Something I’ve realized as we’ve started planning the wedding is that as accepting as our friends and family are about two ladies getting married, it’s just not that popular in the larger wedding industrial complex. I mean, duh. I know that, you know that. We all are painfully aware that the struggle for marriage equality continues to be a tough fight, even though attitudes in the public are shifting towards equality (thanks, NY!). However, I was naively unprepared for facing the fact, over and over again, that what Anne and I are doing is so revolutionary! My revelation (and later revolution) started online, as they often do. While I had of course turned to So You’re Engayged (way before our actual engagement) and other awesome wed-sites like A Practical Wedding, (who just did an awesome LGBTQ series featuring some familiar SYE voices, and who will be doing some more marriage equality stuff on the horizon) I also wanted some organizational tools to help me figure out “How to have a (gay) wedding.”
I started my internet-based wedding planning at the mothership, TheKnot.com. I went there because it seemed the thing to do, and because I had heard they featured gay weddings. I signed up for an account and only two days after getting engaged I was apparently way behind – I had like 197 overdue items on my Knot checklist! I had sort of hoped for the best when we got to sign up as “bride” and “bride” on the login page. But the equality ended there, save for a quick mention on the not-updated-very-often Real Gay Weddings page. Instead, I had to go through my super-over-due checklist and manually delete all the “groom” stuff, even though I never signed up for a groom! I found more of the same on similar sites, and concluded they all really just want to make a buck. Whether it be on one bride and one groom or two of each, they wanted to sell me the dream of the perfect wedding – the perfect bride(s), the perfect groom(s), and the perfectly monogrammed napkins. It wasn’t for me, in so many ways.
I was disheartened at having to put in the extra effort, but was still basking in the glow of love and support from our friends and family so I plodded on. I started talking with vendors by phone and email, I found myself using gender-neutral language, saying partner and we and all that ambiguous stuff. I don’t know what I was trying to do, trick them? So that on the wedding day I could be like “Surprise! We’re both chicks!” I spoke with a coordinator at one site, who congratulated me on finding Mr. Right. I was met with a few extra beats of silence at another when I asked if they’d done same sex weddings before (the answer was unsurprisingly No). And at David’s Bridal, when asked for my groom’s name and whether we’d be looking at tuxes, I responded actually it’s two brides and no thank you on the tuxes and the salesgirl froze and then nervously turned to her manager (I still get calls and postcards from the Men’s Warehouse via David’s asking if my husband has picked out a suit yet. First of all, it’s not a husband until you’re married. And second of all, I don’t want a husband or a suit!). I realized I had to step up my game.
I felt like it was unfair that I had to constantly come out to strangers, explain my relationship and our roles (Q: which one is the bride? A: Uh, both of us?). I guess I had forgotten that we are two women, two brides. We have been, at least for the past few years, surrounded by support and acceptance and haven’t really had to struggle with much homophobia, and not even much heteronormativity in any formal way. I hadn’t thought of our lives as being particularly revolutionary, or alternative, or political. But every time I was asked for my groom’s name or had to correct their “he’s” with “she’s,” I realized that what we are doing – committing to a lifetime with each other – is really rocking the world’s boat a little bit. Like a good feminist, I was really getting another life lesson in how the personal is political, and together we were certain that our personal choices were going to support our political beliefs in equality.
I shifted my approach after that. I right off the bat asked vendors about their experiences with same-sex weddings, and I didn’t penalize them if they didn’t have any. Instead, I then asked about their position on marriage equality, like so:
Have you photographed/hosted/worked at same sex weddings before? If so, could we see a sample of your work from these events? If not, what is your stance on marriage equality? We are looking to include local vendors who truly support marriage equality in all aspects of our celebration, so it’s important that we ask and have an opportunity to discuss this with you. Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you!
Some vendors didn’t email back (an obvious lack of support, or at least a lack of good customer service). Some simply said they didn’t have a stance on marriage equality, so I thanked them and hung up after telling them that I think they’d benefit from learning more about it and that I’d be taking my business to a vendor who supports it/me/us. And so many more than I expected responded with heartfelt support and a total endorsement of their belief in the importance of marriage equality. I could tell that for many of them, it wasn’t just about making a buck off the gays. It was truly about supporting love and marriage in all its forms, in allowing equality to grow and flourish. Unsurprisingly, those are the vendors we’re working with – the ones who are beyond cool about us being two brides (and while I hate the fact that we have to seek acceptance from people we are paying to do work for us, it’s nice to know these people aren’t too hard to find. Just check the SYE Vendor list for a start!).
Our photographers totally passed the essay portion of the test by responding to my initial inquiry with: “We photographed a same sex wedding this past year and I can definitely show you some images! Both of us believe that marriage equality is a basic civil right and wholeheartedly support your cause. We would love to be part of capturing your love and this celebration of it!” I was disappointed not to see photos of a same sex wedding on their website, but loved that they sent us hundreds of photos of the wedding they had just recently shot with two lovely brides. Just recently, when I told them I was blogging and wanted to take the opportunity to encourage them to become SYE approved vendors, they noted that they will be updating their website soon to better reflect the diversity of their clients (I may need to push a little more to get them to fill out the application!). Our reception site has hosted a number of same-sex weddings before (one of which was not featured on their website but proudly displayed on their photographer’s webpage), but their wedding coordinator there was very open? accepting? normal? to us and even offered suggestions for how to get two brides down the aisle. When we went to register, I was ready for a battle when I had to cross out “groom” on all the paperwork and then was handed a tote bag with two beaming straight couples pasted onto the sides, but our registrant Linda gave us a hearty “congratulations” and said she was so happy for us. She seemed genuine, even if she only wanted us to sign up for nice towels and a salad bowl. Our DJ simply congratulated us and started talking about music. Importantly, our vendors have all used gender-neutral/gender-inclusive language in their contracts. In doing so they have, intentionally or otherwise, joined us in our revolutionary act of love.
So, lovely readers – Did you know that you are part of a revolution?!? How awesome is that? Or, how much does it suck to have to fight to love someone? How have you dealt with your own expectations, others’ reactions, the wedding industrial complex at large? Any surprises, for better or worse?