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Planning a Gay Wedding is No Piece of Cake

Planning a Gay Wedding is No Piece of Cake

Sometimes I wonder about the theory from the far-right rhetoric-ridden side of the fence equating marriage equality to the end of the world as we all know it and love it. I was all about advocating for equal rights and opportunities for straight couples as well as gay ones before my own engagement, but now, after planning my own same-sex wedding for just about a year’s time, well, I have become an even greater force to be reckoned with on this subject.

Sometimes I wonder about the theory from the far-right rhetoric-ridden side of the fence equating marriage equality to the end of the world as we all know it and love it. I was all about advocating for equal rights and opportunities for straight couples as well as gay ones before my own engagement, but now, after planning my own same-sex wedding for just about a year’s time, well, I have become an even greater force to be reckoned with on this subject.

Sarah and Steph in one of their engagement photos by Richard Leszek

There are entire libraries of books regarding planning your special day...if you are a straight couple. The employees at Barnes & Noble and Borders were very generous in their efforts to show me their multiple rows of “Bride and Groom”-type tutorials, however, none of them seemed to work with my “special situation.” In other words, everything I picked up said “bride” and “groom” throughout, with no real way of interchanging the “groom” portion. We ended up ordering our guest book online because it had the perfect starfish beach theme to go along with our reception decorations. The box landed on our doorstep and we opened it up excitedly only to find that we had to tear out one of the pages. You know, one of the extremely unimportant first pages that said “Groom’s Guests.” No biggie. Right?

Picking out the designs for our save-the-date cards and wedding invitations was equally as fun. Working with a limited budget created its own set of issues right off the bat, but being a same-sex couple only further complicated the matter. It’s not that we didn’t have the basic color palette invitations to choose from. We did, but we wanted something a little more special. You know, like a “real” couple. As we flipped through books at the adorable little wedding stores we knew right away that our place was going to be found online. We went home, turned on both of our laptops and sat there side-by-side for hours researching different websites only to discover that we were really drawn to the more “traditional” cards (minus the groom that looked surprisingly like a male figure on the front of them – go figure). Back to square one. We finally landed our hearts on a large postcard-style wedding invitation that we both loved, but it probably took three times as long as it might have for other couples not in our “special” situation to decide upon the design. Our save-the-date cards were customized with our photo and text so that we could avoid any type of glaring “he,” “him,” “groom,” etc. phrases.

 

I have been using a lot of quotation marks in this column and this action is not arbitrary. In many ways, I feel as though gay couples -- and gay people in general -- are placed between two quotation marks in everyday life. Do you recall learning about the less-than and more-than signs in grade school? Basically, one sign points to something being less-than something else and another sign points to it being more-than something else. Along those same lines, two different numbers and objects may end up being equal-to one another. There is a sign for that, too. I imagine that the sign for gay couples getting married are the use of quotation marks. We are considered separate and not exactly equal to straight couples when planning a wedding. Sure, there are companies that exist right now that were not around ten years ago that were specifically created to aid in the planning of gay weddings, but as a whole community, we are nowhere near close to being equal. Thus, my use of quotation marks.

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But I digress. We were discussing invitations. After the save-the-date cards went out to about 100 of our closest friends and family, the wedding invitations were released to the same general population. My fiancé is a research biologist and engineering runs thick in her blood so she had created this ample spreadsheet to conduct all of our wedding business. We had gone through the wedding guest list a few times before even receiving the responses because we had a very strong idea of the people who would be there come rain or come shine. We just knew that they would not let us down and couldn’t imagine our special day without their presence. So, even before receiving their RSVP via the fill-able form on our wedding website, they were included in our bottom-line count. Can you see where this is going? Okay, good. Follow with me. The cut-off date arrived for RSVPs and my part of the spreadsheet looked pretty desperate. For various reasons, my family would be unable to attend the wedding. Furthermore, almost every single one of Steph’s friends and family would be able to make it. The contrast between our two situations was stark.

Were my “people” not going to join us on our special day because they disagreed with our impending union? Not to my knowledge. No, it seemed to be more of a situation of “I can’t be bothered and have other things to do and do not feel like wasting my energy on something that isn’t even legal” thing. Which situation hurt more? I’m not sure. Regardless, I became resigned to the fact that my fiancé’s family was going to be my new family anyway and that I should just be relieved that they were so loving, committed to our marriage and happy for us. Still, there was this nagging feeling in my stomach and in my heart and mind.

Had I not been there for all of them when they turned 50 and 60 years old and had a party to celebrate? Was I not committed to being a part of their lives on a regular basis? Did I not alter my plans to fit time with them into my extremely busy and occupied schedule? If we were a “normal” couple, would they have made the effort? Not feeling the need or desire to beg my family and friends to join me on my big day, I resigned to the fact that it was going to work itself out somehow and that it was their loss.

My partner and I definitely took some things for granted before actually embarking on the planning of the wedding. We were under the impression that our close family members would help us make the planning process as stress-free as possible by assisting us with researching and securing everything we needed. We even had the idea that some of them would offer to help financially in some way. When neither of these things occurred, we felt very isolated and unimportant. The stress of being able to afford everything we needed coupled with all of the family stress was enough to make us drink. And drink we did! We opened up a bottle of wine every night for a week at one point to, you know, try them for the wedding….right… 

What was most confusing to us was that some of the people we were having issues with were gay themselves. They had been in long-term relationships for years (I’m talking 10, 20 years here). At one point, one of them flat-out asked us why we were even having a ceremony because it wasn’t even legal…to our faces. Not sure how to react to such a bold and rude comment, we ignored it. He and his partner couldn’t make it after all. Surprise. Again, their loss. Some things become broken in situations like weddings, funerals, etc. and cannot be fixed. 

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So, with the guest list whittled down and about 60 people definitely planning to attend, there were other matters to resolve in order to finalize our planning. We obtained a permit for the beach ceremony, ordered the flowers, chairs and reserved the reception hall. We also booked a bunch of hotel rooms for our guests and created the party favors (real sand dollars decorated with our names and wedding date). We typed up our vows and made changes to the verbiage announcing us “husband and wife” and so on.

Their party favors!

The beach!

The reception hall!

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Following the initial items above, we took a trip over to the beach where our destination wedding was going to be held later in the summer and ordered our gorgeous three tiered ganache-enriched wedding cake. Ivory roses and blue hydrangeas would decorate the delicious decadence. Our pastry chef was gay friendly (this was important to us and we made sure to use vendors who made us feel like any other “normal” couple) and we absolutely adored our cake tasting that day at the beach.

Back to the beach!

Cake!

Planning the menu was just about last on our list and, with the help of our amazing wedding planner and officiant, we were able to get just the right vendor to work for us and what we needed. The cost was low, but the quality was high and priceless. After sipping a bunch of different types of wine to find out what we liked best, we chose our favorite white and red and ordered a few cases of each. We ordered the linens, silverware, decorations and everything else we could possibly need. Most of it was done online through various wedding websites. Again, there are some same-sex websites that are great, but we definitely need more options and opportunities available to us as an LGBT community.

I would love the opportunity at some point to sit down with anti-gay, same-sex marriage opponents and ask them a few simple questions. Like – why in the world would anyone spend more money than they make in months in order to get married and commit to someone in a community setting unless it meant something real and important to them? Especially when it’s not even recognized by the federal government? Do you think we just want to throw money and a year of our lives away? And – why would anyone agree to undergo as much stress as a gay couple while planning their wedding unless there was a good, responsible reason to do so? It is my opinion that heterosexuals do not have to go through half of the trouble that we do when planning a wedding.

I’d like to state the following in conclusion. We can’t accidentally get pregnant and be forced into marriage. We can’t rely on our family members to help us financially or even emotionally in many cases and yet we still want to marry the person we love. We deserve the right to marry and be legally recognized because we want it more. I have a proposition for anti-gay, same-sex marriage opponents out there. When you can figure out how to stop straight couples from divorcing, the LGBT community will stop marrying. Deal? (This should get us at least another 10,000 years of “free” and “equal” marriage rights). 

Main photo credit: Richard Leszek

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Sarah Toce