In these abundant moments of social and political chaos, I’ve been grateful for moments of joy. Birthday parties, drinks with friends, and weddings have become delightful respites from the madness.
I remember reading posts on my Facebook newsfeed several years ago about how strange and funny gay weddings would be. What would you call the wedding party, ‘groomsbrides’? Lolololol no offense!” Same-sex weddings were unfamiliar to some folks, and that made them fodder for cheap jokes. In the years since, the question of “what would gay weddings even look like” has been answered hundreds, maybe thousands of times over. It’s clear now that imaginations that were too small to picture such events back then were more indicative of personal limitations, rather than practical ones.
In the three years since the Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, we gays haven’t wasted any time getting hitched. On 8/18/18 (the most popular wedding date of the year according to The Knot), I got to stand beside my longtime friend as she wed her partner of 14 years. While my wife and I recounted the wedding details later that night, we realized that of the six weddings we’d attended in the last few years (excluding our own), five of them were for same-sex couples.
I consider myself a gay wedding veteran at this point. And, I’ve been thinking about how gay weddings differ from straight ones, and about how they allow us to include traditional customs and expand beyond them in significant ways. Check it.
- The Wedding Party – It’s been fun watching how couples describe the traditional roles for the people who stand with them during a wedding. You could go, “Best Woman” or “Man of Honor.” In my girl’s nuptials, I was given the title, Woman of Honor and her sister was the Maid of Honor. On the other bride’s side, she was supported by her Best Man and her groomswoman. Civil marriages are themselves reflections of heteronormativity, a culture that some in our community shun. But I don’t mind it so much. And, more important, I like that we still find a way to make these heteronormative traditions, well, queer.
- The Outfits – Who says bridesmaids or groomswomen have to be in dresses? Or that groomsmen or bridesmen have to wear suits? Our wedding party was composed entirely of women. I wanted each of them in custom tuxedos. In the end, we went with badass little black dresses, and our ladies looked incredible. But, if I’d gotten my way, they’d have all been Bond and Bond girls at the same damn time.
- The Creativity – Although same-sex marriages have been legal for across the country for a couple of years now, wedding vendors aren’t all the way caught up. For some wedding details, same-sex couples have to get creative, or resourceful. Cake toppers, for example, don’t usually come with two brides. If they do, the figurines are likely to be dressed in gowns, which also may not be quite right.
- The Breaks [with traditional gender and family roles]: My favorite thing about gay weddings is the way they bend or outright flout gender roles. I love seeing brides and grooms escorted down the aisle by their mothers, or brides being escorted by both parents, or brides who walk down the aisle alone. There’s a kind of poetry to us using this custom that we’ve been locked out of for most of modern history, in our own ways.
The last point is why I sometimes wonder if gay weddings and marriages are the most ideal form of the institution. Straight marriages often seem so consumed with the roles that men and women are supposed to perform that they fail to account for who a person is, in addition to being male or female.
To be sure, gay relationships have their own relationship/family role dynamics, but they don’t seem as rigid as straight ones. When both people in a couple are women, it’s tough to make the kinds of demands that straight couples make (e.g., you gotta “submit” to me because you’re a woman and the Bible says so.) There’s really no religious or social or cultural dogma that guides gay relationships and marriages in the way that religion often guides straight ones. I think queerness is liberating in that regard, as are queer relationships.
Cover photo: HuffPost