Same-Sex Weddings Aren’t All That Different

Now that marriage equality has come to Pennsylvania, I am getting many inquiries from same-sex couples. It’s an exciting time.

What a great couple!

Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote in 2004 that: “Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support…. It is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.

Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

This is exactly why anyone wants to get married, and I’m proud to stand up for equality and be a small part of social change that brings more love into the world. If you have any doubt on this issue I advocate that you always choose to be on the side of love.

So …now that I’m done pontificating: if you’re wondering about how to approach some of the details of same sex marriages – here are a few ideas and pointers, for couples and for guests.

Processional: If they are on-board have the parents escort each partner in. Or have the couple enter together. This is especially great for couples who have been together a long time. Another processional option is to have each partner walk in from a different direction. Again, I’ve also done this with straight couples, bringing up the obvious point that same-sex weddings are not really significantly different than opposite-sex weddings.

Attendants (bridesmaids/groomsmen) – have both men and women standing on either side. In fact, it is no longer required that only men stand with a groom and only woman stand with a bride. For everyone I advocate that you just have the people you want standing with you.

Notice how they organized the attendants!

Ceremony Language: When I’m not pronouncing the couple as ‘husband and wife,’ I’ve settled on ‘good and truly married,’ at least for the moment. This could change, but for now I like this so much I’m using it for straight couples sometimes.

Addressing the issue of same-sex marriage: I always discuss this with the couple –  it can be very meaningful to make a statement about the difficulties, barriers and discrimination that same-sex couples have faced, and the joy and hope for our future with the progress we have made as a society. It takes bravery for a gay or lesbian couple to stand in front of their family and friends and publicly declare their marriage commitment, when there are still so many people who do not accept it.

Guests: Your support means a lot to the couple, but don’t bring up comparisons to heterosexual couple’s weddings. Don’t expect an over-the-top affair, or otherwise stereotype. Keep your expectations down to earth. Go with the flow.

Wedding cards for same-sex couples are readily available these days. The couple will appreciate that you took the time to find the right one!

Guests – please use the couple’s preferred terminology. Not every woman getting married is, or wants to be called, a bride; not every man thinks of himself as a groom. Let the couple guide you in your use of words, and if you’re not sure, ask, or just use their names. And please continue to follow this guideline after the wedding. Not every married woman is a wife. Not every married man is a husband — if someone always refers to her “partner,” do not say, “How’s your wife?” If you find it impossible to respect language preferences, consider living in a cave or uninhabited island.

With the growing acceptance of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, we open ourselves up to new ways of thinking, and we all learn and grow. Many of the ideas for the minority, that is in this case, for same-sex couples, will influence the majority of people in creative, egalitarian and meaningful ways.


Thank you to Susie Forrester for the beautiful photos!

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