What makes a wedding “real”: Why our gay wedding will be traditional

Guest post by mtnhoney
Kole and Kel (1)

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.

Comments on What makes a wedding “real”: Why our gay wedding will be traditional

  1. I’d just also like to add, that my original title was “The Right to Marry WHO and HOW we want to!”, OBB chose, “Why our gay wedding will be traditional”.

    I don’t want all the traditions, just some of them. For a lot of our guests, it will be not only the first lesbian wedding, but the first handfasting they have been to.

    We are embracing customs from our ancestry, and mixing in our personal styles, and honoring some western culture traditions. Either way, it will be a blast.

    • Yes, this! My lovely other and I are Pagan also. We had our handfasting last year and are incorporating it into our wedding this year. We have 6 weeks to go after being engaged for 2 years and people are STILL asking us if we’re going to do this or that. We took a very NONtraditional approach to our wedding because we are, as individuals, nontraditional. We didn’t want flowers at our wedding so we aren’t. Do you know how many people have gawked at that decision? To each their own! Be fabulous is whatever it is that makes you feel fabulous! Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and handfasting! Many blessings upon you and yours!

  2. Much like one of the comments above, insinuating that hetero couples that have non-traditional weddings aren’t taking things seriously isn’t kosher. I also think the idea you shared about a wedding in the park = an undervalued kid’s birthday party is really offensive.

    I’m not trying to be dramatic or flame, but why are people still justifying why they want a certain type or style of wedding by undercutting someone else’s wedding?

    I’m really happy for you two that you figured out the kind of wedding you both wanted to have and you made it work.

    • As someone whose het wedding basically felt EXACTLY like a kid’s birthday party in the park, I totally respect the fact that not everyone wants that kind of wedding.

      We’ve talked a lot on Offbeat Bride about how construction is more difficult than demolition, but given the context here, I think it makes perfect sense for this author to explore what she wants in reaction to what others have done. We wouldn’t have run the piece if it didn’t fit with Offbeat Bride’s values.

    • Oh dear, I am so sorry. I guess ruffling a few feathers is the price I pay for having a blog featured on OBB! In no way did I mean to insinuate that a picnic wedding in a park is less special or less legitimate. My partner and I simply felt like it wasn’t enough to ask family to spend thousands of dollars in airfare and hotels to come have a picnic with us. We still loved the idea however, so we are compromising by hosting a picnic lunch the following day.

      I LOVE non-traditional weddings, and my choice of the word “serious” is causing some readers to lose the point of my thesis: we can choose to have whatever kind of wedding we want whether we are gay or straight. Don’t expect straight weddings to be formal and gay ones to be casual.

      • Hi again. Just wanted to say that the frustration in my original comment wasn’t directed at you, really, but at the general tone of “we’re just like you” that I find can tend to dominate marriage equality discussions. That, and the editorial decision to change the title muddied the waters by implying a correlation between “real” weddings and tradition that it seems wasn’t yours to begin with. These things are tricky, and I get where they were coming from in re-titling to grab the reader’s attention. I’m sure they weren’t thinking about all the complicated layers of implication in that new headline and had no intention of creating controversy.

        I think it’s good to have these kinds of discussions when things come up so that none of us become complacent in our use of language or in assuming that just because we’re all “offbeat” or “queer” (or fill-in-the-blank) that we all necessarily experience things the same way. Sometimes the written format makes things seem so serious, though, when in conversation the tone would be much lighter. Don’t let this exchange weigh too heavily on you.

  3. Where weddings are concerned I hate the words traditional and nontraditional. Why can’t we all just have the wedding we feel like having, without the labels? My dress is white (though with awesome blue/green/purple floral details) but it’s not because I wanted the traditional white dress…Its just that the dress I love happens to be mostly white. I’m a Pagan but my ceremony is going to be Pagan lite, I’m adding things for my own spirituality needs but also making sure it’s…”us” my FH is a “Pagan leaning agnostic” so why should our ceremony be filled with my religion? I think you guys should be able to have the wedding you feel like having, and no one bug you about it. I wish the U.S. at large would follow Canada’s example 🙂

  4. Oh, so excited to find you over here, West Coast Bride :-). And I think your wedding will be beautiful & Real. Though I will say as a hetero- I still struggled trying to find a wedding that felt “real.” It took me a long time to comes to term with the fact we were going to have to rent a generic venue in order to hold all our families (No sentimental family property or first date place for us…!).

  5. I’m pretty sure people might not think your wedding is real because you both look like wedding photo models…. too pretty to be real. Good luck and good celebrations to you!

  6. When my bride and I were first planning our wedding I was very anti-tradition, believing that since we were not a “traditional” couple in the eyes of society, we shouldn’t have a “traditional” marriage. But all that has changed. We are a traditional couple – we’re two people in love who want to join our families and have a future together. The more we planned, the more we incorporated traditional elements, and I feel really good about that.

  7. Great to read this! My partner and I feel the same way about our wedding. We want everyone to share in our special day witness how “normal” our love really is. 🙂 congrats!! Love the pic by the way 🙂

  8. Ooh, right there with you. We’re in NY, where some of the novelty of a same-sex wedding has worn off, but we definitely have felt like EVERYTHING was up for being defined the way we want it to be (which is great) and also like EVERYTHING is up for assumptions/blank stares (which means constantly explaining where politics or tradition or convention stop and us as individuals begin) from EVERYONE (from curious coworkers to good friends to family who have just barely heard of the whole gay wedding thing). Are our outfits a statement of a butch/femme identity that we’re trying to convey or do I just feel really awkward in heels? I feel like a clydesdale in heels. Are our dads not walking us down the aisle because we don’t need to get all patriarchal about it? Yes, plus some other reasons. Why are there dinosaurs on the invitations? Because dinosaurs are awesome. We figure nearly every element of our wedding will have some people sighing with joy and some people looking confused. As long as it means what we want it to, we’re OK with that.

  9. “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.”

    Yes! THANK YOU! I’m planning my wedding to another woman, and I’ve run up against so many annoying assumptions. Sometimes I just want to scream at people that the gender of the person I’m marrying is completely irrelevant. *sigh* It’s a wedding. A real wedding.

  10. “We are undervaluing our wedding and treating it like a kid’s birthday party in a park!”

    Hey, nothing wrong with a park party. 😀 I understand you want the “big white wedding” experience and that’s great, but you don’t need those things. Your family and friends will just feel happy to witness your marriage, no matter what kind of party you host. You said that “this isn’t good enough for family to fly across the country for!” as if you owe everyone a big show for attending, and I found that kind of sad because those people are flying in because they love you. How could any wedding not be “good enough” for your loved ones to want to experience? Please don’t feel that way.

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