“Which one of you is the bride?” the event planner asked when my friends Emma and Leigh stepped into the resort’s office for their wedding-planning appointment.
“We both are,” said Emma.
“Two weddings?” the planner tried again.
“No, we’re marrying each other,” answered Leigh.
The silence hung there between them, an achingly long pause.
The planner shook his head with all the subtlety of a chimpanzee. “We’re not set up for that. We just cannot do that. I’m sorry.”
Emma swallowed hard. She wanted to run out of the office, but she summoned her courage.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “What’s so hard about two women marrying each other? How are you not set up for it?”
“I’m sorry, it’s not up to me, OK? The owner is a devout Christian.” The vendor paused, likely wondering how to proceed without creating a lawsuit or a scandal.
Emma and Leigh looked at each other. They wanted to marry here among the warm weather, palm trees and ocean breeze, but was it worth the fight? The questions, the incomprehension, the dismissal, the rejection?
Emma took Leigh’s hand and said, “We’ll take our business somewhere else.”
They left without another word, but filled with worry, shame and sadness.
Two years ago this month, the Supreme Court ruled that all people have the right to marry. That’s real progress, but huge obstacles to true marriage equality remain.
Through my website Equally Wed, I’ve been in the business of celebrating and inspiring LGBTQ+ weddings for more than seven years, and now I have written a book on the same topic: Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding. The stories of pain and discrimination my readers face haven’t drastically changed. The Supreme Court’s decision is a huge step, but the danger of coming out is still very real—and we have to come out when we plan our weddings.
For every couple who is celebrated by both of their families when their engagement is announced, there are at least three times as many who do not enjoy the gift of complete acceptance from at least one family member. And that hurts. It is painful to not be able to send your wedding invitations out to people who light up your life but you know they’ll decline to come to your wedding because as much as they love you, they just can’t show up for that. It’s excruciating to wonder who will stand up for you on your wedding day after your parents or family members are dismissive of your wedding plans when they’re overjoyed for your siblings entering into a heterosexual cisgender union.
We’re queer and we know we’re different. It’s okay to be separate from the pack, wild and free from the heteronormative constraints of assumptions and societal expectations. But when people fear us for our otherness—and then disrespect us, even in our own families, it’s like the ground collapsing beneath us when all we want is to be loved and held by the support system we deserve.
The fear of experiencing rejection when planning one of the biggest days of our lives can be paralyzing. And the fear is not unfounded.
We see this when we speak with potential advertisers who don’t want to “turn off their regular customers” by associating themselves with an LGBTQ+ wedding magazine. We see it when we’re visiting venues and we ask about two suites for couples to get ready in instead of just one, and they tell us that other couples will just have to deal with what they have, that they’re not going to make special exceptions for anyone. But all we’re asking for is equality—not exceptions.
At Equally Wed, we’re in the business of providing solutions to our LGBTQ+ couples. We have articles and advice on conquering the fear of talking with homophobic and transphobic relatives—or letting them go from your lives. We vet vendors and venues for their equality-mindedness before we sign them as advertising partners. We come from a place of understanding, believing in safe spaces for you to be yourself to celebrate your love. We’re not yet in a place of total freedom but we’re getting there, one brave act of visible love at a time.