We didn't start out wanting a big wedding. My partner proposed to me on a gorgeous summer morning in June. That afternoon we went for a hike, walking together on a blissful cloud of love, and naturally began discussing how we envisioned our wedding.
She revealed that she had always wanted a beach wedding. I wanted to incorporate elements of my pagan spirituality in the ceremony. We both agreed it had to be in the summer. Since we don't have a lot of money, we thought a simple party in one of Vancouver's lovely beach parks would be perfect. We'd invite 30 or so people, immediate family and our closest friends, and have a potluck picnic. Simple, inexpensive, no frills.
Then a funny thing happened. We announced our engagement by emailing everyone a photo slideshow I had created, and a lot of people got really excited. And we got more excited along with them. When we first sat and wrote down all the names of the people we wanted to be there, we had over 100! If we stayed with our original “intimate wedding” plan, that meant NOT inviting a lot of people that we loved, and who loved us.
We got to thinking — this is a major life event, and should be celebrated properly! We are undervaluing our wedding and treating it like a kid's birthday party in a park! This isn't good enough for family to fly across the country for! We are completely committed to building a life together 'til death do us part, so we might as well kick that off with a helluva party. We realized we wanted a real wedding.
What's a real wedding?
Every couple has their own answer to that question, but it's a very potent (and political) one for same-sex couples. We are lucky enough to live in Canada where it has been legal since 2004, and I am so thankful for that. We are also lucky enough to have supportive and loving families, so planning a more formal wedding wasn't our way of making our relationship more “legitimate” in their eyes — but I know that IS the case for some.
Same-sex weddings are still new enough that a lot of people wonder how different they will be compared to a straight wedding. I suspect that some straight people automatically think that all queers are alternative, counter-culture types and in their minds gay wedding = rainbow musical theatre circus. Or something to that effect. I guess they just don't know how many conservative, mild-mannered queers there are out there, who plan black tie formals and get married in churches.
Some people expect them to be different, for a variety of personal reasons and pop culture assumptions. We hear more about the challenges couples face with their non-traditional wedding plans, but how about the challenges/criticisms/judgements we face when we choose to include tradition? I have personally experienced this — close family and friends expressing their disappointment in our more conventional ideas in not so tactful ways. My mother hoped we would elope. Others have openly displayed their surprise that we were having a bridal party.
I was hurt — do they think my wedding is less cool now that they know there will be flower girls and a father-daughter dance? And I was confused — WHY should a same-sex wedding be so different from a straight wedding?
Maybe because heteros have had a few thousand years of the right to marry, they feel more free to mess with tradition, whereas same-sex couples are taking it more seriously. To prove to their parents, friends, themselves, and society at large that this is a real wedding.
I didn't set out to make my wedding gay, but by having two women at the altar we are put in that category by default. I feel that I am planning pretty much the same kind of wedding I would have wanted whether I was marrying a man, or a woman (personal note: I did at one point in my late 20's get very close to marrying a man). This celebration will reflect who we are as individuals, not as gay people.
The heart of this party is the joining together of two people in love, and their two families becoming one. Truly, this is what has sustained us when we had our doubts about it all — we want our parents, siblings, extended family and our circle of friends to meet each other and share in this one special day together.
I know that it will be the first same-sex wedding for most of our guests, myself included! I hope that afterwards, even if they hadn't thought much about it before, our guests will go home and muse on the fact that ours was just like any other wedding. And I hope that this realization will have a ripple effect that eventually encompasses the entire world, as more people will accept that our love is like any other love and can be celebrated in any way we choose.