Adapting Traditions for Queer Weddings

Two brides wearing wedding rings and holding hands.

The institution of marriage is a long-standing one, though the driving force behind marriage has evolved a great deal through the centuries. With such an old practice comes a great deal of wedding traditions, and not just the ones your grandparents talk about. Unfortunately, the rigidity of something as old as civilization—as well as something deeply rooted, for many people, in religion—can be quite staunch. These traditions can be alienating to couples who many not adhere to each and every “wedding rule” their family holds near and dear; this notion is especially true for LGBTQ+ couples.

Many wedding practices fall under a heteronormative categorization: the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father to the waiting groom, the father of the bride gives a speech at the reception, the bouquet toss precedes the garter toss…the list goes on. Whether or not you and your beloved are dealing with familial, friend, and vendor problems based on your sexual preferences, these wedding-day details that many couples take for granted can be confusing to navigate. Below are some suggestions on adapting some of the most common traditions for queer weddings.

Your Wedding Party

Selecting the people who will stand up with you at the altar is incredibly special. While some prefer to forgo a traditional wedding party—an increasingly popular option among modern couples—others want their best pals right there beside them. Mixed-gender bridal parties are a great option for any couple, but sometimes the terms “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen” simply don’t apply. If your group consists of multiple gender expressions, there are plenty of naming options. Some of my favorites include “my/our people,” (short, sweet, and to the point) “brides’ maids ‘n men,” (for our apostrophe/alliteration lovers) “wedding party,” (why mess with a classic?) “grooms’ group” (there’s that alliteration again!) and, to get a little fancy, “mon ami(e)s” (French makes most things sound like you have your pinky in the air).

What Should We Wear?

Two grooms at their wedding ceremony.

The short answer is: whatever you want! This depends on the formality of your wedding and what you’re most comfortable in. The instance of a wedding does not beget one person in a gown and one person in a tuxedo; a duo of dresses or suits is absolutely an option. If you both want to put individual spins on similar outfits, choose suits that display different colors, fabrics, patterns, or boutonnieres. Don dresses with different silhouettes (a sleek trumpet-style dress next to an ethereal ball gown? Yes, please!) or switch up accessories such as hair accessories and veils. Going with the coordination route, however, you may have to share your outfit with your beloved before the wedding. If you’d like to stick with tradition and wait to see your sweetie’s duds on the big day, however, it’s OK to just be surprised.

Walking Down the Aisle

The ceremony has potential to be the trickiest element of your wedding, as it’s seemingly riddled with gender-specific traditions. Though the ceremony is more customizable now than it’s ever been, it can be tough to choose who does what. While you and your beloved can elect to fulfill a certain set of roles, we recommend combining some of the aspects. For example, why not both be walked into the space by a parent, parents, or another significant person in your lives? If you both have wedding party members, have one spouse’s group walk down the aisle before them, and once all are at the altar, have the next spouse’s group walk before them. In a traditional sense, think of it as the bridesmaids walking down the aisle followed by the bride…twice in a row.

Parent Dances

Forget the notion of only dancing with an opposite-sex parent and select your partners for this special dance by relationship. Was your aunt always there for you growing up? Is your brother your rock? Perhaps you want to dance with both of your parents for half a song each? The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to “match” your significant other. Maybe you want to dance with your mother, but your beloved wants to dance with their step-dad. Maybe you don’t want to dance with anyone, but your partner has a funny tango in mind with their grandpa. Make the time to discuss what you’re both comfortable with far ahead of time: it’s better to make decisions early on while also agreeing to keep the conversation open for any new thoughts or feelings closer to the wedding.

Reception Speeches

Two lesbian brides at their wedding reception holding up glasses of champagne for a toast.

Etiquette rules that outline the traditional speech itinerary rely heavily on heteronormative structure: the maid of honor, the best man, and the bride’s father are the core speakers in this format. So, what if you have a man of honor, three ‘maids, and two brides? Queer couples should only adhere to the platinum rule of speaker-selection: not too many people! Many elect to ask one person from either side of the wedding party and one parent each, but as a rule just keep your number below four (or five to six if you know the speeches will be very short). Additionally, no need to stick to the “bride doesn’t give a speech” rule if it doesn’t apply. Two grooms, two brides, and beyond; don’t be afraid to stand up with your new spouse to thank your guests, should you feel so inclined!

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