The invitation just came in the mail. Your roommate from college is marrying her girlfriend after so many years! Being invited to a wedding is always an exciting experience, but many people worry about proper etiquette—what could perceived as offensive at weddings between queer couples? Luckily, weddings between LGBTQ couples are no different than weddings between straight couples. All you need is a lot of honesty, some communication, and respect! But in case you’re still worried, here’s a look at five things you probably shouldn’t say at the wedding of an LGBTQ couple.
1. “Who’s the Bride/Groom or Husband/Wife?”
In addition to putting stress on traditional gender roles, this reinforces heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexual couples and heterosexual love should act as the normal model for relationships. Both parties could be the brides, and both can wear a dress for that matter. Or neither can! Additionally, it’s very possible that the individual may not identify directly with either the “bride” or “groom” role. Gender, for many, is becoming a fluid construct that does not fit neatly into a choice between two very traditional labels. So don’t stress it! All that matters is that two people are getting married and you’re there to celebrate it!
2. “I Wonder Who Will Walk Down the Aisle”
This question is pretty innocent, and you run less risk of offending someone with this. However, the beautiful thing about weddings is that they have the power to celebrate old traditions and create new ones. Maybe nobody walks down the aisle or maybe the whole wedding party will run down the aisle together! The possibilities are truly endless and that’s a great thing. It’s a way for each couple to celebrate the intimacy and individuality of their partnership through the creation of new traditions and rites. Gendered norms once again need not apply here! Sit back and enjoy the celebration of love, in all of its unconventional glory. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how the brides and grooms arrive at the altar, only that they did.
3. “Does This Mean You Won’t Have Grandchildren?”
Family is not just a biological construct. Families can be adopted, fostered, or created through the help of surrogates or sperm donors even for heterosexual couples, so why should it be different for anyone else? Many times, LGBTQ couples do plan on having children, and just as many times they won’t—it just depends on the couple. Assuming that your queer loved one will not have children because they cannot biologically produce them creates expectations and stigmas against families formed through other means. Besides, this is a wedding! You don’t want to put pressure on your loved ones to build a family while they are busy celebrating a day meant to commemorate their love! Let them enjoy life with each other first if they want.
4. “Why Isn’t ____ Here?”
While rights and attitudes toward LBGTQ people have improved greatly, long-held prejudices can still leave a big impact on relationships with families and friends. It’s unfortunate, but many families still stigmatize their loved one’s same-sex relationships. If Aunt Martha isn’t here, it might be best not to mention it to the couple. Maybe Aunt Martha just missed her flight, and that’s what we hope is the case. Oftentimes, a missing family member can signify lack of acceptance of the wedding, and this is definitely something you do not want to bring up. Focus on the people who were able to make it out and support the brides and grooms, rather than the ones who could not!
5. Asking About Anything Sexual
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if it would be inappropriate to ask heterosexual couples, it is inappropriate to ask same-sex couples. You wouldn’t dare ask Jim and Maria about their sex life at their wedding, after all. There’s no reason to ask Carla and Sammie! If you have any questions about how sexuality is enacted between same-sex couples, there are plenty of online resources to support you in your quest for information. After the wedding toast? Though you may be tempted to ask your burning questions, it’s probably best to stick to congratulating the happy couple and eating cake.
Despite all of this, it’s best if you focus on the positives. Weddings are beautiful celebrations and a great opportunity to celebrate and support your loved ones as they embark on the rest of their lives. Here are some things that you absolutely SHOULD do at a queer wedding.
Respect Pronouns and Gender Identities
Has someone ever called you by the wrong name? Maybe you have a sibling and your parents or teachers were always mixing up your names when you were younger. Remember how belittling that felt? In the case of a transgender individual, this problem is only exacerbated when they are repeatedly referred to by an incorrect pronoun.
If someone tells you they want to be referred to as by different pronoun than you may assume they use, respect it! Feel good that your friend or family member trusted you enough to open up to you about their identity, as it indicates they place a high level of trust and respect in your ability to honor their wishes.
Get Excited About New Traditions and Celebrate Love
Out with the old and in with the queer! There’s special power and individuality in creating your own traditions. This is especially true at queer weddings, where long-held norms are not necessary. The best policy to take is that if you don’t know, ask! People who identify as LGBTQ are usually more than willing to help educate those who are curious about learning more about different identities. It shows a high level of respect to pose educated, respectful questions with the intent of learning more about how to respect someone’s identity. Often, it’s the simple inquiries, like “hey, what pronoun do you prefer?” that can spark important conversations. However, know that it is not their job to educate you, and some people may be more reserved about their lives. If they seem uncomfortable, take to Google instead!