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Between 29 March 2014, when gay marriage was at last legalised in the UK, and October 2015, an incredible 150,098 same-sex couples walked down the aisle and into their very own slice of ‘happily ever after’. With a 70% decline in civil partnerships between 2013-2014, it’s clear that legally wed, marital bliss is something that many in the LGBT community in the UK are keen to experience.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, same-sex marriage is becoming legal at a steady rate. Today 21 countries, including Brazil, South Africa, Finland and New Zealand, all welcome same-sex marriage.
But while same-sex marriage in most of these countries typically entitles couples to the very same rights as heterosexual married couples, there’s no denying that same-sex marriage differs significantly from your average straight marriage…
In part, this comes down to history. Stereotypically speaking, for heterosexual couples marriage has always been on the table – something they’ve most likely at least envisioned in their future at some stage. For same-sex couples, the possibility has only very recently become real.
There’s also a question of culture. As a non-traditional couple from the outset, many LGBT people who become betrothed will have a more individualistic, open-minded stance on love, relationships and what signing that all-important piece of paper means to them personally.
Finally, there’s the issue of ‘the struggle’. While marriage for heterosexual couples is a celebration of their individual love, for LGBT couples, it’s also a celebration of their new-found rights – and a chance to be visible, open and proud of their identities.
With this in mind, we thought it was high time we crafted a specific, helpful list of tips for same-sex couples preparing to tie the knot…
1. Timing is everything
As any stand-up comedian will tell you, timing is everything. And it’s just as important to betrothed same-sex couples as it is to heterosexual couples.
Picking the perfect date is essential if you want to enjoy the support and attendance of all of your family and friends on your big day. From giving a minimum of three months’ notice to allow guests to book time off work and make travel arrangements, to finding a happy compromise between cost and peak wedding season, there are lots of unexpectedly tricky calculations to take into account when setting the date.
Outside of May to August you’ll get more from your budget.
2. Be prepared to pay (and pay)
Whatever you think your dream wedding is going to cost, it’s going to cost more. Set a budget below what you can reasonably allocate to your matrimonials and work as hard as possible to keep to that.
Ensure, however, that you build a buffer zone into this budget to prevent you finding yourself in financial hot water – not the most romantic of situations.
3. Make up your own rules
One way to help minimise your budget (or indeed exceed it decadently!) is to do things your way. With just two years of history in the UK, there’s no ‘right’, ‘wrong’ or expected way to do same-sex marriage.
This may leave you with more decisions to make, but it also offers more opportunities to really express your love and yourselves as a couple in a more individual way and escape the corny cliches. Great for anyone bored of the same old canapés, staged photographs on the lawn and warm prosecco!
Take some time to talk about what you really want from your wedding with your fiancée, consider why you want to tie the knot, and then come up with ideas which allow you to really express yourselves.
4. Don’t please other people
Well, don’t actively displease your guests (who wants to attend a deliberately unpleasant wedding?), but remember that this day is for you. If there are family members who are likely to make your day more stressful or who do not support your relationship, don’t invite them. This is a day for celebrating your love, not fighting familial fires.
5. Be creative with tradition
Who says an engagement has to happen with one person on bended knee? Who says stag or hen dos have to be separate or gender-specific? Who says “bridesmaids” have to be female and grooms need “best men”? This is your day and (refreshingly) there is no cheesy rulebook for queer weddings.
Create your own rituals and traditions which reflect you, your relationship and the people who matter in your life instead of trying to fit your wedding into a format which doesn’t represent what is so special about you.
6. Find a venue which reflects you…
…and which you feel comfortable in. Unless you and/or your betrothed are religious, there is a wealth of unique, non-church venues out there to choose from.
From sleek modern spaces like the beautifully minimalist New River Room at Clissold House in Hackney (with views over acres of pretty park land), to decadent, grand locations like the glorious Edwardian Bath Pavilion, there are locations out there to suit every couple, so get hunting and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
7. Be comfortable with your suppliers
From your tailor or dressmaker, to your florist, caterer and events manager, there are dozens of people you’ll be working with closely as you plan and eventually host your wedding. It’s important that you feel comfortable with every one of them.
Who wants that sour note when they look at their bouquet or chomp down on their wedding breakfast? If someone’s attitude isn’t up to scratch, find a different supplier.
8. Take centre stage
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: this is your day. It’s not always second nature for LGBT couples to express their love and affection publicly and make it the centre of attention, but your wedding is your opportunity to proudly and loudly celebrate your love.
Don’t hold back from soppy speeches, if you’re so inclined. If the moment calls for a PDA, embrace it.
Your friends and family are here to celebrate you – so take the limelight, and your darling, in both hands!
9. Be patient with parents
No two families are the same, but it’s possible that your parents are going to have plenty of opinions about your big day (particularly if they’re footing any portion of the bill). In some cases, these opinions are going to be tied to more traditional views of what a wedding ‘should be’.
This is an occasion for celebration, not bickering, so understand and appreciate their desire for involvement (and their – maybe misguided – good intentions), acknowledge this, them take some time to explain your personal reasons behind any decision they quibble with.
10. It’s the experience, not the performance
Amidst all the planning and preparation, it can be only too easy get lost in the details and the desire to create a particular impression. Ultimately, however, it’s important to remember that your wedding is all about creating a special day that you and your love will remember fondly for the rest of your lives – not anything else.
Focus on the people, not the place-settings; your friends and family, not the floral arrangements; and your spouse-to-be above all of it.
About the author
Ofer Yatziv currently works as a sales and marketing manager at BetterVenues.org.uk. With over 15 years of experience in the events industry, he has worked across a variety of roles as a producer of live events and weddings, as well as coordinating national and international theatre tours.
He has produced and led events for Hilton Hotels Israel, Karmiel Dance Festival, Vans, SkySports and the Earls Court Community Project. He is currently the artistic producer of London Sketch Comedy Festival – an annual event he has been running for three years.