Make sure "When a Man Loves a Woman" is not on your set list.
No offense to Percy Sledge.
That's just one of the pieces of advice I give when I'm talking about gay weddings. And I talk about gay weddings all the time. I've planned hundreds since 2004, when I opened my company 14 Stories, when gay marriage was legalized in the first U.S. state, Massachusetts.
We live in New York now and plan same-sex weddings here (as well as Massachusetts and in four states plus D.C. -- the other places it's legal) and since the law is new in New York, I'm frequently asked the question, "What's the difference between a straight and a gay wedding?"
The answer is -- a lot. And also -- not very much at all.
I hear it all the time, "Love is love!" But in the eyes of many family members and politicians, love is not love. And this makes planning a gay wedding much more complicated. For example, almost all of my clients have some family members (often parents) who don't accept the marriage and won't attend the wedding. It's very emotional when one of my brides tells me about her dad who won't attend the wedding. Or the groom whose mom won't dance with him -- and actually, would rather not be there.
And did you know that, in 29 U.S. states, it's legal to refuse services to a couple just because they're LGBT? Those are states where a wedding photographer could literally say to a couple, "I won't shoot your wedding because you're gay." Could you imagine hearing that when planning your own wedding? It's not fun, but it's the reality that same-sex couples face. They literally have to come out of the closet over and over again.
And then there's the matter of the aisle. Who walks down the aisle last? What if there are no brides? Or two brides? Well, we work it all out -- often with two aisles -- so each partner gets his or her moment (and I get another place to decorate).
So yes, the wedding planning is different for same-sex couples. But the weddings themselves? They look pretty similar, actually -- but they feel much different.
Same-sex weddings usually have a ceremony, cocktail hour, then dinner and dancing. Everyone sits at chairs and has a nice dinner. There are toasts and sometimes a cake cutting, but the cake topper won't be one bride and one groom. Pretty predictable stuff. But gay weddings are often not religious or traditional and frequently don't have things like receiving lines or garter tosses. Sometimes there are no wedding party members and often the dad doesn't walk his daughter down the aisle.
But the love is there and rich and in the hundreds of legal weddings in which I've been a part, there is an amazing sense of equality and spirit of triumph. The energy is exhilarating. I've had clients in their eighties, together for 40 years, and these couples can finally get married. The weddings celebrate that achievement and do not take it for granted.
In my wonderful world of gay weddings, it's not all taffeta and tulle but I do believe that we are making gay weddings equal weddings - and then someday, just "weddings". And, bit by bit, I won't be asked the question, "What's the difference between a straight and a gay wedding?"