Just in time for the 9th anniversary of legal marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, three new books inspire and guide
By John O'Connell
Congratulations! You’ve met the person of your dreams and have chosen to spend the rest of your lives together! Only problem is that you want a small, formal, traditional ceremony and you fiancé wants — She or he doesn’t even know yet. But not that.
Many same-sex couples have never day-dreamed about what they want from a wedding or they fall immediately into the patterns that heterosexual marriages have instilled in our culture. The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings, now in its third edition, The Gay Couple’s Guide to Wedding Planning, and Capturing Love, a visual guide to photographing same-sex weddings, are now available to spark your imagination and make sure you don’t overlook a single detail in planning what is perhaps the biggest event of your life.
Tess Ayers and Paul Brown, the authors of The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings, first addressed the subject after Ayers’ marriage to her wife, Jane. In a time before Ellen or Will and Grace, this was a bold and unique statement. The brides wore vintage wedding dresses and the ceremony was a combination of traditional readings, written vows and songs performed by friends followed by a “blow-out party.” Brown was filling the role of an attendant at the ceremony.
Reflecting after the event, Brown and Ayers realized, they “kind of just made it up based loosely on non-gay weddings. The book came out of a series of brainstorm sessions that attempted to answer the question, ‘What is a same-sex wedding?’” explains the pair. “We wanted the book to be practical, like any how-to manual, but we also wanted to focus on the political and social implications … and funny. Weddings are fun and we wanted the book to give couples the confidence and tools to produce their own special day.”
Twenty years after its initial publication, The Guide continues to be an essential resource in every aspect of planning a wedding. From the engagement to invitations, from locations and the structure of the ceremony itself, from dealing with vendors — florists, photographers, venues and entertainment — to discussions about the wedding party’s attire, the book addresses every possible concern. The pair has made sure to talk about all aspects of each component in terms of historical and current trends, dealing with potential homophobic interactions, and, also very important, budget.
Ayers and Brown chalk up going over budget to be one of the biggest challenges couples make in wedding planning. “What does it cost to pick up a dinner? Now multiply that number by everyone you want at your wedding. Now double that,” caution the authors. “The whole wedding business is based on getting your adrenaline pumping with thoughts like ‘you only do this once in your life, go for it! Aren’t we worth it?’”
The pair advises couples “… to put aside your fears of looking like second-class citizens, and get your priorities in check. Don’t begin your legal partnership in debt.” While the guide does have some light-hearted moments, the budgeting advice is no-nonsense and is re-addressed numerous times throughout the book.
The Guide purposely has an evenly split focus between male and female couples’ weddings. “Believe it or not, we haven’t really discerned any consistent differences,” say the authors.
The Gay Couple’s Guide to Wedding Planning takes a decidedly more masculine approach. “Now that male same-sex weddings are so common, it’s great to address issues that affect men. We talk about everything from how to combine tuxes to whether or not you can throw a bouquet,” says Toussaint. “My advice: Of course you can!”
The Gay Couple’s Guide presents a light-hearted year-long timeline. “I wanted to present a lot of helpful practical information, but infuse it with a sense of humor. I went with a 12-month guide since that’s the average time for engagements, and it helps people focus,” says Toussaint. “I threw in humor about Groomzillas and the Biggest Gay Weddings EVER! so guys can laugh.”
In a particular effort to address some gay men’s concerns, Toussaint offers a re-occurring segment entitled “Fit to Be Tied” with the handsome Joey Gonzalez, of Barry’s Bootcamp fame, advising couples on how to get into shape before the big day.
Toussaint notes that as society is changing with the increasing commonality of gay weddings, so too are the events themselves changing. Says the author, “It used to be that [gay couples] felt the need to go over the top … They would have huge weekend affairs. Now, they’re getting a bit more practical — in part because of the economy — and they’re having simpler, elegant affairs.”
“You don’t need to spend a billion dollars to prove that you’re in love,” advises Toussaint.
Both books acknowledge that a common obstacle in same-sex marriage is still homophobia. Ayers and Brown say, “In most cities you can find vendors who are happy to accommodate your needs; but it’s important for vendors to discuss attitudes with their staff. The wedding industry has discovered a whole new clientele in search of caterers, florists, tuxedo rentals, and honeymoon packages.”
Dealing with families, however, can be much more emotionally charged. One of the biggest challenges in planning a same-sex wedding is, “Overcoming the homophobia that exists in families,” says Toussaint. “It’s much less common than it used to be, but it exists. Often, one parent or one set of parents doesn’t accept the union, and that can be devastating. Ditto for close relatives. And sometimes you don’t know that until the invitations get send out.”
To walk through any fear regarding the question of whom to invite, Ayers and Brown advise that couples “Decide whether to invite people based on whether you will be comfortable with them, but don’t decide for them that they’ll be uncomfortable.”
The publishers of The Gay Man’s Guide promises a lesbian-focused book that will be released in the Fall of 2013.
While mainly intended as a resource for photographers, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography can be an invaluable resource to those planning a wedding as well, particularly for those who find themselves having trouble articulating their desires for their own ceremony. “The loving couples celebrated here reveal tradition and purpose, shared intimacy and meaningful moments,” writes Timothy Chi, CEO of WeddingWire in the book’s foreword.
Curated by Thea Dodds of Authentic Eye Photography and Kathryn Hamm of GayWeddings.com, it showcases 46 same-sex couples in both unconventional wedding and newtwists on conventional wedding imagery.
Says Hamm, “What works for John and Barbara won’t necessarily work for Matthew and Rick, let alone Jill and Louise. We asked three simple but important questions: Are these images authentic? Do these images reflect intimacy? Are these images believable?” The collective images allow same-sex couples an exclusive “wedding magazine” containing gorgeous inspirations on overall themes, wedding party attire, portraiture poses, and unique venue ideas. [x]
The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings [Tess Ayers and Paul Brown]
The Gay Couple’s Guide to Wedding Planning [David Toussaint]
Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography [Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodds]
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