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The New Etiquette of Same-Sex Weddings

Should the brides get dressed together?
Terry deRoy Gruber, of NYC’s Gruber Photographers, says brides dressing separately is rare at same-sex weddings. But at least some younger couples who came of age with some hope for civil unions—if not legal weddings—feel differently. “Having grown up with these traditional images of what weddings are like in the movies, you want to have that iconic day,” says Mullan. She and her wife shopped separately for their dresses and had only seen small camera-phone photographs of the garments before the big day. It wasn’t about spoiling the surprise, but about “making sure the dresses were comparable,” says Mullan, lest one show up as the white swan and the other in a dressed-down sheath.

How many dads—and best men, maids of honor—should get time on the mic?
While speaking parts in traditional weddings are often limited to the best man and father of the bride, it’s not as clear cut for same-sex couples. The most important point is limiting the number of speeches—preferably to four. “We’ve seen parents of both grooms or brides speak,” says Gilbert, who also suggests calling the attendants by the more inclusive shorthand: the “wedding party.” “The terms groomsmen and bridesmaids aren’t really used anymore,” she says.

Are ex-lovers invited?
As many couples—both hetero and same-sex—are getting married later in life, the hatchet with most exes has been buried long ago. Some take the “more the merrier” stance when assembling their guest list. But undue attention needn’t be called to an ex’s attendance. Gilbert recalls a particularly awkward affair where one member of the wedding party at a gay wedding had too much to drink and proceeded to map out the sexual conquests in the room. “I was cringing,” says Gilbert. “Let’s get off the fact that he was a slut!”

Who walks down the aisle last?
This question plagued Sarver. “I didn’t want to go first,” she says. “I felt it was some implication that I’m the groom.” (Her partner didn’t share the same concerns and was happy to walk first.) According to the Gay Wedding Institute, 30 percent of lesbian couples walk down two aisles or from different directions, while 81 percent of gay grooms walk together down one central aisle holding hands. O’Donnell and his partner entered at the same time from separate entrances and exited together down a central aisle. But O’Donnell sympathizes with Mullan. “When you get married,” he says, “all of a sudden things you never thought about seem to matter.”

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