included bringing in a calypso band from another island. Check out this awesome behind-the-scene video created to see what I mean!
2. Gay wedding groups gets wayyy more out of control than lesbian guests in the days before and after the actual wedding - and at the reception After Hours party. Don't get me wrong - the lesbians party hard and have a great time, but they're not all hooking up with each other and turning the wedding weekend into a sex fest (except on one occasion a few years ago and that was a straight wedding and all the women kissing in the pool were active duty military... just sayin'). I've had several of my gay clients complain that their friends did not treat their wedding weekends with the appropriate solemnity the occasion called for, and I actually blogged about it awhile ago at their request.
3. Lesbians will want to DIY some parts and pieces of their weddings and gay men do not. Gay grooms want to tell me exactly what they need and have it appear as if by magic - and we can do that. Our lesbian couples have consistently spent more time crafting, hand-painting, designing and being otherwise personally creative with their wedding décor. I don't know if this is because more girls are into crafting than men (don't know whether gay guys sit around the coffee table at night making jewelry for fun like so many women do) or if it's because they're trying to avoid the budget busters in their welcome bags and favors. But lesbians definitely take a more "hands-on" approach to their wedding décor.
4. The guest lists at gay and lesbian weddings are usually vastly different. Gay weddings are usually comprised, in the whole, of the wedding couple, their families, a few other gay couples, and a whole lot of straight people. Lesbian weddings have, for the most part, been the exact opposite, with a guest list comprised of their families and almost entirely other lesbian couples and singles. It's rare, although not unheard of, to see gay couples at lesbian weddings, and vice versa. I'm being taught by my clients and good gay friends that lots of gays and lesbians don't really like to play with each other socially. I'm not sure why, but that's how it is.
5. Photography is much, much more important to the lesbians than the gay grooms. In fact if you're having a lesbian wedding and both brides are wearing beautiful wedding gowns, you'd better plan on having two photographers on hand all night long or you can end up with some unintended stress and consequences. Most women, gay or straight, love to see themselves as princesses on their wedding day - and for many of us, that's going to be the only time we're truly dressed up as Cinderella. So they want lots and lots of pictures. Most want video too. Gay grooms, in my experience, behave the exact same as their straight counterparts. They want to take the pictures, but let's get them over with as fast as possible because they're there to party after the ceremony.
6. The music is usually better at gay weddings. That's not ALWAYS true, but most of the time, it's the gay men who create the club vibe at their receptions. Lesbians' playlists are usually more in line with straight weddings (the Grease mix, Bruno Mars, Jason Mraz, the guy with the ukulele) and also include an unusual mix of Pink, Alanis Morissette and a host of other of angry female artists that you NEVER hear at straight weddings. Our staff actually likes the mix-up because we're sick of the same-old, same-old, but it's fun to see the difference. One couple brought a well-known lesbian DJ from their hometown to run the party - she was awesome but she blew out the sound system in the process. Oops.
Remember, these are my observations and all of them have exceptions - but I've done almost as many gay as straight weddings in the past year, and we've learned a lot in the process. Everything I learn helps me to be a better planner for the next same-sex event I plan - now I have good suggestions about how to handle the invitation wording, the aisle, the first dance and anything else that has gay and lesbian couples nervous.
I was nervous when I ran my first gay wedding rehearsal because there's no "traditional" etiquette to fall back on. So I've worked closely with clients to create tasteful options along the way, and filled in the Wediquette blanks that Emily Post never could have thought of when she wrote her first book. Now I'm the self-proclaimed Queen of Gay Wediquette and when questions pop up, I'm happy to share what I've learned.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques!