Brideless Weddings and Other Modern Problems
October 30, 2007 7:45 AM   Subscribe

GayFilter: What interesting details and rites can be changed about a gay wedding and reception to make it more distinct?

I was sitting at a wedding reception last weekend, and I realized that it might be awkward if my partner tried to take a garter belt off me from under my tuxedo. I also realized that the "father-daughter" dance has very little significance when there is no bride.

Biblical readings about love are nice and all, but it is a little tough to square gay marriage with a reading about how God made Eve out of Adam's rib. And, "Now you may kiss the bride" would result in an awkward silence while everyone wonders...which one of them is the bride?

We have all these rituals associated with marriage - each of which is fun and quirky and enjoyable to those in attendance. But when you have a same-sex couple involved, the dynamic changes drastically.

What different events and rites can we include in the ceremony and reception to fill the void left by the deletion of awkwardly inappropriate moments? Points for creativity!
posted by greekphilosophy to Religion & Philosophy (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In lieu of the garter belt...

Adjust each others' bowites? Or take off each others bow ties?

You could also remove each others' cumberbuns.

For the wife and I used the Navajo wedding speech, maybe slightly trite, but it avoided the whole obey, and honor thing.

"Now you have lit a fire and that fire should not go out. The two of you now have a fire that represents love, understanding and a philosophy of life. It will give you heat, food, warmth and happiness. The new fire represents a new beginning - a new life and a new family. The fire should keep burning; you should stay together. You have lit the fire for life, until old age separates you. "

Instead of "Now you may kiss the bride" how about "Now you may kiss your man"? It applies to both of you.
posted by ian1977 at 7:52 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've been wondering about this too.

The thing about weddings is that each is individual and personal. If you don't do a variation on the garter thing, no one will necessarily miss it - and if they do, too bad, because that's your personal choice. Or you can turn the ritual into a joke, by having sock garters or something.

With the dancing, you can either leave it out (i.e. no official dances) or riff on the tradition by dancing with your mothers/aunts/best friends/ whoever the heck you want.

There are many possible variations on the kissing. "You may now kiss each other," "Smooch time!", etc. You and your partner should decide on the tone you want to set.
As for readings, how about poetry that's meaningful to you? There's a Charles Rafferty poem that my partner and I already know will be a part of our ceremony.

I kinda want to stomp on a glass at my wedding, because I'm Jewish and I can't picture a wedding without that ritual. It might be odd to see a girl doing that, but maybe I will anyhow.
posted by bassjump at 8:08 AM on October 30, 2007

Or just "And now you may kiss."

You could have both, or neither, groom escorted by a parent, or both parents. Or neither! Some people - like me - don't care for the notion that any party, even a parent, has to 'give away' an autonomous adult human who's made a presumably independent decision to get married.

Instead of a garter belt, someone could have his cummerbund slipped off and tossed to the crowd. Or nothing; I've only once ever actually seen the garter thing done in real life.

Readings are modified all the time even in guy-girl marriages, too; my cousin's recent nupitals had no Biblical content, but some poetry, an excerpt from an essary on marriage, and something from Khalil Gibran.

Both grooms could dance with their mothers, perhaps.

Really, all told, I don't think the dynamic changes that much with a same-sex marriage - but then, I've rarely seen a 'traditional' wedding with the old-school vows and such. Nearly all the ones I've actually attended were custom-built to at least some extent, with nonreligious readings, or elements taken from multiple faiths, or self-written vows, or any manner of other changes to the old formula. For that matter, the vows I've seen are almost always symmetrical these days - the bride and groom making the same promises to each other. Looking back at most of the weddings I've been at, I could easily imagine any of them as same-sex with very, very little modification to the events.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:10 AM on October 30, 2007

The quote about Adam's rib doesn't fit, but "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helpmate for him" totally jibes with same sex-marriage, IMHO.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:14 AM on October 30, 2007

posted by not that girl at 8:24 AM on October 30, 2007

For what it's worth, I've only been to three or four weddings, but I've never seen the garter belt thing done.
posted by danb at 8:29 AM on October 30, 2007

Check out the hetero wedding-planning sites for ideas. A lot of these traditions presume that the bride is going from her parents' care into marriage (hence "giving away the bride") and are commonly modified to be more appropriate for, as tomorrowful references, two autonomous adults.

Basically, keep the spirit of the traditions that appeal to you, and decline the traditions that make no sense. Keep the Unity Candle. But the garter makes no sense in my opinion, unless played for camp. Both grooms can dance with their mothers after they have their first dance as a married couple. First Corinthians 13 is commonly read during weddings as a meditation on love, but it is not about man-woman-marriage.

How awkward these traditions or revised-versions of these traditions will be depends on how comfortable the families are with the same-sex wedding. If you're trying to include VERY traditional families, it may be best to keep it fairly serious but pick only a few aspects of the traditional ceremony and otherwise avoid any camp or "the gay version" of a tradition. If everyone's got more of a sense of humor, you have a lot more leeway.
posted by desuetude at 8:49 AM on October 30, 2007

I've come to the conclusion that commercial interests are driving much of the evolution of modern-day weddings, with lots of ritual considered traditional that does little more than sell stuff and create rehearsed moments for the photographer. I wise minister in my family who has done hundreds of weddings said to me, "the only thing you need to do is stand in front of an officiant with two witnesses and say some vows, the rest is just showmanship."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

My partner and I married August 8, 2003. What was most important to us was that our marriage was legal. Legit. The "wedding" was a bit of an afterthought. We had a humanist officiant (in Ottawa) and a small gathering of friends afterwards. It was beautiful and memorable because we were making history.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:00 AM on October 30, 2007

Um, I didn't have any of those rituals at my hetero wedding, except the kissing - and even then it was just "you may kiss."
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:03 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I don't think the couple being gay has much to do with it. As croutonsupafreak pointed out, these things aren't necessarily found in straight weddings, either (unless they're in movies staring Drew Barrymore). I had a normal, male-and-female wedding with a white dress and all that, but no garter toss, no father-daughter dance, and my mother walked with me down the aisle.

My sister and her wife had an unconventional wedding, but that's because they're unconventional people -- that they were both women was the least of it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:35 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

My sister's wedding this past summer featured all of the OP's aforementioned rites. My sister and her husband are not traditional people by any means, but her husband's family is a bit. I think a lot of the traditional wedding rituals are exercised for them. So while they're not necessarily a given, they're not just for Hollywood either. Older/more traditional people may expect them.

For the ceremony-sealing kiss, what about "You may now kiss your husband?" Works for both of you and has the similar cadence and flow as "You may now kiss the bride."
posted by Nelsormensch at 10:09 AM on October 30, 2007

The last time I was at a wedding the couple had written their own vows, with the guidance of the officiant. I had been skeptical but I was surprised at the effect - these were thoughtful people and they were speaking words that were deeply meaningful to them and reflective of their individual personalities. So I am a fan of that.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:18 AM on October 30, 2007

Man, you people must go to some lame weddings, at the last couple I went to, watching the groom remove the bride's garter without using his hands was the best part of the whole reception. The general consensus view seemed to be that if he couldn't do that much with his mouth, the bride wasn't going to end up terribly happy with him anyhow.

I don't think this would work as well with bowties, but removing a cummerbund with teeth? That's hot.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. There are a lot of great ideas out there! (I'm especially a fan of "You may now kiss your husband!" It's perfect!)

To clarify what I'm looking for, I'm particularly interested in what could be seen as a kind of "new traditionalism." Whereas straight couples have their age-old rituals, we get to make up ours as we go along! So instead of being the gay version of straight rituals, I'm particularly interested in what else might be out there to supplant those aspects of the ceremonies entirely.

I suspect that the books written on this subject (thanks, Not-that-girl!) will have some suggestions for that - I'll have to check them out!
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:02 AM on October 30, 2007

Here is a link to an Ontario officiant service that also provides several ideas for exchanging vows, including samples for a same-sex ceremony. Frankly though, I find myself leaning towards some of the other ideas on the site for my own upcoming same-sex wedding.

Plato's writing from Symposium might be fitting for a reading. (Bottom of page) But, if there is some work of literature that you and your mate find inspiring to your own relationship, by all means, use that. To me, that is the point of the reading, but folks have a tendency to follow the Jones', inspiriation and all.

As long as you and your mate are comfortable and having a good time, your guests will be as well. One of the benefits to this new business of same-sex weddings, is that our guests are less likely to have a script in mind when they come to the ceremony. Do whatever you want and feel comfortable doing; if a guest questions you, tell them it's because you're teh gay.
posted by wg at 11:09 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: greekphilosophy, I just read your clarification on what you were looking for on preview and this isn't really it. I already typed it, though, and maybe some of it will be useful?

Except for the fact it wouldn't be legally recognised in many places, I think our boy+girl wedding could have completely worked for a same sex couple. We were really, really careful about gender crap and chucked out a ton of stuff whilst still keeping the format of a fairly traditional wedding.

We walked down the aisle together. Nobody gave anybody away; instead, we asked a parent from each side to do a reading. My husband's best man was a woman, and she wore a tux. I didn't throw a bouquet; the idea of our single girlfriends being "lucky" enough to catch it and get married was pretty gross to me - plenty of them are happy single, plenty of them are happy with their same-sex partners. Nobody took anyone's garter off, either. The secular celebrant said "mazel tov!" after declaring us wedded and we used that as our cue to smooch.

Anyway, nobody batted an eye at a traditionally formatted but differently rendered wedding in our case, so I think that you can keep what works for you and throw out the rest. I'd say the same to any bride or groom.

By the way, one of the readings was clipped together from Goodridge; we really liked the way marriage is defined there - you might too. And congratulations!
posted by DarlingBri at 11:26 AM on October 30, 2007

Response by poster: DarlingBri, that's fantastic about using Goodridge. Being a lawyer, I think that having a legal decision used as a reading in a wedding would be REALLY fantastic and amazing and cool - especially a decision that stands so much for equality. I'll def. look into that.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:33 AM on October 30, 2007

If you want to make up stuff completely from scratch, it doesn't seem to matter much if it's for a gay wedding or a straight wedding. But 'neo-traditional' does sound like you're looking some kind of adaptation.

You could definitely look at adaptations made by progressive straight couples too. For example, at the Jewish weddings I've been to lately, each one will circle the other, male or female, three times, and then they walk around in a circle together once.

I also love Ruth for weddings, "Your home will be my home," etc etc.

and why are you ruling out groom-father dances?
posted by Salamandrous at 2:05 PM on October 30, 2007

I'm straight, and we adapted our Justice of the Peace's speech and vows to be non-gender-specific (although we did have the kiss-the-bride line). Nobody noticed. This is pretty close to how our vows eventually read - since same-sex marraiges are legal in Nova Scotia, you'll note the wording has been adapted for all situations.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:05 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

When we got married, the officiant said, "I now pronounce you partners for life." And then we kissed.

posted by streetdreams at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2007

GP, the obvious answer is for both of you to dance with your mothers. Especially since groom/father dance is out of the question for one of you.

I was at a lovely, fairly traditional (straight) wedding a couple weeks ago where one of the readings was from Goodridge v. Department of Public Health -- "Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations." For y'all it would have special significance, and it hits on many of the points that are in the traditional wedding liturgy without getting into that sticky institituted by God in the Garden of Eden part of things.
posted by katemonster at 6:15 AM on November 7, 2007

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