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Queeries: "Is There a New Gay Wedding Etiquette?"

08/02/2011 11:43 am ET | Updated Oct 02, 2011

"When are you guys getting married?"

Q: We're going out of our minds. Ever since New York passed the law allowing same-sex couples to get married there (no matter where they live), every straight person we know wants to know when we're getting hitched. A lot of our gay friends are asking, too. It's become oppressive. Is there new gay wedding etiquette about this? Help!

A: You, too? I've joked to some friends that I feel like Mary Richards (from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, for you young 'uns). It seemed that the world wouldn't be quite right until she got married (even though she never did). Like Mary all those years ago, some of us are in no rush to the altar.

So hurray that we've won the right to marry in the Empire State, but that doesn't mean we have the obligation to. Let's hold on for just a New York minute here and remind our well-intentioned friends, gay and straight, that marriage isn't the right choice for every couple.

But how do we say it? Oddly, it's easier to be nasty-nice to a blatantly rude person (not that I recommend that) than to friends or family members with foot-in-mouth disease. Still, there are a number of ways you can answer the call-to-the-altar:

  • "You'll be the first to know, after we decide who's going to propose to the other--but don't hold your breath."
  • "We're talking to our accountant to figure out whether this makes sense for us financially. It doesn't for everyone."
  • "Believe it or not, we're philosophically opposed to marriage. It's a heterosexual rite that hasn't worked for them -- and we don't want any part of it." (But then, please do smile to soften your oratory.)
  • "It ain't broke, so we ain't fixing it."

And if you're one of those who's a carrier of this particular form of foot-in-mouth disease, take a powder and hold back on the inquisition! (And yes, this situation is a perfect example of the new gay wedding etiquette dilemmas!)

"What, you're getting married again?"

Q: I have some very close friends who LOVE getting domestic partnered, civil union-ed, and married. I think they've had four ceremonies in the past decade and I'm sure they're going to get married in New York now that they can. My question: How many gifts do they deserve?

A: Wow, this sounds very complicated, when it's really not. First off, no one ever "deserves" a gift -- giving is always voluntary. Next, I can't help but feel that there's some snarkiness in your question (or is it jealousy)? Have these friends celebrated each legal relationship as it became available to them? That doesn't sound wrong to me. If we had true marriage equality in this country, as they do in Canada, life would be easy (and fair): one ceremony, one gift.

Now, let's take a step back. Gifts are expressions of our love and support for the couple. When straight friends remarry (or when a longtime couple decides to renew their vows), the "right" thing to do is, in fact, to give another present. It needn't be expensive -- especially if you went all out the first time -- but it's a symbolic expression of your good wishes.

As for same-sex couples who have been discriminated against and marginalized for all time in this country, how can we not be joyous of their right to have a state-sanctioned wedding and show our joy and respect with a gift -- whether it's another toaster (include the gift receipt), a bottle of sparkling wine, or a charitable contribution to Freedom to Marry or any of the other excellent non-profits seeking marriage equality?

And don't forget to write a note, which may be the most memorable part of your "gift." Something along these lines goes a long way:

Dear Suzanna and Marcie,

I know how much it means to you to finally have your relationship recognized by the state you live in. Let's hope that it won't be long before the feds also acknowledge you as a legal couple! With much love,

Victoria

By the way, I asked a friend of mine about this whole question and she said: "What's all this hemming and hawing about a gift? Think about how long we've been left out, how many weddings we've been to, and how much money we've spent on wedding gifts. F*ck that!" I wouldn't put it that way myself, but I don't disagree. Don't begrudge your friends a wedding gift if they decide to marry -- they've been waiting a long time for this, and they probably want your love and support a lot more than they want or need another candy dish.

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Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. Got a question, send it to: ask@gaymanners.com